034 | Create a Marketing Moment of Undivided Attention with Nick Runyon, CMO of PFL | Studio CMO

Podcast by | December 17, 2020 Automation and Lead Flow, Content Marketing, Interviews

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The Episode in 60 Seconds

Despite thousands of incoming digital signals each day, each of us is still a physical creature. We long for personal mail, place trinkets on our desks, long for presents on our birthdays, and keep ticket stubs and other physical memories.

How do we effectively integrate the physical with the digital?

  • Tactile Marketing Automation (TMA) is a growing category and includes its own software
  • TMA fulfills the marketing fundamentals
  • A well-timed physical presentation gives you a moment of undivided attention

Our Guest

Nick Runyon LinkedIn (1)Nick Runyon is the CMO of PFL, a company that has grown from on-demand printing to a mature marketing automation company specializing in Tactile Marketing Automation which inserts direct mail, swag, and other physical objects into the nurture process. He is also a current member of Revenue Collective and founder of Media Tractor, a marketing agency. He has been a podcast host, and a senior executive for global non-profits [here and here] which have reached over a billion individuals worldwide.

Show Notes


Whenever you involve multiple channels in your buyer journey, you get up to an 8 – 10% response rate. When you coordinate direct mail with multiple channels, we see response rates spike over 20%. — Nick Runyon

034 Nick Runyon Quote.001

In episode 11, we heard how Kenna Security used direct mail for their greatest trade show appointment conversion ever:

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Mark Whitlock (00:00):

Welcome to Studio CMO. Hi, I’m Mark Whitlock and you’re listening to the podcast that sets itself aside to tell real-life conversations about the marketing issues that marketing leaders care about the most. And we’re going to be diving into some interesting stuff today. John, just got to know how long is the walk to your mailbox?

John Farkas (00:26):

Um, about 700 feet, I think. Long walk.

Mark Whitlock (00:30):

Surprised you don’t have it down to the exact number of strides.

John Farkas (00:35):

It all depends on how I’m feeling. Cause it’s a pretty decent hill too. I’ve got about the same number to mind. You know, I live in a new development and new developments. They don’t rely you to have your own mailbox anymore. So we have, uh, a mailbox for the entire community. And that, that, uh, I won’t talk about that. That’s sad and frustrating to me, but anyway, so long walks the mailbox. So we, you know, it’s fun to get mail. It’s fun to get packages, fun, to get stuff from Amazon.

Mark Whitlock:

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve gotten in the mail recently, John,

John Farkas (01:05):

You know, honestly, I can’t think of anything too interesting that has come in the mail recently. And that seems like an opportunity, Mark.

Mark Whitlock (01:15):

What a nice segue, John, we’re going to be talking about the intersection between the physical and the digital on this addition to studio CMO and we are honored to have with us, Nick Runyon, Nick is the CMO for PFL and get this. This is his second time around the block with this company. I’m sure we’re going to hear about that. When we talk about his career, uh, Nick has an extensive marketing and leadership experience, including two big non-profits, which reached over a billion individuals around the world. He’s a member of revenue collective as are many of the guests to join us here on Studio CMO. And in addition, he’s got a side hustle, I guess. Would you call, would you call Media Tractor or a side hustle? Nick?

Nick Runyon (01:59):

Yeah, sure. I think, uh, there’s a lot of marketing side hustles.

Mark Whitlock (02:02):

Yeah, I agree. The voice you just heard belongs to Nick Runyon. Nick, thank you for joining us on Studio CMO. I’m.

Nick Runyon (02:09):

Excited to be here. Thank you both f or having me.

Mark Whitlock (02:12):

And before we dive into your career, go ahead and give us a plug. Tell us about PFL and why we should care.

Nick Runyon (02:18):

PFL is the leader and creator of the category, tactile marketing automation. Uh, this is leveraging digital intent signals to inform the content and timing of direct mail pieces as part of your multi-channel B2B marketing process.

John Farkas (02:35):

And how’s that? That’s pretty good. That’s a good way to have it down, Nick. Um, we call Nick a double dipper in our world because not only is he a B2B marketing leader, but his company, uh, helps B2B marketing leaders. So it’s a double, it’s a double whammy. I’m super interested, Nick, as we dive in here, this been a journey. There’s been a lot of movement. Tell us a little bit about where things are right now and then walk us back and tell us about the long and winding road that has brought you to this point.

