CMO Insights: How Rebranding is Done

Reinventing your brand is a lot harder than it sounds. Legacy perceptions, perhaps one’s that you worked for years to engender, are extremely hard to dispel.  Xerox spent years trying to convince us they weren’t just a copier company with modest success. Then there’s the need to get both management and employee buy-in which can be as hard as changing customer perceptions.  For example, Kodak management and employees never really adjusted to the digital era and its last minute efforts to reinvent came to naught.

One of the most dramatic ways to signify reinvention is through a name change since it risks resetting brand equity at zero.  Which brings me to my conversation with Michael Mendenhall, CMO of Flex.  Formerly known as Flextronics, Mendenhall and the leadership team recognized that customer perceptions did not align with what the company actually did and where it wanted to go SO they decided to drop “tronics” from their name, thus marking a clear transition from the old to the new.  It was hardly as simple as that so read on to learn just how effective this reinvention really was and why Mendenhall was recognized with the Growth Award by The CMO Club.

Drew: Can you start off by telling me what Flex does?

Michael: We design, innovate, and engineer smart products for the connected world.

Drew: How does digital marketing fit into that, and what were some of the digital initiatives you have focused on in the past year?

Michael: Well, it wasn’t just digital as an initiative that we accomplished this year. When I came to Flex over a year ago, this was a company that was transforming itself based on market demand. We started out 40 years ago in contract manufacturing, moved into electronics, and then evolved into a supply chain solutions company. The last four to five years, the company added a great deal of capability around design, innovation, engineering, and software solutions filling out the entire portfolio of products and services for companies who would want to commercialize products. We would provide them with the sketch-to-scale solutions, no matter if you were a small startup with an idea or you were a Fortune 10 company.

Drew: How did your team go about changing the marketplace’s understanding of Flex and the services it provided?

Michael: It was our goal to rebuild the corporate strategy of the company, evaluate the existing assets and capabilities and then ask ourselves, “What do we offer the marketplace and what is that the addressable market for our products and services?” The name of the company was adding to some of the confusion relative to our customer value proposition. The market thought we were electronic manufacturers or contract manufacturers. In fact, we weren’t. We were a very flexible, adaptive company that could commercialize your product from a sketch on a napkin, all the way up to full-scale global distribution, as well as logistics. So we decided strategically to drop the “tronics” from the name to reposition that brand against that new strategy. After changing the name, we then proceeded to recalibrate the brand, developing a new mission-vision-value proposition for the company.

Drew: Can you expand on how you modified Flex’s brand architecture and built on the brand identity?

Michael: We built out a strategy around a couple major pillars. One was corporate communications, which included strategic communications, financial communications, and analyst relations for the company. We aligned the communication architecture to the brand and corporate strategy of the company. This allowed us to build the mechanics in marketing around digital marketing, communication, brand, global citizenship, CSER and really go after what was going to drive customer and shareholder value.

Drew: What were the effects of the newly implemented strategies?  

Michael: The effect all of that had was pretty extraordinary. In the first six months after we had repositioned the company and launched the new brand and communication, we had already added 44 percent value to the share price. That wasn’t just from revenue growth, there was a great deal of that that was attributed to the strategic repositioning of the company, the new brand and the new communication architecture for the company. We also wound up bringing in a lot of new customers, both small startups and large enterprises. We’ve had great margin growth in the company based on this, all ending with a really terrific one-year shareholder price and return to the shareholders.

Drew: Wow, that’s a herculean effort doing all of that in a relatively short period of time. As you’re reaching new markets with a brand name that was unheard of, it must have been particularly difficult trying to get some credibility in the market.

Michael: We had existing relationships with VCs and private equity firms who knew our company well. They would continue to espouse our experience, knowledge, credibility and experience sending any software or hardware companies needing help in designing, engineering prototyping and production. We have extraordinary amounts of cumulative experience that could help brands eliminate startup mistakes, giving them velocity to market with quality and reliability. We focused on the brand reputation, not as much the equity and influenced the relations relative to those key stakeholder groups. We spent time building that capability in addressing those initiatives that then would move the reputation of the company. That was the part of the success, using all levers including digital marketing.

