In this episode of the FINITE B2B marketing in technology podcast, Alex sits down with Oren Greenberg.
Oren is an experienced on demand Chief Marketing Officer and growth marketer working with a number of growing tech scale ups & corporate innovation projects.
Our host Alex Price sits down with Oren to talk about everything from growth hacking to hiring the right marketing team to balancing data and performance marketing.
This episode covers:
- About Oren’s background in marketing
- What is growth hacking?
- The skill set required to be a growth hacker
- A new, less siloed way of structuring a company
- What to look for in a good marketer
- Balancing creative decisions with data backed decisions
- Using the right amount of marketing automation
- Having a long term marketing approach for a lengthy sales cycle
- The importance of brand building for B2B company growth
- Tackling risk adversity in B2B buyers
Listen to the full episode here:
And check out more B2B marketing podcast episodes here!
Hello, welcome back to the FINITE podcast. Today I’m really looking forward to sitting down with Oren Greenberg. Oren is a super talented on demand Chief Marketing Officer, who goes into all kinds of tech, startups, scale-ups B2B and enterprise SaaS.
He’s got loads of experience working across a whole load of different types of companies. He started out in animation and production, product management, strong SEO foundations. And he’s one of those people that whenever I see him, he’s just got his head in all the latest tools and technology. And he’s got a serious growth hackers mindset, he’s always thinking about how to achieve new levels of growth.
So I’m looking forward to sitting down and talking about data, creativity, how the two things work together. And yeah, I hope you enjoy the episode.
The FINITE community and podcast are kindly supported by 93x, the digital agency working exclusively with ambitious fast growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out about how they partner with marketing teams and B2B technology companies to drive digital growth.
Hey Oren, thanks for joining me.
It’s a pleasure Alex, thanks for having me.
I’m looking forward to an interesting conversation. We’ve got lots to talk about growth hacking, data, data vs creativity, the skills of the modern marketer. Yeah, there’s a lot there, but I guess as always, do you want to start with just a quick intro as to what you’ve been up to, what you do now, how you got here, all the interesting stuff.
About Oren’s background in marketing
I actually cycled on a Lime to get here, which is pretty cool. They’re a new electrical bike in Brussels the other day. I was playing around with the scooters and that was a lot of fun as well. Apparently it’s illegal here.
So yeah, a little bit more about my professional background, I suppose, but I, funny enough, I started out as an animator back in the day and then moved on to Wink Bingo, I used to do search marketing there, SEO, and PPC. And then moved on to Touch Local, which received about 6 million from Bulletin. That was a very interesting business. Then I moved onto Wonga, which is probably the more infamous of some of the brands that I’ve worked with and probably one of the more controversial. I headed up search marketing there as well.
Are they still, have they gone completely?
Yeah, they’ve liquidated.
Sad times, wow. If that’s how you look at it, but yeah.
Yes. And then I moved to kind of a more independent advisory role. And since then I’ve worked with lots of different fourty to fifties, Cannon Investec bank, HomeServe and also different funded startups in the FinTech space. But now I work as a kind of a hybrid of advisor/consultant and I build little teams, little Ninja teams and growth teams, I suppose, and try and deliver results for clients.
So, you know, building up the tech stack, bringing in specialists, resources, working with some fantastic agencies. There’s a really great WordPress agency I could recommend to you.
Thank you very much.
No worries. Yeah. And that’s pretty much what I do now. So kind of all the way from the very strategic as a non-exec, through the very tactical managing specific channels for clients with different specialist resources.
And lots of B2B tech experience I know as well. Ranging from, I guess startups, SaaS, some enterprise stuff too maybe. Whenever I see you you’re always playing with a new tool or piece of marketing tech.
I love my MarTech. Well you know there’s only 7,200 of them to play with.
Exactly, yeah. It’s enough to keep you busy. So yeah, we’ve got a lot to cover. I guess we going to start by talking about this somewhat infamous phrase now of growth hacking, which is a term that is quite widely used. We were talking before we clicked record about how the word growth in itself can mean quite a few different things sometimes.
But growth hacking, I guess sometimes has got a bit of stick from the community, from LinkedIn, from the world around it. I think it just means different things to different people, but in terms of what it means to you and the kind of growth hacking framework, talk me through it.
What is growth hacking?
