The effectiveness of a company’s marketing strategy is often the deciding factor in whether it is successful or not. A good marketing strategy can help a company find and target its potential customers, create a brand identity, and develop and implement a compelling marketing mix. That is what today’s guest, Lisa Genovese, talks about. As the President of BottomLine, Lisa supports challenger brands in evolving their business and creating more impact on the world around them. BottomLine’s global team helps clients implement kick-ass strategies centered on solid market research insights that consistently improve conversion rates and increase sales and profit margins. In this episode, Lisa shares effective marketing strategies that help clients optimize their message and brand to impact their bottom line significantly.
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Strategy Eats Tactics For Breakfast With Lisa Genovese
[00:00:55] I love the fact that you guys come back every week. I love the fact that you share, respond, email me at Ben@YourBrandMarketing.com, find me on LinkedIn, and participate. This is a great way for us to sit there and get to know each other and understand what are the things that you are passionate about, marketing sales, communication or leadership. They are all different parts of the conversation and are all important, and I want to discuss them all.
I want to find out what are the things that are going on with you that you want me to find guests to talk about. Bring in your conversations. I love hearing your ideas, and we are going to get to them all. We are a couple of years in, the show is not going anywhere, and thank you for coming back week after week. In this episode, I have Lisa Genovese, and she has a company called BottomLine. We are going to talk about the ready, shoot, aim strategy before marketing. Lisa, welcome to the show.
[00:01:53] Thanks for having me, Ben. I’m looking forward to this conversation.
[00:01:57] We’ve had a couple of conversations offline, and there are a lot of challenges out there in the business, and a lot of people are sitting there going, “I’ve got to do something.” It’s more of that panic. “I’ve got to go a direction. If I don’t do something,” it’s either the FOMO attitude, the Fear Of Missing Out, “Somebody is going to do better, then I’m going to do whatever,” and people react. When it comes to their marketing, advertising, and brand, I’m seeing a lot more people in reaction mode than in action mode. I would love to get into that but first of all, let’s give you an opportunity to let people know who you are, what you do, and why you do it, and then we will get into all this.
[00:02:45] I love this topic and am excited to talk about all of that. In terms of me, my name is Lisa Genovese, and my primary focus is BottomLine. We do research-driven marketing for growth-driven brands. We believe in having that solid research-backed foundational strategy in place before you ever get to the implementation of any marketing activities but many people do the opposite and I love that we are going to talk about that. Why I’m passionate about that is exactly the topic you’ve selected. It is that joke that people choose to eat their dessert before they eat their veggies but there’s some truth to that.
Most businesses run out there and start executing without a plan. They shot from the hip, and then they get frustrated and wonder why it’s not working, and they blame it on, “Marketing doesn’t work.” Marketing has science. There’s a process behind it. If you use data to inform your business decision-making, I promise you will have better results. That’s why I am passionate about what I do.
[00:03:50] I love all that because the world is looking for instant gratification, whether it’s individuals, businesses or whatever. You have large organizations that are controlled by stock prices. They think daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and long-term thinking for a lot of these large organizations. It’s quarterly because they got to do their quarterly and annual reports. It’s all about stock prices and how we make sure that we meet our quota.
You see that in the car business and in a lot of different industries where it’s all about, “How do we get our quota?” With that is, “What do I need to do?” It’s not thinking, “How do I build long-term success?” Let’s talk about marketing and advertising. First of all, let’s talk about the difference between them. You mentioned what you see as the difference between marketing and advertising. How do we move people away from short-term gut-wrenching reactionary thinking to a long-term strategic thought process that leads to better, more valuable, and loyal customers?
[00:05:03] I’m smirking because what you’ve said is the difference between advertising and marketing. Advertising is that shoot from the hip. I’m going to throw an ad and expect my phone to ring off the hook. Marketing is that well-thought-out data-driven strategy that results in activity that eventually returns you an ROI. Many people call them one and the same and then not. There’s nothing wrong with advertising. I don’t want to push advertising into a negative or a bad category. I firmly believe it has its place but so many people get focused on the activity of advertising that they forget that there’s a whole lot more to it that they are missing, and advertising is the easy part or the last part.