Drew: Do you see a big difference between B2B and B2C marketing?

Michael: I’ve always been quite frustrated with how companies, who are B2B, they generally believe they need to have to have a certain business tone and vernacular in approaching there market. Content in B2B is is incredibly important whether short form or long form, whether it’s a soundbite or a two-hour documentary. The narrative should be told in an approachable and easily digestible way. Not speaking over or under the audience. Simple, easy and quick. The channels then become important in whether you’re passive, active, engaged, etc. So for us, I always believe that you must have EQ in the narrative. After all we are all consumers at the end of the day.

Drew: It seems as though many marketers are experiencing a renewed interest in storytelling. Is this one of your focuses at Flex?  

Michael: For me, there is an emotion in decision-making, and a level of engagement that supports storytelling. Within storytelling, we follow a certain pattern of lead generation, lead nurturing, conversion etc. I wanted to build an approachable brand. We are in multiple industries and it could become very complex and sophisticated very quickly. We have to be approachable, yet understandable, and simple in how we appeal to the market. The narrative of you brand is incredibly important. It needs attention, discipline and focus.

Drew: What is the story you wanted to tell and how did you tell it?

Michael: We talked about thought leadership, as Flex is an influencer and thought leader in the space. That involved shaping those scenes and stories, and deciding how we would tell them. We then set out to look at the means by which we would produce the content. One of those was a magazine called Intelligence. We went after the intelligent, smart data, and the idea that product will move from using connectivity for operability to optimization and predictability. That becomes incredibly important because then you start to realize that your products are actually going to tart optimizing themselves and giving you new data points as a marketer. The magazine is basically an industry magazine for the intelligence of things. We curate content from some of the world’s best in their field; they write for us based on topics we believe would be interesting for people that are working on smart connected products. Every Company is a media company. Content is still king.

Drew: What do you think is the biggest lesson here for marketers?

Michael: I believe the biggest lesson for marketers is to remember that storytelling is still very important. No matter if it’s short form or long form, as marketers we have to pay special attention to the art of storytelling. We have to be highly disciplined and focused on that, and be able to tell stories in an approachable way, especially if you are B2B.

CMO Insights: How to Use Marketing to Help Your Customers

Jim Collins famous “hedgehog” concept proposed that great businesses were greater still because of their profound focus, doing one thing better in their marketplace than anyone else. Recently, a number of service companies have taken a not so obvious way to become better at their core business and that’s by operating businesses in other areas. Stay with me as I explain this emerging trend and ultimately introduce you to Tom Klein, the CMO of MailChimp.

One example of this trend comes from the digital agency Huge, which operates a coffee shop in their Atlanta office. Undoubtedly this helps them understand the challenges of brick & mortar retail and the role of digital in driving store traffic and increasing loyalty. Closer to home, Renegade acquired the popular blog Social Media Explorer to give us laboratory for testing content marketing approaches. In the two months since this acquisition, we’ve already run multiple tests that have significant increased our advisory and executional capabilities in the content space.

A far more interesting example comes from Tom Klein who in our interview below explains among other things how MailChimp is getting better at their main service, email, by operating an online store of their own. By reporting on the progress of this business with complete transparency, MailChimp also turned this store into a goldmine of interesting, empathetic and informative content for their target. Now that’s renegade thinking at its finest!

Drew: What were your top priorities when you came into your role as CMO?

Tom:  No matter what, our responsibility is to grow the business without compromising our principles. When I started working at MailChimp, one of the most fascinating things to me was the fact that it’s a B2B business that actually has a brand. MailChimp has a level of emotional appeal and emotional connection with customers that most B2B brands do not.

Drew: How is MailChimp able to stimulate an emotional connection with customers in a way that B2B brands traditionally do not?

