033 | Creativity and Intelligent Risk in B2B Marketing with Jason Miller | Studio CMO
The Episode in 60 Seconds
Is B2B marketing one (or two) generations behind where the B2B buyer truly is? Jason Miller, a brand and content marketing veteran of Marketo, LinkedIn, and more, brings a shot of adrenalin for you and your next meeting.
Creativity in Marketing means:
- Everyone from CMO to specialists must have a willingness to take risks
- The team must possess a deep understanding of the brand—voice, assets, point of view, and more
- The team must feel a sense of trust from leadership—especially those who are creating content
- Each member must take personal ownership for promoting the brand in quote risky unquote ways. Don’t have the attitude of “we’re just a vanilla product and vanilla company”
- Try mini-experiments and tout the successes along the way
- Bring your energy and passion to the table
- Don’t forget to inject a healthy dose of inspiration through the entire process
Jason Miller launched his career in artist development for Sony Music before entering the wild and wooly world of B2B marketing. He brought his rock and roll sensibilities to Marketo, LinkedIn, and Microsoft before becoming Head of Brand at ActiveCampaign. He is an award-winning content producer and a sought-after public speaker.
Check out Mark’s big risk, “The Screamer” at Frontier Ranch.
Learn more about John’s biggest risk by reading The History of Golden Spiral.
If you scroll through your LinkedIn feed, how long does it take to find something that breaks through the monotony? — Jason Miller
We talked at length about this imaginary machine that exists at every B2B company, The Sanitizer. Do you have one where you work?
Sometimes, marketing is about a core belief that what you have is worth getting excited about and having the willingness to get excited about it. —John Farkas
Examples of Creative Campaigns
KnowBe4’s series of webisodes called, “The Inside Man.”
Dokken and Symantic
The inspiration for Marketo’s B2B playbook:
We discussed Jason’s former podcast:
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Our theme is created by some of Nashville’s greatest musicians. Bigger Story Music is born out of a longtime friendship, a deep, talented community, and a real love for what we do. Whatever story you’re trying to tell, we have the perfect music to make it better. Really.
Check out their production library and explore their custom options at biggerstorymusic.com.
Mark Whitlock (00:05):
Welcome to Studio CMO. You’re at the place where we have real life conversations about B2B tech marketing. So hang on and listen in. We’ve got a great podcast planned for you today, John. What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken.
John Farkas (00:22):
You didn’t let me, I know,
Mark Whitlock (00:24):
I know I did. But before you ask, I’ll tell you about mine. I was out in Colorado, 2003 at an event, and they had this thing called the screamer and it was a 10 story, tall outdoor swing. And so you took, you had to take a step off of this ledge. You were, you were strapped into the swing. You weren’t going to do anything you’re going to die, but you essentially dropped 10 stories hit at the bottom. And then you swung in this canyon for a while until they could catch you. And then you got off of it. And so I would say the biggest risk I’ve ever taken was taking that step on the screamer. You got a story?
John Farkas (00:59):
Yeah, well, it’s a little bit more, um, real life than an amusement park, but, uh, but I would say starting golden spiral was the biggest risk I ever took. I mean the major career change for me, it was jumping into something, you know, in the middle of our last big recession. I didn’t see how we were going to get there from here, but it all worked out and we’re in the midst of a great experience with this company, but boy, it was a blind step and, uh, fortunately we were able to hold the ship together. So, uh, that would be probably my biggest risk.
Mark Whitlock (01:39):
And I’m glad you took that risk. We’re going to be talking about risk taking and creativity in the course of marketing today on Studio CMO and joining us is Jason Miller, part of the brand marketing team at active campaign. And Jason’s got one of those careers that you just long for. And he’d love to sit down over a couple of Guinness and talk to this guy at length about what he’s done. He got to start years and years ago and artist development at Sony music. And for whatever reason, you decided to go into the marvelous world of B2B. And he has been in B2B for the rest of his career since doing content marketing at a number of companies, but he’s been at Marketo. He spent a long time at LinkedIn and built so much great stuff when he was at LinkedIn as the group marketing manager for global demand generation, social media and more there. And then he was the head of brand for Microsoft advertising for a period of time too. But all of that sounds cool. Jason, we want to talk to you about that, but I just have to know what’s your favorite concert was from your music business days.