Yeah, sure. So funny enough, I recently approached by Skillshare to produce a course on growth hacking. So obviously once they approached me I was like, okay, I should probably really learn what this is. So I deep delved into it, really talked to lots of different practitioners in the space to understand it. And then a lot more depth. I feel like I’ve got a pretty decent grasp of it now.
And I think the misconception around it is because of the word hacking. I think that’s created this skew and this assumption that actually you’re hacking your way to growth. So a sort of dodgy or unscrupulous way, we’re kind of breaking every GDPR rule in the book. But in reality, the concept of growth was actually about rapid scaling and that’s where it had shifted.
But fundamentally growth hacking is a hybrid of a philosophy and methodology, but also structurally it gives you some tools to try and prioritise experimentation. I think the core principle of growth hacking, which is interesting and most people don’t understand is a shift in the team structure. So if you look at most businesses now, you look at engineering and they’re on one side of the building and one department. You look at your data team and they’re in another one, you’ve talked to the product team they’re in another one and your marketing is in another one. And then they kind of have these group meetings.
But what’s really shifted in some of these really interesting businesses like Pinterest and some of these other really rapidly growing ones like Uber, et cetera, is there’s actually one core team. And there’s a representative with each of those functions and they’re in this new created department, which is driving growth. So it’s actually a much more holistic approach structurally rather than this siloed approach that is currently kind of very common,
So the growth role, I mean, we’ve seen growth, as you say, described as an analyst role. I’ve got a friend that’s working in growth, but actually that’s pretty much just sales, it’s outbound sales. I guess there’s a whole load of roles which broadly contribute to the growth of the business, but mean such different things. I guess, growth hacking came from like a very data-driven performance marketing birth, is that fair to say?
It actually came from a product birth, so it actually looked at how you build a referral incentive into the product. And I think the best example of that is Dropbox. So rather than spending a lot of money on media acquisition, which is usually unsustainable, your cost per acquisition, your return on investment long-term, how do you actually get people to refer Dropbox to their friends? And then your CPA is baked into the product and you get this viral group, they call it viral growth loops.
Interesting, okay. So the growth role, I guess these days, there’s always going to be some degree of data within it? I know that you spend a lot of time and are working on a side project and product to really help people hire the best marketer for their businesses.
I think you also had some data which maybe you can run through about data and data analysis and data management skills being kind of the most sought after, hard scale for marketers, I guess, digital marketers, but maybe marketers more generally, what does the modern kind of growth hacking skill set look like?
Cause I think I still have a bit of a vision of a growth hacker being like a 21 year old kid in their bedroom, in the dark just doing whatever they can to bring in new clients or sell things or whatever it takes. Obviously these days it’s in bigger organisations, it’s much more established and there’s some proper process behind it, but what does a growth team look like? And what are the skill sets within it?
The skill set required to be a growth hacker
There’s two breeds of growth hacker. There’s the 21 year olds in their garage and you can actually see them quite prolific on LinkedIn with their status updates and their funny videos. And I actually speak to some of them. I spoke to one of them the other day and they’re actually very ambitious, but just a bit clueless, a bit lost in the commercial world. And they kind of think about it more like a 21 year old thinks about Instagram and trying to get as many likes rather than actually deep business griff, like serious movement.
And then you’ve got the original growth hackers, which is Andrew Chan and arguably Neil Patel and some of these guys like Sean Ellis. And you can find a lot of community like the growth conference in the US and there’s some of the biggest minds in growth are there, and they go to conferences and they’re from MailChimp to Infusionsoft to other SaaS B2B software providers. So yeah, the growth team, the growth hybrid’s quite an interesting one.
So when I speak to a lot of different heads of growth and I ask them, what’s frustrating you in your current workplace? They talk about this silo, about how growth isn’t full funnel. They want to have more ownership over the product. They want to be more integrated into engineering. And I think that creates this double edged sword because now you’re developing new skills and new attitudes and you need new knowledge that goes a lot deeper than just marketing.
But then you also have to stay on top of marketing, which is incredibly challenging, especially as the MarTech landscape continues to proliferate as there’s constant feature changes in different channels. Like LinkedIn now has this new look alike audience, your targeting is improving, you have to stay on top of that, you have to experiment with that. There’s this constant conflict about how it pulls growth into these different areas in the business.
Yeah, interesting. So what’s the current kind of state of play versus how do you see it progressing? Like, are there some organisations ahead compared to others? And they’ve got growth teams which you know, the silos have been broken down, maybe not completely, but are well on their way. And you know, those kinds of structures you’ve just described exist, but I guess a lot of the clients that we work with, we see those silos quite evidently.