[00:05:48] I don’t knock advertise either. We all need to advertise. We all need short-term sales. We need to keep the funnel full. We need to keep the money rolling. There are payroll and vendors that need to be paid. There are computers that need to be bought. All those types of things are important. We need to be advertising to make sure that people say, “I have this.” “Yes, I need it.” “Great. Come and buy it.” If all we are doing is advertising like, “I have this,” or raise up my hand, “Come buy this. Come get it. It’s cheap.” That’s what you get known for.Our kind of people are fueled by grit, curiosity, and a hatred of the word 'No.' Click To Tweet
You get known for being a commodity and somebody that you could always get on sale. I never go into a retailer unless they have their quarterly sales. I will never go in there and pay full price for something because it’s going to be on sale in a month. We need to get people out of that mentality of that’s all that they do and start thinking about, “How we build long-term value.” I’m going to turn it over to you and sit there and chew on that for a while and let’s have that conversation.
[00:06:56] What you are talking about in terms of being the cheap guy is what I call swimming in the sea of sameness, where you are getting nickeled and dimed on price because there’s no clear differentiator for that end customer to see why they should pay more for your product or service, or why they should choose you over a competitor. It’s the age-old positioning conversation of why you need to be differentiated.
I feel that the major piece that people skip over is they haven’t taken the time to use data and figure out what they are positioning should be. They go, “This sounds good to me, and I’m sure that my customers will love it,” without verifying first. They dump a bunch of money into advertising and blasting out the said message that they think sounds good, and then it falls flat.
If your positioning is wrong, I don’t care how much money, time, and effort you put into your marketing or advertising, whatever interchangeable word you want to use there. If you are pushing out the wrong message, it’s going to the wrong people, and then it’s going to fall flat. You might as well do nothing. It would be cheaper.
[00:08:00] That’s the crux of it. Most people sit there and go, “Why is brand so important?” I want your thoughts on this but for me, that’s where the whole positioning comes from. “Who are you? What do you do? Why do you do it? Who do you do it for? Why do they care?” How do you get people to take those three steps back, put their money back in their pockets, and get to the point where they are going, “Let’s figure out who we are first, who we are valuable to, and then sit there and say, ‘How do we now go talk to these people in a way that’s going to resonate and get them to engage?’”
[00:08:37] My answer to your question is it comes across as conceited but it’s not to be. It’s typically to show them a case study on, “Here’s what happens when you go out, and you shoot from the hip.” The target moving into Canada is a great example. I will then show them a case study of, “Here’s what happens, and here’s what it looked like when you had used research to drive that strategy and drive your brand positioning before you went to implementation and measured it.”
Usually, when they can see that apples-to-apples comparison, it becomes a pretty easy choice as to why we should pump the brakes and go back to the basics. Not everybody, though, sees it that way. I always make the joke but only half a joke because you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Not everybody aligns with that thought process but the vast majority of executives can typically see when they look at an ROI calculation, “This is why I should not do said thing.” That’s usually how I will get them to see the reason is to show them.
People are usually pretty smart. When you say, “We need to use proper data to drive our business decision-making, not just make it up out of the sky or use an educated guess.” I often will use the example before we go into every impact assessment. I always ask the team or if I’m working on it, which isn’t that often anymore, to make a prediction, “How do you think this client should position their brand? What do you think the outcome is going to be?” Do you want to know how many times we are wrong? It’s almost always.
[00:10:14] Is that before you did the research?
[00:10:16] Before we’ve done the research. The data never ever lies. That in itself is a very good example to a client. Sometimes the ones that we have a strong relationship with will often share, “This was our prediction, just for fun. This is what we thought was going to happen.” “As you well know, this is the outcome based on this and this. This is what your focus group said. This is what,” so on and so forth. It’s a good exercise for them to go through to say, “We’ve done thousands of these. We clearly have a good grasp on how to do positioning,” but when you rely on your own personal assumptions, and you are not that end customer yourself, you are very likely to miss the market. You haven’t done proper research.