Nick Runyon (03:13):

Um, 2020 has been a year for everybody. There’s there’s a number of ways to describe it. I’ve read as I’m sure you have recently here at the end of the year, everybody’s doing the look back articles and, um, you know, SaaS companies, uh, the tech space has had actually an incredible run this year and, uh, we’ve experienced a lot of that as well. I think that, um, PFL is maturing as an organization. The category that I mentioned is also maturing. I think, as our worlds have shifted and things like, you know, event schedules have gone out the window, like a lie marketing plan for 2020 got destroyed in March as it is as did everyone’s and we had to quickly figure out well what’s that mean? Um, we’ve been able to help a lot of brands continue to be successful this year. So, uh, we’re grateful for that. And uh, maybe also feel a little bit guilty with, you know, all of the worldwide issues that are associated with 2020, but the category is maturing and we’re interested to see where it goes and how we can ride this wave.

John Farkas (04:23):

Give us a little bit of a definition of tactile marketing automation. What is the category and how do you make it

Nick Runyon (04:29):

That happened? So the reason we use the word tactile marketing, and I appreciate the opportunity to just drill into this direct mail has all kinds of different connotations. You know, uh, you can put anything in a box, you know, uh, I literally got a kitchen sink from Amazon this week. We’re, we’re doing a, uh, or I needed a new sink. We’re doing a remodel in our kitchen and um, could just buy it on Amazon. It shows up two days later. That’s awesome. That’s actually, you know what that falls into the direct mail category. So, uh, coming from some nonprofit space, we always used to send newsletters and, you know, donation envelopes and those types of things. That’s direct mail all the way up to custom created crates that are personalized branded, you know, it’s this full spectrum. So we choose to use the word tactile marketing automation because it is the physical people are very familiar. I’m sure your listeners are familiar with marketing automation platforms. Um, this automation and leveraging digital signals from our customer base and from our prospects is that opened up a whole new way to market what we are attempting to do. And I would say doing with great success is that we’re blending this old traditionally siloed, hard to manage hard, to measure direct mail channel into a true multichannel marketing journey for prospects and customers. And we call that tactile marketing automation.

John Farkas (06:01):

If I talk about this once a day, I talk about 10 times a day. Uh, there’s no easy way to get attention right now. Um, it’s allowed space, especially if you’re in a vertical, that is, uh, you know, any of the primary verticals. You’ve got a lot of solution providers trying to get a lot of their points across to a few relative, relatively few people. And so anything you can do that represents an advantage, anything that you can do that might cut through, uh, cut through the noise is a really valuable opportunity because if you get somebody to actually notice what you’re asserting, wow, there you go.

Nick Runyon (06:43):

There’s a lot that’s been said about multichannel, uh, in recent years. And I think that we’re becoming more and more sophisticated. The, the ability today to, uh, have built touch points with your prospects across multiple channels. I think in some ways it’s easier than ever, uh, PFL commissions, a multi-channel marketing report every year. And I just want to say before I mentioned the numbers that we survey over 600 marketers only about, less than a hundred of which are PFL customers. So this is not like, you know, one of our puff piece, my customers are saying this and I want to publish it kind of thing. It really is a cross section of the whole market.

John Farkas (07:25):

And we’ll, we’ll link to that report in our show notes.

Nick Runyon (07:29):

Um, whenever you involve multiple channels in that buyer journey, you get, uh, increase in response rates, you know, up to eight, 10% response rate from your kind of cold outbound marketing when you coordinate direct mail, as part of that, and coordinate is the key here, it’s timed, it’s on message. It’s, uh, it’s an extension of the digital journey that you’re creating. We see response rates spiked over 20%, which, which is incredible. And your question about going to the mailbox as an event, you’re not checking your email. Uh you’re most of the time, I mean, I am on my phone, I guess pretty much all the time, but like that Amazon, that Amazon package, you know, FedEx knocks on your door and deliver something in my house, at least everybody gathers around. They all want to know what’s in the box, you know, and we can create that moment in time where you have undivided attention to put your message forward. And I think that’s creating some really interesting experiences for people these days.

