How to Build a Great Brand Reputation
Joan Jett may not care too much about her bad reputation, but for B2B CMOs, it’s a totally different story. Marketing executives know the incredible business value of a strong brand and, like this show’s guest Rebecca Biestman of Reputation says, “Brand building and reputation building takes years and a lot of tiny acts.”
In this week’s show, Rebecca joins Drew to discuss Reputation’s recent brand refresh. The reputation management brand has not only shed its “.com,” it’s also established its new purpose-packed tagline and completely rebuilt its website. The importance of graphically engaging audience has been considered. Tune in to hear some key learnings, like how Reputation built a brand and a demand gen engine simultaneously, why branding work is an integral part of corporate strategy, and how Reputation’s prescriptive scoring system can help brands thrive.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- Reputation’s rebranding story
- Why brand work is a vital part of any B2B business strategy
- How Reputation Score X can grow business value
Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 231 on YouTube
- [0:28] Introducing Rebecca Biestman of Reputation
- [4:07] B2B Brand Work = Powerful Business Strategy
- [8:43] Rebranding: Marketing Agencies, Aha Moments, and Employees
- [15:27] The Results of Reputation’s Brand Work
- [19:32] Lessons Learned: Brand Building
- [22:30] How Reputation Brought its New Brand to the Marketplace
- [25:56] Measuring Reputation’s Rebrand
- [29:57] Behind Reputation’s Scoring System
- [37:39] Reputation’s Reputation Score
- [39:57] Tackling Brand and Demand at the Same Time
- [44:05] Lessons Learned: Building a Demand Gen Engine
Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Rebecca Biestman
[0:28] Introducing Rebecca Biestman of Reputation“Brand building and reputation building takes years and a lot of tiny acts.” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers! As I was preparing for this episode, you’ll never guess who I thought of for guidance. Now, if you guessed Ben Franklin, you are correct. And if you’re wondering why I would reference a long-dead founding father, you’re probably new to the show, so welcome.
For those who are longtime listeners, you know that I think of Dr. Franklin as America’s first chief marketing officer, having successfully marketed a revolution to a king, a king whose financial and military support tipped the balance.
I was thinking about this recently, and it was really a classic enterprise sale. It took a long time, there were lots of twists and turns, a lot of competitive activity to thwart the deal, and even a proof of performance pilot. But in the decisive battle at Yorktown, it was French generals managing the seas, French ships blocking the escape, and even French rifles in the hands of 70% of the soldiers, all paid for with French cash that Franklin had secured.
But you didn’t come here for a history lesson, I’m assuming. You want marketing insights, and for that, we can also turn to a famous Franklin quote. “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
With that, I’d like to welcome Rebecca Biestman, the CMO of Reputation, who has gone through a fascinating rebrand during a challenging time that we’ll be going through step-by-step. Rebecca, how are you?
Rebecca Biestman: I’m doing great thanks for having me on today.
Drew Neisser: I’ve got to imagine that quote, that Reputation quote, has come up a little bit. I mean your company’s name is Reputation—that’s one of the most famous quotes about that—or is that a new one for you?
Rebecca Biestman: No, that’s come up before and it’s so true. We talk about that all the time, how brand building and reputation building takes years and a lot of tiny acts. We see now more than ever, with the proliferation of digital channels, how it can all come crashing down very quickly.
Drew Neisser: Yeah, oh it’s so painful when you see that happen too. First of all, welcome to the show. Second, where are you?
Rebecca Biestman: I’m based in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Bay area.
Drew Neisser: Let’s go back to March 2020 when you joined Reputation. Did you have any days in the office before the lockdown began?
Rebecca Biestman: I had about a week in the office. Our Bay Area office is mostly product and engineering, though, so much of my team is actually spread out in Scottsdale, in our other offices in the US and the UK, so I still haven’t met most of my marketing team in person. Just a few.
Drew Neisser: It’s crazy isn’t it?
Rebecca Biestman: Really crazy. It’s been a wild year, yeah.
Drew Neisser: And I imagine you probably added some people to the team, and all of that was done remotely as well.
Rebecca Biestman: Absolutely. We are growing the team really rapidly and, yes, all of the new candidates and the new hires that we’ve had have never met me in person, they’ve never met their managers, their team in person, so yep, that’s been a real challenge for us this year.
Drew Neisser: It’s gonna be a moment, isn’t it? When you can actually get together again? It really is.