[00:10:58] I want to dive into preconceptions but before we do that, let’s talk about Target as the case study of what went wrong. Target in the states is a powerhouse. Target in many countries is a powerhouse. However, Target died of a very ugly horrific death when they came into Canada because they went big, took over a huge amount of footprint, died within 24 months or 36 months, and lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Talk about that. Take it from your point of view, do you think they missed the boat, and why do you think they missed the boat to be able to die as quickly and as horrifically death as they did?
[00:11:47] I always want to preface with I have not done the research into this topic. I’m making an educated guess.
[00:11:53] Let’s do it from that point of view then.
[00:11:55] For that point of view, it’s a classic example of not looking at your market before you move into it and making an assumption that what worked in the US was going to work in Canada. I see many companies. Typically, it’s Canada into the US but it doesn’t matter. It’s the same. I’m going to assume that what I launched for campaigns in one country is going to work in another and hadn’t factored in the cultural aspect. They also underestimated the supply chain. When you walked into those stores, there were many in the city I live. There was nothing on the shelf, nothing.
[00:12:30] They were empty.
[00:12:33] The product that was on the shelves was not the same as what was in the US, yet they ran similar marketing campaigns. They did not take the time to understand what the consumer’s behavior was going to be, and what the consumers’ wants were, and it could not have been a bigger flop. Two big things, not understanding the customer and drastically underestimating the supply chain, are the two biggest ones that I saw.Marketing has science, and there's a process behind it. You will have better results if you use data to inform your business decision-making. Click To Tweet
Everybody had their own opinion, though, on what happened there. I personally, too. I feel like they waited too long to pull out. I’m surprised they didn’t have a much larger effect on their business and brand than it did. It hurt them but I anticipated that it would’ve hurt them worse than it did. A little bit to their credit.
[00:13:23] The interesting thing is I talked to a lot of Americans who still don’t realize what the fiasco of the Canadian Target was. That whole chapter of their life has not made it into the American psyche because Target is such a beloved brand in the United States that they were able to compartmentalize it and be able not to have it drip into the American psyche. They go like, “We don’t understand what they are talking about. Target is a wonderful company, and they blame it on Canadians.”
A lot of it says, “Why didn’t the Canadians love our beloved brand or Target?” There was a lot that went along with that and being able to compartmentalize the companies. They lost hundreds of millions of dollars. There were write-downs, and it hurt the stock price but did it hurt the brand? I’m not sure that it did in the United States. I’m sure if you asked people months after the pullout of Canada in the United States about what they thought of the brand, I don’t think their thought process of the brand would’ve changed.
[00:14:27] I would agree with that. That is the one good job that they did was isolating the US from Canada when that happened so that it wasn’t public, their failure. You look at other brands where something similar has happened, and they had a strong brand, and even if that insulation wasn’t there, as long as they followed proper crisis columns of, “Here’s what we did. Here’s why this happened. Here’s how we are going to fix it,” and if they had a strong brand going into that, which Target did it saves their bacon. It does come back full circle to why positioning is so important. If you don’t have a strong brand and you go through something like that, there’s no coming back from it.
[00:15:14] It comes down to understanding how is your brand perceived in different markets. Take a look at a lot of different brands, how they advertise in the Southeast is very different from how they advertise in the Northwest. There are cultural differences and nuances. Take a look at McDonald’s. McDonald’s is McDonald’s but if you look at it worldwide, there are very different nuances with McDonald’s depending on what country you are in.
That comes down to strategy and not only understanding the overall arching brand but it’s understanding the countrywide or regional strategies that need to be differentiated to be able to understand the cultures of the countries that they are going into. It’s not just understanding your stuff as a brand. It understands the areas that you are going into and how they differ because people are the X factor. As you said, we think that they are going to think this way, and they don’t. How do we get into perception? How do we get into getting rid of our preconceptions of, “We think everybody is going to think this way,” and going gangbusters ahead based on assumptions and our own biases?