Mark Whitlock (08:38):

One of our guests, uh, Jeremy Middleton and Caroline Yapic of Kenna Security talked about that in episode 11. So you go to the studiocmo.com/011. They did a combination of email and direct mail package, uh, with their prior to a tradeshow. And, uh, they sent out the case to a pair of AirPods, but the AirPods weren’t weren’t in it. And what they said is that if you want, if you are coming to the convention and you set an appointment, you’ll get the AirPods that go into the case. And they saw, uh, 10 times the past, um, meeting schedule rate, not just people responding or clicking on a link, we’re talking actual booking, a meeting, uh, than ever before. They were one of the busiest booths at that trade show. And, uh, it paid off their, their direct mail effort combined with the email and the nurture they’d been doing prior to the direct mail package hitting paid off. So I like that the create the moment in time when you have their undivided attention. Gosh, great.

John Farkas (09:46):

I remember trade shows.

Mark Whitlock (09:53):

my feet are sore just thinking about it. So if somebody

Mark Whitlock (09:57):

If somebody was going to start to incorporate tactile pieces into a marketing plan,

Nick Runyon (10:04):

I think you really have to start by thinking about the experience that you want to create. And, um, but you can’t stop there. So oftentimes people are like, Oh, I can grab somebody’s attention. Let’s do something clever. Cool. The reason the air pod example is so great and works so well as a meeting maker is you get the attention, but there’s a very clear call to action there as well. You know, and I need you to do this in order to, you know, come meet with me. And obviously the business objective there is getting more meetings booked. Um, but that’s a great use case. I think that at what stage in your buyer journey, do you want to impact the most or to move people to action? We’ve seen a lot of brands do this as part of, uh, integrate, tactile marketing automation as part of maybe a customer renewal process.

Nick Runyon (10:55):

Um, you know, uh, you don’t want to be the company that’s scheduling your first and only quarterly business review 30 days out from your software renewal. You know, and I I’ve had that experience where it’s time to call. It’s like, you’re only checking in because you need me to sign this deal, uh, about 30 days from now, but like really building that, automating that journey, um, much sooner, you know, to move people towards adoption towards renewal. Um, what, what are the business objectives that you wanted to really drive forward and then create experiences around that that are compelling, obvious, clear, valuable, you know, um, and create a connection, uh, really a proprietary piece of PFL that I think makes this magical for a lot of marketers is that we can provide delivery notification within 15 minutes. And so when I say multichannel, I mean include the phone in there as well.

Nick Runyon (11:49):

We’ve heard stories where, um, and we do this ourselves also, um, you know, we’ll make a timely phone call. I know that that package just got delivered and people will say, Oh, I see you’re calling funny thing. I’m looking at your stuff right now. And it’s like, Oh really? You know, that’s not an accident. We’ve orchestrated that whole thing. And so, um, I think understanding those pieces, marketers have the ability to say, okay, what, at what point of the journey do I want to drive the most impact and move people forward towards a business objective? It’s the basics of marketing. I mean, they still matter. It’s all the, it’s the four P’s, you know,

John Farkas (12:28):

All right. So let us in, what are the four PS, just make sure everybody’s on the same page, including the host of the show,

Nick Runyon (12:36):

Product, price, promotion, and place. You know what, I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve had to go back to my, you know, marketing one Oh one, but those, those foundational principles still apply. It’s it’s, you know, delivering the right message in a timely way. Capturing that moment is what TMA can provide for marketers. What do you want to do with it? Then that’s where the fun comes in is like, what’s that experience that you want to create?

John Farkas (13:02):

People are getting to the point where there’s some level, I think, and at least in some of the sophisticated conversations that, that a lot of our, our clients and people in this space are looking for. If you, and your, in the context of your marketing, have the savvy to get people’s attention and start them on a journey there’s value in that alone, because that tells them that, you know, something about them, you are invested enough to care enough, to do the work, to start them on a journey of meaning. And, and if, and if, and if they can, you know, if you can win trust in that point in your competence, it carries through, it’s a great reflection on your brand because that’s not easy to do, you know, spamming emails all day long is a pretty easy tactic at the end of the day. And it as annoying as all get out, you know, it’s, it’s really, but, but if you can help them out of the norm and show them that you’re actually, you’re an a not super lazy and you have, uh, although let’s be clear, PFL makes it easy. Um, but you’ve given enough thought of it to think about what is the experience you want to lead them on. That’s really valuable. And it’s a great reflection on the brand. I would love to hear about the journey because this was not just a spark moment in the history of PFL is if we’re going to do this whole tactical marketing automation thing and make it work, there was a road that led to that moment or that, that process of evolution. So why don’t you back up the backup the truck a little bit and, uh, and let us know what that is.

