000 | Who is the Hero? | Studio CMO

Podcast by | February 26, 2020 Interviews, Marketing Strategy, Positioning and Messaging


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The Episode in 60 Seconds

Welcome to Studio CMO, the podcast full of real-life conversations about the B2B tech marketing issues that leaders care about the most.

Golden Spiral, a B2B tech marketing agency and consultancy, began Studio CMO to bring to light the marketing challenges and victories in the fintech, healthtech, cybersecurity, and business intelligence marketplaces.

We also want to showcase the best, brightest, and most creative leaders in the space.

Our three core tenants:

  1. We must understand the perspective and problems our customers face.
  2. With that empathetic understanding, we must lead the way.
  3. Always make the customer the hero.

Show Notes

We don’t expect you to trust us… yet. All we’re asking for is a chance to earn your trust.

John Farkas hosts the podcast. John is the CEO and Chief Storyteller of Golden Spiral. He began the agency nearly a decade ago.

Read more from John | Discover Golden Spiral | LinkedIn

Angus Nelson builds relationships as Director of Development for Golden Spiral. Angus has spent time in non-profit leadership, influencer marketing, and so much more.

Read more from Angus | LinkedIn

Mark Whitlock works as Executive Producer for Studio CMO and Marketing Manager for Golden Spiral. He has spent his career divided between broadcasting and book publishing.

Read more from Mark | LinkedIn


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Mark Whitlock   Are you looking for insights and community into marketing your B2B tech product? You found it. This is Studio CMO. Welcome to Studio CMO. My name is Mark Whitlock and you’re listening to the podcast full of real-life conversations about the issues B2B tech marketing leaders care about the most. Our host is John Farkas.

John Farkas   Greetings everybody.

Mark Whitlock   Our co-host Angus Nelson.

Angus Nelson   Hello.

Mark Whitlock   And John, people are checking out this podcast. Why should they listen to Studio CMO?

John Farkas   One of the things I always avoid doing is telling people to trust me or trust us. And I tell our clients if they say, “Hey, trust us, we are a trusted provider,” you can’t do that. You have to earn that trust, so we’re not starting this podcast out with any assumptions. We want you to check it out, and we want to be able to earn that trust from our audience. But here’s what’s true. We’ve been at this for a while. We understand what’s going on in business-to-business, technology marketing, and we’ve seen it from a number of different perspectives. We’re going to add our insight and some of our perspective, and we’re going to be tagging some of the industry’s finest marketing leaders and interviewing them and finding out what they’ve learned, what their insights are, what their experience is. So this isn’t about us. This podcast is about you, and we’re going to be pulling that insight together to make meaning for you, for our audience.

Mark Whitlock   And Angus, from our vantage point, we have seen something fascinating. When we talk about B2B tech, we’re talking about a number of different industries. What do we see time and time again?

Angus Nelson   It always comes down to your customer. So easy and so often do we see people falling in love with their technology, their origin story. They’re talking about something about their solution, and they put that at the forefront of all their marketing. And the truth of the matter is people have a challenge, they have a pain. They’re looking for a solution to reach that and therefore is incumbent on us as B2B technology marketers to speak to the customer in their language and reach them in and amongst their challenge with our solution.

Mark Whitlock   And when we say B2B tech, we’re talking about financial technology, health technology, we’re talking about cybersecurity, we’re talking about business intelligence, and as we’ve looked at all of these different industries, John, we’ve seen patterns.

John Farkas   Yeah, there’s certainly a number of different common threads that pull through on these and there’s things that are slightly different, and we can learn from those differences. One of the things we see very often is that if you’re looking at a health tech organization, the language that surrounds that universe ends up being very myopic and can get very similar. The opportunity to bring some different disciplines in, to bring some different focuses in, to deploy some different tactics. It can really be an interesting synergy that develops there.

Mark Whitlock   And you’ve been doing this for almost a decade here at Golden Spiral, and you weren’t just dropped down by aliens into this role.