Tom:  We’re humble, and that’s very important for our connection with our customers. In many ways, we’re communicating with people like you or your company. We appeal to a very challenging audience: people who are very skilled in design, creativity or marketing. So, we try to model our behavior after the level of creative courage that we would like to inspire in our customers. I think that’s really how we appeal to them without being “salesy,” so to speak.

Drew: How does courage permeate you or your brand activities?

Tom:  I use the word courage because confidence doesn’t seem like enough when it comes to really putting yourself out there. It describes how we need to be, because we are, in many ways, a model for our customers. As a company, we should feel free to be more human, more personal, weirder, and more original, because ultimately, differentiation is the name of the game.

Drew: It’s interesting that there’s this trend in the agency business to develop products around products. MailChimp is doing this with an in-house venture, correct?

Tom:  Yes, the store is called Freddie & Co. and the email series, which is essentially a behind-the-scene series, is called “What’s in Store?” We knew we had a very creative culture so we decided to tap into it. We had an employee who was exceptionally brilliant, had a lot to say, and was also in charge of our email newsletter, so we had her head up a new ecommerce operation – even though she had no knowledge of ecommerce. The idea was that she would chronicle all the things that went wrong in the “What’s in Store?” series – it certainly has helped us recognize some key pieces of information, like shipments aren’t always correct and the design isn’t always perfect. It’s the problem that creates the drama, which results in the understanding that we’re after.

Drew: How do you measure brand love and assess if the things that you’ve done are making a difference in nurturing this love?

Tom: We run brand health and equity studies to get a sense of how we are doing. We evaluate brand equity by looking at unaided awareness, aided awareness, and preference. Unlike other B2B brands, we also look at it on a quarterly basis because we like to understand the impact of our brand-oriented or inspirational marketing messaging. We also look at net promoter score.

Drew: Tell me a bit about your marketing.

Tom: We are a “freemium” product, so we need to have lots of different flavors of marketing. First and foremost, we want people to get to know MailChimp, which may take form in a few different ways – sponsoring design conferences or podcasts like Serial, for example. When customers decide they want to try MailChimp and sign up for a free account, there’s a follow-up email teaching you how to use the product. Another thing that we look at is the number of new visitors that typed into the browser – they’re not just searching email marketing and then finding us; they’re typing MailChimp and then coming to us as a preference.

Drew: Do you drink your own champagne? In other words, is email marketing is a big part of your own marketing. Is that true?

Tom: Absolutely. We sent 36 million marketing emails in June of this year to a wide range of subscriber lists, like “What’s in Store,” which has 170,000 subscribers alone.

Drew: If you’re doing 36 million emails in a month, clearly you have a lot of data on what’s working and what’s not. What should your customers be doing to make their email marketing operations successful?

Tom:  Testing and learning. It sounds really boring, but it’s very straightforward and valuable. In our free products, we have AB testing, and in the Pro offering, we have multivariate. I have to say, from a brand perspective, it’s very easy to set up multivariate tests and we run them within our marketing department. That being said, we also want our customers to feel liberated from a creative perspective. Often, people feel like they have to do exactly what everyone else does, but using the multivariate tool, you can test many options to find the winner. That’s probably the most straightforward thing that we would love to get our customers doing, because we know it works.

Drew: What kinds of multivariate testing does MailChimp support?

Tom: We support three styles of multivariate testing. One method, for example, allows you to take a list and divide it into a few different subsets – for a list of 10,000, you could do five different emails send them to 2,000 people. Then, you can just look at the results and learn for next time.

Drew: From your experience, are bigger brands approaching email differently?

Tom: I think that’s an intriguing notion. Most of our customers probably have fewer than 200 employees. I have friends who work in marketing for package food companies – these are brands that have over a billion-dollar budget – and they don’t know who their customers are. As you know, email has always been a great way to communicate directly with consumers in an economical way. If one of these companies wanted to communicate with 5 million people, we have customer lists of that size. Surprisingly, there are many large package food companies who just don’t do it. I think doing that is an important first step and next would be optimization.