Nick Runyon (14:43):

Category creation, I think is part of our DNA. I mean, we, um, our founders started a print shop in Livingston, Montana in the middle nineties, and immediately realized what a terrible idea that is. There’s not a lot of people around here to sell printing to, you know, um, but we had, uh, you know, some, some early employees in the organization, uh, and e-commerce was really starting to ramp up. And this is back in the day when people like, Oh, you know, people will never buy such and such online. You know, printing was one of those things. I mean, think back to the world of press checks to color calibration, to file management, we have to, there’s so much physical happening in a print buying process. You can never do that online. What we did, we were the first company to take commercial printing online, able to process any digital file.

Nick Runyon (15:39):

And I mean, I started with PFL in 2003, and I remember getting like some Microsoft paint files from a small business owner. And how do I turn this into a business card? You know, um, as a, as a terrible photo shopper, uh, I quickly learned there’s a designer around the corner that I could just ask her to say, Hey, can you just recreate this real quick and a better file then? And that’s how we did a lot of that, but we created this category. We, uh, brought in some early funding. We were on the Inc 500 lists, multiple years in a row, one of the fastest growing companies in America, but failed to own that category today, move.com Vista print’s a multi-billion dollar company and a PFL was not able to maintain kind of our stake in that category that we created.

John Farkas (16:30):

Can you outline a reason that that happened? What, what was the tragic flaw that led to your inability to do that

Nick Runyon (16:39):

In situations like this it’s multiple variables? Um, I think primarily it was, I think an Admiral admirable decision at the time to say no to some private equity money to maintain kind of the trajectory and kind of core values of our business. That’s a really, I mean, that all sounds, you know, really high and mighty. Um,

John Farkas (17:08):

Well, but that’s those super tricky equations, man. I mean, and people face them all the time. And when you’re looking at scaling in a competitive marketplace, the balance between maintaining culture, if it’s ethic, if it’s, you know, you know, balancing that with what it takes to grow, those are tricky equations.

Nick Runyon (17:30):

Yeah. That growth comes, um, through automation, through streamlining, you know, gaining efficiencies, cutting people where we had really built the business around a hands-on concierge approach to serving small business owners. And, you know, those two things are not compatible. I think looking back, we could have taken a different route and maybe had a different outcome. Um, but that’s not what we chose to do. Ultimately, the model that we chose was not as scalable and not as fast growing. And we got past keep going in the story. There’s a middle. Yeah. So, uh, you know, I left my, my part of the story is I left in about 2008. I joined a company out in Silicon Valley in the nonprofit space and we were early in mobile advertising. So right when mobile iPhones release, all of these mobile ad networks are popping up, I would literally walk down the street of, you know, Palo Alto or wherever, and just go from one to the next it’s small rooms of developers trying to figure out how do I gain inventory on different mobile websites around the world to build a publishing network, uh, so that you can leverage that inventory and sell it.

Nick Runyon (18:50):

Um, and then I was the ad buyer, um, for our particular use case, mobile worked really well for us. We were trying to connect people with kind of local services that are offered through churches and nonprofits. And I had a donor funding to buy those ads with where the category was really new. And you didn’t have, you know, large ad buyers willing to make the investment or take the risk, frankly, because it was all unproven, you know, so we ended up rolling up a whole lot of these ad buys, then leveraging them against one another to the point where I was buying for like fractions of a penny, um, on seat cost per impressions for fractions of a penny. It was just like, cause all of these publishing networks needed guaranteed cashflow. And I was here to guarantee it at a very, very discounted rate.

Nick Runyon (19:42):

Some of those buys, some of those companies rather were rolled up into companies like Google and others, and my deals were grandfathered in. So now all of a sudden we have this like huge buying ability at a great price on a global scale through Google. And yeah, it was, it was really fun, learned a lot and um, had just kind of massive reach through those campaigns. But we were always trying to drive people into kind of a local touch point, you know, so that they could get counseling services or whatever the case may be. Meanwhile, PFL, uh, continued to move up market. We had, uh, built some API APIs and built some, uh, ways to automate print buying for some very large brands. These brands had concerns about, you know, HIPAA and different security and data compliance. And our team was able to serve some of those problems.