Rebecca Biestman: I can’t even imagine it, but we’re all looking forward to it so often. We talk about a marketing team offsite as if it’s going to happen, as if it’s been planned, but it hasn’t yet. Just the idea of it is so appealing.
[4:07] B2B Brand Work = Powerful Business Strategy“This was never a marketing exercise. It was always an exercise in corporate strategy.” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: When you arrived, what was your mandate coming in?
Rebecca Biestman: When I was interviewing for the role actually, our CEO, Joe Fuca, asked me—the first question in the first interview— “What do you think about our brand?” My answer to him was, “Well, I don’t really think you have one.”
I figured at that point in the interview process, I was either going to get the kibosh or he was going to be intrigued enough to keep talking to me, so when I came into the company, we had talked a lot about what to prioritize first. The two mandates for me were really to refresh the brand and to build out a demand generation engine.
If you think about the marketing spectrum of activities, those kind of fall on both ends of the spectrum and they had to be done simultaneously due to time. One would hope that you would finish the rebrand, jump into the demand gen work once that happens—we were kind of working both hands at the same time.
Drew Neisser: Got it. Well, I want to stop for a second and just go back to your opening comment to your CEO. That’s an act of courage, obviously a good way of figuring out if you and the CEO are on the same page. When you actually said, “I don’t think you have a brand,” what was his response?
Rebecca Biestman: I don’t think it was surprising to him, and what I really meant was, it didn’t seem like we had a strong point of view in the market and that we weren’t actively positioning ourselves through our brand in the market. I explained what I meant to him, and I think there were other company priorities and, as a late-stage, hyper-growth startup we’re growing really rapidly, we’re doing a lot of things really well, and there just wasn’t a focus on brand. I wanted to come in and bring that focus to the company.
Drew Neisser: One of the challenges that a lot of CMOs that I speak with when we talk about brand—and this comes up a lot in CMO Huddles—you can’t even use the word “brand” in a lot of B2B organizations. As you’re talking to him about that, how did you phrase it so that it seems like business value as opposed to something that feels fluffy and something that’s nice to have, but you don’t absolutely need to have?
Rebecca Biestman: I really think of rebranding exercises as an exercise in company positioning and company strategy. They aren’t always that. Sometimes you’ll have rebranding exercises that are really about updating your look and feel, but for Reputation, it was so much more than that. I knew that going in and that’s why I was so excited about the opportunity.
Once we positioned it that way, as an exercise as a broad executive team that we could go through together, not as a marketing exercise. To say, “What is our North Star vision? What is the strategy? Where do we want to position ourselves going forward within a very competitive, very intense market that we play in this experience management market?” Because of that, from the get-go, this was never a marketing exercise. It was always an exercise in corporate strategy.
Drew Neisser: I would just want to put a big punctuation point on that. It’s so critical. If you think you can do a rebrand without the executive team, then it is just a design exercise. I really want to distinguish for the listeners right now—when we talk about rebrand, we are talking about repositioning that company and what you do, even to the extent that, as you’re thinking about this new strategy and the North Star, if you will, that product comes into play.
Sometimes, it’s, “We need to change the product that we’re offering and the way we talk about the product.” I’m curious—how deep did this strategy discussion go?
Rebecca Biestman: Very deep. Our executive team—we had many new members on our executive team join around the same time that I did. In that way, the timing was very serendipitous because we had to gain alignment quickly anyway as a team, and I would say that it went all the way to our product roadmap, how we invest in product and engineering decisions, where we want to divest in the business, where big future growth opportunities are.
So, from that sense, yes, it was a very holistic A-to-Z across the executive team, and there were certainly implications from the work that we were doing on what we were going to build, how we were going to build it, and when we were going to build it on the product side.
[8:43] Rebranding: Marketing Agencies, Aha Moments, and Employees“It was the fastest rebrand that I’ve ever done.” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Talk a little bit about the process and some of the critical steps that you went through. Obviously, you get the executive team to buy-in—“We’re going to do this and you’re going to participate”—but what were some of the key steps along the way?
Rebecca Biestman: We chose an agency partner, a third-party agency to partner with us. I’ve done that at every company I’ve ever been. Fortune 100 all the way down to late-stage startups. We can talk about why I think it’s important to have an agency partner undergo this exercise with you, but that was a key first step—choosing the right partner, getting executive buy-in and sign-off, and really thinking about the “why” we were doing it.