Jason Miller (02:41):
Ah, so you know, I still go to quite a few shows, but if I had to look back at, during my time at Sony, uh, I will, I’ll tell you a couple of times to tell you too one interesting thing is, uh, Bruce Springsteen, who I wasn’t a huge fan, but when they hire you at Sony music, uh, one of the things you have to do is they, they basically, you go see Bruce Springsteen cause they love Bruce so much. And apparently I heard that, uh, they actually have the set lists sort of, uh, flown in and post it up and down the hall Columbia records. So you have to go see Bruce Springsteen play live. And so I went, I think I saw in, uh, Chicago or something and it was a three, three hour plus set and I had this whole new found newfound respect for Bruce because he was up there, not because he had to, but because he wanted to write, uh, and it was game changing. Um, but if I had to say my favorite band in the world, The Cult, I love The Cult. I think they’re amazing South by Southwest. I went to 12 of them, I guess, in a row and saw them play, uh, at stubs on their, on their kind of come back tour and just, nah, it just blew my mind. Absolutely. Absolutely. My favorite band,
Mark Whitlock (03:47):
Well, lots of people missed going to South by Southwest this year, for sure. So Jason Miller, thank you so much for joining us on Studio CMO today. We’re glad you’re here.
Jason Miller (03:55):
Thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me.
Mark Whitlock (03:57):
And tell us about ActiveCampaign, what you’re doing and what they do so well.
Jason Miller (04:01):
Yeah, of course. So I just started at active campaign. I’ve been there just a few weeks, but uh, PR uh, leading the brand team and uh, I’ve always worked in sort of MarTech and, and uh, I, I just, you know, was looking for my next play after taking a little break of the summer from Microsoft and active campaign, uh, Maria Pearlina who hired me at Marchetto she’s the COO of active campaign. And she called me, uh, told me about the company. So I have two campaigns, it’s marketing automation, customer experience automation, creating that customer wow moments. It’s really cool platform. Uh, I’m excited to be here and we’re just getting, I’m just getting started telling the story. So I don’t have the pitch down yet. Find me soon. I will.
Mark Whitlock (04:40):
That’s okay. We will link to active campaign site from our show notes. And if you’re curious about what they do, uh, come over to Studio CMO and click on the Jason Miller interview, and you can read more about active campaign.
John Farkas (04:51):
We’re talking about creativity today in marketing, you know, that that’s a broad topic, but when we distill it and look at in the B2B sphere, what I know is it’s not always the most creative space and you’ve got enterprises selling to enterprises. A lot of times they are very intricate solutions talking to a very specific buyer who often can be a technical buyer who has a lot of boxes that need to be checked and specifics that need to be covered. And we get very keyed in on checking those boxes and making sure that all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. And in that process lose the ability to clearly differentiate, lose the ability to clearly bring a voice across, lose the opportunity to stimulate the conversation and in that process can get overlooked. And that’s a problem. So, you know, Jason, I would love to hear a little bit about your point of view on that. How can we look at really invigorating the initial phases of the conversation.
Jason Miller (05:58):
At no point did I ever say, uh, when I left Sony Music, man, I can’t wait to become a B2B marketer, you know, that never really crossed my mind, but I think it sort of played to my advantage a little bit because when I started at Marquetto, uh, I didn’t have any B2B experience to be honest with you. I, I was all B to C, but I brought that sort of unique perspective. I brought a B to C marketing mindset to a, a very challenging, complicated topic around marketing automation, which not very sexy at all, you know, revenue cycle analytics and pipeline generation and lead generation, all these things. But, uh, I was learning along the way. So I sort of brought this B to C mindset, but also this element of creativity where I, you know, took these very complex marketing challenges and sort of link them back to what I knew best, which was music stories from music, a band analogies, you know?
Jason Miller (06:45):
And so it kind of made it fun. It made it memorable. And, uh, and I think that’s where the sort of the turning point was. I mean, I think the first thing that we did at Marketo that really broke through for us was, uh, we, we created a, a big marketing activity book based on when I was working with Maria Pergolino, who’s now CMO of ActiveCampaign. She, uh, found that the Foo Fighters’ rider, the backstage rider as written by Dave Grohl, and it was like this illustrated activity book and she gave it to sent it to me. She found it on smoking gun.com and sent it over to me and said, we need to make this for B2B. And that’s all I need. Like, give me the idea, give me the freedom. Uh, and let me go to the races. Right? And, and so we built this really fun marketing, B2B marketing activity book, and, um, and people loved it because it wasn’t so serious and it had personality and it was very creative.
Jason Miller (07:35):
I don’t think the, uh, the B2B world had seen a lot of that at the time. You know, I sort of always brought that with me, even, even to LinkedIn, we had a lot of success with, with sort of doing things that are unexpected, right? Sometimes creativity needs of jolts. Uh, and I will tell you this, the one thing I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the past 10 years from Marquetto LinkedIn, Microsoft, is that we keep talking about the same brands over and over again. It used to be Zappos and red bull. Every conference you go to Zappos and red bull, then it was, you know, Nike is always in the mix. Of course, they’re brilliant. Then Airbnb came in and started killing it. And now we’re sort of back to Apple and, uh, red bull and Nike, the lesson here that I learned is we always say, we want to be, we want to Uplevel our storytelling and our creativity, but we never do because we never, uh, the big brands are afraid to take a risk.