And I think it’s only with a certain type of person at the top or leadership team that these things can be broken down. Like it’s almost like there’s one, there’s one key hire or there’s a kind of a champion within, that’s kind of pioneering a new way of thinking about how these teams are structured. Yeah. I mean, how do you think it will pan out over the years ahead?
A new, less siloed way of structuring a company
Yeah, so I think it’s a very slow progressive boiling. And I think as the temperature increases and the performance pressure increases, these businesses need to find new, innovative ways to find solutions and strategies. And a lot of CMOs I speak to and lots of heads of growth I speak to, they’re frustrated about these items about the cultural shift that needs to happen. And in larger organisations, definitely the more mature ones, one of the businesses I was working in, they had 13 different CRMs.
So how does the head of growth, how does a person who owns marketing even have clear enough data to attribute success on marketing qualified leads? And then how is that evolving? Also the thinking, if you think about SaaS specifically in B2B, that thinking is evolving from marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads towards something called PQL is product qualified leads. So how do I get more free trials in the product? And then how do I try and get them to be a paying customer? Right?
So it’s evolving in terms of the philosophical view of product marketing. And then you’ve got these cultural forces inside these businesses and these different silos with lots of different people in growth. They’re finding it very challenging. I think the UK is definitely lagging behind in terms of the cultural adaptation.
And where’s ahead? The US?
Yeah, the US is leading by far. But I think culture is one issue, but I think there’s a massive shortage of channels in the UK. So one of the biggest issues CMOs have, this is from research done by Deloitte. And they found that the biggest pain point for CMOs is finding good talent.
So in a way you’ve got these existing people who are owning it, and they’re saying I’m frustrated with the culture. I’m frustrated I don’t have the right tools. I’m frustrated that I’m not empowered. Then you’ve got the CMO saying, I can’t find good people. And it’s quite interesting because they’re both true. It’s a very fragmented landscape.
There aren’t clear answers and different companies are light years ahead and some companies are still struggling even with basic digital transformation and they’re 10, 15 years behind other businesses. So it’s very fragmented because different businesses have different legacies in terms of software, and legal implication. Some of them are very constricted because it’s FCA regulated in FinTech. And then you can really see this with like HSBC’s 4,500 archaic internal systems versus Monzo is now kicking off with 2 million new customers.
Yeah, that jealousy. So tell me a bit more about the framework you use with your product that’s helping people hire their marketer. You just talked about how the biggest challenge for CMOs is talent and hiring the right people. I find it pretty tough too, in terms of what does a good, what does the right marketer look like? And particularly, I guess if you’re in a fast growing technology business, that need changes with time.
The research we talked about before was really interesting in terms of, I think it was 93% of people felt that strong, soft skills were just as important as hard skills. And then all the soft skills were, can’t remember what it was, it was on the Econsultancy report, but it was very much like lateral thinking, emotional intelligence, things that bear no relevance to how well you can handle an SQL dump of data or something.
With your framework and how you approach kind of finding the right person, what’s the balance of hard skill soft skill? And just more broadly, how do you approach the process?
What to look for in a good marketer
It was very, very interesting. The clients are very consistent in that they’re expecting candidates to have a lot more skills than any human being can actually have. Or he needs to be amazing at data and he needs to be a great copywriter and he needs to be amazing at creative.
Yep, we’ve all seen those job descriptions.
Exactly. So it’s really challenging to first educate the client on what’s possible and then try to prototype different marketeers with their different skill sets. You know, the creative marketeer, the performance marketeer, the brand builder, the PR, you know there’s different types. And everyone’s a hybrid, there is no such thing as someone who just does one thing.
The key is finding the skill set that that client really needs to have, that the best candidate fits into the salary range, their appetite in terms of growth, you know, are they going to be managing a team, have they already managed a team, are they going to get bored? But yeah, soft skills are very difficult to crack and a lot of it’s about cultural fit.
There’s a lot of interesting biases that happen in a lot of the businesses behind closed doors, which is very interesting. And some of the feedback that I get is stuff that you would never publicly see available, and it’s very curious. What I’m specifically focused on is the quantification of technical skills, right? Which is very hard to do.
