RENEGADE THINKING from the Founder/CEO of Renegade AND the author of the upcoming book, "The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing."

Getting B2B Content Marketing on the Payroll


I’m on the phone the other day with my friend John Hall of Influence & Co and casually ask, “Do you know any Chicago-based wizards of content marketing that would be good panelists?” [My inquiry was anything but casual in that I’m emceeing the first day of Incite’s Content Marketing Summit and I’m a stickler for getting sharp and articulate panelists thus making my role a whole lot easier.] Anyway, back to the story. John suggests Charlie Breit, VP of Marketing at SurePayroll, a division of Paychex, and I have to say I was initially skeptical since this particular category is not, at least in my mind, inherently scintillating. Of course, I should know better than to” judge a book by its cover” and as you will see in our interview below, not only does Charlie know his stuff but also his approach is truly inspiring. Read on — this particular interview definitely pays dividends right to the last!

Drew: How important is content to your overall marketing strategy? What role does is play in the overall mix?

Content is a key strategic pillar for us within our marketing strategy.  Two-thirds of our new customers are either new small businesses (or households with Nanny Payroll) or new to payroll solutions (and also only have 1 – 4 employees), so they are usually not very familiar or knowledgeable about the ins and outs of taxes, payroll, etc.  Also many are new small business owners, so they are also trying to get their business up and running and often times can be overwhelmed by everything they need to do.  We see ourselves as a strategic partner that helps business owners simplify an aspect of their business that at times can seem difficult and hard to understand – but it doesn’t just begin and end with our payroll software.

Our content marketing program is a way that we can help all of our customers learn about taxes, payroll and running a business.  As a whole – our customers want a solution that is low-touch and software that they can manage on their own – with little help/inquiry to our service team as needed.  Content is a way that we can help educate our customers and provide them the support they need to be more successful in their business and help them get a better handle on taxes, payroll, etc. as they grow and develop as a business.  Content is something they can access and consume on their own time, which aligns to our main product/service.

We use content throughout all phases of our marketing program and mix – to help with acquisition to retention to advocacy.  We’re also looking at how we can develop content to improve our overall experience and support our Sales and Service interactions – everything from mining what topics come up in these interactions and building content to support our customers and prospects having a better understanding of the process and what is expected to helping them achieve their desired outcome without a call to using content as a pro-active follow up to make sure the customer/prospect has the right information.

Drew: Do you have a specific strategy for content? 

We are currently evolving our content strategy.  Initially, content was developed to supplement SEO and drive acquisition traffic and therefore content was developed around keyword and search opportunity. We are moving to a strategy that assess our small business owner and household customers’ needs and then developing content that will be designed to be self service and offer depth and breadth on topics that are important for our customers.  We will no longer chase keywords and search traffic, but instead look to use content to improve the value that we deliver our customers and increase the usefulness/utility that we provide.  As a result – content will also become more effective for retention and for deepening our relationship and engagement with our customers.

Drew: How do measure its effectiveness? 

The old strategy measured effectiveness through traffic driven to our site, leads generated and sales.  As part of our strategic move – gross volumes no longer are relevant, but instead we’ll look at success metrics focused on our target segments. We will still look at our acquisition funnel and see how our content supports acquisition, but in terms of our target market and not just gross volumes.  We’ll also look at retention rates for customers who engaged our content vs. customers who didn’t and our overall satisfaction with our customer experience (e.g. CSAT, NPS).  In addition – we’ll see if our other success metrics improve as we begin to implement our new content strategy.  Also from a measurement standpoint – we are moving towards looking at the effect of content over a longer term period and not just how it drives an immediate action.  We’re still determining metrics to measure this – but the goal is to better understand the long term impact of content and not just measure views, shares and leads generated when the content is released.

Drew: Is there a particular content program you have initiated in the last couple of years that you’re particularly proud of? 

Our SurePayroll blog is a great starting point for our content program as well as our Small Business Scorecard.  Both of these initiatives are focused on providing small business owners with content that is helpful as they are starting and building their business.  The Small Business Scorecard gives small business owners factual information about other businesses their size to help them benchmark and see what others like them are doing.  The blog has begun to bring a full breadth of content to our digital experience and look to be more helpful/useful than just try to sell something.  Both of these initiatives were originally started to improve SEO and drive traffic, but also helped provided small business owners with valuable content that helped them beyond just buying our product, so while we are pivoting the strategy – these are both initiatives that will be solid building blocks for our content program in the future.