Drew:  Is there a lag effect with email? I know I’m always behind but I tend to only delete or file the stuff I read or know I never need to look at?

Tom: People often look at their email as a data repository of stuff. That is to say, it’s almost always beneficial for your email to be in your customer or prospect’s inbox, because they will use it even if they don’t open it and engage with it right away.

Drew: What is state of the art when it comes to integrating social media within email campaigns?

Tom: Email is a kind of beast, from a technical perspective. We would love for your email client to function just like a regular browser window, allowing us do all sorts of magical things. Unfortunately that’s not the case, so if you’re our customer, we tend to keep your email relatively straightforward. As it relates to social itself, we have a lot of functionalities that actually let customers use their email as a social channel. For example, we have a nice integration with Facebook that lets you post your email on Facebook. Customers can also use their email subscriber list as a way to take these subscribers and generate an ad based on them.

Drew:  In your time as CMO, are there things that you wish you did better?

Tom: Probably almost everything. We’re growing and hiring so we’re really looking to improve all aspects of the company. More specifically, we have a lot of customers that are agencies, and I feel like we could do a better job supporting those types of clients. We also want to get better at engaging with our customers around the world – MailChimp is a global business, even though we’re based in Atlanta.

CMO Insights: Making Procurement Awesome

alicia_tillmanWhen SAP acquired Ariba a few years back, newly appointed CMO Alicia Tillman was faced with the challenge of rebranding the company to include the qualities of both SAP and Ariba. Next, she had to consider how to best communicate SAP Ariba’s new brand identity to customers. It’s no surprise that social media, one of today’s most effective tools of communication, was instrumental in the rebranding initiative. Alicia and her team applied creativity and simplicity to their social content to better inform customers of the intersection between SAP and Ariba. I had the pleasure of speaking with Alicia and hearing more about how her marketing team used social to build brand image, and whether or not she considered SAP Ariba a social enterprise.

Drew: Tell me a bit about your job at SAP Ariba.

Alicia: I’m the chief marketing officer for SAP Ariba, which is the largest B2B network in the world, and part of the Business Networks and Applications group within SAP. Think of us as the Facebook or eBay for business. Essentially, what we’ve created is a dynamic, digital marketplace where buyers and suppliers can find each other, making it easy to buy and sell business goods and services within companies of all sizes. I oversee all of marketing for the business, which includes brand awareness, pipeline generation and acceleration, events, digital and social strategies and field marketing.

Drew: I know Ariba has undergone some major changes in the last few years. One of those being your introduction to the company as CMO. Can you speak to those changes?

Alicia: Ariba was founded in 1996 and was really the first B2B marketplace. Initially, the company focused on automating the procurement function through online catalogs and auctions. Today, it is the largest, most global business network and touches every aspect of commerce. About four years ago, the company was acquired by SAP. That is, as you point out, a lot of change. But the company’s brand really hadn’t evolved to reflect it and it was one of the first things I focused on when I joined the company. My first priority was to assemble a ‘brand voice’ team that represented each functional area of the business so I could hear about the key aspects of our brand that made us great and brought differentiated value to our customers.

Drew: How has your team used social media to facilitate the rebranding of Ariba?

Alicia: With the rebranding of SAP Ariba I sought to make things easily understood – our look and feel, our messaging, our brand promise and the way in which we interact with customers. Social is an ideal way to facilitate this because it forces you to be simple, but it also allows you to be highly creative and to engage with your customers on totally new levels.

Let me give you an example. Earlier this year, our CEO met with one of our customers who had just launched an SAP Ariba project inside her company. She was wearing a shirt that said “Procurement is awesome,” and our CEO loved this slogan. We launched a social campaign around it – #MakeProcurementAwesome – because procurement is digital. SAP Ariba is fueling this and it’s a powerful and witty way to draw attention to our new brand identity without being forceful. It has served as a rally cry for our employees and our customers who are ultimately striving to achieve the same goals.