And what I have essentially done is I’ve compiled lots of different tests that allow to evaluate candidate but I also use different personality tests to try and understand what is the qualitative aspect of a person, but trying to give it some sort of quantification in a scientific methodology rather than the existing bias that exists in businesses today. It’s very interesting.
I mean, it’s still very much in a black box phase and still in beta and I’m running it with some clients I’ve been interviewing a lot of different candidates now, and I’m constantly refining the type of questions that I need to be asking to get real insight. You know, something that’s actually really meaningful.
Pretty cool. The insights you’re going to have long term from that. It’s going to be so much data even for you to just have trends and insights about the state of the market and in different regions and hopefully everything else. Okay, cool. I think now’s a good time to pivot slightly towards, you know, we’ve been talking about the skill sets needed in modern day marketing. How growth hacking, I guess, is heavily rooted in data and performance.
I guess one of the biggest debates that I seem to have most frequently with people and that we see pop up on Campaign and the Drum. And it’s just one of those things that’s always talked about and there’s always someone writing some kind of thought leadership piece on how to solve it or how to get more balance on it. But that’s this balance between data and creativity as two different things, two different entities.
I guess I see it often in our own clients when we know that if we go back to a client with an idea, if that idea is underpinned by a spreadsheet with an expected return on investment of some kind, they’re much more confident about walking into a boardroom or getting sign off or unlocking budget with that than they are with just some creative, big bang idea that yes could change the world, but how can anybody prove that in any way?
And so I guess, inevitably we exist in a time where the spreadsheet always beats the creative idea. The person armed with the spreadsheet is always going to win in the boardroom. So I guess by proxy, I’m kind of having a bit of a stab at the boardroom maybe and the C-suite and saying, well, maybe they obviously just don’t get marketing to some extent, but who can blame them?
Like if were there and we weren’t a marketer, then maybe I’d be looking for a spreadsheet that makes me feel confident that my money is safe as well right? What’s your perspective on it, how do you see the two working together and when you’re working with clients, are there things that go hand in hand? Are you more heavily weighted one way or the other?
Balancing creative decisions with data backed decisions
I think it’s very interesting. I think there’s two pieces of research that have really impacted my thinking on this. One of them is a research piece from the IPA and one of them’s from McKinsey. McKinsey, they did this study and they looked at these different types of marketeers and they called them integrators. People who use creativity and data to get a result. And so there was a significant improvement in the results that they drive when they integrate data and creativity, philosophically speaking, but also in terms of resources and structurally.
So I think that a hybrid approach is really the ideal approach, rather than thinking we should only do this if it’s data backed and we should only do this if it’s a creative idea, that’s a big bang, big splash. Now this really ties into brand building versus direct response, right? So brand building is really a long-term approach where you’re trying to really get sentiment. And you’re trying to prime people to be familiar with a brand, and you’re not gonna expect a short term, immediate return on investment.
But most founders of businesses that I speak to understand the importance of brand, but they don’t know what it means really and they don’t know how to quantify it. So they really have a hard time. So that’s why they always lean towards direct response and short-term ROI, but then they’re conflicted about brand building.
So I think there’s a recommended ratio, which ties into the second piece of research that I came across from the IPA, which suggested that you invest 60% into brand and 40% into direct response. I think that’s a really nice, healthy split in terms of your thinking of your budget and resource allocation to try and get the best of both of those worlds.
Interesting. I guess considering IPA maybe has more traditional advertising type routes than just considering the source of the data. Are they more biased towards agencies, their membership base?
Yeah, that’s a great question. So I think this is a third party that actually came up with this that they had been promoting. And I think it is quite rigorous and there’s a science behind it and the numbers are respondents when they looked at the performance analysis.
Interesting. Okay, cool. I think their shortsightedness is really interesting in that, what’s the average tenure of a CMO now? I think the numbers I saw recently are like two and a half years, three years. How can a senior marketer be thinking about long-term, brand-building when they’re not even staying in their job for five years?
Ultimately they’re still able to walk into a room and go our latest campaign where we just hammered people with LinkedIn ads and capsulated email addresses generated this level of ROI and this was our cost per acquisition or whatever the numbers are. There’s just hard, hard data behind it.
So you said like it doesn’t necessarily have to be that a big creative idea is underpinned by data, but I guess these days, is there any scope for a creative idea that doesn’t have some kind of indication of impact that’s backed up by a quantifiable amount underneath it? I just can’t see that getting signed off or budget behind it.