[00:16:34] What you are highlighting from a culture standpoint, the most famous example there is Chevy Nova trying to launch into Mexico. Nova means no go in Spanish. There are so many things. Although, that makes you wonder a little bit, “Did you not think that one through even a little bit?” It’s a tough one, and it’s unfortunate that you see it all over the place still to this day and age. It baffles me. Do your homework before you launch something. We can’t all be perfect. We can’t always get it right but you said something key of, “We think,” and we think you will be the death of your brand if you don’t spend the time to validate whether they actually think.
[00:17:46] A thought that came to mind, I don’t know if you remember it but the Dove commercials a couple of years ago caused Dove to get into some serious hot water with women. Dove did some incredible commercials for years about the empowerment of women, but they did this one commercial where women pulled a sweater over their head, and another woman came out. It was all about, “Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.”
It was interesting. There was an interview with the models that were part of it, and they said, “We all felt very safe and welcoming.” They thought it was a great shoot. It was some editor for the end result that decided that the end shot should be a Black woman taking off her sweater, and underneath it becomes a White woman, and that was the end shot. They got crucified for it because it was like, “I need to be a White woman for me to be valued.”
The problem was the people that were editing this or the people that were in the room were the final sign-off on this thing, never thought about it. They looked at this commercial and said, “It looks great.” It’s showing women empowerment, this, and that. If it had been cut differently, none of the controversies would’ve happened. If the Black woman had been the last person or the Asian woman had been the last woman, the thought process would have been very different.
It was the fact that the White woman was at the very end. That is the perception that you had to be White to be able to do it. The problem is because we don’t have diversity at the decision-making table, whether that’s women, men, Black, White, Asian, gay, straight, or whatever it is, when we are missing perceptions, we don’t have somebody that can raise their hand and say, “What about this?”
[00:19:43] I agree with that, and there are a couple of points there. One, you are right that there is not enough diversity at the table, and therefore, those of us with privilege overlook some things like that. The other challenge is we are also in this cancel culture and hypersensitive marketplace, too. When I use the word hypersensitive, I want to be very clear here. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be sensitive to things.
I am saying that the grace that is given to those brands is now sometimes not as much as it used to be. We will call it what they are. They are mistakes, the reaction to them is very inflated, and that’s now becoming hard for brands to be able to even respond in a productive way because the reaction is so explosive. I had a good conversation about this with a friend of mine a little while ago. She’s a huge ally of the LGBTQ community.
We were discussing some of the conversations that have been happening on LinkedIn around rights and even women in business, their rights, and how things are viewed. Although she and I have some differing views, the one thing that we agreed on was that these explosive reactions that we are seeing to these challenges or mistakes it’s not helping brands be better. The shaming that’s happening it’s not going to fix the problem.
Should somebody be called out when they make a mistake? For sure, but how it then gets handled also is dependent on their initial reaction. Brands are not being given enough grace to go, “We screwed up, and we want to be better, so tell us how we can be better.” They are scared to do that because they are getting crucified. I’m seeing we are moving into this place where brands don’t even have the opportunity to make the problem better, which is a scary place to be because you can’t fix something if you don’t have the opportunity to do it either.
[00:21:47] The problem is it’s your voice versus a hundred million others. Everybody’s got a small little voice but all of a sudden you have 50,000 people that respond to your Instagram and another 125,000 that respond to your Facebook or your site, and another 50,000 people that respond on Twitter. As a brand, I don’t care how big you are. All of a sudden, the amplitude of the noise in opposition to whatever you did becomes unreal to the fact that you can’t even say, “Mea culpa,” fast or loud enough to be able to be given the grace and change your attitude.If you do your homework and understand your end audience, you'll know where those no-go zones are. Click To Tweet
All people can do is take that post down and issue a blanket apology on CNN. All of a sudden, it’s the big bad brand, and network news is talking about the big bad brand. We become crucified for mistakes that many years ago, we could have said, “You are right. We made a mistake. We are here to listen. We would like to listen and find out what’s the difference and how can we make this better and be able to do that?” It’s because of the amplitude and the diversity of social media trying to keep up with that volume, and the fact that it spirals, makes it very challenging for brands to defend themselves and to be able to sit there and say, “How can we be better?”