Nick Runyon (20:40):

Somebody somewhere along the way said something like, Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if when I saw through a, you know, an email sequence or certain triggers on my website that I could just send this automatically where you guys can deliver kind of a unit of one personalized for me, we said, yeah, that would be a really great idea. And, uh, it was one of those moments where it’s like, I think we can do that and we sold it and then we sold it again. And uh, you know, we, we built what we now call tactile marketing automation through that process. Fast forward I’m back in, I found myself back in Bozeman, Montana, uh, years later, and our CEO called and said, Hey, you got to look at what we’re doing. Like we’ve changed. Um, we’re looking for somebody to come on and help us, you know, own this category, not make the mistakes that we made before. And, uh, what do you think? And when I walked in and I saw what was going on, I, it was one of those moments where you couldn’t say no to it. And it was like, nobody else is doing this at this scale, in this way. Uh, I want to be a part of it. So that’s cool. That’s cool.

John Farkas (21:48):

So tell us a little bit about that workflow. Like if, if I’m, if I’m a B2B marketing leader, I’ve got some account-based activities going on, I’ve got some engagement, I’m monitoring all the dials on my automation platform and I’m, I see that somebody has followed the path that I’ve set forward for them. And they’re, you know, they’ve made it three quarters of the way through the journey and I’m ready to, I’m ready to take it up a level and my interaction with them, what happens? What do I get to do?

Nick Runyon (22:25):

I think we first need to say that there’s two ways that tactile marketing can be triggered. One is automatically, which is what we’ve talked about. Mostly the other is human triggered. And we can talk about that in a minute, but say a PFL software integrates with your CRM or your marketing automation platform. And so you build a tactile touch into a sequence. So if you’ve ever seen, um, you know, a Salesforce marketing cloud, like journey maker, or, um, like a Marquetto email sequence, you can trigger your centralized marketing team can design and create that experience for a certain segment of your prospects. So that whenever they take that certain action that you’re looking for, the tactical piece is automatically created, sent, delivered upon delivery. Your sales rep gets a, you know, something like a Salesforce notification, um, triggered to make a phone call, phone call comes in, right when the package is being delivered as people after, if people have responded to a, uh, email marketing, uh, offer automation.

Nick Runyon (23:36):

And, and that’s how that experience gets created. We opened that door for you or for the sales rep in this case to use that moment, do whatever it is that they need to do. I’m booking a meeting I’m following up. Um, you know, so you can literally just a marketing team can create these different experiences and build them into these marketing automations. Knowing that that process is just going to happen seamlessly every time, the other way to do this. And this is a feature of our product is to enable your sales team to send things on their own. And we had a real, I think one of the most interesting examples of this is we had, um, some medical device, uh, brands that were looking to get into a conversation with surgeons. And they’re hard to reach. They’re hard to, you know, get some time with them, busy people, but even busy people get mailed delivered to them whenever their name is on the box. Nobody opens that it’s, it goes to whoever’s name is on the box. They created a box where you open it up and it’s in this particular example, they were selling some technology around, um, suturing. So inside the box, when you open it up, it’s fake skin with a wound and the device is there for you to, I mean, I would say play with, cause that’s what I would do with it, but to test out how do I use this device in a sense

John Farkas (25:07):

Throw up on, maybe

Nick Runyon (25:10):

Think about that.

John Farkas (25:12):

and that’ll wake you up right up because your first question is depending on the realism factor…

Nick Runyon (25:21):

Fully branded box, appropriate marketing collateral, you know, uh, all of that stuff is included in there as well. But now if you call, when that gets delivered, I think you’re probably going to get a response. That’s a pretty incredible experience. So a sales rep or pharmaceutical rep or whatever the case may be, can trigger that send on their own. One of the things I really like about both of these examples is for brands that care about branding and compliance and, you know, you’re able to control all of those at the marketing team level still. So you don’t kind of have rogue, you know, randomized gifting or things that may not be, you know, appropriate or on message sending out there. The, the team, the marketing team gets to control kind of what gets developed and sent.