No, I don’t see that either, even if it’s soft metrics for measurement, in terms of engagement on social. But ideally, yeah, there’s some sort of return on investment or some sort of quantifiable metric. The problem is that marketing needs to have access to the full funnel in terms of measurement. And a lot of the times that’s the biggest challenge marketeers have. It’s not only understanding how attribution really works, multitouch attribution. And then is my marketing automation set up properly? Do I even have the tracking available in the product? Are sales actually even updating their CRM and attributing it correctly?
So you’ve got these like technological challenges and it’s not really the technology. The technology is an enabler. It’s really the educational silos and the lack of commercial incentive across the different teams and they’re always aligned.
I was talking to someone the other day and they had a BDR or SDR who was working under them and the boss just wasn’t willing to resolve this issue that the sales rep was having with the SDR who’s meant to generate the leads for him. So his performance just had a massive dip because of his personal relationship. That wasn’t technology based, that wasn’t a real challenge. It was very interpersonal. It ties into the soft skills that we were mentioning earlier.
Using the right amount of marketing automation
And I think people and processes are arguably much bigger as things to look at than just purely technology, right? Like I think that’s something we come across often is like, I think I’ve actually had maybe three calls in the last two months with prospective clients who are using Pardot for marketing automation.
And actually all they’re doing is sending emails with it. And it’s just an expensive MailChimp at that point, there’s no reason or need to be using Pardot and once you to dig into why that is, it’s actually just because they don’t have the people or the process to be able to use it. There’s been no proper configuration of it.
There’s no one to actually support them in using it moving forwards and that person or their team don’t have the hard skills to actually use Pardot as a piece of software. So they’ve probably spent years battling for sign off to get you know, thousands of pounds a month of spend to be able to support that product. And actually all they’re doing now is throwing out emails. It’s shocking in places.
I think that’s one issue. Another issue that I see with expensive marketing automation is there’s not enough traffic. So if you think about the benefit of progressive profiling on HubSpot, we look at Marketo and Pardot’s lead scoring and it’s huge volume. And the truth is they don’t really have the traffic volume, they don’t really understand the marketing automation benefits and they just, people are really eager to get a result and justifiably, you know, their career is dependent on that.
And the problem is under so many tremendous forces in the day-to-day of trying to keep up to date with what’s going on in the environment with all the changes in the technology and the channels, but then the internal politics that they need to navigate and then trying to always justify their role and the value that they’re delivering, that they’re very time poor. And being time poor. It’s very difficult to have the energy and the time, and sometimes the lack of resources to really deep delve into figuring out what the best tech stack solution is for that stage of the business’s evolution.
You talked about attribution and attribution models, I think in the B2B space, it’s more difficult arguably than we’d see in terms of often the length involved of the customer journey and how many potential touch points there are across. I know for our clients, it’s like anywhere from maybe a couple of months at the shortest through to sometimes years of this very gentle interaction and nurturing.
Do you think that drives some of this short-sightedness and this short-sighted outlook of kind of, let’s just focus on the data, improve our numbers and look one month ahead, rather than looking at what your net promoter score will be in three years time, or what your market visibility of your brand is in three years time.
Having a long term marketing approach for a lengthy sales cycle
So I think there’s two different components here. The first is the average B2B sales cycle is actually only 82 days, which is three months. And a lifetime cookie NGA is like six to nine months. So actually, in terms of attribution for the majority of B2B businesses, it isn’t really an issue, it’s just perceived as one.
Saying that I literally had a conversation yesterday where the guy was telling me, you know what? The sales cycle is six and a half years. They’re absolutely mad. How do you even, how do you attribute that? It’s very complicated to do that, right? So I’m saying in those cases, it’s not that they don’t exist, they definitely do exist. They’re just less usual rather than the average.
I assume that’s enterprise.
Hardcore enterprise, huge deal sizes, very complicated sales, multiple stakeholders. That’s the first component it’s that this attribution complexity isn’t applicable to the majority of B2B businesses on average, but it is to some, that’s the first.
And then the second is I think the misunderstanding of attribution and how much data you need for attribution to be meaningful, but then it’s the dependence on the further down the funnel in B2B, which doesn’t exist in B2C, which is the sales team. If the sales team aren’t updating the CRM effectively, and there isn’t real measurement, you know, some clients, they don’t the sales calls.