It leads to very bland, conservative, and generic advertising because there are a bunch of lawyers in a room going, “We don’t want to defend anybody. We are not going to do anything that has a propensity to offend anyone.” We lose out because of that. Nobody has a voice. We all become commodities and all spiral down into being the cheapest.
[00:23:44] This brings our conversation back full circle to your example about the Dove campaign. It’s the age-old saying, “If you do your homework and understand your end audience, you will know where those no advice are.” The most successful campaigns air right on that edge of like, “What’s acceptable and what’s not,” but to be successful at doing that, you have to understand your audience very intimately.
Otherwise, you do run the risk of pissing some people off. That is not what any brand wants. Even this conversation around the reactions to things, if you take the time and understand who it is you are speaking to, you run a much lower risk of having an explosive reaction because you are going to get or likely going to get.
[00:24:34] That’s a big thing. You need to know who your audience is. Here’s the thing, the majority of brands out there are not Coca-Cola, Dove, General Mills or whoever that has hundreds of millions and billions of people following their accounts. Most brands respond to less than 100th of 1% of the world population. It’s because of that that we need to know who we are speaking to and who we are not and realize that, “If you are living on the edge, if you are for something, there’s going to always be somebody that is going to be against what you are for,” that’s reality. It’s a matter of saying, “We believe this. We are going to stand for this.”
Nike has done that a number of times over the last number of years and says, “We are going to take this thing. We know that we are going to make a bunch of people mad but we realize that the people that are going to support us are going to be loyal supporters. They are going to support our brand on social media because of the stand that we made.”
They are consciously saying this, “There are going to be dissenters but if we don’t take a stand, put our foot in the sand, and believe in our brand, who are we?” If we don’t understand our brand, our culture, our beliefs, who is our audience, and why they are passionate about us, and then speak to them and realize that there are going to be dissenters and deal with dissenters in the way that they are. We run the risk of becoming another tub of vanilla ice cream.
[00:26:06] I completely agree with you. Being a tub of vanilla ice cream, folks, is not what we want.
[00:26:16] French vanilla with some chocolate sauce, sprinkles, maybe a little bit of a fudge sauce, that’s the good stuff but if all you are doing is getting a steady stream of vanilla, you can get tired of it like you can for any other thing. My question to you is, knowing what we’ve talked about and what we’ve done, what is the best piece of advice that you can give your clients and my audience about how to sit there and think about strategy first before tactics?
[00:26:50] There are a couple of key things. 1) You need to understand the lay of the land. What’s going on in the industry? What could be coming out of the left field that you aren’t even thinking about that could take you out at the knees? 2) You need to understand your customer and what makes them tick. 3) You need to understand your competitors and how you are going to differentiate from them.
Those three things combined will give you the baseline at the very minimum of what your strategy should be based on. There are a lot of other things that need to go into it but if you can cover our competitive set, customer set, and lay the land, you are going to be far ahead of most of your competition because they are not doing that.
For most of the companies that come to us, on average, research is like a foreign thing. They think that that’s just for the Nikes and the big guys but I say this all the time, “The Nikes of the world can afford to make a mistake. Small to the medium business cannot.” Research becomes even more vital. Do I suggest that people blow their entire annual marketing or advertising budget on research and planning? No, but you do need to spend something on doing at least the basics because otherwise, you run the risk of blowing that whole budget on the wrong thing and not getting ahead.
[00:28:11] To me, research is an insurance policy that says, “I’m going to spend $10,000, $50,000 or $100,000 on marketing this year. Am I spending it right?” If you are going to spend that money, are you going to spend it in a way that’s going to make you $1 million, $5 million, $10 million, or are you going to spend $100,000 and hear crickets? That’s the question you need to ask yourself.