That’s step zero in my book before you can really define the scope of the rebrand. Because, to your point, a rebrand can mean something very different at every different company depending on what purpose the rebrand is meant to serve. Those were kind of the first steps and once we had appropriate scoping, we could really go choose that agency partner and kick off the process which, as you know, takes a lot of time and effort and energy and costs. That was basically how we started the exercise.
Drew Neisser: Do you mind sharing which agency you worked with?
Rebecca Biestman: We worked with an agency called Character. They’re agency that’s based out of San Francisco and New York and I’ve worked with them at previous companies. They’re a fantastic branding agency.
Drew Neisser: I know the agency well and I had one of the founders on the show to talk about storytelling. Their particular approach of story is quite intriguing.
So, you hire the agency—give us just a quick overview. How long did it take from hiring the agency to having a strategy in place?
Rebecca Biestman: We went fast. We sprinted on this one, so we kicked it off with Character over the summer. I think it was maybe July that we kicked it off with them. We had our brand guidelines in October—kind of passed off to us, officially passing the torch. And then we launched our brand on January 25th.
We basically had three months as a team to not just reskin a website, rebuild an entirely new website, rearchitect it from the ground up, obviously reskin all of our company assets, come out with new assets, plan all of the promotion, so it was the fastest rebrand that I’ve ever done. And I don’t know if I would ever do it again. It definitely pushed us to the limits, but that was the timeline for us. All in all, I would say it took seven, eight months total.
Drew Neisser: What were some of the “aha” moments along the way?
Rebecca Biestman: That’s a great question. I think, for us, we had fallen into what I would say is a common pitfall of brands, especially brands that are platform technology companies, where we were really adding products quickly and because of that, had diluted the equity in our brand, meaning we were trying to be everything to everyone.
In doing that, we ended up being nothing to no one. That’s a very common thing that happens across industries and companies, but for us, the “aha” moment was really digging into what is our “why” as a brand, how can we anchor on to that, formulate this North Star vision, and not waver in our approach.
Shiny object syndrome happens at every company, but when you are a late-stage startup and you’re growing so quickly and there’s so much opportunity ahead of you, it’s really hard to stay focused. For us, the exercise turned into one of focus and discipline around what are the things that we don’t want to do. The things that we don’t want to be, those became just as important as the things that we did want to do and who we wanted to be in the market.
Drew Neisser: I love it. Thank you for that. Chapter 1 in my next book is clear away the clutter and really talking about the need to focus. I mean, the definition of a brand and strategy is knowing what you can say “no” to. That means you can’t be all things to all people, right? That’s not a brand.
When you were going through this process, what role did employees play between July and October?
Rebecca Biestman: It’s a great point. They played a very impactful role once the brand guidelines were handed off. I would say, in the beginning of the process, they also played a very important role. A lot of what we spent our time doing in the beginning of the process was interviewing stakeholders, which is a very common initial step, and the agency will do that for you, you can do it with them. We interviewed employees, current customers, former customers, our executive team, our board of directors, there were a lot of interviews that were had.
They were definitely an important input into the strategy work. Most of that strategy work was really between the executive team and the agency. We had a couple of employees involved in that outside of the executive team, and then, once those brand guidelines were handed off, it was a full company effort to get them implemented. We had a cross-functional team from product and engineering, marketing, customer success, sales, professional services. I mean you name it—HR, employee engagement. We had everybody involved in that, and it really took a village to get it done and done so quickly.
Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to plug CMO Huddles—I mentioned it earlier in the show. I launched this in 2020. CMO Huddles is 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 a Huddle as a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session. If you’re a B2B CMO that can share and care with the best of them, visit CMOhuddles.com, or just email me and we’ll set up a time to talk and see if it’s a good fit for you.
[15:27] The Results of Reputation’s Brand Work“From the beginning, we knew that our superpower was in the kind of data that our platform housed and that we understood for brands.” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about where you were—if there was a story before—and where you got to. Start with—what’s the new story?
Rebecca Biestman: Sure. The new story around Reputation and what we do is that we manage a company’s interactions at scale, all of the interactions that they’re having with the most important stakeholders across their business. Employees, prospective customers, current customers, we take all of the feedback from those interactions into our platform and we turn that into the fuel so that they can grow their businesses and better serve their own customers and their own communities.
Drew Neisser: Is there a shorter version of that?
Rebecca Biestman: Yes, we transform feedback to fuel progress. That is our shorter version of that.
Drew Neisser: Feedback to fuel progress.
Rebecca Biestman: You are getting me to see the tagline right there.