Drew: With every business recognizing the need for content, how have you made sure that your content stands out from the pack?

First, we developed a brand story that provides us a starting point for what we are about and how we fit in with our target audience.  From there – we began to develop our brand voice and philosophy for how we want to align with our audience and how we could deliver value that was in context of our clients’ needs.  In the past – content was developed to chase keywords and traffic, so the only reason that content was aligned to what we do is that the traffic needed to have an interest in our solution at some basic level.  This meant that from an audience perspective there was really no rhyme or reason to why we developed the content that we did.  Content was optimized based on what worked, but “what worked” was driven by gross volume metrics.  In our new paradigm – we are looking at developing content from our strengths in the business and in alignment with “who we are” and “why we do it” of our brand.  This unique perspective and our commitment to being aligned to our audience’s needs provides us with a platform for standing out.  Our goal isn’t to be all things to all people, but a resource that our target audience would find useful and relatable too – and ultimately stand out from all other sources for this group – because we are focused on delivering value through our content  that is targeted to their needs and viewpoints.

Drew: If you were talking to someone new to content marketing, what would you say are the three keys to building a successful program?

  1. Target your desired audience:  Know who you want to connect and engage with and get to know them as well as you can – so that you can provide value to them in context of what they need and desire.
  2. Deliver value: Find ways to deliver value in all of your content.  Value is based on perception, so find ways to simplify, add utility or be useful that means a lot to your target audience – even if the general public doesn’t necessarily find value in what you are delivering.
  3. Be reliable: Consistently deliver content that is in the same voice, provides value and is something your audience knows will be there.  Content marketing should not be a flash in the pan project, but a commitment to the long haul.  How often or through what delivery vehicles/channels depends on your audience’s needs and wants, but your audience should know that they can rely on you to be consistent with what you deliver.

Drew: Are there brands out there that you think are doing a particularly great job with content?  If so, what do you like about their efforts?

The classic examples of brands using content very well to build community and passion for their brand is Red Bull and Disney.  As a consumer with young kids – Disney’s content has been extremely useful as we have planned our trips to Disney World.  We’ve extensively used their videos to have a better feel for what things are and aren’t to plan the trip and help us have a better experience.  Red Bull has done a great job for a while of connecting with their niche audience and developing content and being a part of experiences that are directly tied to their customers’ lifestyle.  They are targeted to their fans and their fans love all of it.  Also from a consumer perspective – I’ve been impressed with Home Depot’s content program and have found it very helpful as I try to tackle projects around the house.  They’ve done a great job of providing value beyond just being the place that I can buy supplies and tools.  Their content has been very helpful in better understanding what it would take to do a project right and sometimes shown me that it’s beyond my skill level and not worth starting at all.  I think the key denominator in my examples is that the content is directed at a particular audience and provides value or is useful in a way that’s not about buying something directly – but provides value in context of the relationship that I have with the brand.

Networking + Blabbing w Julie Garlikov, Nuvesse Skin Therapies



If you had an advance copy of my book (hint, hint), you’d know already that Julie Garlikov is the master of making the most of “tiny budgets” having done so at Torani Foods and in her current role as VP of Marketing at Nuvesse Skin Therapies. What you wouldn’t know is that Julie nurtures her know how by maintaining a strong network of peers.  In our interview below, Julie shares some of her secrets, insights that are just part of the reason The CMO Club recognized her with its President’s Circle Award.

This interview is followed by our recent Blab on budget busting, complete with a number of great recommendations on how to cut research costs way down and when/when not to work with outside partners.  Consider this a Garlikov twofer, an efficient treat indeed!

Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to doing your job well?  Can you provide a specific example of some action you took as a result of your network?  

I’ve used my peer network as a valued resource and sounding board.  Most frequently, I get tips on agencies, partners and even staffing my team.  I also run programs and ideas by my peers to see what they think of a strategy.  You really need someone else with a similar headset to push on your plans before you bring them forward.

Drew: Have there been any unexpected benefits to your networking efforts? 

I’ve made some wonderful friendships along the way.  Some of the people I initially just used as a business sounding board are now friends.  We go to lunch frequently or catch-up on all things, both personal and professional.

Drew: Making time for networking is always a challenge.  How much time do you invest in peer to peer exchanges and how do you rationalize this investment?  

I spend a few hours a week at least on these efforts.  I don’t need to rationalize the efforts anymore, as I know the value the fresh perspective gives me and my company.  I’ve created bigger ideas, found new ways to solve my problems and just been pushed into new territories.  And, the energy of connecting with a peer lifts me up and inspires me, giving me a new perspective.

Drew: Effective networks are ones in which there is a lot of give and take and some would say, start with giving and the taking will follow.  What’s your approach?  Do you keep a mental scorecard?  How do you handle the takers?  

I am always willing to help out others and don’t see the world as a scorecard or a big mental scale.  Some of my network help me more than I help them and are more mentors.  But then I mentor others that way.  I see it a bit differently and think that if you’re helpful and give the time, you’ll always find others who will do the same for you.

CMO Insights: Todd Merry on Customer Experience



Todd Merry is the CMO of Delaware North, a gigantic company that you many not have heard of but have probably interacted with. How is that possible?  Well, first here are a couple of key facts–Delaware North is privately held yet has revenues of more than $2.6 billion and has 55,000 employees worldwide.  Those employees work around the globe at venues like the TD Garden, MetLife Stadium and Yosemite while serving a whopping half a billion customers each year.  That’s a lot of customer experiences, experiences that, as it turns out, are not always completely in their control.  Now that’s a tricky challenge, one that requires both vision and pragmatism, two of the essential ingredients to win The CMO Club‘s Customer Experience Award as Todd did this year.  To understand how Todd and the folks at Delaware North accomplished this and more, read on:

Drew: Congrats on winning the Customer Experience Award.  Can you share the kinds of things you did to improve the overall customer experience in 2015?

We have so many different customers in different locations – MetLife Stadium, Yosemite National Park, New Orleans Airport, TD Garden, just to name a few – but the one way in which we focused on improving their experience was through insights, specifically a proprietary program called “Total Listening” which incorporates ongoing communities, social media monitoring and analytics. Through this program we have been able to identify opportunities to improve the experience throughout our interactions with customers.

Drew: How do you measure your customer experience?  How do you know if your customers are having a great experience?

We have in place a comprehensive customer experience/satisfaction program called “GuestPath”. The role of this program is fourfold – to define and codify the standards for all of our industries and geographies, to train our customer-facing personnel to these standards, to anonymously measure these results of these standards three times a year at every location and, finally, to collect, analyze and report customer experiences through an ongoing survey process.

Drew:  A lot of studies suggest that only 1 in 10 unhappy customers will share their complaints with a brand. How do you process customer complaints and make sure that a systemic issue is not overlooked?  

As above we have processes in place and are set up to relay comments to the right place and ensure resolution/followup. But we also agree that few customers, even unhappy customers, will follow your feedback processes. To that end we have employed social media monitoring to scour those channels for any negative feedback and reply to the same. Many more people will take to social media to complain and by using a comprehensive monitoring tool these channels can become your best way to catch unhappy customers.

Drew: Do you have complete control over the customer experience and if not, how do you overcome the responsibility without authority conundrum? 

We don’t have complete control over the customer experience which means two things – we have to exercise the control you have as effectively as possible and, two, we have to have great relationships with our operators who become our last mile to that customer. Thankfully most operators understand the importance of the customer experience, particularly in this hyper-connected world where every customer has an expanded reach and influence.

Drew: What other company do you think is doing an amazing job with CX and why?  

JetBlue. Not only do they seem to have almost real-time monitoring and response on their social channels but they seem to have a very active finger on the pulse of the customer experience. And as one of those customers I know they work hard it – they actively seek my opinions multiple times during a year.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome?  

Getting a better handle on marketing ROI and specifically the attribution to “softer” efforts like customer satisfaction/experience.

Banking on Networking w Tim Suther, JPMorgan Chase


19a9eefOne of the joys of my long-term association with The CMO Club is that I have had the pleasure of getting to know a convocation of really interesting and smart people.  Among my true buds is Tim Suther, whose top secret job as Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase has prevented us from talking on the record for years now.  Nonetheless, we’ve found many other things to discuss, from the rise of digital marketing to the legends of rock n’ roll to the latest cool iPhone app.  No matter the subject, I always walk away having learned something and more to his credit, I’m pumped up to do or try something new.

So imagine my enthusiasm when I learned that The CMO Club had honored Tim with its President’s Circle Award and this meant he’d not only need to chat with me on the record but also we’d be able to talk about something he’s a master at — the fine art of networking.  That conversation follows and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to doing your job well?  

I can’t think of a single successful executive who doesn’t have a strong peer network.  It is fundamental to success.  No one knows it all.  No one is awesome at everything.  Furthermore, many great breakthroughs thread together previously disparate concepts.  So, having a diverse network enables the divergent thinking needed to succeed in an ever faster moving world.  So, want to make a difference in business, or for that matter, the world, build your peer network.

Drew: Making time for networking is always a challenge.  How much time do you invest in peer to peer exchanges and how do you rationalize this investment?  

I don’t have a firm budget time for this, because it’s integral to what I do.  I travel frequently and try to use the time at the ends of normal business hours to meet and listen to people.  Meeting for an early coffee or an adult beverage after work, pre-dinner are my favorites.  I like the informality of this format, because it promotes relationships over transactions.

Drew: Effective networks are ones in which there is a lot of give and take and some would say, start with giving and the taking will follow.  What’s your approach?  Do you keep a mental scorecard?  How do you handle the takers?  

My approach to peer networking is to be a maker not a taker.   I try to be very accessible….I’ll take your calls, respond to your emails, etc…but my Spidey Sense is also active; ultimately the relationship has to have a mutual value exchange.  I also want diversity in my network…a blend of millenials to boomers, startups to established companies, senior executives to specialists.  The mosaic of perspectives is valuable to me.

Drew: Are there any software tools that you use that are particularly helpful in keeping up with your network?  

I’m pretty prosaic with software tools to keep up:  LinkedIn is my primary/preferred tool, although I do have some Twitter/Facebook connections.  I capture business card contact info (phone/email) onto my Mac, just using the basis contacts software.  That’s all pretty traditional stuff.  One thing I do that’s a bit different, is I write a POV on interesting companies (and the people that work for them)…I have hundreds of these POVs in the cloud, accessible on demand.  I find that helpful in a world where it’s easy for everything to sound the same.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome? 

Every day is a learning opportunity and 2016 will be no different.  Keeping in tune with the customer mindset, and the various new ways to delight them will remain top of mind.

Final Note: Given its importance to career success in any field, I actually devote two chapters (Networking & Power Networking) to this topic in my upcoming book, The CMOs Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing, which as you may already know, is available for pre-order this very minute on Amazon.


Redefining Success w Missy Walker, Strayer University


2885a7aAs many of my readers know, I’m a big proponent of Marketing as Service, an approach that seeks to replace polluting ads & messages with marketing that delivers genuine value.  Marketing as Service is categorized as a Noble Pursuit in my upcoming book, The CMO’s Periodic Table and is represented by my interview with John Hayes of American Express.  AmEx, by the way, has been taking this approach for years, providing small business with advice and support via a variety programs including Small Business Saturday, Open Forum and Membership Rewards.

At this point it would be fair to ask, “why are you telling me all of this Drew if not just to plug your book–again?” Well, the answer will soon be apparent as you read my interview with Missy Walker, Vice President of Brand Strategies and Communications for Strayer University.  Now in her second year at Strayer, Missy is helping the world, including Webster’s Dictionary redefine the meaning of Success, an effort that I absolutely define as Marketing as Service.  In addition to being a newsworthy idea, the program included events and even coaching services. This effort also earned Missy recognition by The CMO Club as a Rising Star at this year’s CMO Awards. Read on to find out how she got this program off the ground and more…

Drew: Can you talk about one of your marketing initiatives in 2015 that you are proudest of? 

One of the many 2015 marketing initiatives that I’m most proud of is The Success Project, a long-term initiative aimed at breaking down the perceived barriers that keep individuals from succeeding in their personal and professional lives. This is a unique campaign in a category that is riddled with cookie-cutter marketing efforts. As part of this campaign, we partnered with Steve Harvey to launch our Success Coaches and hold a Success Summit, which we produced as content for TV and our social channels; and partnered with Rainn Wilson’s company Soul Pancake to produce two inspiring video series exploring people’s views around success and what it means to them.

Additionally, we found through a commissioned survey that 90 percent of Americans define success as being happy and having a strong support network, which differs greatly from the definition in Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, which focuses instead on fame and wealth as measures of success. So we’ve launched a national petition to get Merriam Webster to change their definition of success to better align with American’s values.  The results have been amazing, both in the conversations we’ve started and engagements with the brand, as well as the impact of The Success Project on all key brand metrics we track.

Drew: You’ve achieved quite a bit in a short period of time. To what do you attribute your success thus far?

I attribute my success to loving what I do, having a positive can-do attitude and a great support network. I am not the type of person who says “we can’t do that,” I will always try to find a way to do something that I think is right for the business and right for our students. I am also blessed with a supportive boss and high-performing team at the office, as well as a great husband and supportive family who take care of things on the home front when times get crazy at work.

Drew: If you were addressing a bevy of marketers at the beginning of their careers, what advice would you give them to help them reach the CMO position? 

Take your time in the early stages of your career learning the ropes. Spend time learning from those around you – both in your office and in your field. Don’t say no to any opportunities that come your way.  Learn about your customers. Talk to them. Walk a mile in their shoes and really try to understand what motivates them to choose your product above all others. Learn to love them and be their champion – even if they are nothing like you or anyone you know. Use your own product. Working to cultivate this deep understanding is one of the most important parts of your job as a marketer.

Drew: Do you have a mentor or is there a person in your career that has been particularly helpful? How important is having a mentor?

Mentors are incredibly important and I have had many invaluable mentors at different stages throughout my career. One of my first mentors allowed me to spread my wings and try out things that were uncomfortable for me as a person or a young professional. She let me make mistakes at times, but was always there to support me and teach me how to improve the next time. She really never gave up on me, even when I wanted to give up on myself at times.

Drew: As you look back on your career, what was the biggest risk you took that worked and what emboldened you to take that risk?

I’ve spent the majority of my career as a client working for large, established tech companies such as Aol and Sprint. Switching to the for-profit higher education space felt like a huge risk at the time,as many bad actors had been revealed. I decided to take the risk because of the incredible leaders I met in my initial discussions at Strayer and the sense I got that Strayer really was trying to change higher education for the better.  Making that leap was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I’ve been able to witness first-hand that Strayer is a good actor in the space with remarkable people who work tirelessly to innovate higher education to better serve our students and continue to change their lives. We work to make a difference for people in ways no previous industry I’ve worked in really has. It’s amazing to be a part of it all.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome?

Strayer University is unique among other for-profit institutions. We are constantly seeking out ways to innovate the learning experience to create successful graduates that are ready to compete and thrive in the workplace. Our leaders are lifelong learners who are deeply invested in uncovering how people learn and how we can teach important skills that other institutions don’t – like grit, persistence and curiosity. Our biggest challenge in 2016 will be cutting through the noise in our space to be able to showcase our truly innovative culture and how it benefits our students.

How Dell Tackles Social Customer Service


Giovani Social customer service is becoming more important to a company’s success than ever before. What was once primarily used as an opportunity for good PR and marketing strategies is now an integral piece of the customer service puzzle. When a company publicly engages with their customers via social it shows their followers they are not afraid to openly discuss any issue that may come up and take responsibility for their mistakes. This sort of public interaction creates a deeper sense of trust between a business and their customer. But how do you define where in your company social customer service belongs? Where do you draw the line when it comes to addressing complaints? How do you know if your efforts with social are even making a difference?

Giovanni Tavani has the answers to these questions and then some. At Dell for over 14 years, Giovani currently serves as Global Social Media Manager. In 2010 Giovanni was appointed as leader of the Social Media Support team which is currently up and running in 15 different languages. At present Giovanni leads the Global operations for EMEA, Latin America and APJ and drives the development of customer solutions and digital content through Social Media. I will be talking social customer service with Giovani today at the Customer Service Summit in New York but you can read some of our conversation here:

Drew: Dell was an early adopter of social customer service— how has your approach evolved over the last couple of years?  Then,

Yes, we expanded our team & scope to all global languages, became a central team/organization and developed our approach, no longer “limited” to handling customers` queries but also to build meaningful content for our customers to anticipate their needs.

Drew: Social listening is a big challenge for popular brands — brands like McDonalds get several mentions a minute and of course not all are positive.  How do you decide which complaints to respond to?  Does every complaint warrant are response?  

We do not only receive complaints. In the early days people used social media to complain, now even users consider it as a channel like voice or chat. We respond to all posts except, mostly on forums, where tech savvy users interact with each other with good solutions/suggestions.

Drew: There is some debate in the industry about celebrity complaints.  Some argue these folks warrant special treatment as they have such a large sphere of influence, Others will say that no customer should be more important than another in this arena.  What do you think?

I agree all customers should be treated in the same way, which means….if we know that an exceptional CX can be delivered to celebrities, I don`t see why the same exceptional experience shouldn`t be delivered to all customers!

Drew:  Have their been cases with when social listening identified a product issue or opportunity and if so, how does your team aggregate customer feedback and determine what should be escalated to the product development teams?  

With regards to Win10 upgrade, which went very well, we knew it would be a top social topic, so we built huge campaigns of tips & tricks, how-tos, videos to anticipate all potential questions and to make the Win10 experience even better for our customers. We decided to anticipate rather than suffering from too many queries on the same topic if we didn`t act proactively.

Drew: Can you speak about a particular social customer service success story?  

Every time we give an answer to a customer and we also take the action in an end2end fashion, that`s our success stories every day. We never ask another department to handle and we never ask customers to contact someone else or to change the channel. That`s the successful approach we have and want to keep investing on. In terms of strategy, I am proud of having been the one to have some game changing ideas in the past couple of years: do not limit to customer support but build posts with #DellTips (AKA proactive solutions) in an attractive way, i.e. bring in people with digital marketing skills into customer support rather than “limit” to IT technical profiles. On the video strategy piece, we considered 1. YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine of the web and 2. Videos built through agencies are expensive. So I had the idea to see what universities could do in some kind of R&D environment focused on audio-visual medias. We found the best place in Brazil, in a very well known university campus, where movies and animations are created. We signed a deal with them to exchange skills and internships and build professional videos with animations and talking heads in all the languages we needed while keeping costs under control.

Drew: Does your purview include international social accounts?  If so, what are some of the challenges that you’ve been able to overcome? 

Yes, we cover 18 languages (and many more countries). The biggest challenge I am still dealing with is the huge growth of China on social media. 1 year ago we could handle the volumes with 6 community managers, now we are at 22 and need 20 more. I could imagine China would grow (that was pretty obvious from day 1….) but the growth is more of an explosion now as it`s going so fast. So the challenge is mainly on keeping leadership aware of a fact Vs talking about a forecast and then go hire the best profile and fast. This is still work in progress…..and I guess that is just the beginning of China growth on Social Media, also considering their WeChat platform is really cool and it already works outside of China.

Drew: is there a company out there that you think does a really amazing job with social customer service? If so, why?

I see Emirates airline as a good example. I travel a lot and use them a lot. Their idea of CX is just “excellence” in every part of their customer journey and they always respond in a timely manner with a real solution with professional and empowered agents. There are many other companies like Coca-Cola, Nike, Adidas which are really great on social media but I prefer to look at companies which sell a product that generates a long lasting customer journey Vs a short term product consumption. These other companies can afford having mainly marketing to handle their social presence, while companies like Dell, airlines o car makers must have a social social customer support presence, because the product usage experience is as important as the purchase and unboxing experience.

Drew:  How do evaluate the success of your social customer service program?

Growing volumes year-on-year, similar KPI/metrics as the rest of the company, CX above all, to have the right level of trust and visibility from the leadership team.

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