Jason Miller (08:26):
And I think that we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. We went to this whole era of big data. It has to be data. It’s all about data. It’s all about data. We put creativity sort of on the back burner, right? Like nobody puts, nobody puts creativity in the corner. And now I think it’s prime for a comeback because we got all those data. Nobody knows what the hell to do with it or how to sync it together. And that now we’re sort of going back to brand building and building trust. And that’s, you know, that’s where the creativity comes in.
John Farkas (08:50):
And a lot of times in the B2B space, it it’s about what, what we’re of where we started off. It’s about taking a risk. It’s about the willingness to jump out there and be, and declare something that looks different. That sounds different. That that really brings a different energy in the space that’s that is going to set you apart. And so, Jason, I’m curious, when you look at bringing a campaign idea across, when you look at invigorating, you know, making a statement to the market, what’s your launch pad? How do you start that process where you’re saying, what is it, how’s this going to be different?
Jason Miller (09:26):
The first thing is, is how does, uh, where does the idea come from? How is it where’s it inspired from how is it relevant? I mean, it all has to tie back to a business goal, right? So the first thing I always did at Marketo or LinkedIn or Microsoft was ask myself, what was that number one question. What was that number one question on our prospect’s minds. Uh, number one question, people are typing to the search engine that we want to be the answer for. Uh, how and how do we do it better than anybody else? How did we not only become the best answer, but own the conversation? Right. So, uh, LinkedIn, it was, you know, how to market more effectively on LinkedIn, Marketo, it was, uh, how to, how to, um, generate leads or how to implement marketing automation platforms. And so once you figured out that sort of a true North, what that question is, what that conversation is that you want to dominate.
Jason Miller (10:13):
I mean, you obviously have to look at some metrics to say, uh, is the conversation going up in Google trends? Uh, is there enough search volume to the conversation, uh, is how competitive is it? Can you even get in there once you get all that lay that groundwork laid, then it’s time to find some inspiration. So I take inspiration from, I mean, I’m a big music guy. One of the biggest campaigns I ever did, um, was the sophisticated marketing campaign, which, which was a multi-year program at LinkedIn, uh, called the sophisticated markets program, won a bunch of awards when the CMI award for best overall content campaign multi-year program, blah, blah, blah. But it was, it spawned from, I was, I used to go to record stores and I would just flip through, uh, you know, record like physical LPs, looking for inspiration from album covers.
Jason Miller (10:58):
And I found this old jazz record and it just kind of, that was a really, really cool cover. And so that sort of, kind of sprawl the campaign, uh, but it all came from an idea of, of, you know, getting the data and then finding some sort of inspiration that could push it out there. W where, where would do something, makes something a little bit different, something someone’s never seen before. I can tell you, I don’t think anyone would be to B had seen, um, a jazz inspired, uh, creative campaign based on, uh, one of the biggest, you know, jazz albums from the sixties and seventies. So you have to find, um, sort of a compromise or a meeting place between the two between the data and the creativity.
John Farkas (11:36):
Yeah. I love where you started in that, because it has to start with their need. Right? I mean, we have to start looking at and say, where is this conversation going? But then I love what you said, how are we going to dominate this conversation? You know, it’s, it’s not, how are we going to enter it? How are we going to kind of find an incremental way to find, but how, you know, how are we going to dominate it? And I think that that kind of courageous perspective and being willing to think at that level is part,
Jason Miller (12:06):
If you’re in a very highly competitive space, like at Marketo obviously the conversation we were going after the time was B2B marketing, which was incredibly, uh, you know, incredibly busy conversation with Marketo, Eloqua, HubSpot, Pardot, you know, ActOn. And it was really tough. So the only way to break through that is to literally take these ideas, put your own unique, spin on them and push them forward. This is the very definition of thought leadership that people get. So, so wrong so many times. And it’s also, I also see the bigger the company, the bigger, the more people who are involved in these campaigns, the more sanitized a really good idea gets. And by the time it comes out the door, you’re celebrating this mediocre piece of crap. That’s no different than anything else out there. You know, I, I don’t want to sound like I’m being too negative, but I think if you take a scroll through your LinkedIn feed, how long does it take you to stop before you find something that is interesting, that is, uh, creative, uh, and that breaks through all the, the, the monotony, you know,
John Farkas (13:03):
It takes a long time. Um, and so let’s talk about that sanitization process. Cause I see it happen all the time. We were in a conversation, uh, with a client of ours, B2B tech client in the healthcare space, our first round with them, we put together what I thought was a really amazing archetype persona voice for them. They came in and they, they, they were wanting to be disruptive. You know, they, they were wanting to come in and, and say, some things are different. And what we put together for them was a pretty disruptive and alive voice, which first blush they loved. And then it went into The Sanitizer and, uh, you know, what came back was a severely muted version of what we brought forward that had a really pretty started with a really opera, a good opportunity to differentiate and ended, not very disruptive, not very differentiated. How can you avoid that process? What are some ways where you can preserve the edge?