Mark Whitlock (26:10):

Well, we all know that tangible items and direct mail are more expensive than digital. They bear with them a physical cost. The shipping costs can be large depending on the size of the unit, et cetera. So you don’t want your customers to make mistakes. And you’ve seen a lot of them spend a lot of money that maybe they shouldn’t have. So if you were coaching someone who wanted to add a physical element into a nurture campaign or another marketing stream, what would you, what would advice would you give them to maximize dollars they’re going to spend on the tangible piece?

Nick Runyon (26:48):

Yeah. One of the things that, um, that I love about this, because I, I think at my core, I’m kind of a, a data person. Um, I think in the marketing world, you’ve got creatives and then you’ve got like the data side. I lean more towards the data side for sure. And all of these efforts because they’re so deeply integrated or easily trackable. So, um, number one, I’m going to start with, make sure it’s structured the right way so that we can measure the outcomes. And, um, and we do that on our team all the time continuously. I think that it’s important to think about, um, you know, what, what type of business objective are you going to drive? And then what’s the account, uh, you know, the average contract value. Uh, if you’re trying to move a prospect to close, if, uh, you know, a marketer needs to understand what’s a sales qualified lead costs, uh, as a baseline, you know, and then with that information and we usually walk people through kind of an ROI calculation, and you say, what are you doing now?

Nick Runyon (27:53):

Is it working? What’s your response rate? Like where, where are the metrics that I need to move in order to make this pay for you? Um, one of our most successful, uh, pieces is, uh, and especially as we’ve shifted towards virtual events, we have these popcorn mailers. So as a digital signal upon registration for a webinar, and you can message this, you know, in your, you know, maybe email invite or call to action. Um, you know, sit back, relax, attend this webinar with us. We have this mailer, it’s a self mailer. Uh, which all that means is that the marketing collateral folds up into something that can be, just be dropped into the mail. You don’t have to have a separate envelope for it. So that saves on some costs, but inside of it, as a package of microwave popcorn, that’s a fixed to your marketing collateral.

Nick Runyon (28:42):

And, you know, upon webinar registration, this thing gets sent out. It shows up. And, um, we find, uh, as we’ve looked back throughout the year, some of these, these numbers are very new. I got them yesterday, but for our customers that are using these tactile pieces in combination with webinars virtual event registration, we’re seeing, um, on average average, about 70% of people that are registering are attending the webinar. So we’re allowing to get familiar with this virtual event drop off this year. Like this is a KPI that I never had to measure before, but when I can deliver something that helps connect people to the event before it happens and ideally pull them through it, you get the appropriate response. And so, um, being able to know what your baseline is and what metrics you want to move is going to help our team work with you to understand, okay, this is what you need to build in order to keep that cost benefit ratio. Uh, in line,

John Farkas (29:44):

The point there is what the bag of popcorn costs, you know, not an air pods, right? Right. And it’s getting very similar, desired effect. It’s driving people to an action point that, that we’re really interested in them taking because that level of engagement is worth a lot. You’ve afforded them a hearing that they likely wouldn’t have had if it was a email invite or, or something similar. So that’s a really, really compelling example. Do you have one on the other end of the spectrum, kind of a more premium, uh, lure that people you’ve seen people use with a really good effect?

Nick Runyon (30:21):

You know, another one. So this is a more, uh, high dollar piece, but again, the same principles apply. So, uh, one of our customers was selling, um, cyber security software to enter the enterprise. And so this is, I need to cut through digital clutter. I need to make a connection with a CTO or somebody in the organization who can make a buying decision about cybersecurity software.

John Farkas (30:45):

And for those of you in that, not in that space, Holy crowded arena, Batman, that is, that is, that’s a wild world there.