Drew Neisser: I am. I like the taglines. It helps me understand. I can’t remember everything else. Feedback to fuel progress. Getting to that line and getting to that idea—in the process, was there any testing?
Rebecca Biestman: Yeah. We pressure tested some ideas with employees. That’s also another great point. Throughout the process, we had toyed with everything from changing our name to going in a couple different directions with the brand, so we actually brought in some of our own most important internal stakeholders who we see as brand advocates for us. I mean our employees really are our brand evangelists, so we brought them in to think about it. We also had some members of our executive advisory board, some of our biggest customers and executives there to look at some of the branding before we went to market with it.
Drew Neisser: Was there a moment where you’re looking at options and then suddenly there’s this gravitational pull to this one?
Rebecca Biestman: From the beginning, we knew that our superpower was in the kind of data that our platform housed and that we understood for brands. That was feedback data and sentiment data. Not zeros and ones, but really nuanced data that was coming in for our customers.
The fact that our platform can manage the feedback channels but also take the feedback and give them actionable insights—not just insights around it, but tell them what to do about it—and then help them close the loop… That we knew was something that was differentiated in the market in the way that we do it.
We always knew that was going to be an anchor for us, but how that really came to life was with the work that we did with the agency and the executive team.
Drew Neisser: I want to come back to that. We’ll talk about that in a second. Did we do a new logo?
Rebecca Biestman: We did.
Drew Neisser: New logo, new tagline, new website.
Rebecca Biestman: Dropped the “.com” off of the word Reputation. We’re just Reputation, no more “.com.” New website, new story, new visual identity, verbal identity, all of it.
Drew Neisser: Wow. That’s a major undertaking, just changing your logo. But you’re changing it from Reputation.com to Reputation. I get that. The amount of energy that goes into finding all the old logos and putting in the new ones, and all the places, just the swag alone is a big challenge.
Rebecca Biestman: You just don’t realize how many things there are until you get that list, until you bring in all the people. The marketing team doesn’t own all of it. There are just teams that go rogue and are doing their own things for years and years, so just trying to figure out the universe of what’s out there is in and of itself a big undertaking, yes.
[19:32] Lessons Learned: Brand Building“Overcommunicate and think about your launch date as just the beginning.” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: If we just focus to the point of launch, going from there to launch, what would you say were the biggest lessons learned for you? We have a group of CMOs listening to this show, they’re thinking about a rebranding, what are a few of the key lessons just to get them to launch.
Rebecca Biestman: For sure. I think the first is getting the right players on the field early. It’s more people than you think. It’s always more teams than you think. There’s always more than you think, so a corollary to that would be to just give yourself enough time.
Make sure that you have the right people involved, make sure that you have the right amount of time. I would say, three months for us was extraordinarily aggressive. Not something I would encourage for other CMOs.
And then the last one is, what I would say is just overcommunicate and think about your launch date as just the beginning. I think there are so many CMOs who undergo this process and it’s all “To get to launch, to get to launch.” That is just the beginning of what this brand is going to be for you in the market and it’s hard to think past that when you’re so in it because those months of doing it, you’re just so in it. There should be strategy and campaigns phased out really over the course of that following year.
Drew Neisser: Yeah. No doubt. Lots of people, love that. Time. Given that you only gave yourself three months, one of the things that I’ve noticed quite a bit in the research that we’ve done is everybody believes that rebranding starts with employees, but nobody gives it much more than a few weeks at most to actually allow for employee indoctrination if you will, and retraining and so forth. What didn’t you have time to do that you wish—if you’d had more time, what would you have done with it?
Rebecca Biestman: I think if we had had more time, we could have done more of that go forward planning and enablement piece that you talked about. It’s one thing to be able to roll out a brand to your external channels. That’s a lot of core marketing planning that we do every day when we run campaigns. But bringing an entire company along with you on the journey of a brand? That takes time.
And the best brands know that, without their employees as evangelists, it won’t scale. That’s how you get kind of infinite scale, if you have everybody at the company marching to the same drum and evangelizing that brand.
We would have done a lot more enablement before the rollout. We are doing it now. We’ve done it since the rollout. It’s not a bad thing to have to do it once the brand is in market, but it’s always great to have your employees feel really bought in and well educated before you go to market with the new brand.
[22:30] How Reputation Brought its New Brand to the Marketplace“The flagship asset for us to launch was our new website.” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: What about customers and how it was communicated to them? Did they get any advance opportunity to participate?
Rebecca Biestman: Some of our customers were involved. Our executive advisory board who’s made up of customers, our customer advisory board, different groups within our customer base were involved. When we did the rebrand, we actually sent all of our employees a box and we also sent all of our customers a box. In that box was information about the new brand, there was some swag included, and it was really a way, especially virtually, remotely, to get people involved and have them feel like they’re a part of the launch. We had everything from email communications and newsletters all the way to actually giving them some brand artifacts themselves.
Drew Neisser: I really think now, given the world that we’re living in, having that box arrive—otherwise it’s just an email. You need something to pause and, “Wait, I can touch this. It’s tangible.” I think that’s so important in the rebranding process today in the virtual world that we live in. I suspect it will continue to be moving forward even once we’re all vaccinated.
Okay, so we’ve communicated it to customers, how did you bring it to the marketplace?
Rebecca Biestman: We had a big launch—I would say the flagship asset for us to launch was our new website which, again, was rebuilt and it’s a very different experience than what we had before. Between that and just a variety of other digital assets we released to market across our social channels, across email, that was the main approach. Both paid and organic digital advertising organically across our channels. That was the main way that we went to market.
Drew Neisser: So it’s, “Hey, there’s a new website. Come visit.” What’s funny is, you can build a new website, but that doesn’t mean people are going to come. Within that, what was the reason, the thing that you did on the website that made it—why should somebody bother going to the new Reputation website?
Rebecca Biestman: It’s a great question. One of the things that we focused on so vitally as a part of the entire process all the way through launch was the “why” around this and being able to give our prospective customers and current customers tools that they could actually use to discern feedback quickly, get to the bottom of what was going on, closing the loop, and actioning on that feedback, so part of what you’ll see on our new website isn’t just marketing fluff or information.
It’s really, “Hey, under our resources, how can we better equip people to scale the value that our platform can bring them?” In essence that is basically listening, understanding, and actioning on that feedback, so building out that toolkit whether or not people actually license the tools that are on our platform and democratizing access to that level of information was also really important in conjunction with the new brand.
[25:56] Measuring Reputation’s Rebrand“We want to make sure our customers understand the new brand, engage with the new brand, like the new brand, and want to grow with our brand.” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: You’ve now been in market for a couple of months, I guess. How’s it going? If we had a report to the board of directors, what are some of the big metrics that we can talk about that speak to it working?
Rebecca Biestman: We have engagement metrics and acquisition metrics that we look at to see if it’s working. It’s how many eyeballs, how much traffic depending on the channel that we’re looking at, all the way to conversion into our funnel. All of that is very important for us.
On the customer side, we’ve been seeing both in-platform—meaning within our product and outside of our product—higher levels of engagement and acquisition there as well. It’s not just a prospecting tool. We want to make sure our customers understand the new brand, engage with the new brand, like the new brand, and want to grow with our brand.
Drew Neisser: I’m assuming all the numbers are up.
Rebecca Biestman: Yes. All of the numbers are up! So far, it’s going really well and, as you said, we’re a couple months in. We hope that as we continue to run more and more of these campaigns—we have some really exciting stuff launching this summer—I’m hoping that those numbers will just continue to climb over the course of the next year. It won’t be a one and done, “Hey, we saw a blip!” for the first couple months of the rebrand and now we’re back to status quo. Hopefully, this will just be the launching pad for so many more activities across the organization.
Drew Neisser: One last question on results. One of the big challenges with launching a new website is there’s always a risk of an SEO drop.
Rebecca Biestman: Sure.
Drew Neisser: What kinds of things did you do to mitigate that? That’s such a huge risk with a new website.
Rebecca Biestman: For us, so much of the rearchitecting was really around performance and SEO challenges that our current website actually faced. That is not to say that it was easy for us, because we were starting from not a great optimized place, but we did absolutely have an agency partner on the SEO side for us. They were deeply involved with our web agency.
They partnered together throughout the entire process and, to your point around SEO, so much of it for us—we’ll get into the new brand versus the old brand—but so much of it for us is we don’t want to lose all of the great power of SEO that we’ve created. In part that’s why we kept our name, in part, it was because we felt like Reputation really defined what we did.
And also, on top of that, there was so much opportunity for us with this new brand to gain dominance in SEO in places where we hadn’t even been visible before. Part of what this new website was going to do for us was actually allow us to gain traction visibility and ultimately leadership in places where we just hadn’t had it previously.
Drew Neisser: Got it. That’s another definition of a brand: how you are doing on the key terms that matter.
[29:57] Behind Reputation’s Scoring System“Those unsolicited interactions, they need to be managed, they need to be actioned on in a way that's scalable, and they need a platform to help them do that.” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: We’ve been talking about a really fast but meticulous process for redoing a brand. I want to spend a little bit of time on the product change and just talk about Reputation and Reputation’s score. You also very early on mentioned that you had this parallel path with demand gen and I want to cover that as well in the remaining minutes.
When you and I talked in preparation for the show, one of the things that struck me was that your product, if you will, or platform, enables a customer to get a score. Within that score, you get an understanding of how to improve it, which I think is so different than just getting sentiment indexes or things like that, but as you alluded to with the repositioning, you want to be the company that not only tells you where you stand, but how to fix it.
Let’s talk a little bit about that. How does that work actually?
Rebecca Biestman: Our Reputation score basically takes in all of the feedback that customers are getting across solicited and unsolicited feedback channels. Think about unsolicited feedback channels like social media or review sites where the brand isn’t necessarily initiating the interaction, all the way to solicited feedback like surveys or text messaging or other forms of solicited feedback.
Through the channels that we manage for our brands, we’re able to own those channels, help them manage those channels, take that feedback into our platform, and we look at customer sentiment, we look at brand engagement with customers, we look at everything from response times to closed-loop incidents management. We’re able to take in all that feedback and basically say, “How well are you doing for the stakeholders that you care about most?”
That is in and of itself our Reputation Score. From that Reputation Score, we also provide what’s called “prescriptive analytics,” meaning, “I want a prescription, I want you to actually tell me the steps I can take to improve the score.” In doing so, those steps will actually guarantee that you have better engagement and interaction with the stakeholders you care about across those feedback channels, that you’re closing the loop more often with them, because those are the things that weigh into that Reputation score.
Out of that, our newest version of the Reputation Score—Reputation Score X—actually gives our customers, not just, as you said, sentiment maps and insight and great visualizations. All of that’s wonderful, but it also tells them, “Here are the 3 to 5 things that you need to do immediately, and if you do these things, here’s the impact of the score. And in doing so, here’s actually the impact to sentiment for your brand.”
Drew Neisser: I’m going to put on my CFO hat for a moment and I’m going to say, “Okay, great having a score. I like the idea that I can track it and it’ll go up, but I’m looking at revenue, not sentiment. That’s what I care about.” Are you able to map business value for sentiment improvement?
Rebecca Biestman: We work with the largest brands in the world. A lot of our customers are Fortune 100 and we absolutely run into this. We work very closely with our customers to make sure that it’s not an isolated siloed metric, but it actually ties to business outcome. Increase in revenue, decrease in customer churn rate, increase in acquisition—whatever the businesses goals are, we can have reporting specified for them that actually ties those two things together. We have that tight tie-in with actual business value.
I think the intuitive thing that people sort of understand, but we help to bring to life is, if you’re taking better care of your prospects, your customers, your employees, you know that that will bring positive business value. Intuitively, that makes sense. But how do you see that come to fruition within your business? We have very large brands who actually compensate their store operations teams all the way up to their executive teams on Reputation Score. That’s because they’re able to tie an increase in Reputation Score to things like an increase in revenue or a decrease in customer churn.
Drew Neisser: In that way, we can throw NPS out the window. Some brands are still using NPS for that, right?
Rebecca Biestman: Yes. I would say NPS is one indicator. What we’re able to do is bring in lots of sources of data—not just how likely you are to recommend this brand—and use that as a benchmark.
We can get into the nitty-gritty and really say, “Hey, look, store X or dealership Y, if you do a better job of cleaning up your bathrooms, of responding more quickly to these text messages…” I mean literally, we run the gamut of feedback that we see, all the way to, “Hey, e-commerce brand, product X, you really need to fix the laces on those shoes. Here’s what we’re seeing.”
We do it for the biggest brands in the world and we’re able to say, “Here are actual tangible changes you can make.” As a result of those changes, your NPS is likely to go up. But NPS, you know, it’s necessary but not sufficient. It’s not going to tell you what you need to do in your business.
Drew Neisser: I’m not sure it’s even necessary because it’s insufficient, but that’s just me. It’s there and there’s normative data, but it’s all false normative data. You can have a high NPS score and then none of your customers refer you actually, so wait, what is that then?
It’s a theoretical notion, “Yeah, I’d recommend it to a friend. I’ll give them a 9.” But do they do it? That’s what matters, right? In B2B, real referrals are what matters, also it’s churn rate. Did they renew or not? Those are real scores that actually drive revenue.
NPS has been problematic for me for quite a while, and I know that if the folks from Satmetrix were here they’d be saying, “Oh, don’t worry about that. We’ve got all sorts of things. We know it’s just a score and you need more than one.” Not that we’re here to diss them, but just to, “Let’s think about this differently, folks.”
As you’re talking about sentiment score, the examples you gave were all B2C. Are there big B2B brands that are looking at using the sentiment score to help them?
Rebecca Biestman: Absolutely, and more and more. Our brand was founded on servicing B2C. I will just say, as a B2B marketer, often B2C is the leading edge for us. They get better at things first and then we adopt them in the B2B space.
We started with B2C and e-commerce brands—either location-based or e-commerce—that were really focused on that end consumer. Now in the B2B space, especially with the proliferation of social media channels, of review sites for tech, G2, Capterra, Trustpilot, whatever it is, you name it—they are now realizing that that digital reputation, which is not within their control, those unsolicited interactions, they need to be managed, they need to be actioned on in a way that’s scalable, and they need a platform to help them do that.
We absolutely have some traction in B2B and it’s an area of major expansion for the brand. We see some of our highest growth rates there across the business.
Drew Neisser: I imagine there’s a lot of B2B and B2B2C brands and others that would go in there.
[37:39] Reputation’s Reputation Score“If we can't use it effectively and frictionlessly, how are our customers going to be able to do it?” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: With this, are you able to drink your own champagne? How has that worked? That’s an interesting measure for you and, in theory, if you had this diluted product offering without the focus that you have brought, your reputation probably wasn’t where you wanted it to be. That would be an interesting one just in your own case. Are you seeing improvements in Reputation’s score?
Rebecca Biestman: We are. When I came into the business, I partnered really closely with our chief experience officer and the two of us sat together and said, “We use our platform now. It’s something that helps our business, but it’s not codified it into the DNA of who we are.” And in terms of process, we weren’t ingraining our platform and our processes the way that we see some of our best customers do it.
That’s been a change that both he and I have undergone together, and we see that across our customer base. These heads of customer experience and these heads of marketing, those two worlds, they’re really colliding together more and more. Our platform is often the catalyst for that collision, or rather helped that collision come to meaningful fruition.
We use our platform to both manage those channels for us—everything from survey to text messaging to social media to our review sites—to also then take that information within the platform that we’re getting to say, “Here’s what we need to do better.”
Our CX team just did a big presentation to our entire company about the results of our latest customer experience survey and the actionable steps that we were going to take that were fielded from our platform to really make sure that we were servicing our customers the best way possible.
I would say it’s absolutely ingrained into who we are, and we’re our own best case study. If we can’t use it effectively and frictionlessly, how are our customers going to be able to do it? It’s always a red flag, I think, when you go into businesses and they don’t use the product that they’re selling assuming that they can.
We like to basically advertise that to our customers. I give up my own marketing team members to talk to customers: “Hey, you want to know how we’re doing it? Great. Go talk to my head of digital experience, go talk to my head of customer marketing. They’ll give you some great advice.”
[39:57] Tackling Brand and Demand at the Same Time“We got to do a lot of testing before the brand work was done.” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: I had promised earlier in the show that we would talk about this notion of parallel processing with demand gen. We don’t have a lot of time left, but can you talk about what that meant? While you were doing the brand work, what kinds of things were you doing to generate demand?
Rebecca Biestman: When I came into the business, our biggest challenge was that we didn’t have a linear predictable engine going on the demand side. It wasn’t as if the marketing team wasn’t generating demand, it was just that we couldn’t effectively plan our business around that demand being generated.
It was everything from optimizing the channels that we already had running to adding new channels to then dealing with 2020 which, of course, in and of itself was a nice pivot. Luckily at the time, we were already investing more and more in digital channels and divesting from field events—that was some of the balance that I was bringing to the business in the first place. And then, on top of that, being able to kind of augment that inbound motion with a really strong outbound motion.
Doing all of those things together in tandem, they were able to build—“they” meaning our amazing growth team—to build a really solid foundation of programs and campaigns and do a lot of testing and iterating as we were building the brand. They’re now able to infuse the brand in those channels that were either latent or non-existent or just needed a lot of optimization.