Jason Miller (14:14):
Preserving the edge? I like that that’s a good podcast name. So it’s interesting that you bring that up because I, again, I see that I’ve seen that so many times before and often sort of the, uh, well, the first problem is there’s too many people involved in the creation process and there’s too many approvals in place, right? It’s too much red tape. I mean, sometimes you just gotta have a couple of people on the team, a good blog editor and a good content director, and you just gotta let it rip, man. And you gotta trust them to know what the brand stands for, what it doesn’t stand for, what the voice and tone looks like. Are they within the brand guidelines? Can they, can they nudge them a little bit if they need to, I mean, you need to have the trust. And I think that’s missing because this really great content idea goes up through, you know, usually the brand team, the PR looks at it.
Jason Miller (15:00):
There’s a, and there’s outside contractors. They’ll have literally no vested interest in the success of this content, but they’re just doing their job. They’re just ticking boxes. And that’s what kills the creativity. So if you can sort of eliminate the people who are sort of the red tape and just take that risk, take the plunge. If you want to be bold for Christ’s sake, just put it out there and see what happens as long as it’s not mean-spirited, uh, or you know, political, um, or illegal, you know what I mean? I think you’re, you’re going to be okay. Uh, and as long as you, um, you know, stay away from anything that’s too controversial or make stupid mistakes, I think we see brands stepping in all the time and were like, how the hell did that even get out there? Right. So it’s all about, it’s all about trust and LinkedIn, you know, in the early days, uh, of the marketing solutions team, there was only marketers.
Jason Miller (15:50):
It was me and, and, uh, you know, I was building out the team and, uh, but my boss had a tremendous amount of trust in me. And he knew that I, I was there because I believed in the brand and I wanted to do what was right for the business. But he also knew that no one knew who we were like LinkedIn, the big brand was doing fine with the recruiter and the town solutions, but LinkedIn marketing solutions was like a startup within LinkedIn. Uh, and we got no help from LinkedIn proper. They didn’t want their audience. Didn’t apply to us. They’ve never once even tweeted one of our pieces of content. So we had a scratch and claw for every single little thing we did, but the trust was there. And I will tell you, this is the secret. What broke through was we did about 70 to 75% save content to lay the foundation.
Jason Miller (16:31):
And then we left that, that extra 25, 20 to 25% for what, you know, the great James Altucher would say tiny experiments, lots of tiny experiments. Once we got a little bit of traction, I’m one of those kinds of experiments. We opened it up even further before we went nuclear with it. I brought it back to my boss and I sold it to him. I said, this is what we did. We tried something new. We got a great reaction. And that’s how you get the buy-in to go big. You know, Jeff Wiener really encouraged the team at LinkedIn to take intelligent risks. This is, this is one of our OKR is every quarter. And I, my team, each team member had to do one intelligent risk, no matter it might be personal, it might be for the brand, whatever, but one intelligent risk, the intelligent risk is defined as something where the benefits greatly outweigh anything associated with the risk. Jeff, Jeff has a fantastic blog on this. If you just search in touch with, uh, LinkedIn and that’s, I mean, I get chills thinking about this because that freedom and that trust does not exist once your company hits a certain level or once somebody who doesn’t have the best interest in mind, steps in it and that’s set up for everybody. Um, and then it goes down, back into lockdown if you will, but that’s where I’ve seen success. And I think that’s, uh, certainly scalable and certainly a model to live after.
John Farkas (17:45):
Yeah, I think that the intelligent risk model, which I think is a really great conversation, um, because the reality is you get in these, you get into the more organizational mindset and risk becomes a more difficult thing to do, unless there’s a clear, there’s a clear line to revenue, right. Um, and so, so having a mechanism in there where you are, where you’re permitted to take risks, that that limited scale, and then building that, you know, proving it and building it makes great sense. Um, the, the thing that I think is important for people to understand from a marketing perspective is we are in a loud world. And, and when you are, when you’re trying to break into a market, especially when we’re talking about market verticals like health tech or FinTech, or, uh, or cyber securities, these major, uh, verticals where there is so much money. And so many people competing for, you know, shares of the puddle boy, you’ve got to come through. And the way you’re going to come through is not by saying something that 10 other people are saying, it’ll just never make it. It requires some risk, it requires something different. Okay. Maybe we aren’t willing to jump all the way in, but let’s take some risks and prove it and then amplify it. Uh, I think that that’s a great way, but, but intentionally pushing some of those envelopes, I think is important.