So the marketing don’t have the insight on how to produce the right landing pages and creative because they’re not really dealing with the real pain points. They’re just dealing with their perception of what they’re interpreting the clients to have. And there’s a kind of silo between sales and marketing. And that’s where there’s this, you know, the new CRO term has come in and where marketing ops and sales ops have merged into rev ops on the CRO role.
So it’s kind of going through this evolution of trying to break down those silos. It’s just very interesting to see how that’s happening as marketing owns more of that funnel. And then sales are kind of being squeezed down and then sales are kind of kicking up a fuss with this new CRO title, which now is encompassing and owning all of marketing as well. And in a way that makes sense because marketing and sales is about driving revenues, it’s about driving real growth in the business, right?
The importance of brand building for B2B company growth
So rev ops was something that we talked about at our last FINITE event. It seems to be really like, I feel like there’s a real energy around rev ops as a term at the moment. And yeah, I think we’re seeing more and more Chief Revenue Officer roles popping up. And yeah, it’s something that we definitely need to explore in a bit more detail because I think it’s a bit like how Google, I think they use the UX role to overshadow all of their design and technology, everything.
And their belief is that it’s all about the user and therefore put UX as the umbrella over everything and everything else sits quite nicely underneath it. And you break down those silos. And so as you say, if you focus on revenue as a top level objective, then actually sales and marketing fall into alignment potentially quite nicely.
I think something that I see in that, like a frustration I’ve found is often we’re talking to quite experienced and quite senior marketing people, but they’re just in organisations that marketing isn’t viewed as something that can be invested in maybe in the way that they were expecting before they took that job or there’s not that much room for creative solutions at all.
I think it’s even worse in the B2B technology space and that all of these businesses are run by typically quite technical people with technical backgrounds and they like numbers, right? Yet the irony is that in the B2B space it’s even more ripe for creative to cut through, right? Like the emotional side of marketing just doesn’t come up that much.
There’s always something that we’re trying to drive clients to invest in a bit more and talk about a bit more and tell their story. And it’s kind of why rather than just the how and the what of what they do. Is it just something we have to accept that might come with time, that CEO’s might change? And eventually there might be a CEO who used to be the CMO and actually that company just strides ahead in terms of marketing, because you know, they know that they’re happy to allocate a decent budget to marketing and give them the freedom to make creative decisions.
Quite interesting. Yeah, because with the B2C, usually you’ve only got one person who’s buying. When they have an emotional connection, that’s going to have an increased propensity for probability. That’s why brand-building is very significant. But in B2B, you have multiple stakeholders and actually engaging them on an emotional level is very challenging. You know, if you have six or seven different decision-makers.
But surely the power of a story told in the right way is one that maybe not everybody will connect with, but it gives you some sense of emotion. It gives you something that somewhere in the deep strings of people’s minds, it just pulls on a nerve that actually all of their logical thinking isn’t really engaged with the tool, because I think so many of the clients we work with have incredible backstories of how they’ve either built their business or how they’ve come across their solution, the challenges and pain points that have actually gone on their website.
And all you see is like, this is our solution, here’s the product sheet. It’s all about how it works and what it does and how it integrates. And it’s all about the tech specs and any sense of like we’re out to really change the world kind of gets lost, that emotional side of come on this journey this is what we believe isn’t really pushed much at all.
I think it has value in B2B. I think it is a much more functional purchase. And I think the way brand building in B2B is shifting from B2C in that if you look at companies like Drift, which is one of the fastest growing businesses in the world with chat bots. And all of their marketing as a B2B business is really about people and about LinkedIn video and about content and really bringing the person out.
And I think that’s where B2B is kind of shifting where B2C is much more about, you know, the brand and how it fits into your lifestyle and is part of your identity. When B2B, the brand building is not about, this is who you’re going to be working with, and this is where we’re going together on this journey. And we’re kind of building the features, but I think it’s much more feature heavy and a little more value driven, and it’s actually more logical. It isn’t as emotional, as a decision making process.
So the context of how brand building happens in B2B, I think is actually quite different. And that’s quite important to point out now. How is it shifting into the businesses? I think as marketing shifts to have stronger, more effective measurement, and I think through this educational journey that the C-suite is going through, they’ll start to understand the value of the CMO. But saying that you can see the challenges CMOs have with this complexity of the tech stack and having to rely on a very complicated internal supply chain to try and drive an effective result.
Tackling risk adversity in B2B buyers
Yeah, it sounds logical. I sometimes view this as like a lack of, I guess, understanding of what the marketing role is in the C-suite, but then sometimes I think it’s just like a general risk adversity that runs across like entire organisations. Like people don’t want to put their neck out.
I was just looking for the Tom Goodwin quote that I mentioned earlier. He shared on LinkedIn the other day, “I think my biggest disappointment in adult life is the degree to which the world is run on the absolute inability to take any form of tiny risk. I’m amazed at how hard people work and yet how reluctant they are to stick their neck out the tiniest amount. The whole world seems to revolve around risk reduction, blame management, excuses prepared. It’s absolutely baffling to me. Fear cripples the chance of anything interesting happening, it’s like people are afraid to live or accomplish anything.”
I mean, pretty extreme words, but I admit I liked it. Like I gave him a like on LinkedIn. That resonated with me, it felt like particularly a lot of our bigger clients and to just pin it based on size, but like, I’m sure you’ve been in organisations like this too, where people are just preparing their next move for themselves, regardless of whether it’s in the C-suite at all.
And so it’s like, well, why don’t we just do what we did last week? Cause that worked or, remember that campaign we did six months ago, we got quite good results from that. So why not like copy and paste and no one’s really gambling on anything. And if it doesn’t work, we can just go, Oh, we just did what we did before. And it worked fine that time and shrug our shoulders.
Risk aversion is definitely one of the biggest limiting factors for growth in most businesses. And it’s very hard for businesses to navigate this complexity. And the complexity is actually not cultural, it’s biological. So we have a natural negativity bias where our effect of a negative experience in us is three times greater than the positive experience. So technically you need four positive experiences, the outweigh a negative one. So you need three just to break even on the negative experience, they needed one more just to out do it.
You say it’s not cultural, but do you think culture can go part of the way of at least making it okay to fail? And you know, the kind of typical, I guess, very in trend at the moment in terms of leadership and management, but like creating environments where people can do stuff and they can get it wrong and they can talk about it and they can learn from it and they can move forward.
I think that’s a problem that there’s a duality where companies are publicly saying move fast and break things. But internally you actually see there’s a risk aversion that happens and the person has to stake their career literally on saying, I believe this is going to happen. That’s why people are so particular with bringing in the vendors or providers. And that’s why, you know, I was assigned to a CMO the other day and they did a pitch and they invited nine agencies.
And in my conversation with the CMO, I said to him, you know, it’s weird because I’m picking up the undertone of what you’re saying, it sounds like you’ve already made your decision on which of the nine you’re going to work with. And he says, yeah, of course I’ve already worked with them before. So I’m like, why are you wasting so much time and energy and resources of, I can imagine the other eight agencies. And he goes, maybe I can learn something. So interesting that he had already made up his mind.
You’re talking to the wrong guy for this one.
Yeah. I’m sure. I mean, it’s very frustrating when you’re on the seller side, not the buyer side, but it’s very interesting. Think about it from the buyer’s side for a second. And this guy’s under tremendous performance pressure to deliver result and growth on the PNL to the C-suite. He was under tremendous performance pressure from investors or shareholders. And at the end of the day it’s about the numbers, it’s about the PNL for the financial director, where they have so much sway.
So risk aversion is an issue. I think there is an important cultural shift that is, you know, people do want change and they do want to take risk. And it’s really interesting. How do you see it? Do you see it as a risk or do you see it as an opportunity? And the truth is it’s birth. Every opportunity has a component of risk. Now how does this shift happen? I think the shift actually ironically happens when they realise that the fear is so stifling that their competition is out doing them.
And the fear of not taking action is greater than the fear of taking action. And that’s when companies start to get mobility. So ironically, you use fear as the tool and there’s actually a psychological bias towards loss, which is greater than gain and that as well is you just have to use a mental human juristics and work with human biology. If you keep resisting human biology, you’re fighting, in my opinion, a losing battle. The key is how to be effective about getting the result that you want.
Yeah. Wise words. I mean, it’s kind of sad, but I can see why.
It’s not sad. The sadness is a judgment of the way things are. You see it’s the way things are. It’s not sad. It’s the way it is. So you either adapt to the way that it is or you just get used to suffering in your little bubble.
Yeah. Well, on that optimistic finish, it’s time to wrap up the conversation. It’s been a pleasure. I think we could probably sit and talk for hours. So I’m going to watch the clock. Maybe we can record another episode on something else another day, but in the meantime, a big thank you for joining me.
Such a pleasure as always.
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