Drew: Have you been able to extend this idea?

Alicia: It has spread quickly because it is simple and speaks to the heart of so many of our customers. We launched it during our marquee buyer event this year and the response was so overwhelming, we actually had t-shirts printed that we could give away on the last day. And many of our customers immediately put them on and posted pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s a clear example of community and the power of social. When you use it the right way, a way that really appeals to people’s emotions, you can change perceptions and drive a brand story.

Drew: How do you judge success on a program like this?

Alicia: Simply put, by the dialogue it creates. We have seen so many customers run off with it on their own and create conversations in various forums. Customers are using the hashtag to shift the perception of procurement from a back office task to a strategic initiative. It has created excitement among our customers about our solutions and what we can do for them.

Drew: Your challenge was not only to innovate, but also apply this innovation to thinking about procurement. From a social standpoint, is it on your agenda to be a social business? Does Ariba use social as an enterprise and are you focusing heavily on social listening?

Alicia: Absolutely. We live in a world where there are officially more connected devices than people. so every enterprise has to be social. There are various listening posts in the social environment that we use to stay on top of what our customers are saying. But beyond this, we’ve built social technology into our solutions and business network that allows our customers to immediately share feedback with us. We’ve created a community called Ariba Exchange, for instance. Thousands of customers use it to share information and best practices that help them drive adoption of our solutions, and do their jobs better.

Drew: Can you provide an example of how you were able to use your closed customer network to make product changes or enhancements?

Alicia: Ideas can come from anywhere. And many of the best ideas come from the powerful community that we have built in the Ariba Network, in which over two million companies are part of. We recently launched Ariba Community Voting, a program that allows our customers to tell us what features they value most. Voting is done right from the solutions they use every day by clicking a “like” button. We compile this information and use it to prioritize our investments and drive future enhancements.

Drew: What kind of goals would you set for your organization in terms of social and becoming a social enterprise?

Alicia: Social has become the leading manner in which we market today. If I think back to a little less than 10 years ago, social was becoming something that was actively debated within companies. Now, the question is how do you now evolve your marketing budget to effectively have a presence and utilize it in the manner that is beneficial to your business. With the demographic changes of the incoming workforce, social is increasingly becoming the best method of communication – to influence and support buying decisions. We use our platforms to transact, to buy, and to gain influence.

Drew: For marketers, what do you think will be the biggest challenges in this move to social?

Alicia: I think the biggest challenge for marketers today is really about how you best define a digital strategy by measuring what it has the ability to influence. There has to be an understanding that digital is a business driver, it sets the experience a user has with your organization from the moment they begin their search to find a partner who can meet their needs. Think about everything from the experience of your website, to how you use social platforms to extend your story to how that translates into marketing collateral and events. PR, advertising and sponsorships all need to connect to form this experience – digital and traditional are no longer two different strategies – they are both interconnected and there needs to be a single strategy for your business that connects them.

An Inside Look at Dell’s Influencer Program

konnieIn the last few years, a number of brands have realized that to earning the trust of consumers isn’t something they’ll be able to accomplish on their own. The reality is that people trust people more than brands, which explains the emergence of influencer marketing. Instead of going straight to their target market, brands are now looking to a chosen few individuals to augment their message and promote their products. Influencer marketing programs have stepped boldly onto the scene and have set up shop in B2C and B2B environments.

In my book The CMO’s Periodic Table, I interviewed former IBM VP of Marketing and the architect of their B2B influencer program, Tami Cannizzaro. In Tami’s words, the point of such programs is to connect with notable people in the target industry and “make these people part of your overall strategy, treat them like VIPs and give them insider access to your strategy or brand.” Influencers get a seat at your company’s table, and become the voice of your brand for the thousands of people who consume their content.