Nick Runyon (30:55):

Think about that proposition. What are you offering that differentiates you from the competitor? Like, I’ll keep you five nines secure, like 99.9, nine, nine. Like it’s either

John Farkas (31:08):

Really difficult one because many, many vendors selling very similar services, very, uh, very subjective measurements. Um, so yeah, there’s, there’s a lot of challenge in differentiation in that realm, for sure

Nick Runyon (31:21):

What the team came up with for this customer. I thought it was brilliant. It’s a box it’s fully branded. It’s a little bit bigger, it’s more substantial and you could feel that something is inside it. And I think also feeling that something is inside, it is an interesting way as a marketer to deliver your brand to somebody, because now I’ve got this physical interaction with a cyber security software company. So as you open the box, there’s some marketing messaging, but there’s two things inside. There’s a card. And then there’s this very sleek looking pen, black pen, it’s kind of weighty and you read the card and there’s a big blank space in the middle, and it has marketing messaging on it. You know, you take the pen and click it, and it’s a black light. And as you shine it at the card, the card reveals in invisible ink, the secret message. It says you miss 100% of the threats that you can’t see. Wow, wow. It’s like the hard hitting marketing piece. I love it. And, uh, they had incredible response rate on that. I mean, it was over a hundred X ROI on that campaign.

John Farkas (32:31):

Wow. That’s tremendous. So, Nick, what I’m aware of is when the pandemic first set in there was kind of this step back that a lot of people took in this realm. And then, and we were just Mark and I were just talking about this the other day. And then we awakened to the fact of, okay, there’s still a market. There’s still opportunity. And our Salesforce is severely limited in what they’ve been able to do and how they’ve been able to engage. And so as we look, as we’re looking at this next year and the new opportunities, we’re looking at kind of mobilizing every opportunity that we can to, to engage, uh, and to pull people into the conversation, help us into how we can start thinking about this, how we can look at incorporating this, this channel into the strategies that we’re, uh, that we’re in the midst of planning right now, as we’re approaching the end of the year.

Nick Runyon (33:34):

I think that for anyone listening, that’s interested in exploring, uh, direct mail as a larger part of their marketing mix. Um, there’s a number of ways that you can do that. Actually, there’s a number of ways that you can do that early without buying software to make that more scalable and, you know, a baked in part of the strategy. Um, as a nonprofit executive, I was trying to engage a donor, a one-time high-profile person. I had zero information didn’t even have an address, didn’t know where they live. Um, the only thing I knew was the city and I knew what floor his office was on. And I knew from a friend of a friend, uh, that he would be interested in, we were trying to do, but the guy was famously recluse. So I did a little homework and I found out there’s only seven buildings in this city with that many floors or more. And so I started calling the security desk and everyone asking for this office, this company name, and can you transfer me? I think I’m into the wrong number. Security guys are really helpful. I actually, on my fourth call, I got transferred to the,

John Farkas (34:44):

We just outed a security person at a particular office tower

Nick Runyon (34:49):

On my fourth call. I got transferred. Uh, and the receptionist, I said, Hey, I’m sending a package to, you know, Mr. So-and-so. I just want to confirm the address. This is what I have. And she said, no, that’s not right. This is the right one. Great, thanks. Bye. Hang up, send it through FedEx. FedEx has guaranteed delivery by 10:00 AM and you know, when it’s going to show up, you know, and so I just sat there hitting, refresh, waiting for the thing on the day of delivery, when it got delivered. Now, I also had the receptionist’s phone number from the earlier engagement. So I called her back. I said, Hey, my package should have arrived this morning. Uh, can I speak with Mr. So-and-so? And I got connected that led to a lunch meeting two weeks later in a great long-term relationship. So there’s ways that you can do this manually just to test it out and see if it works.

Nick Runyon (35:35):

And I would say if you’ve got some, you know, if you’re trying to reach the CTO or some C-suite executive, just do it that way to see if it works or not invalidate your assumptions at the point where you want to bake that in as part of a bigger process. I think you need to think about, is this an automatically triggered type of experience, or do you also need to enable your sales teams to do that? And there’s, I think there’s several, uh, you know, offerings out there that kind of fall into those different categories, um, that are really great. There’s, there’s other companies in our space that are doing some really creative things, and we’ve got pretty good interactions with those guys, um, with all of them, really sharing notes from time to time. So

John Farkas (36:17):

As we’re looking at, you know, many of our listeners, many of our clients are, are looking at very, um, limited addressable markets. A few key folks are, and a few, uh, businesses that would be, um, year makers for them to land. Uh, have you seen some good application? How do you surround the conversation and scenarios?

