RENEGADE THINKING from the CEO of Renegade, the social media & marketing agency that helps clients make more out of less by transforming communications into "Marketing as Service."

Why CMOs Should FLAIC Out on Their Personal Brands

10/21/14

personal_branding-1Whether you call it Cobbler’s Children Syndrome or just basic neglect, talk to a cross-section of CMOs and you’ll discover a startling anomaly—though they dedicate their careers to building brands, very few have made time to take care of their own personal brands. This oversight leaves many a senior executive poorly positioned – especially when they become suddenly unemployed around fifty years of age, two fearsome and often concurrent inevitabilities. (If this article looks familiar, then you read it first on Forbes.com).

The good news is that many current heads of marketing are awakening to this issue.  At The CMO Club’s recent summit in Los Angeles, nearly half of the 150+ attendees joined a workshop on personal branding.  An informal survey of those folks revealed the degree of neglect—less than 20% rated their personal brand at 7 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 and over 60% rated themselves below a 5!  This was not a case of modesty (remember we’re talking about CMOs here!) but more like deer transfixed by headlights, they want to move on but somehow they can’t.

When confronting this group with the obvious need for developing personal brands, there was little dispute.  In fact, 98% acknowledged having Googled themselves, fully recognizing that if they didn’t take care of their own reputation, Google would do it for them.  At the same time, these marketing leaders felt there were some pretty significant barriers to overcome and ranked them as follows:

  1. Insufficient time—they were simply too busy doing other aspects of their job;
  2. Conflict of interest—many felt time invested building their own brand might be interpreted as self-promotional rather than as a good for their companies;
  3. Building CEO’s brand instead—many felt obligated to focus on increasing the profile of their CEO while sublimating their own;
  4. Not sure how—in light of the above issues, many felt overwhelmed at the prospect of building their own brands and just weren’t sure where to start.

To encourage these CMOs to stop flaking out on their personal brands, I offered up a tongue-in-cheek acronym, FLAIC, which they both appreciated and responded to with a request for greater detail.  And at the risk of oversimplifying what is a career-long exercise, here is FLAIC (Focus, Lead, Adapt, Invest, Cultivate) spelled out, a 5-step process for marketers to build their personal brands:

FOCUS:  Though an obvious foundational component to any marketing campaign, many CMOs have not thought about the need for a strategy statement, a document that helps bring focus to one’s personal branding efforts. These statements help senior marketers define what makes them compelling or unique, an exercise that requires at least an ounce of ambition and a cup of introspection.  Since just about everyone’s career is a work in progress, these statements encourage the writer to challenge and stretch his or her sense of self.

LEAD:  With a personal brand statement in hand, senior marketers can then turn their attention to providing thought leadership around their area(s) of expertise.  This thought leadership can be shared in writing (articles, blogs, comments), videos and of course speaking engagements.  The key here is that the content is well crafted and reflects positively on the both the individual and the company for whom he/she works.  (Note—part of leading means making sure your company sees the value of having thought leaders and savvy CMOs secure this understanding prior to taking a job.)

ADAPT: Like corporate brands, it is easy for marketing individuals to get pigeon holed as experts in only one area (i.e. “he’s a car guy” or “she’s a traditional media pro”) which can become career limiting.  While still being focused on your overall brand strategy (i.e. innovator, metrics-oriented, team builder, etc.), you can use your content to demonstrate your breadth of expertise (e.g. “What Pharma can learn from car marketers” or “What TV can learn from digital”).  Note—for many CMOs adapting also means learning new skills via rigorous course-work.

INVEST: Building a personal brand can’t be done without investing time, money or both.  Roberto Medrano, CMO of SOA, started writing and blogging regularly 5 years ago, a commitment of time made more challenging by the fact that English is not his first language.  This investment, which included finding native editors, paid off for Medrano as he was recently ranked 12th among 250 top CMOs, a fact his company celebrated in this release.  For CMOs who don’t like to write, paying ghostwriters or creating video tutorials are equally viable options.

CULTIVATE:  Initially, I had this as C for Connect, given the critical nature that a network plays in building personal brands. But after Evan Greene, CMO of The Recording Academy, shared the story of how old connections often come out of the woodwork during Grammy season; I suspect Cultivate is more instructive.  The idea here is that building a personal brand also includes cultivating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships.  Support your fellow marketers, even if it’s just the occasional retweet or a pithy comment on an article, and watch the good karma boomerang.