Jason Miller (19:23):
W you know, we make it so easy and almost every marketing team, I think we make it so easy to just check the boxes, push something out the door and move on to the next project, without holding anyone accountable, without anyone asking the right questions. And without anyone saying, is this as good as it can be? We put all this effort into it. Can it be better? Is it ready to ship? You know, and that’s the biggest opportunity is just how do you stop celebrating mediocrity when mediocrity is the only thing some of these teams know because they don’t, they aren’t empowered to take those risks and they aren’t inspired. And they aren’t, you know, I only worked for companies where they have a good story. They have a, you know, a good product and there’s a good team in place. And that’s where, and it’s always been the underdog for me, Sony was the underdog.
Jason Miller (20:09):
So universal, uh, Marketo the underdog to Eloqua, LinkedIn, the underdog to Twitter, Facebook, you know, you name it, uh, Microsoft. I was on the search team, the underdog to Google, but I, you know, and, and I think, you know, active campaign is, is, you know, a hundred, a hundred thousand customers, but it’s an interesting case study where the product has outpaced the brand. So I’m here to create some buzz and tell the story around the brand. I think it’s, it’s a fascinating place to be. Uh, and I always appreciate, um, you know, sort of that underdog mentality of, of, you know, being a little bit more scrappy and, uh, and taking more risks.
Mark Whitlock (20:44):
Well, I’m, we’ve got marketing leaders listening here. We’re going, look, I want to do this. I want to avoid the sanitizer. I’m tired of being in the sanitizer. My skin looks like it’s been in a bleach machine. Uh, I’ve got to do this. What’s a bleach, I got it. I made it up just like the sanitizer, but how do you sell it inside? Because the sanitizer is a powerful force. It’s a vortex. How do you sell the need to break out of it?
Jason Miller (21:16):
So it goes back to those, those tiny experiments, a little experiments, right. But, but furthermore, I mean, and I’m not saying this works everywhere, but I will tell you that, that, that trust has led to me to make some decisions without going up the ladder all the way, you know, running this idea of the ladder. But it was, again, it was only because, um, that trust was there, right? So not every idea I had at LinkedIn were Marketo, um, got ran through, put through the proper channels to get approval. That’s just not how I am now. Again, I would never do anything to jeopardize the company or the brand, of course, but, um, sometimes you need to do, uh, you need to just take a chance. And I think it’s the same thing with the intelligent risks. And I think once you empower that, but how you sell it is you take that risk.
Jason Miller (22:07):
Um, and again, this is oftentimes, it’s almost, it’s also a question of how bad do you want it, right? They’ll say you don’t have time carve out time to be creative, carve out time to figure out what that intelligent risk is. Uh, and then it might be, um, something you’re working on in your free time, but this, if you’re really passionate about it, if you want to do something truly creative and truly breakthrough, then you’re going to have to take some of your personal time in many cases, uh, and build that story, put it out there to a small audience, see what the reaction is and bring that back. And that’s how you sell the story. Right. Um, and you know, plenty of examples, like when I started the LinkedIn, the first LinkedIn podcast called the specific markets podcast, they said we didn’t have budget for it. So I, I figured out how to do it myself. And the first three episodes were terrible. I mean, you guys got, that was awesome. I would get there, but I just did it. And then, you know, the other thing was, we didn’t have budget for, um, I didn’t want to use stock photos anymore on our LinkedIn content. Cause it was always like, like some dudes sitting in a, like in a lobby looking like he was waiting for an Uber or checking this, you know what these images are, the guy touched them, the touching the,
John Farkas (23:20):
Yeah, I love that one. I love that.
Jason Miller (23:24):
So, so I literally, so I’m like, well, let’s hire a photographer. And they said, well, we don’t have a budget for it. So I’m like, all right. So I brought on my camera here. I shoot actually, because photography, how, how difficult can it be? The shoots and portraits of the team. So I shot, I, we did our own portraits. And again, I didn’t mind spare time, but it made the content that much better because now the people in our campaigns are the people who were the work it’s, it’s, it’s real now all of a sudden there’s and the team is pumped too, because they’re inspired like our whole team’s on the cover of this, this new campaign from LinkedIn. Uh, it’s real and it’s not fake and we didn’t have to get anybody’s permission to do it. And it empowered. Everybody inspired everybody. Uh, and, and again, it wasn’t easy, but, um, but it set that precedence. And I will tell you, after that, we sold that idea, never used a stock photo ever. In fact, we weren’t allowed to use stock photos anymore. So those are little things I think you need that you need that freedom. You need that trust and you need that sort of, I, that creative person, the person who wants to go above and beyond who wants it more than anybody else, uh, who, who, you know, who’s pushing the boundaries, uh, and we’ll, we’ll build these, these tiny experiments and then report back on what’s working.
John Farkas (24:35):
Yeah. A lot of this is a core belief that what you have is worth getting excited about. Right. Um,
Mark Whitlock (24:44):
say that again, John.