By looking at strategy before tactics, you have a far better chance of reaching the right audience in the right way. Before I let you go, I got a couple of questions, and these are important questions. What’s the one thing that we haven’t talked about? What’s the one thing that you said, “We need to get this out.” If people think and remember one thing, this is the one thing that they should be thinking about.
[00:29:03] Usually, my answer to that question is research but we’ve beat that dead horse. The other big thing is don’t try to be all things to all people and don’t bite off more than you can chew. On the tactic side, after you’ve done your research, you’ve developed your strategy and kept it simple. I see so many people thinking that they need to be on every social platform that’s out there.
They need to be doing a newsletter, blogging every week, and all of these pieces, pick 1 or 2 things, do them well, make them consistent, and make sure that they are very targeted, and you will get way better results than spreading yourself too thin, and never being able to keep something consistent. That’s the other thing that we haven’t talked about that is important.Don't try to be all things to everyone; don't bite off more than you can chew. Click To Tweet
[00:29:47] That’s so important. You and I haven’t been on Facebook and Twitter in forever. Why? That’s not where our audience is. That’s not where we can add real value, and I totally get that. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m not sure what your platform of choice is but we all have a platform of choice where we know where we can add value. We all must understand, “Where’s our audience, and what do they care about?”
[00:30:11] LinkedIn is my platform of choice as well, and that’s where we put the bulk of our efforts because that’s where our audience hangs out.
[00:30:18] The second question I want to ask you is, how do people get in touch with you? What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?
[00:30:25] LinkedIn is probably the best way to get in touch. You can also check out our website. WeAreBottomLine.com or drop me an email at Lisa@WeAreBottomLine.com. I’m always happy to have a conversation.
[00:30:38] Here’s the last question, and I ask this to every guest. When you leave a meeting, you get in your car, and you drive away, what’s the one thing you want people to think about you or the BottomLine when you are not in the room?
[00:30:52] Research drives your strategy.
[00:30:58] That’s a great way to do it. Everybody’s got to take the time and need to find out who they are and who their audience is. What’s right for me is not going to be right for Lisa. What’s right for Lisa may not be right for me or anyone of you. Find your own audience, value, and differentiator. Be who you are and communicate that way. Lisa, thank you for being a great guest. Thank you for all your wisdom, and thanks for all the things you do for your great customers.
[00:31:27] Thanks for having me. This was an awesome conversation.
- LinkedIn – Ben Baker
- LinkedIn – Lisa Genovese
- LinkedIn – BottomLine
- Twitter – BottomLine
- Dove commercials – YouTube
About Lisa Genovese
As President of BottomLine, I support Challenger Brands to evolve their business, creating more impact on the world around them. For me, advancing a business requires more than a surface-level strategy. This is why my team and I hyper-focus on our unique Impact Assessment process to uncover key insights, and help clients see what others may not. BottomLine’s global team helps clients implement kick-ass strategies centred on strong market research insights that consistently improve conversion rates, increase sales, and profit margins.
Fueled by research and competitive analysis, BottomLine strengthens our client’s mission and creates actionable strategic plans to maximize their message, provide the tools, materials and content to get going that much faster. We help our clients to optimize their marketing spend to ensure their budget isn’t going into the woodchipper by shining a light on what they’re missing in their current strategy. By leveraging data and an analytical approach, we build our strategies to have a huge impact on their bottom line.
When I’m not working with Challenger Brands through BottomLine, I sit on several not-for-profit and for-profit boards; I am an active member of the Women Presidents’ Organization, as well as the Alberta IoT Association. I support Alberta’s growing technology ecosystem through my work with Alberta IoT as chair of their annual charity golf tournament, a volunteer for their Centre of Excellence and Startup Visa Program, and facilitator in their business accelerator program. Similarly, I am an ambassador for the International Deal Gateway which facilitates direct transactions on a blockchain platform. Previously, I was a mentor in the ATBx startup program.
In an endeavour for continuous learning and improvement, I recently graduated from Harvard School of Business Strategic Planning and Customer Focus certification programs.