Ideally, you would do your brand first, give all of that to the demand gen team, have them build it up, but actually, we got to do a lot of testing before the brand work was done. Because of that, we were able to more effectively utilize the new brand more quickly than we probably would have been able to otherwise.
Drew Neisser: It’s really interesting and I talk a lot about this with the CMOs in Huddles. In an ideal world, you’re right. You would start with brand and then move to demand, but the reality is most CMOs have a short window to show that they can impact the business. Often the case is, no, you’ve got to focus on demand and building an engine and earning a seat at the table.
“Hey, we can show you—we’ve now set it up that we’ve got 3x, 5x, 10x of pipeline, and marketing is delivering amazingly qualified leads. In fact, we’re qualifying them, and sales is on it and we’ve we built this engine,”—as you called it—”with playbooks and all these other things.”
That often gives the CMO the credibility to have the brand conversation. You were fortunate that you could do both. I think it’s hard sometimes for folks to distinguish between the two, but a lot of what you’re talking about is the mechanics.
“How are we out there in the market and measuring? What’s our marketing automation program? Who are we targeting?” A lot of that stuff is what you were dealing with in the demand gen world. That’s fascinating that you could do both of them at the same time. That is really hard.
Rebecca Biestman: Yeah. 2020 was an intense year. We’ve had a lot happening in the business. Ultimately, I have to give credit to the team. We were able to ramp up a team, bring in some amazing new team members—we already had a great team there—but doing both at the same time is like wearing multiple hats and very different muscles as a marketer that you tend to flex.
To your point, there is major overlap and tie-in. I mean, I think the brand is what you go to market with, and so much of building the demand gen engine is how you go to market with it. To have them both happen simultaneously—like I said, it was a lot all at once, but I actually think it positioned us to have rapid impact and then to compound that impact exponentially now that the new brand is in-market.
[44:05] Lessons Learned: Building a Demand Gen Engine“It's one thing to see it in the data, it's another thing to be able to hear it from the field. You're getting that quantitative and qualitative feedback.” –@RBiestman @Reputation_Com Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s bring this home. We’ve talked about the biggest lessons that you had from a brand-building standpoint, about having a team and really a broad-based team at the executive level, involving employees, involving customers, a little tiny bit of testing, having an outside partner, all that’s great.
Now, if you were to provide that same sort of lessons learned from your demand gen side, what might you say?
Rebecca Biestman: The biggest lessons we learned from building out a demand gen engine so quickly is that it takes a lot of testing and iteration early on when you’re launching completely new and novel channels. For us, that meant everything from really strong email marketing to digital ABM. There was so much that we were doing all at the same time.
The second was really the importance of clear, concise, and reliable reporting. It is impossible to manage the business without it, and data integrity, data invalidity, those are huge challenges with organizations that I’ve seen at both big and small. It’s almost like you have to unlock that first before you kick off all of the good work.
Then the last thing is just really tight partnership with the field and having that feedback loop, because ultimately, they are the owners of that destiny once those opportunities go through to them. Having a great relationship with your field teams and getting that feedback consistently will only help you iterate faster. It’s one thing to see it in the data, it’s another thing to be able to hear it from the field. You’re getting that quantitative and qualitative feedback. Those were some lessons that we learned really early, and it’s helped us scale our programs exponentially over the course of the year.
Drew Neisser: Well, that’s a perfect place to wrap up. Rebecca, we covered so much ground. I so appreciate your pithiness and sharing and the honesty of your journey. It sounds all good. We wish you the best of luck. I can’t wait to see how the brand grows. I can’t wait to see being able to access Reputation’s Score for any company, perhaps, on the website someday. That would be kind of nice.
Rebecca Biestman: That might be coming. You never know.
Drew Neisser: You never know. It’s kind of a cool thought. You could go in and check your reputation. There was one other one I did want to ask—is there normative data in all of this?
Rebecca Biestman: Yes, we have benchmark data that we use.
Drew Neisser: That’s got to be helpful, too. You’re not just looking at.
All right, well, we could go on, obviously, for a long time, but we can’t because all of the folks that listen say, “Drew, you’ve got to wrap this up because my workout is coming to an end.” Thank you so much for being on the show.
Rebecca Biestman: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been great.
Drew Neisser: And to all our listeners, speaking of reputation, I would love it if you went to your favorite podcast channel and wrote a review so that when we do have a Reputation Score for Renegade Thinkers Unite, you’ll be able to see it improve.
Renegade Thinkers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck, 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. I’m your host Drew Neisser, and until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.