John Farkas   No, some would argue. Some would argue that.

Mark Whitlock   So tell us about your journey.

John Farkas   My wife would argue that.

Mark Whitlock   How did you get here?

John Farkas   So you know, my backdrop is very different from marketing and yet all about marketing. My backdrop was in English and theater, but what that is about is storytelling. And what it’s about is the narrative. What it’s about is figuring out how to bring a person, an audience member, a buyer from where they are currently to a new understanding of the world. That’s what it’s about. And so what I’ve learned over time is that’s a fabulous backdrop for marketing because marketing is all about the from-to, it’s all about the journey you take from a present understanding to a new understanding, especially when we’re talking about what technology enables.

We started Golden Spiral a decade ago because we saw a need. We saw a really big challenge that companies were having in telling the story that surrounds their product, not just talking about their technology, but understanding the audience, understanding what those challenges were, and then framing a narrative that brings people from where they are to where they need to go.

Mark Whitlock   And the name of our company, Golden Spiral is not just some name picked from a focus group. It has a meaning behind it.

John Farkas   It does. So the Golden Spiral is the shape that comes out of the golden ratio, which is 1.618. Fibonacci discovered it centuries ago and understood that that ratio is played out in everything and all over nature and everything from how galaxies are formed and the spiral shape that galaxies form to the way sunflower seeds spiral out of the center of a sunflower.

Mark Whitlock   Wow.

John Farkas   It shows up in the aspect ratios of our screens. It shows up in our architecture and the reason it is replicated in so many places is because there’s something fundamentally right about that proportion. There’s something that resonates with who we are as humans, and when we think about marketing, that’s our mission. We are working to uncover the resonant strain. We’re working to find what it is that resonates with an audience, with a buyer and put that story in place so that it fits.

That’s where we are going to focus. You’re going to hear that theme a lot because we see it a lot. We see a lot of these tech companies jump into “what can our technology do,” and their technology becomes the hero. That can’t be the case. We have to put, as we engage the market, especially in the B2B scenario where we’ve got buyers who are really the ones who want to see themselves as being the hero. We say this all the time as we address our clients. Your buyers in a lot of situations are making career decisions on the platforms they choose to adopt. It can be a make or break career move for them, and so they’re not interested in buying a hero. They’re interested in being the hero. And so how do you position your solutions where it’s really clear to anybody that’s looking at it when they partner with you, when they align with you, that you as the technology provider are going to position the buyer to be the hero in the equation.

Your customers are not interested in buying a hero. They’re interested in being the hero.

Mark Whitlock   Fantastic. And Angus, how did you get to the microphone?

Angus Nelson   Well, like John, I came from kind of a not-so-related but yet related background. I actually came from non-profit, and I was connected to people in creating community, and part of that was keeping a people-focus, and inherently with that, you start speaking to customers. Later on, I got into the corporate world where I started an association where I was people-focused, and I was running all of the live events and content for this association around Fortune 500 brands, all focused on innovation and digital transformation. And through all of that in time, John had reached out to me and said if there was ever an opportunity to kind of circle you in, we’d love to have you be a part here at Golden Spiral. And after a period of time, the opportunity presented itself and I joined the team.

Mark Whitlock   I got here through two different doors: the broadcasting door and the publishing door. I’ve spent my career in radio broadcasting, spent 13 years producing talk radio and being involved in that, and producing more radio commercials than I could ever count. So getting the idea across in 60 seconds, 30 seconds, sometimes even 15 seconds is something that I will continue to be a student of. And on the book publishing side, how do you connect with a reader? It’s very similar to how you connect with the customer and how you connect with a listener, so we’re glad you are on board and you’re coming along for this ride. And John, we’ve seen dramatic growth in this industry just in the time that we’ve been around, and we’ve looked at more of the history of that. There’s never been a better time for marketing conversations like the ones that we’re going to have on Studio CMO.