John Farkas (24:44):
It’s about, it’s about a core belief that what you have is worth getting excited about and then having the willingness to get excited about it. Because I mean, Jason, so much of what’s coming out through you is energy and belief, right? I mean, I’m hearing that. So, so it’s your willingness to say, Hey, we’ve got something here. What’s keeping us from getting excited.
Jason Miller (25:16):
We’re marketers. If you have marketing in your title, that means that you went into this thinking, you’re going to be a marketer, which is, you know, the fun, the creative, the messaging, but somehow along the way, it got stripped away to where now we’re just like writing subject lines to get them out the door and landing page, copy. That’s ordering people around instead of selling them, what sort of value and there’s absolutely, Oh, everybody’s a storyteller, but I can’t, I can not think of the last week of the campaign that, that actually told me a story that could even remotely care about, you know? Um, so again, it’s, it’s, it’s almost like marketers need to take a step back and say, am I, do I want to be a marker? If I do, uh, I should get excited about using that creative part of my brain, uh, and pushing the boundaries a little bit to, to, you know, to get the story out there or to create something remarkable.
Jason Miller (26:10):
Um, I, I really don’t get it and you know, what, and people say, Oh, but I work for a seemingly boring product. And it’s like, you know, I just think if there was a, um, was it Symantec where they had the, uh, the DACA and the rock band versus the chicken, the chicken was trying to cut dock and then it’s like, you would think that would be a seemingly boring product. Or I think it was the Otter box years ago. Um, they actually would bring their, their phone cases or conferences and like do a video of people trying to break them and stop them Florida. So there’s no excuse anymore. There’s no, excuse. In fact, I think the smaller, the niche, or the more boring seemingly boring your practice, the easier it is because you really don’t have any competition. I mean, you can pretty much do anything and it’s different.
Mark Whitlock (26:53):
I got blown away at the RSA Conference this past February, uh, at no before a company called no before created a series of webisodes that talked about their product, but it, it did it in the sense of a company has an enemy that’s going to hack their data. So that created an enemy. And, uh, no before became the, the defender, but it was done incredibly subtly, uh, using a lot of stage and, uh, actors you’ve never seen before, but, but fairly well done and done so well and got so much traction and attention and actual business. They actually produced a second season. So if you’re looking for a B2B campaign that actually tells a story out of checkout no before, and we’ll put that link in the show notes as well. Yeah. Literally a drama, but to illustrate the value of the product,
Jason Miller (27:48):
That’s really cool. I’ve not heard of that. You know, the first thing that comes to mind is, uh, Adobe. Um, that’s something really interesting and Adobe has huge budgets and they never had no fair at LinkedIn when they did the Marketo. We had, we had enough to get done what we needed to do. We didn’t have big advertising agencies. We did everything in house like, Oh, not even in the house, it was just on our team. So we didn’t have red bull sized budgets, but the more successful we were with the combination of laying the foundation with the essentials and then the experiments and the intelligent risks building up cool stuff with Briggs through, uh, the, the more budget we could actually claim. But, um, Adobe did a campaign where, uh, I love this. I wish I would have thought of this. They had, um, uh, award-winning actors, uh, reading their white papers.
Jason Miller (28:31):
So I think one of them, I think was, was Ben Kingsley, I think reading one of the Adobe one, uh, and that, uh, here’s, here’s a great example of creativity work. I took that inspiration and I kinda put my own spin on it, stole it, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon, brilliant author. And so I did a campaign at LinkedIn, a holiday campaign where it was called, uh, influencers, uh, marketing influencers, reading, marketing influencers. And so I call up all my friends, you know, Ann Handley. And I said, fi Mitch Joel. And I said, can you pick your favorite blog posts and read it and then record it? And then we did some, you know, fun kind of stuff, but here’s my here’s my intelligent at risk is, uh, I emailed JJ French, the guitar player and founding member of twisted sister, who I’d had on the podcast to talk about creating activity podcasts. Yeah. I’m really pushing the boundaries here. And I said, JJ, can, can you find your favorite blog post and read it for this campaign? And he did it. And so JJ French was on, was part of two LinkedIn campaigns.
Mark Whitlock (29:29):
We’re not going to take it anymore!
Jason Miller (29:33):
But you know what, that’s, that’s the thing it’s like, no, it’s, it’s, it’s something unexpected. The rest of the campaign was solid B2B. It was just that extra little, 10% that I threw in my personality and gave it a little bit of a jolt and something unexpected and people. It was, it was one of the highest, uh, uh, downloaded pieces of content of that series.