Nick Runyon (36:48):

Yeah, the risks are certainly higher because you only get a, you know, so many at-bats then maybe even one, depending on the situation. And so I think that you want to think carefully about, uh, adding value to that prospect in that initial engagement, but also communicating what you need to communicate in order to get the next meeting, the next conversation, you know, whatever it is, use your moment wisely. That’s what I’m trying to say. Um, you know, in the, the office building security desk example, I mean, baked into that was the problem of understanding what address to send something to. We’ve built a lot of tools this year to use that digital touchpoint as a way to capture preferred address from prospects. Um, that’s become more and more of an issue in 2020. And, uh, I think we’ve got some really creative kind of dynamic ways to, to build that address capture in that becomes harder if your market and your prospects that you’re trying to reach are, are more limited.

Nick Runyon (37:56):

You have to approach that carefully. And maybe a one-off. I mean, depending on how small we’re talking about, you might not need a software to do that. You know, uh, I think a motivated sales team in a swag closet, it’s a great way to go. Um, and it’s probably cheaper than buying my enterprise level software, but, um, truthfully that applies to us as well. So if I’m trying to reach into a C-suite of like the fortune 500 I’ve, I’ve already got the infrastructure that I’ve used, the cultivate, the rest of the market, so that I, I can create some specific, very valuable, very interesting engagements with that smaller segment of my prospects. So, so I, I would look at that two different ways. It’s kind of a starting point question. A lot of brands are using our technology to help support things like customer onboarding. Um, Salesforce is a customer of ours and they’re using, uh, tactile marketing automation to automate the delivery of kits that congratulate people upon achieving their certification, their trailblazer certification. So I think that’s, that’s an interesting use case to help on your customer side to help drive retention and, and onboarding.

Mark Whitlock (39:18):

So Nick, just so you know, the fact that you’ve been on Studio CMO is triggering a manual mailing to you. And then there will be a moment when we will have your undivided attention. And when that moment comes, I hope that she’ll give me a call so that we know that we’ve, uh, we’ve, uh, impacted, uh, the moment, uh, with, uh, what’s coming your way now with all that said, we, we started our conversation earlier talking about how, how you have, um, 15 years ago, you guys own the category and then that, that went away. And now here you are back on board, defining a new category, leading the way, um, you’ve got the SAS product that’s pushing into the market and you have some major customers, uh, in the stable, how are you going to maintain it? How are you going to, what, what is your plan for remaining the leader of this category?

Nick Runyon (40:17):

We are leveraging partner relationships like we’ve never done before. Um, we are, I think spending more time with, uh, an ear to the ground, listening for what the market’s looking for, listening for, what some of our partners and customers are seeing, and really trying to build out in advance of that. And we’ve also shifted our thinking. I mean, we are a software company, uh, with some printing capabilities and I really liked that vertical integration. It helps to keep all of our systems really tight and deliver for our customers. Um, but at the end of the day, we’re trying to drive forward with a focus on metrics like ARR and, uh, trying to really capitalize on this, this time that we’re in. And, um, I think the future for PFL is bright. Uh, I would like to S I think there’s a number of different options that we’re exploring for, you know, where this thing could go. But, um, I think direct mail is here to stay. I think we’re seeing the impact when it’s orchestrated, like, what we’ve been talking about the impact is far above a digital only effort. And I think there’s a lot of platforms. There’s a lot of people that I think would be interested in integrating that in the

Mark Whitlock (41:34):

Fantastic Nick Runyon has been the guest on this edition of Studio CMO. Nick, thank you so much for joining us from almost snowy, Bozeman, Montana.

Nick Runyon (41:44):

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

John Farkas (41:47):

Yes. Thanks Nick.

Mark Whitlock (41:48):

And if you want to find out more about PFL and their software offering and tactile marketing automation, come on over to studio cmo.com. Click on the Nick Runyon interview. You’ll find the show notes there we’ll link out to the report we mentioned earlier in the episode, we’ll also link out to their website so you can take a look at their SaaS platform. We’ll also link out to that interview with the folks from Kenns Security that I mentioned earlier and where they talk about their example of, of using direct mail for the first time in many years and the success that they had building that into their platform. So as we close out 2020 and welcome in 2021, I just want to remind you of our three core principles. First, understand your buyer and his or her problems. Second of all, lead out of that empathetic understanding.

John Farkas (42:38):

And do whatever it takes to make your buyer the hero.

Mark Whitlock (42:42):

We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO.


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