John Farkas   Yeah, it’s really amazing to watch what’s happened over the last decade. I mean, if you look at cybersecurity, just for instance, one of the premier events in that industry is the RSA conference. Started in 1993 with 200 people coming to the conference. This past year there were over 40,000 people at the conference and over 650 vendors. Incredible expansion of that organization. If you look at just digital health spending in 2010, not that long ago, 2010 and $1.1 billion in digital health. In 2019 $14.7 billion spent in that arena. Huge growth in a sector related directly to business to business technology solutions. Similar statistics can be found around Fintech. It is a greatly expanding area, so the number of organizations and companies that are joining that conversation for any one of these verticals has grown exponentially just in the last 10 years.

And what’s contributed to that is technology has gone from stuff that only people with some of the highest technical pedigrees in programming have been able to put together. It’s moved from that framework to open source where anybody can grab ahold of it, make meaning from it, and apply that technology to solve problems in a variety of different ways. So all of a sudden, all these companies and organizations are coming up to solve any number of problems that exist in the business space and working to capitalize on it. It is a hyper-competitive arena around any real problem that exists in the market right now. There are people trying to solve it. That is a fundamental shift that has accelerated dramatically over the last decade, and it’s not slowing down.

And so that has created a lot of challenge for any organization entering the fray here. There has to be a real clear message to the market. There has to be a really clear understanding of what the buyer problem is and how you knit that solution together to make meaning. And that’s what we’re here to work through and solve.

Mark Whitlock   And as we invite these CMOs around our table, as we chat with these marketing leaders and dive into behind the scenes about how they do what they do, you’re going to have a greater understanding of what it takes for you to stand out.

Our great longing is that this podcast will stand out in your subscriptions as something that you want to listen to, so do check us out. Download an episode, go ahead, hit that subscribe button.

Angus Nelson   Double-dog dare you.

Mark Whitlock   Exactly. And beyond that, we want to hear from you. So every time you come to studiocmo.com, click on any of the links to one of our shows. You can listen to it, you can read the transcript, you can see the show notes, you can check out the resources. There’s going to be an opportunity at the bottom of those pages to feed back to us. What should we be talking about? What did we miss? What was great? What’s the salient point you’re going to be taking away and applying to your marketing right now?

John Farkas Yeah, and if there’s something that you’re doing that you’re excited about, that you’re seeing work, where you’re seeing traction, we want to hear about it because those opportunities are things that other people in other verticals can apply and make meaning out of in their scenario, so let us know about it. We’d love to find a way to involve you in the conversation.

Mark Whitlock   You’re exactly right. Studio CMO: 30 minutes every week sitting down with the greatest marketing leaders in B2B tech. And John, if we look at our North star there are three points to that North star. Three tenants of every conversation that we’re going to try to discuss with these leaders.

John Farkas   Yeah, you’re going to hear these things over and over again because they are essential themes. The first idea is that you have to know and understand your buyer’s problems. It has to be a customer-centric movement. You have to dive in, understand not just the things specifically pertinent to your solution, but the things that surround that whole ecosystem so that you can begin to relate to your buyers from a clear understanding of what their problem is.

And then you want to use that empathetic understanding that you develop to lead your efforts, so your marketing efforts are coming out of an empathetic understanding of where your buyers are. That’s super critical.

And then the third idea, you have to make sure that your buyer is the hero . They are interested in being the hero. This is their career moment. You are not Batman, you’re Robin. You’ve got to be there to help the hero make it happen. That’s the third critical tenant that we’re going to just echo over and over again, because it’s so essential.

Mark Whitlock   We can’t wait to meet you. We can’t wait to hear your feedback, and we can’t wait to deliver great content to the B2B tech marketing leaders.

Angus Nelson   Always remember, understand your buyer’s problems.

Mark Whitlock   Let that empathetic understanding lead the way.

John Farkas   And let your buyer be the hero.

Mark Whitlock   See you next time on Studio CMO.

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