Mark Whitlock (29:52):
Amazing. So let me recap for us. And then I know John, you’ve got more questions we’re talking that there has to be a willingness to take risks has to be a deep understanding of the brand standards that you have has to be trust from leadership and the people doing the hard part of marketing has to be personal ownership for those who are creating the tactics. There needs to be little successes, these, these mini experiments and see some success that’ll help sell it throughout the organization. And there’s gotta be energy. There’s gotta be passion to be creative and to see these wins come through,
Jason Miller (30:26):
This is perfect. Yeah. And I would, I would top it off just by saying there has to be inspirational on the way you have to show them what’s possible. What does the vision look like? What does, what does it look like now and how much better could it be and what does success look like? There’s always gotta be that drive. And there’s always been sort of markers on the team who are introverts a little bit quiet, but this is the time where you sit down with them and you say, what inspires you? What drives you? You can break them out of your shell, uh, out of their shells. And I think, um, you know, it’s, it’s incredibly more difficult now with COVID, I’m, I’m an office guy, man. I’m in there bouncing around off the balls and, you know, spitballing brainstorming, uh, all day long. And so, yeah, it’s just going to get harder.
John Farkas (31:08):
So if you were to kind of distill this to one thing, like if you were going to do one thing to spawn real creativity in the context of marketing, if you were gonna say, let’s bring this one thing to the next meeting that we can do that is going to push us in the right direction. What would that,
Jason Miller (31:30):
I, you know, what, to be honest with you, I think it has to be around, uh, inspiration. I think it has to be someone telling a story that connects everyone that relates to everyone, that everyone can sort of empathize with how it ties back to your business, uh, and then painting the future of that, to where everyone is part of it and what success looks like. And I can, I can, I can for sure tell you that it’s not, uh, creating something that’s already been done or, uh, mimicking, uh, our competition or, or even, um, you know, putting in a bunch of, uh, red tape and PR campaigns on top of another, it’s about doing something unexpected, doing something different, leading with creativity. Um, but always knowing what’s, uh, what the, you know, what the end result of the business goal is. And I, I mean, we overcomplicate these things. It’s not that difficult to tie this all together, but we S we, we tend to make it more difficult because you really do have to sit down and think it through. It’s critical thinking. Uh, where’s the conversation around critical thinking, uh, not only in the marketing teams, but also in leadership and marketing leadership, uh, I it’s terribly, uh, under, under arrest.
John Farkas (32:43):
I really do think the, the foundation of who these buyers are, is radically changing in the last, in the last five years. Um, so much of the B2B buyers, uh, the, the template that was set was set in a different generation. You know, I think it was it’s the pre-millennial buyers. It’s, uh, it is a much more conservative suit wearing a traditional sales approach to the buying business, to business solutions that is fully transpose transposed at this point where I think Mo much of the primary influencers, the people that are bringing solutions to the table are increasingly millennial are increasingly digital natives are increasingly, uh, tuned into pop culture and willing to look at things differently and are hungry for differences. I mean, they’re looking at these old ways that we’re doing things and they know that there’s a better solution out there. They know that there’s somebody that has figured out how to bring that, how to automate this process, and they’re out there searching for it, and I want to get their attention.
Jason Miller (34:00):
It’s interesting. Another thing that I learned, uh, at LinkedIn, we w part of the, uh, the ton of experiments, right? And the intelligent risks is that we found out, um, through our own advertising, we had to, and we, when we advertised our campaigns on LinkedIn, we had to bid in the auction just like everyone else. Cause you know, we, we don’t get any special treatment. We had to spend our own money. It was just, you know, a real budget. But we found out that, um, everybody, it seemed like everybody advertised on the platform or let’s, you already have brands, B2B brands were trying to reach the same audience, which is the C-suite. And, you know, I could right now see CMOs C-suites, don’t really give a crap about marketing platforms that, you know, they, they care about how, uh, you know, what the end result is.
Jason Miller (34:42):
They don’t really care about that. I’m making the decision on the platform. So, but everyone was trying to get to the C-suites. Right. Um, but there was this understory of the audience, uh, which was even, um, marketing associates, you know, marketing managers and the directors and C-suites was just everybody piling on. But what the interesting thing was we found was, uh, the engagement was much higher. Uh, and, and the cost per click was much cheaper to get to these, um, these lower level marketing managers. Right. But these marketing managers, we found, uh, through the platform would stay in their role for, you know, two to three years. And then they would get up to a director level position, and then they were making decisions. So we were targeting these folks and warming them up just like a really long play, nurture track. And this is the millennials, right?