During the Incite Group’s Corporate Social Media Summit, I had the pleasure of continuing this conversation with Konnie Alex Brown who specifically oversees Dell’s influencer relations. I talked to Konnie about the skills and strategies she deploys to make sure Dell’s influencer campaigns are mutually beneficial for the company and the influencer. Speaking with her not only gave me an in-depth look at the inner workings of a brand/ influencer partnership, it further proved the value that such relationships bring to both the brand and the influencer.

Drew: You’ve been at Dell for +9 years. Talk to me a bit about how your various jobs at Dell set you up for our current one and the skills you need to succeed at running social influencer relations?

Konnie: My experience leading corporate and executive sales and technology communications at Dell have had a foundational role in preparing me to design corporate social influencer programs that reflect Dell’s customer focus, business priorities and long-term strategic vision. Understanding a company’s history and being plugged in to the right news streams and networks within a company of Dell’s size is fundamental in building a social influencer program that creates value for the business, as well as for the social influencer. Understanding the dynamic and nuances of shared value creation is indispensable to be successful in a business-to-business environment.

Drew: Can you give a specific example of an influencer you are working with? How did decide on this individual and what did the program look like?

Konnie: Sure, Drew. I have recently developed a blue print for working with a social influencer focused on Dell’s IoT solutions. This particular B2B example is exciting as it describes the path and evolution of the relationship leading to tangible ROI for Dell and for the influencer and, very important, it is repeatable. This case study also clearly shows the need for company internal collaboration across teams to achieve maximum value. It is important to note that this process will take time and dedication just like any initiative that involves building trust-based, human relationships. Think of it as ‘dating’ where the brand (but really a human representative of the brand) and the social influencer get to know each other.

Take a look at the blueprint for building a relationship based on increasingly more information sharing and trust building via carefully chosen and designed touch points.


Let’s start at the beginning. Following the identification and pre “first date” vetting of the social influencer, we begin with building the relationship by inviting him or her to a first meeting, ideally an event where both parties can find out about goals, capabilities and business priorities. Over the course of additional touch points, designed to uncover the value for the brand and the influencer, the evaluation to deepen and nurture the relationship (think months, not days) can be made. Once a mutual level of trust has been established, the depth of information sharing and authentic, mutual endorsement can take place without compromising the influencer’s independence of voice. It is also important to note that there will be ongoing assessment of the relationship’s value – from both sides.

Drew: What does Dell hope to get out of the relationship? How do you measure success? (feel free to share how long it can take)

Konnie: Great question, Drew. Let’s talk about the mutual value that a long-term, trust-based relationship creates for the Dell brand and the influencer. Dell seeks to help the influencer understand our purpose, customer commitment and value proposition by sharing our strategy, technology POVs and details about current and future plans to meet and anticipate customer business needs. The value for Dell clearly lies in expanding our audience each to raise awareness and educate the social influencer’s audience about the Dell value proposition in an authentic way for future consideration and action. We constantly monitor the value of the content in terms of frequency, authenticity, subject matter expertise, preserved independence of opinion, social engagement and reach as well as dynamics, such as leadership and interactivity, at in-person events.

Drew: Let’s talk about the value exchange here. What’s in it for the influencer and how do make sure that persons is getting what they want out of the relationship?

Konnie: The value of the relationship for the influencer resides in several areas and may vary dependent on the influencer’s particular goals. In general, however, the value resides in gaining insights into Dell’s technology strategy, particular POVs, future plans as well as access to customers and partners of Dell. This information access allows the influencer to deliver insightful, trust-worthy content to his or her audience and, with that, increase his audience, trusted status among them and his or her relevance in the industry.

Drew: How important is it that you personally have relationships with the influencers? Is this something you can outsource and if not, why not?

Konnie: Dell’s social influencer programs are built on the premise that relationships are owned, maintained and nurtured by Dell via frequent virtual touch points and white glove experiences via in-person meetings or events throughout the year. To answer your question, Dell’s point of view is that these relationships, due to their long-term, trust and value-based nature, cannot be outsourced. Aspects of social influencer identification, logistics and measuring processes, however, can well be handled by an agency.

CMO Insights: How to Build Customer Loyalty

As you all know, I never pass up an opportunity to sit down with a marketer and hear which practices worked and which didn’t work for their company. I mean, what better way to learn more about this ever-changing industry than to listen to leaders in the field share their insight, the lessons they’ve learned, and the strategies they stand by. Through these conversations, I’m able to add value to my company and our clients.

On the blog today is former CMO of Time Warner Cable Business Class Stephanie Anderson, a friend of mine, president of The CMO Club New York chapter and a veteran of TheDrewBlog. I spoke to Stephanie in 2012 when she first joined TWCBC, and although much has changed since then, her stance that “knowing your customers and prospects will never go out of style,” still holds true. I’m sure Stephanie would agree that this way of thinking is largely responsible for the success of her team at TWCBC. It was interesting to talk to Stephanie as she wrapped up her time at Time Warner Cable, and to partake in a much different conversation than the one we had in four year ago. Now, we’re talking customer communities, loyalty programs, content marketing,  and the way television has strengthened digital.

Drew: You’ve been in the job about 4 years now. Can you provide an overview of your overall approach to marketing at Time Warner Cable Business Class?

Stephanie: When I arrived at Time Warner Cable, we were many businesses and we were marketing at a very local level- which I believe in- but we were missing an overarching message and communications methodology.. The goal of my team was to find the place where localism mattered, and then compliment that with a consistent campaign across the country. We had to find the best breed of each of those local areas and then pull it up to one common message.

Drew:  How did you decide that the consistent campaign was going to focus on your customers and get to a point where you thought that would be effective?

Stephanie: It started with a focus on what we called an “outside-in approach.”  This meant we could never lose sight of our customers and our competitors. If we weren’t doing that, then we’d be missing the boat.  By always thinking about our clients we knew we had a chance of developing programs the competition would fear.  From there it was an easy step to testimonials, telling customer stories online and on television , which ended up being great for all parties.

Drew:  How did you find the customers to feature?

Stephanie: We initially identified a few companies largely because they were loyal customers of ours. They also had interesting stories to tell and were hugely popular in social media, which demonstrated a lot of energy and engagement.  So we focused on finding those kinds of customers, and then telling their stories on television, print, and digital.

Drew: Did this have an impact on their business?

Stephanie: One of the companies we actually became quite close with is Beekman 1802. They have an online service that they we’re really trying to grow with a very unique product base. Once we put them on TV, their popularity grew significantly. We even did a follow up story with them, which was thrilling for both parties.

Drew: Did your approach to finding customers for the campaign evolve?

Stephanie: Yes.  We’ve been using an online resource we created for customers called PerkZone to help us find more great stories, and then turn those into testimonials.  In this case, the customers nominate themselves by submitting their stories.  The response has been amazing and these small business success stories are truly inspiring.  When we do our long form testimonials, the story “inside the story” is always amazing.

Drew: What’s the story behind PerkZone?

Stephanie: One of our partner agencies is Renegade and they helped us create this retention strategy and loyalty program for small businesses called PerkZone. Accessed through our “MyAccount” portal, which customers use to pay their bills and manage their account, PerkZone has two areas, “Deals and Discounts” and “Ideas and Community.”  In the first area, small business can find discounts from national brands as well as post deals for their local customers.  It is in the other area that we were able to source hundreds of stories, a few of which were featured in our TV campaign.

Drew: Wow, so you could go from the online portal to become a star on TV?

Stephanie:  Yes, like the Voice or something; it still happens. The best talent sometimes comes right to you.

Drew: Has Perk Zone had a material measurable impact on loyalty as far as you can tell?

Stephanie: Absolutely. Like many companies, we’re very focused on Net Promoter Score (NPS) and we’ve seen a really strong correlation between any digital engagement and customer satisfaction.  Customers who use our MyAccount portal are significantly more likely to recommend us than those that don’t.  The numbers get even better with PerkZone users.  My gut told me that this was the right thing to do, and it was nice to see that the data proved me right.  We’re continually trying to think of ways to engage with the customer, and we know we need to continue to invest in these areas.

Drew:  Let’s zoom back to the big picture.  How has all of this customer-centric marketing paid off?

Stephanie: TWCBC been very successful from a B2B standpoint having had 18 quarters of consecutive quarter-to-quarter growth!  That’s remarkable considering TWCBC not a small business–it has over $3 billion in revenue and it gets harder to grow when you’re big. The company is not only acquiring customers, it’s also keeping customers, and some of these tactics that TWCBC has been talking about like establishing this community and getting to know its businesses better has actually helped our results considerably.

Drew: Pundits have been saying, “TV is dead” for years yet here we are in mid-2016 talking about how well TV has worked for your B2B brand?

Stephanie: First, we’re TV people and TV is still very much part of our culture. But more importantly, TV does really work.  It does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It guides the inquiring person to your website, or wherever you want and helps get them engaged in the process. That is what it’s meant to do, just like a print ad or something else. Some of these traditional tactics get people motivated to go see more or engage with you, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Drew:  So TV gets the conversation started and then they go online. How are you making the two work together?

Stephanie: We have a great vendor partner that we use in the digital space that can make real time adjustments based on how much traffic TV is driving online. It’s amazingly sophisticated.  Making sure that our offline and online tactics are coordinated has really profited us.  It’s one thing to be coordinated with campaigns; it’s another thing to be coordinated on the delivery side, making sure that people are going where you want them to go. It saves both parties time.

Drew: I’ve heard you talk about a fifth P beyond Product, Price, Promotion and Place. Can you elaborate on it?

Stephanie: Everyone knows about the 4 Ps, and they are very important in marketing, and I think they fulfill most of everything that’s going on out there. I contend that there is this 5th P that is Proof. This probably comes from my long history of being in sales at different levels in technology. Notoriously, there was always this moment in the demonstration when the tables turned and the customer says, “okay I get it,” or “okay I’ll take it.”  That was the moment we provided the Proof, when we helped people really see how others were using the technology.

Drew: Let’s shift gears here.  TV and digital were not your only tactics.  You also got into content marketing, right?

Stephanie:  Absolutely.  Working with our partner RSL Media, we actually created a publication called Solve that goes to our 160,000 customers and prospects in the mid-market space.  It’s both a 24-page printed magazine and an e-zine, with content that’s relevant to that mid-market space. With highly topical and informative stories, we’re able to keep the conversation going by delivering really useful information that just happens to from Time Warner Cable Business Services. The response has been great – we’ve had customers actually call us to make sure they’re subscribers and to get other employees on the list.

Drew: Why not just create a digital version of Solve? Why go to the expense of printing it?

Stephanie:  Some of it stems from years back when I needed to accumulate a book of testimonials for our sales force and also links back to my early point about Proof.  Sales people need to be able to demonstrate proof of what you’ve done for other companies.  Solve is great for that since many of the stories feature customers.  It gives the sales person something physical that can help start a conversation.  It’s really hard to do that with a digital-only version.  Also, our customers felt more important being featured in a well-produced magazine.  It was prestigious enough that customers started asking how they could be featured!  In this case, the medium was also the message.

Drew: What would you say was the biggest lesson you have learned that you would pass along to future marketers in your industry, or any industry?

Stephanie: I think going back to the customer or competitor focus, and keeping your eyes set on the external. Whether that be your competitors, or your brand or your prospects that are so important. It’s so easy in marketing to get distracted by the stuff or the creative, or the results. Sometimes you need to step back and think wait a minute, who am I trying to talk to? And if I were them, would I listen, or if I were the competition, would I be afraid of what they’re saying?  Those are the things that we are committed to because they work. If you keep that forefront on your mind, you will be successful.