Final note: Though personal branding is hardly a new idea (Tom Peters wrote about The Brand Called You back in 1997,) it does seem to be getting fresh attention from senior marketers as evidence by interest in this basic strategy worksheet.  Now what remains to be seen is whether or not this next generation of marketing leaders will step up to FLAIC or merely flake out.

CMO Personal Branding Worksheet

10/5/14

Personal-Branding-Naming-AlternativesI recently had the pleasure of leading a session on Personal Branding at The CMO Club Summit with Evan Greene, the CMO of Grammys.  The session was really well attended and it was clear by all accounts that this was an area of great interest to senior marketers. The following is a document I prepared for the attendees that is a compilation of guidance team Renegade found from a number of sources (see credits at the bottom).

Why CMOs Need to Care About Their Personal Brand

  • Enhances your value to your current employer.
  • No job is forever.
  • If you don’t control your reputation, someone else will (i.e. Google)

 Personal Brand Statement Overview

  • A short and sweet statement that describes who you are and what you bring to the table. It answers the questions, “what makes you great?” and “what makes you compelling?” but should not be confused with a mission statement (which tend to be more lofty and less job specific).
  • You could be a “reliable, strategic planner” or “a innovative professional connector.” Or, your statement might be something like, “inspiring others to excel.” Are you amazingly well organized? Do people enjoy working with you for your fantastic sense of humor?
  • Your brand statement should be consistent with how others perceive you. Don’t describe yourself as a team builder if your team thinks otherwise.  However, if you have hit some professional brick walls, it may be time for reinvention and it is okay therefore to make your brand statement aspirational.

 Three Components to Consider

  1. Figure out your emotional appeal
    1. How do people benefit from working with me?
    2. How do CEOs benefit from working with me?
    3. How do I make people feel?
    4. What words do others use to describe me?
  2. Determine your description
    1. What field or industry am I in (or do I want to be in)?
    2. What are the words I would use to describe my work?
    3. Who is my target audience?
  3. Describe your role
    1. What service do I have to offer people / companies?
    2. What do I do that makes me stand out from everyone else?

 

Draft Your Personal Brand Statement (here are a few statement starters)

All modesty aside, I am great because_________________________________________________

Yes! I am compelling because______________________________________________________

But seriously, I am special because___________________________________________________

I am different from your average CMO because…________________________________________

Making it Real: Getting Started

If you say you’re an innovative leader you better innovate on the job and lead a productive team.  If you claim to be a results-driven marketer then you should have the case histories with hard data to back it up. Now we can consider all the things you can do to build your personal brand beyond simply doing your job:

  • Basic Appearance: Are you dressing the part?  Does your business card reflect your personal brand statement?  Your resume should express & support your personal statement.
  • Social Basics: Do your social profiles back up your statement?  Are they consistent?  If you claim to be digitally savvy or cutting edge, are you on the latest social channels?
  • Social Channels: How many you choose to be active on is up to you but the key word here is active.  The only way to understand and claim social savvy is to be active.
  • Content Creation: If being a thought-leader is an important part of your brand, then you need to demonstrate that by creating content for your personal blog/website and/or for other legitimate publications. If you don’t like writing, find a ghostwriter or better yet, learn to like it. Or make a video.  Whatever you do, your content should be authentically you and focused on what you want to be known for.
  • Content Upgrade: Does the content you post support your personal statement?  If you claim creativity as part of your personal statement, make sure your content is creative.  (Hint: post better content even if that means posting less!)

Making it Real: Additional Tactics

  • Rekindle Old Ties: Contact and meet with old friends.  Make new ones by going to networking events.  Use these encounters to sharpen the elevator version of your personal statement.  No more “same old, same old” responses.
  • Learn A New Skill: This skill should support your brand statement and give you a new area to write about and discuss with peers.

Good Sources on Personal Branding

The above merely scratches the surface on this topic. I have an article in the works that I will share shortly spelling out FLAIC (Focus, Lead, Adapt, Invest, Cultivate), an acronym I whipped up just for the unique challenges of marketing execs.  As always, let me know if you have thoughts to add.

7.5 Surefire Ways to Drive Brand Hatred

09/30/14
deadlysins

Note: Found this cartoon after I wrote my post.

Recognizing that brands have sabotaged themselves since the days of Noah via a host of slowly eroding sins, the purpose of this article is to put the spotlight on the flash faux pas that instantaneously dissolve loyalty and ignite brand hatred. This hatred, often expressed with the exclamatory #EpicFail on social media, is typically motivated by one of the following sinful ineptitudes. Some of these might seem laughable unless, of course, they happen to you.

1. Sloth: “We care about you–your call will be answered in 600 minutes.”
Ignore me at your own risk.  I am not just one customer any more.  I am me AND my social media-empowered army of friends and associates.  Make us wait longer than we think we deserve at your bar or store or so-called hotline and our wrath will be heard faster than you can say, “may I help you.”  68% of us will leave and never comeback, but that’s just a fraction of your problem.  A mighty minority of us will attack you like ninjas on Yelp or TripAdvisor or some other rating service leaving a lingering trail of forewarning rage.  Yes, be afraid of sloth.

2. Avarice: “What exactly do you mean your service doesn’t work as expected?”
This one is as easy as 1-2-3. 1: Over promise. 2: Under-deliver. 3: Duck and cover.  I think I’m safe in saying that everyone hates feeling they’ve been ripped off.  This is less about the feeling that you paid too much for something.  Sure that hurts, but that’s usually on us for not doing our homework.  No, this is paying for what you think is a premium service only to find out it’s unreliable or doesn’t perform as advertised.  That tactic will guarantee recognition, however, on the list of the Most Hated Companies in America!

3. Wrath: “You’re pissed off? How do you think I feel?”
Chances are I wouldn’t last five minutes on a customer service desk especially when the 4th boneheaded caller/yeller in a row refuses to realize that his miniscule problem is, in fact, a user caused error.  Be that as it may, shouting back at your disgruntled customers in person, on the phone, or online is a shortcut up “Schlitz” creek without the proverbial paddle.  Just ask the folks at Amy’s Baking Company how their epic tirade on Facebook worked out (hint: not so well).  Even in the face of “wait until you hear this one” user incompetence, customer service interactions need to start with a bit of empathy AND be driven by the sincere goal of turning each and every detractor into a brand promoter.

4. Gluttony: “We’re so happy you’re our customer. Want fries with that?”
We get it.  Just about every business wants to sell more products especially to its existing customers.  And reaching out to your existing customers in person, via email, direct mail or phone can be beneficial to both parties, especially if the interaction coincides with a need cycle.  But there’s a line here where enough is way more than enough. It’s a line that once crossed, replaces receptivity with fervent animosity followed by a vitriolic tweet decrying the 13th contact by Brand X that particular week.

5. Pride: “Honestly, we’re too busy right now to care about your little problem.”
The flip side of overselling is acting disinterested.  This is especially the case in social media when brands have a presence but consciously or unconsciously ignore relevant conversations.  To label this behavior prideful may be a stretch, though it does send a message that the brand simply can’t be bothered to converse with the hoi polloi.  The big risk here is that you could unwittingly ignore a customer with influence; who responds by turning your cold shoulder into a hot topic.

6. Lust: “Nice to see you again Mr. Jones. You there, get back in line.”
Showing preference for one type of customer over another is tricky business. Airline reward programs come with a sense of fairness: Fly more and enjoy clearly defined perks. But treat one customer better or worse because of who they are and you’re begging for animosity. For example, the cable company that breaks protocol to respond faster to an outage at a celebrity’s house is likely to get an earful from the regular (and ignored) guy around the corner. The extreme case here is when Chick-fil-a’s CEO expressed preference for “traditional” families, generating a firestorm of brand hatred.

7. Envy: “Did I mention, we’re just like Apple only…”
Perhaps this has happened to you.  You’re shopping for something and the sales person says, “This is just like the leading brand, only many dollars cheaper.”  So you buy it, head home, and open the box only to discover that instead of saving money you wasted it on an inferior product.  Yeah, that pisses me off big time, especially since it’s so avoidable.  It’s okay to make cheaper products (in fact, thanks for giving us choices) as long as you manage our expectations and don’t pretend to be something you aren’t.

7½. Control: “Press 0 as many times as you want, there are no humans here.”
Want to see unadulterated ire? Piece of cake–just make your customers feel helpless. For example, don’t bother telling the passengers in the terminal that their plane is delayed until an hour after its obvious and too late for them to do anything about it.  Or don’t offer a digital support center that empowers your customers to make adjustments to their accounts at any hour of the day from any device.  Or, my favorite, remove the hit “0” option from your customer service phone tree, setting up the opportunity for fruitless loops of avoidable anger.

Final Note: There is a silver lining within all this talk of hate and sin.  Customers that express brand hatred are a bit like the friend that tells you about the spinach in your teeth.  It’s embarrassing for sure but not as bad as the real enemy here—indifference. Vocally angry customers are creating the opportunity for you to address their issues. You just need to be listening and then try to remedy the situation.  Indifferent consumers are quietly unsalvageable.

 

10 Refreshingly Useful Ideas That Also Sell Wine & Beer

06/18/14

In the world of wine and beer marketing, sexy, clever and or entertaining ads are the headline grabbers. The purpose of this article is to reveal another framework in which the promotional activity of these beverages also provides intrinsic value—an approach we Renegades call “Marketing as Service.” Here are 10 refreshing examples that hopefully will inspire you to bring more utility to your marketing regardless of the product category. (FYI–if this article seems familiar, then you read it first on MediaPost.com).

Packaging that does more than pop

1. Nothing says, “drink me now” like a wine bottle that also doubles as a glass.  Caps off to the folks at Copa Divino or making a re-sealable container called The Copa Glass. Zipz Wine is taking a similarly picnic chic approach and is now available in six-cup-packs at major ballparks.

Copa Glass

2. Heineken has found a way to help its fans light up the night, literally, with its prototype “Ignite” bottles that respond to toasting, drinking and even pulsing music at coolly dim events, the first of which was the Milan Design Fair.

Heineken lights up

Heineken Ignite bottle

3. In a bid to attract millennials away from cocktails and craft beers, Uproot Wines is trying a whole new type of labeling system that describes its “Flavor Palette” with a color coded guides versus traditional grape-type descriptors.

Encouraging social and antisocial media behavior

4.Brazil’s AmBev offered Rio carnival partiers a free train ride home simply by scanning their Antarctica beer and then handing in the can at a specially designed turnstile, simultaneously limiting drunk driving and freeing the grounds from the usual post-revelry rubbish piles. What’s not to love?

5. New Castle Brown, a brand distinguished by ads with attitude, brought its tongue in cheeky approach to Twitter, offering $1 for its first 50,000 followers. While one buck won’t buy brand love, it does start the conversation, one that New Castle can continue online and offline with its new address book (the checks are sent by mail!).

Camera blocker

Norte photo blocker

6. Norte beer recognized that every night out need not be recorded for posterity and thusly created a beer cooler that doubles as a Photoblocker , providing both utility and distinctive on-premise signage.

7. Another clever brand, Sol beer set up a recycling bin for neck ties next to the ones for paper & cans at commuter stations, offering a free beer to anyone who got into the spirit, which I guess we could call “tying one off.”

 

Tie recycle bin

Sol Tie Recycling Bin

Inspiring online, offline and mobile

8. From the savvy folks who created a Book of World Records as a means of inspiring fun pub conversations, comes the Guinness pub finder app, which is another quintessential example of Marketing as Service. The app does exactly what you’d expect helping even Android users find the nearest pints of their beloved Irish dry stout.

9. At a music festival in South Africa, beer sponsor Windhoek delighted attendees by enabling them to order a free beer via their smartphones, which was then promptly delivered via specially designed drones to their GPS-identified location. Now that’s service with a smile.

Beer drone

10. Surrounding brand marketers are a number of apps designed to help connect consumers with the right place or product. The TastingRoom.com offers a personalized wine finder based on your preferences while the TapHunter helps you locate the nearest Craft Beer venue.

Final Note: Admittedly some of these ideas seem more like PR-chasing stunts than genuine efforts to deliver a service of value but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.  For more thought-provoking ideas, join me for a panel discussion on innovative marketing at the upcoming Wine/Beer Technology Symposium in Napa on June 30th.

Q + A on Leadership w Stephanie Anderson, CMO, Time Warner Cable Business Class

05/28/14

stephanie anderson

Sorry Kermit the Frog, if you think its hard being green–try being a CMO. The demands are relentless, the barriers to success are often as large inside the company pond as they are out of it and the timeframe for delivering meaningful results are a de minimis hop or two away. So finding a CMO who knows how to not just survive but thrive under these conditions is worth celebrating — which is exactly what The CMO Club did when they recognized Stephanie Anderson with their President’s Circle Award late last year.

During her tenure as CMO of Time Warner Cable Business Class, among other accomplishments Anderson reorganized her group, established a Customer Experience and Knowledge (CEK) team and most recently led the launch of PerkZone, a multi-dimensional customer loyalty program.  (Proud disclosure: TWCBC is a Renegade client and is part of the team that created and manage PerkZone!)  Here is my interview with Anderson conducted around the time of The CMO Awards.

Drew: A CMO has a lot of choices in terms of where they invest their time.  What have been your top priorities in the last 12 months?
I think when you are in any leadership role you need to spend the right proportion of time with key stakeholders and constituents to get the job done in a collaborative way, without being too far into the details or overshadowing your people.  I use my boss’s rule: 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.  A third of my time is spent with my peer group and up, making sure they all understand the strategy, focus, and priorities for Marketing, Advertising and Offers and 1/3 is spent with my direct reports (3 GVPs and 2 VPs) helping them with priorities and any people/budget issues, and 1/3 out in the market, with customers, suppliers, vendors, events, continuing education, etc.

Drew: Have there been any big surprises in terms of what’s worked really well and what hasn’t?
Not any big surprises about what has worked.  But, one that continues to baffle me is that I have had challenges drawing a straight line conclusion that direct mail influences the web or overall leads, even though we have used purls, phone numbers, vanity urls – but over time, without the DM in our industry you start to see a reduction in overall sales related calls.

Drew: Big data is a big part of the CMO conversation these days.  How are you tackling big data?
This is a tough one.  We are revamping our database as we speak to not just be more encompassing, but really more searchable and friendly.  The data is useless without the ability to pull together the storyline and make decisions based on what you find out.  That is the challenge.

Drew: Innovation is a sexy word but not as sexy to a CEO as ROI.  Have you been able to link your innovative marketing activities to the kinds of business metrics favored by CEOs?
Yes, and more importantly in my case our CFO (who has the office next to mine!).  I, myself, actually drive us harder than the CFO because I want us to always be spending on relevant, revenue impacting marketing initiatives.  I think the easiest and most enjoyable is SEM.  The toughest is loyalty and brand – but we do prove the link to revenue or reduced churn or improved consideration in everything we do.

Drew: Marketing seems to be getting increasingly complex in terms of ways to spend and ways to monitor. Has it gotten more complex for you and if so, how are you dealing with that complexity?
More sophisticated, not necessarily more complex.  The depth of knowledge you can glean from online activity to inform offline is sophisticated, and extremely useful.  We have one marketing team that has all digital and mass for that reason – because of the relationship between on and off line.  Also, while the analytics can seem daunting, the end results generally help you make better decisions overall, so now you may spend a bit more of your budget tracking, learning and understanding and less on the actual tactics because you’ve mastered and fine-tuned them.

Drew: How do you stay close to your customers when you operate in so many markets and have so many different types of business customers?  
Not so well on the low end, but we are changing that.  We serve very small, small, medium and large enterprises.  It’s easy when you are dealing with a national customer to be responsive, available, etc.  but in the mass world of transactional, very small and small, it becomes harder and pretty soon your relationship is boiled down to email and a monthly bill.  We do have newsletters, are building a value–added benefits program for small business and try to send them information that can help their business grow and/or stay healthy.  It’s getting better as we use campaign and life cycle management tools, but there’s always room for improvement.  Our job is collecting and keeping customers.

Drew: One of the big challenges a CMO faces is organizational, given all the different marketing channels.  How are you addressing these organizational challenges? 
I am going for Best in Class in this area.  I recently implemented what I call an “outside in” structure that takes the customers and competitors in the segments we serve into consideration.  So I have a lead GVP of Small, a lead GVP of mid-market and Channels, and a GVP of Enterprise and Carrier business.  They run the marketing end-to-end for their segment including offers, competitive, life cycle strategy and then I have two functional teams that are shared resources – one is mass & digital and the other is customer experience and knowledge for all of the database and research/retention etc.

It’s a new design, but I believe any structure that puts the customers/prospects at the core of it should work out!

Drew: Content marketing is a hot topic at the moment. Are you increasing your investment in this area?
Content marketing is hot – but not new.  Being in technology, that is the way we work – be relevant, educate and then solve.  I would say yes, we are increasing our investment here but not because we are following a content trend, but because our own thought leadership and solutions have advanced and we need to be able to tell our stories quickly and with the prospect or customer in mind.

Drew: As CMO, have you been able to address the entire customer experience?   
Yes, I actually have a Customer Experience and Knowledge (CEK) team.  We work very closely to survey and research what customers/prospects want, pilot the findings in market and then implement across the company, working especially close with our care organization and field operations.  We all own the interactions as employees of TWC, but my team has the ultimate accountability to make sure we capture and harness the best experience possible and deploy that across our business.

Branding, Content Marketing & Reverse Osmosis

05/21/14

snehal desaiMarketing never gets boring to me because each company, brand and sub-brand has its own unique challenges.  This is certainly the case for Snehal Desai, Global Business Director of Dow Water & Process Solutions, a division of Dow Chemical.  Snehal and I had a long conversation about the subtleties of marketing a sub-brand with multiple product lines aimed at multiple verticals with multiple constituents all while remaining true to the parent brand’s vision.  And if I haven’t built up the challenge enough, keep in mind that these folks are selling highly-technical things like reverse osmosis systems that separate salt from water.

How Snehal and Dow Water tackled this challenge is well-worth pouring over (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) if for no other reason that it is a cogent reminder that if you focus on your customer you’ll rarely go astray.  As you will see, Dow Water puts a lot of energy into creating educational content (seminars, white papers, studies, models, etc.) that has helped drive the perception that they are experts, not parts manufacturers.

Drew: Can you talk a little bit about your brand, Dow Water and Process Solutions, relative to the corporate brand, The Dow Chemical Company, and how you distinguish between the two?
That’s a good question, because Dow as a company is very large. A lot of the time customers are thinking about the product that’s doing a certain function for them. As such, we are continually looking at the balance between leveraging the large company presence, investment on Dow’s capability and history. But we don’t lose sight of the fact that we have customers that are specifically buying, and have been buying for years, what’s come to be known as the Dow Water & Process Solutions suite of products. So we think first with respect to our customers and the things that they want the most from us.

Drew: I want to clarify a bit on Dow Water and Process Solutions. Would you describe it as more of an ingredient brand?
I would definitely say it’s more of an ingredient brand. For example, there are a variety of ways that one can separate and purify water. We make the technology that does the actual separation and purification. For example, we make the membranes that separate the salts from the water. So we make the guts, the advanced separation steps, and are in that way almost always inside a system.

And because we’ve been operating in this environment for decades and the very nature of b-to-b marketing, we actually do have a relatively high level of awareness among our users. But that’s also one of our brand challenges, to be able to remind people of the work we do.           

Drew: Were any of the sub-brands that you recently purchased well known enough to considered the generic brand in their categories and if so, did you keep those names?
We purchased Rohm & Haas in 2009, which was a very well known chemicals company that had a very strong position in ion exchange technology. With that company came a set of customers that knew exactly what they wanted. So depending on the sub-application, certain trade names did resonate more than others.

Once you start to really get into specifications, the customers don’t want to change them. The last thing you want to do is shoot yourself in the foot because you felt like it would make it more economical on a naming and literature basis, and find out you lost a million-dollar order because they decided they don’t like the new product because it was not what they expected.

Drew: So there’s the Dow brand and then there’s Dow Water & Process Solutions.  How are the guidelines defined? Is there a Dow brand oversight team that you as the marketer of Dow Water & Process need to go through?
There definitely is. We have a corporate public affairs group, which is the group that’s responsible for making sure that the brand standards are followed. What we do is work with that team to develop business brand standards, which might stretch the corporate brand one way or another depending on the audience a specific business is trying to reach. This way we are able to target our audience with the appropriate brand image while still staying true to the greater Dow brand.

The corporate Dow brand work supports this notion we’re trying to impart to our customers, which is to think of our job as providing solutions. We cover so many areas – if you think about a category like health and nutrition, the medical space, or energy storage, we have many, many different plays that are already going on in those spaces. People don’t always put it all together. So there’s this idea that we would be using the website and a branding approach to these market segments. In many ways we’re writing white papers to help talk about the broader issues that would interest consumers, like provisions of clean drinking water, cleaning up waste water, and the whole idea of sustainability.

Drew: Interesting. So “good” from a sustainability standpoint is that message to serve around a good, corporate citizen, and you guys help fill that role?
Yes, and you can always look at it as both a blessing and a curse. Because with that role also comes the need to balance between talking about almost philanthropic good then what we really do, which is helping companies, helping municipalities, and really driving a sufficient, low-cost, reliable provision of separation and purification services. If you look at some recent product launches such as ECO FILMTEC™ reverse osmosis elements or SEAMAXX™ reverse osmosis elements, sustainability is intrinsic to the value proposition and is in fact, what our customers expect. They are looking for improvements such as lower energy requirements, less chemical requirements and resistance to fouling. All of these benefits, while operational, are also sustainable.

Drew: How much and how important is consultative selling? Can you give me an example of how you “campaigned” it?
It’s the way we do business. It’s the way that our sales team and our technical sellers do things in the marketplace. We do seminars. We actually have projection programs that allow us to model some systems for people to help them make some choices on what options they might have, the tradeoffs, etc. We did some brand study work around three or four years ago. They did some good external studies and surveys. One of the things that people said they bought was expertise. They were buying the knowledge of the people that they were working with.

So that’s always something that our customers always talk about. They rely on us to give them good answers. To help them solve problems that aren’t always directly related to the product that we sell. In fact, this is a core value proposition and our biggest differentiator against our competition. We have the best people in the business and the most expertise. Our customers rely on that.

Drew: With the person who’s buying your product and essentially reselling it to someone else, is there a combined branding activity?
It’s not exactly like that. It’s more like this: if you consider an equipment seller, and anybody can buy pumps, valves, and fittings on the market, the question then becomes one of “how does he differentiate himself?” One of the ways he can do so is to identify that the components he’s putting in the customer’s system is something that the industry knows and everybody trusts and is the best on the market. So that when he puts his bid in, and he actually calls out, “I’m using Dow XYZ,” that’s his way of saying, “Look, my bid with this technology is really the winning solution.”

But some companies are more collaborative. Meaning they’ll ask us for help. They’ll ask us if they can come in and jointly sell or help answer questions for the customer given the confidence that technology will work. And we do that. But that’s the industrial sector. We also sell into the residential market which is very different. That’s more about brand owners that are putting white good appliances into your house, so in that case, you’re talking about a consumer story. Building the confidence that these products are good and healthy for you, and they’re going to deliver what they say they’re going to deliver.

Drew:  If you were to define the Dow brand, and then you were to define the Dow Water & Process Solutions brand, would there be differences?
Probably not. I don’t think they’re that different. Where the differences occur is when you get really right down to the specifics of the solutions and markets. People are telling you about sort of the things you did for them. Not the company, but the things your people and technology do. I’m not saying that every business in Dow is delivering the same set of attributes, but I think we pivot off of a lot of the same thing. It’s a strong technology base. It’s the ethic around reliability and consistency, a global reach. So I think we have a lot of similarities.

Drew: That gets back to enabling the channel, the consultative selling, all the content marketing that everybody wants to talk about now. It’s all in this category of doing versus saying. Do you feel like you have a luxury that other brands don’t have, in that you can build Dow Water & Process Solutions focused on the “doing” because the parent company is taking  care of the “saying” component?
You’re absolutely right. And yet by doing, as you say, that becomes the basis of the stories of what the company wants to say. As long as we continue doing well and enabling changes and differences in the market, then people are looking for ways to tell those stories in creative and inspiring ways. We are definitely lucky.

Final note: thanks to my friends at The CMO Club for the introduction to Snehal.

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