Jason Miller (35:30):
This is the generation is going to be making decisions and controlling a hell of a lot of budgets, but no one gave them a chance and no one was paying attention to them. Uh, and they all wanted to go up to the C-suite. So it, it goes back to, um, you know, are you, are you trying to reach that audience because you think it’s the right thing to do, or it’s the cool thing to do, or that’s who you think the, the, the who’s making decisions, uh, they might approve it, but there’s, there’s value in going after the entire marketing team. And then I’ll find like buying team, if you will
John Farkas (36:03):
The marketing audiences different than the buying audience clearly. And every, and we know this, I mean, but, but we need to put it into practice because at the end of the day, as a marketer, I’m most, I I’m, I’m trying to get us into the buying conversation, right. I’m trying to get us to the table. And so often getting into the table is not the C-suite, you know, what’s getting us to the table, is the person that’s out there. Searching has been some form tasked with searching out a solution, or is just so sick of the way things are being done, that they do go and do it on their own volition. And, and because they’re saying I’ve to, I’ve gotta be able to do my job better, and I’m not going to be able to do my job better until I get X. And, and so they’re gonna, they’re gonna bring X to the table and, and that doesn’t have anything to do with the, you know, like you said, the C-suite is not typically certainly the one searching out the w with the mandate to search out the solution.
Jason Miller (36:58):
Exactly. Right. It’s about getting content marketing is about getting shortlisted, right? It’s about getting your product shortlisted. And now mind you, my examples and my experience is I market to marketers. Right? So, um, some people might think that I have it easier. I think I have it more difficult because everything I do is put under a microscope and judged by my peers. So it’s tough to get past that, uh, that part where you know, that, uh, uh, I guess imposter syndrome, we all suffer from it. One time. It’s a, I won’t say the company or where it was, but you probably guessed, I was pulled aside and said, content marketing, your job is to help us sell more. I said, that’s not what I do. I said, I bring people in. I say, I create buzz. I get shortlisted. I said, demand generation does the rest. So that’s it. That’s not exactly how the conversation went, but, uh, you can get the gist
Mark Whitlock (37:53):
Probably a little bit more volume and more hands, more hand gestures.
Jason Miller (37:59):
I, I mean, you can imagine being the opposite and I’m very animated. I had to learn very early, very early on in my career. The more, the more senior I got more senior roles I got is not to react emotionally, but to keep cool, like very Tony stark
Mark Whitlock (38:14):
Don’t react, respond, don’t react, respond. Oh, sorry. My inner voice is coming out. Sorry about that. Jason Miller. Thank you so much for being on Studio CMO today.
Jason Miller (38:25):
My pleasure have fun conversation. Uh, always, always happy to, uh, to talk B2B marketing, music. Um, you know, I’m always game, you can tell, uh, I love this stuff. Read it. Absolutely.
John Farkas (38:36):
Mark Whitlock (38:37):
John, I’m going to put you on the spot one more time. Oh, what was your favorite concert of all time?
John Farkas (38:42):
Oh, gosh. My favorite concert of all time, without doubt. And this’ll tell you a little, my, my geek was, uh, was Rush, um, uh, just, uh, uh, being in there with a bunch of other at that point. I mean, it was, uh, it was such a guy audience, Rush was such a, I mean, there was just not a whole lot of, uh, women in that, in that group, but it was a bunch of young guys geeking out to, to Rush and “Tom Sawyer.” And so that was definitely my, uh, one of my all time favorites watching Neil Peart, uh, absolute rotate around that kit was, uh, was amazing. Yes,
Mark Whitlock (39:24):
Absolutely. And what a loss to the music business
Yes, it was a great concert too. I just dated myself too. As long as you’re going to say Yes, that was an amazing concert point.
Mark Whitlock (39:37):
Uh, so come on over to studiocmo.com and when you’re there, check on the, the Jason Miller interview, you’ll read more about intelligent risk, how to eliminate the red tape. We’ll take a look at back at some of those great sophisticated marketer podcast episodes that we’ve dug up on the way back machine, and we’ll have some resources there. The golden spiral exists to help you be a better marketer, and we’re going to make some of our great resources available to you. No cost, no nothing. Just come on over, click on them, get them and get prepared for the next meeting. When you can disrupt a little bit where you are, we’ve got more great interviews coming up in the next few weeks, and we’d love for you to be the first to know about those interviews. So while you’re at studio cmo.com, scroll down to the bottom of any page and subscribe, we have all of the podcasts platforms available there, click on your platform of choice and log in. So you can have it delivered to your device. As soon as we release a new episode, Hey,
John Farkas (40:35):
This episode has done nothing else, but inspire you to come into your next meeting. And w w with energy with some life and to be compelled to say, Hey, let’s do something different. Let’s jump out of this boring stream that we’re sitting in and get behind our core value proposition in a way that is going to change how we bring it across and, and gain some attention in the process. Then this has been successful. You can do that. It’s possible. It may take some, it may need to be incremental, or you might be in a situation where you can take a jump and just say, Hey, let’s do it. Let’s say what it means. Then, then this has been a success because the opportunity exists for you. There, It’s yours to take. So take that risk.
Mark Whitlock (41:28):
And thanks for listening to studio CMO, and always remember to understand buyer’s problems and lead out of that empathetic understanding,
John Farkas (41:35):
and then make your buyer the hero.
Mark Whitlock (41:38):
We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO.