A Disruptive Solution for Marketing
Updated: Sep 15, 2022
with Jennifer Lynn Zick, Founder and CEO Authentic Brand
Businesses who are experiencing emerging growth can find them guessing their way through marketing, losing their mission and focus on their service. Authentic Brand is a professional service company who brings executive marketers to other professional services. Jennifer Zick the Founder and CEO of Authentic Brand had a vision to find a disruptive solution to a unique sector of companies and focus their zone of marketing with Fractional Chief Marketing Officers. Jennifer explains what the role of a Fractional CMO is, when a business might need one, and how they can build and support a marketing strategy from a foundational level.
Notes from the Show
Jennifer Zick is the founder and CEO of Authentic Brand, a disruptive marketing solution for professional service businesses. More often than not, small businesses are guessing their way through marketing. The vision for Authentic Brand was to create a model to bring executive marketers to small businesses.
A CMO, Chief Marketing Officer, is the head of brand strategy, defining brand value and how your brand is communicating to the world. Authentic Brand uniquely brings Fractional CMOs, part-time marketing executives, to companies that need them most. This typically best serves emerging growth companies of 5 to 10 million, with leadership teams, a 6 figure CMO budget, and a 6 to 7 figure marketing budget. Smaller businesses and startups who aren't ready for a fractional CMO should be focusing on generating repeatable income. In this phase these businesses are running the risk of saying yes to every avenue of revenue which can dangerously stretch and distort a business's mission.
There are riches in the niches. Many businesses fear that marketing is saying no to revenue but instead it is focusing and strategizing the product and what the business actually delivers to its clients. Jennifer uses a baseball analogy to define marketing for a company. The outfield is the delivery organization, a wide open area for differentiation, the sales team is the infield, slightly more narrow focus but still room, and the marketing team is the pitcher with a very specific focus zone.
Marketing in this generation has a heavy focus on content creation. Many businesses are focused on paid media, but owned and earned media are equally if not more important. Paid Media are going to be paid ads or features while Owned Media would be a self written blog or other content coming authentically from the business. Earned media is any outside content created by collaborations or affiliations that the company does not pay for. Earned Media is super important to build networks and cultivate trust. First generation clients and connections build trust for future clients and connections and expands the contact and reach a company can make through earned trust.
Authentic Brand has developed a methodology and framework, in which they quickly onboard a specific company, program a cadence of meetings, and a series of workshops to gain clarity on the focus of the company. A fractional CMO works to build the marketing strategy from the foundational level and not the tactical level, so that businesses are understanding what works and the whys behind their success. A CMO with Authentic Brand brings value by mitigating risk and speeding up impact.
If you’re interested in learning more about Authentic Brand, you can find them at their website or connect with Jennifer Zick on LinkedIn.
Mentioned in this Episode:
Jennifer Zick - Founder & CEO - Authentic Brand | LinkedIn
Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:37
Hello, and welcome back to stop the noise. I'm Susan Tatum. And today I am so excited to be talking to Jennifer Zick, who is the founder and CEO of Authentic Brand. Welcome, Jennifer.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 0:49
Thank you, Susan, I'm so happy to be here with you.
Susan Tatum 0:52
It's really good to have you here, I think you have a really incredible business model. And what you you have built a community around fractional CMOs, or chief marketing officers, which begs a whole bunch of questions that we can get into, but how, how did the thought of a business like that come to you?
Jennifer Lynn Zick 1:11
Yeah, it all started based on my own career experience. And so when I entered the workforce, I, frankly, was flailing. I came out of college with a communications degree and was lucky enough to land in the early evolution of website development in an introductory sales and marketing roles. So I built ended up building a career path in sales and marketing, mostly in professional services, mostly around technology solutions. And so my career grew in those in those pathways. And along the way, I got to work with very small, fast growing startups, I got to be part of a large global enterprise. And I got to be part of a mid market sized company. And after all of about 20 years of that experience, I had the opportunity to lose a job for the first time. And that propelled me to a catalyst moment to decide whether I would then look for another job or start this little idea that was in my heart. And I took the leap of faith in starting authentic brand. And I, I spent a little bit of time thinking, what could I get excited to solve in the world. And based on my career experience, and some hindsight and years of wisdom, I thought, you know, there are a lot of small businesses that are guessing their way through how to build marketing in their business, they're trying to figure it out and having difficulty building it out. And if we could bring them wise experienced executive leadership sooner in a way that they could afford to bring it into their small business, those companies could grow stronger, faster. And so I wanted to create a model to bring executive marketers to small businesses, and I didn't see that anywhere in the market. And then the second part of the vision for authentic brand was that having been a fast growth marketer through my career, I understood the tension that came with being the head of marketing in a fast moving organization, it's a very demanding role. It's a high burnout, it's a fast churn roll, it's often the first and fastest seat to to be cut in lean times. And so I knew that a lot of my peers, were asking questions of themselves, like I was after a job loss, they were saying, isn't there a better way to live life and also do meaningful work? And so I thought, what if I could build that community of brilliant experienced diverse CMOs, who helped one another to help our small business clients? And that was really the genesis of authentic brand.
Susan Tatum 3:26
And you said that very authentically, I mean, I liked the the name of your company, because authenticity is something that I think is so important, and people try to fake it.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 3:36
Yes, people and businesses, the inspiration for my company name even before I had the words to describe our service, a fractional CMO, I didn't have the words for that I had to discover those words in that, that category, and then kind of build into it. But I knew I wanted to work with people I loved to doing work that we love with businesses who were values led, and who cared about nurturing culture, and doing business the right way, and growing in a healthy way, and not trying to fake it. So we really, we want to be an authentic brand. And we want to work to build authentic brands in the world.
Susan Tatum 4:11
Clients yeah. So let's so um, you know, I'm not sure how familiar our listeners are with the concept of a fractional. I'm not sure how familiar they are with CMOS. And when I started when I was in marketing, there were no CMOS. It's I mean, that does take me a bit, I realized that but I do think it's something it's it's a position that is fairly new in the grand scheme of things.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 4:35
Susan Tatum 4:36
So what is a CMO?
Jennifer Lynn Zick 4:37
Yes, well, I'll describe both of them, the fractional executive and a CMO. So a CMO is a chief marketing officer. They're the head of brand strategy and all marketing execution as it relates to business growth. So a CMO is a member of the executive leadership team. They fill the seat of responsibility and accountability for all things marketing, but also brand experience and brand experience is more of a horizontal play, not just a downward marketing execution. It's, it's the way your brand is communicated to the world. It's the promise you make to the world and how the world experiences your delivery of That promise and whether then your customers and stakeholders trust you. So a CMO really has responsibility for brand value creation, and marketing execution and the teams that drive all of the campaigns and the channels and the tactics.
Susan Tatum 5:29
So does. So there's the brand value, and then there's lead generation. I mean, that falls under that umbrella as well. Right?
Jennifer Lynn Zick 5:36
It does. Well, the world and ecosystem of marketing is constantly shifting, and the relevance and importance of that role is increasing. So that's a beautiful thing for me as a marketer. But demand gen is a category that kind of sits at the intersection between marketing and sales, right. And in some cases, the people on the demand generation team, sometimes there's roles in marketing for the campaign level, and sometimes there's roles in sales in terms of business development and qualification of that demand. So those roles are a little bit. They can go either way, depending on how the organization is structured. But yes, marketing has historically, like prior to prior to 1520 years ago, marketing's really singular role for business was creation of brand value, brand awareness and brand value. And today, marketing encompasses brand and demand, and value and experience, you know, cultivating experience across stakeholder groups that creates demand, as well as converts demand to acquisition, and then helps to retain and build relationships into true advocates for your brand.
Susan Tatum 6:45
Yeah, you know, you said something interesting earlier that I had not realized, and that is that you have a sales background, as well as a marketing background. And you don't see a lot of people like that I, I had, I had a career changing experience with being the head of not the head of the Head of Marketing Communications used to be called working for the Vice President of Sales and working inside the the sales organization. And it became so obvious to me at that point that the things that we were doing in marketing, there's so much more that we could do to help sales.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 7:20
Yes. And there's so much that marketing can do to to create opportunities for sales to support the whole sales and customer retention cycle and across the business to support the culture and being one topic and you and I could take so many trails today's I'll try to come back and answer the fractional question about that too. But more businesses today than ever, our understanding the importance of marketing in supporting the employment brand, and the employee experience and talent attraction, as well as buyer attraction, it all has to knit together under one truly authentic brand umbrella. You only have one brand, but it's experienced uniquely based on who the stakeholder in the relationship to the brand is whether it's a prospective customer, a current customer, an investor, an employee, a prospective employee, your brand has a lot of different stories that needs to tell. And the bigger and more complex your business, the more nuance goes into making sure that all of those stories add up to the same authentic brand.
Susan Tatum 8:24
So that kind of that sort of brings in what I would call corporate communications with the investors and that kind of thing. And then the HR function with the employees,
Jennifer Lynn Zick 8:35
Susan Tatum 8:36
and now you see it being housed under the marketing, the CMO,
Jennifer Lynn Zick 8:40
all of those tie into the role of a CMO. And yup they all tie up to the role of a CMO, which is why it's become mission critical for marketing no longer to live under sales. And in fact, our model is a bit of a disruption to an outdated narrative. And I'll speak about that. But let me back up a little bit and answer about the fractional ownership later. Because I didn't know that term either. After 20 years in business working inside and with small to large enterprise, I had never heard that phrase, until I started authentic brand with this idea. I didn't have words for the idea. And I met my first couple of network connections who were fractional CFOs. And I learned that that was a thing that's existed for quite some time. And fractional simply means a part time person working with accountability for a role, right? So a fractional CFO and a chief financial officer will often have a book of five to 10 clients and they work part time across all those clients to oversee and bring strategy to the finance side of a growth organization underneath them they their client might have an internal full time controller or bookkeeper, but that fractional CFO provides more strategic oversight right on M&A activity or merger, mergers or financing or whatever it might be. So I felt like I invented fractional CMO. And then I ended up discovering that there were some fractional CMO providers in the market already, which actually helped to justify the idea that I had. But fractional CMO is a part time chief marketing officer, that in an authentic brands case, we focus on serving the emerging growth business. So for us, that is a 5 million to $100 million in revenue, that's our sweet spot. We don't usually work with pure startups, because very early stage businesses are, are and should be mostly sales focused, they should be mostly worried about, not worried but focused on making sure they're bringing something of value to the market, and that it has repeatable value, that they have something they can sell more than once more than twice, it has a, it has a marketplace. That's when you start layering in marketing, and then elevating to strategic marketing. So the work we do as fractional CMOS is after the company has some good track record, we amplify on that.
Susan Tatum 10:54
So you know, my experience has been similar to what you were just saying with my experience with newer companies is that they, they start and it often the first customers are part of their personal networks, right? And it's when they hit the point that they can't the salespeople, the sales team, the owner of the company, whoever can't bring in enough opportunities by themselves. And then then they start thinking about marketing.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 11:20
Yeah, that's one trigger. The other thing that happens is that the beautiful thing about an early stage startup founder, founder led sales driven business, is that there's a lot of room to maneuver and find their path forward. But in doing that through like the founders network, or whoever gets referred to them, small businesses, early stage businesses are often at risk of saying yes to any revenue, rather than purposefully pursuing healthy revenue and healthy opportunities. And so a lot of businesses manage despite themselves to get to their first three, five, $10 million, by selling anything that people want from them because they can do the work. And they start to realize that it's making the business unhealthy, everybody's going crazy. Nobody knows where to focus. And they, they don't, they don't have any differentiation in the market. Nobody knows what they actually do. And so that's another catalyst for where we enter the scene is to help a company really assess the sandbox they're playing in and their raw materials and say, have everything that we could be and decide, what's our path that we're going to decide to grow up on, and then point the resources in that direction. And that's a hard pivot for a lot of small businesses to make. And I've shared with you my baseball analogy, this is where
Susan Tatum 12:34
yes, and I think we should share that now.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 12:36
Yeah, it's I segwayed right into that question that you have for me, but I share this because it's it's kind of comical and funny, but it actually makes a lot of sense. And business owners and salespeople get it. Because there's a lot of fear. When a true senior strategic marketer steps into a small growing business, and starts to talk about focus and narrowing our focus, founders and revenue leaders, salespeople tend to get nervous because they think that marketing is saying, we have to say no to revenue, and that's scary. But really, I like to give them this visual image of a baseball team to think of their company like a baseball team. And in that way, if you think of your delivery organization, as the outfield and delivery might be product delivery or service delivery, whatever that is, there's a chance that there's a very good chance that there are a lot of things your business could do. There are a lot of things you could solve things you could sell. That's true. And so your delivery organization has a pretty wide berth side to side, if you think of your infield as your sales team, their focus is going to be a little bit more narrow than your delivery. A lot of salespeople come in to growth companies and they have a black book of connections or they have a couple industries of of where they can gain some traction, and that's where their focus, but it's still they still can maneuver quite a bit side to side, they kind of know what a good deal for focus can be. But they can still you know, take a deal in a different direction and massage it and that's what sales should do. But if you think of your marketing team and your marketing leader as the pitcher on the team, their role is to focus on a very tiny strike zone and and to take all the resources for how you go to market what you pursue on purpose and point them in as singular a direction as possible. You've probably heard the phrase said there are riches in the niches right like the tighter you get your go to market focus, the more likely at hitting that ideal customer strike zone, the more likely your business will attract healthy, high producing happy revenue for your business, and that will fuel your growth. So that's where I also like to say, so don't, don't hear me say that you can only do business with what's in the strike zone. But you should put all your marketing efforts and energy in that direction, you should purposely pursue healthy, specific kinds of business. But then give yourself some latitude to, you know, shape the sale, or if you win a really great client, you can diversify your delivery once you're inside of that account and start offering other solutions.
Susan Tatum 15:05
So you know, that's such a good point, Jennifer, because you because I know all, almost all the clients that I work with have a really hard time narrowing their focus, even if it's, even if it's for an outbound sales thing, they still get a little bit crazy about it, no one's saying you can't take opportunities that come along.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 15:24
Susan Tatum 15:35
It's just that by focusing Well, from my perspective, focusing really allows you to cut through the noise that's out there and speak to a specific audience.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 15:33
Absolutely. And I had just experienced a powerful case study in this last week. And it happened last year, a very similar story. One of our CMOS is working on an account. And I can't give any particulars about this. But we've been working with this client for quite some time. And one of the first things that we did in that relationship was help advise them on their focus, because they were a great company full of great people with great capabilities as a service provider, doing everything the world asked them to do. And so every one of their clients solutions was truly unique and not very scalable. And so the first thing we did was help them tighten their message and tighten their go to market focus. We didn't ask them to fire any clients or turned down that work, but like, Get focused on your go to market. Well, that CEO called me up last week to let me know that they're being acquired and he attributes he is able to say, when we finally did decide to focus and started going to market with focus was the first time my phone started ringing with multiple, you know, companies who wanted to acquire us and he now he's getting a much higher multiple in the sale of his business than he ever thought imaginable. And he's like, I can't believe it. Like, we did what you asked us to do, and you know, we're, we're getting really high return on that.
Susan Tatum 16:43
I'm going to use that story.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 16:45
Yeah, I am too, over and over.
Susan Tatum 16:47
Well, so, um, let's talk about your framework that you have for driving through you call it true strategic marketing, right?
Jennifer Lynn Zick 16:56
Susan Tatum 16:57
Jennifer Lynn Zick 16:58
authentic growth methodology is the framework we've created? Yes, so Well, in the story of authentic brand, there really are three things that make our approach to fractional CMO work unique. And we those three things are marketers, methodology, and mindshare. So all of our marketers are true executives who have successfully you know, great track records of building teams and programs and results. But our methodology is a framework we've developed to help not only really quickly onboard ourselves into a business and extract the, you know, understanding of that business very quickly through a robust discovery process on the front end, that includes assessments, and audits and interviews, and a review of artifacts, all that good stuff, robust, on ramp, but it's a program that our CMOS all implement for our clients, that creates a cadence of meetings, it creates a series of workshops that help companies to create clarity and accountability and to prioritize what must get done on the marketing side of the house in order to reach the business objectives. So it's our way of guiding our clients through to demystify the role of marketing for them, align all the stakeholders in the business, manage expectations on what's realistic with the budget and the resources available, but also to ensure that we're doing marketing, truly, from the foundational level instead of the tactical level. So that methodology helps us ensure that our clients have answered the most critical things first, which is what is their purpose for existence? What are the goals the business is targeting? What are the major initiatives happening across the business that move those goals forward? And then who are their the baseball analogy? Who are their ideal buyers? And how, what is the brand experience we want to cultivate with those buyers through what kind of messaging and what kind of analytics and KPIs are going to help us know if we're moving the needle so when we have all that foundation in place, then we can begin to navigate the right tactical mix through the channels to activate marketing.
Susan Tatum 19:00
And that is so important because and you refer to it as random acts of marketing. If you're if you're focused on the tactics, you're not ever seeing the big picture and you're moving from one thing to another just trying it out and You know, even if you succeed, you don't know why.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 19:17
yes, you think about this is another analogy, I use a lot of these kind of little analogies because marketing can feel so you know, fuzzy and ethereal to so many business leaders. So I tried to bring it down to practical, but marketing, when it's working well is operating both like a checkbook, and like a long term investment portfolio. But too many companies run marketing, just like a checkbook, they're getting checked to check their their spending, they're going to the mall and bringing things home and using them for a little while and then donate it back out. And they're never getting value, right, you can earn a living and spend it check to check to check to check and never build value and wonder at the end of the day, what did you do with all that, or you can use your checking account thoughtfully, but also put money away into an investment account and long term savings. And that can be growing value value value, so years down the road, you know what you've done with it. And that's the role of a CMO is to balance the long term investment strategy of your brand. And the value you're creating in the business with the short term spend and campaign activations that are going to bring in the activity and engagement that you need day to day to day to sustain.
Susan Tatum 20:23
So when does a company hit the point where they're ready, or they need and they are ready for a CMO.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 20:30
For us, we've identified that point is roughly 5 million in revenue. But there's a couple other things that have to be in place to make it make sense. So for instance, they should have a leadership team. So there are some kinds of companies and business models where literally, it could just be a founder with an engine of stuff happening behind them. But they don't have an actual leadership team yet, like, unless there's a leadership team of people who are collaborating to grow and scale a business, there's no point bringing on a CMO, they do need to have a six figure budget for the CMO, even on a fractional basis. And I can share more about that but and they need a six to seven figure marketing activation budget at a program budget that's going to support the doing of the marketing work or the hiring of internal staff that are needed to build and scale. I talked about making sure you've equipped your CMO with clay to work with you wouldn't hire an artist and not give them tools to do the work you you have to have some material investment to really justify bringing in a senior leader.
Susan Tatum 21:29
That's a good analogy. So I think I saw somewhere where you were talking about it's you don't have a fractional CMO, necessarily to save money.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 21:39
Yes, yeah. And that's a little bit counter intuitive and a little bit against the grain of how most people think about fractional services. Because in the fractional CFO analogy I gave you, you are saving money, you're literally getting a little bit of CFO advisory without hiring a full time CFO. And you certainly can save money by hiring a fractional CMO. Because it a fractional CMO won't cost as much as a full time chief marketing officer with a bonus program with benefits with all those incentives. But the real value is not just in the cost savings, the real value of a fractional CMO is in mitigating risk, and speeding up impact. And we do that really well. At Authentic Brand, we help teams mitigate risk because small businesses, they most of the businesses we work with have never had a head of marketing. They don't know whether to hire someone who has PR experience, communications background, digital marketing background, some combination that only a unicorn has, they don't know how to define the roll, how to hire the roll. And that puts them at great risk of hiring the wrong person and trusting that brand value to the wrong leader or hiring a great person that they don't know how to equip and enable and losing that great person. So we remove that risk for them.
Susan Tatum 22:54
So one question that I did want to ask you this a little bit off the topic of a fractional CMO. But I think it's an important question and that is how long does it take to create demand if somebody is coming in and they're sort of so they the company's been doing this and that and this and that, you know, they've been running around and trying all these different tactics and they want they want somebody that they think they're gonna hire somebody and 90 days later, the leads are gonna be flowing.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 23:20
Yes, you just said what you just said is a red flag for us. That's usually a disqualifier for us or it's an opportunity to educate and reset expectations. So first of all, how long does it take to create demand big fat? It depends. I'll break it down a little bit longer than you think with a lot more investment than you think. But in the scheme of things Authentic Brands works with B2C companies that do direct e-commerce, you know more transactional sales and we work with very complex, highly technical B2B companies that sell to large stakeholder groups, even through complicated partnerships and other things. So we see the gamut. But here's what's true about creating demand across the board. It requires a lot of investment in really high quality content. So if you're a b2c company selling a product, you will have already needed to put really thoughtful design into the product, the brand experience the you know, how the brand is presented through, you know, the way you tee it up, right, so, and in the b2b world, you've got to be able to back up your brand with Thought Leadership that demonstrates the wisdom that your brand has. And so creating demand, the rule of thumb that I give clients is 18 to 24 months, like if you're literally starting from when we when we started chatting, you said one of the triggers for bringing in a marketing leader is that the owner has like fully juice their network, right? Sales Reps like they've gone as far as they can go through their direct networks. Well, that's not creating demand that you've just leveraged trust, you probably built over decades to leverage that network in the first place. How long did it take you to establish the Trust for those relationships, it takes time, right. So now you want marketing is not going to come in with a cape, save the day flip a switch and quality leads come in, if you have not started creating demand by first creating quality content, thought leadership, doing the heavy lift takes time. And I knew that when I started Authentic Brand, I calculated that it would take two years of producing high quality content that the market would trust. Before we would ever see any organic website traffic convert into a lead. And I was it was exactly on on point two years. And now half of our qualified opportunities come from leads through organic traffic to our site based on the investment of time to develop that infrastructure.
Susan Tatum 25:44
And it took you two years to do it. How long ago did you start doing it?
Jennifer Lynn Zick 25:47
Five years ago when I started the business at my kitchen table. So we just turned five, I started blogging, I started writing, I started hosting events, coordinating panel events, I started creating content, because I knew I needed to build a footprint. I didn't even have all the language yet, because fractional CMO, that space didn't exist, even when I found the words for it. Nobody was searching Google for fractional CMO, which meant we had to create content using words they were searching for, like marketing strategy, or brand and messaging and digital and and then we had to build the fractional CMO marketplace around all of those ideas, right? Hiring market leadership. So boy, it's especially a heavy lift, if you are a disruptive solution, if you're creating a category, expect that it's going to take extra time to to provide the kind of content that can the market can understand before they even look, you know, are looking for it.
Susan Tatum 26:44
Because you have to educate,
Jennifer Lynn Zick 26:45
right you have to educate the educational component is a big big lift. But if you're if you're competing in a well known space where the markets educated, then you just you simply have to not simply nothing is simple, but then the focus is differentiation, because you're among a lot of competitors. Right? So then you have to be careful not to be a commodity. You have to
Susan Tatum 27:02
Yeah, that's that is a very good point for sure. If somebody was starting out today, and let's, let's say it's professional services, just to sort of narrow the category. Because I talked to people that have this idea that they can just publish, they're just going to go and own the content, you know, they're going to publish this content, we're going to do a blog, they're going to be on LinkedIn, they're gonna you know, whatever. And the demand is just going to come pouring
Jennifer Lynn Zick 27:28
in your dreams.
Susan Tatum 27:29
Right, exactly. Yeah. So what what would you say to someone like that?
Jennifer Lynn Zick 27:32
Oh, well, there are so many facets that go into being being and becoming a business that other business people want to work with. So I'm going to use the Pro Services example because we are a pro services firm and that's one of the most established categories we serve as well professional services. Content Creation is important and you touched on something there that I think is that a lot of businesses overlook a lot of small businesses think of marketing only as advertising or sponsorships and trade shows so they only are invested in paid media advertising they're they're giving other people dollars for the privilege of being part of their platform and associated with their brand right their event their magazine, their whatever many companies overlook in the early stages, earned and owned media, right. So owned media is what you're talking about, like a blog or an event that we produce that is ours that brings people to our platform and engages them in our experience. And earned is any any chance any opportunity you get to be invited to be affiliated with someone else's brand, but you're not paying for it, that could be PR, it could be a guest speaker at someone's event, it could be a guest blogger, all those opportunities that you have to pull your brand alongside someone else's brand and with their credibility, right. So those are kind of the three primary categories that we think about cultivating marketing. And it takes having the right blend of all of those things. And so to pro services companies, I would say, Look heavily at owned and earned media way before you look at paid media, professional services is by nature, one of the most difficult things to sell because you're selling hot air for value, high value. And your Yep. and professional services. companies tend to have a really hard time naming what they do. I can't tell you how many times I've consulted with services businesses that want to describe I'm like, What do you sell? Well, we elevate the experience with Catalyst leverageable, right. Like they've got all these words, but they like what do you put on your invoices? What do people buy from you? Right? But I, I diverge would you bring it back.
Susan Tatum 29:39
But I'm glad you did. Because it is really an important point.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 29:42
Nobody knows or understands what you do you need that first
Susan Tatum 29:47
what are you
Jennifer Lynn Zick 29:47
yeah what are you, but Pro Services is a high trust sale, Pro Services people choose to work with you because they know you and they trust you. That has to be the case. Most pro services aren't transactional. And so I talk with a lot of services firms who don't believe they should even do any marketing, because they're like, nobody's ever going to Google us and choose us from the web. Okay, well, that's true. But let's unpack that a little bit. When when an accountant advises their client to call your firm for services, they are going to check your website out first, or even after talking with you, they're going to use that as a tool for validation, it has to be there. And it has to support more than just a basic online brochure, it needs to demonstrate that you that you know how to tell your story, and that they see themselves in your story, when they encounter it, just they would trust you when they talk with you. Right. As a Pro Services Company myself, what I know to be true is I can create a lot of owned content. But authentic brand is a five year old company. And I can't do all the heavy lifting of getting people to trust this company. That's a relatively new business. I need other people in my corner as advocates helping extend that trust and carry that trust to market. And so I purposefully cultivate a lot of earned opportunities, and earned relationships. And I try to think of the ecosystem of potential referrals around me as a channel marketing strategy. I'm not just looking to attract buyers to my business, I'm trying to cultivate trust with the people who already have the trust of my potential buyers, so that they want to refer them to me. So my little Rolodex never runs dry, because I have 20 Other companies who are tapping theirs on my behalf. So that's a really critical growth strategy for professional services.
Susan Tatum 31:36
It's it's partners, yeah, you'd have partners in there. And I think that I think you talked about trust. And I think a lot of professional services, especially when they're new, they don't they they're, they're, they're not taking that seriously enough. And they're not thinking about the risk that the buyer is taking, when they choose to do business with a professional services firm. And we it's not like you can just go out and, and even go out and buy another car, if yours breaks down it. This could mean the end of somebody's business, or I don't know, it just gets worse from there. But
Jennifer Lynn Zick 32:10
it's a risk, you know, when a company is small and on like when I first started authentic brand, it had to rely on Jennifer Zick's reputation, right because I was the founder and thankfully that reputation earned me the right to start building a reputation for the business authentic brand and attach that reputation to all of our team who deliver on who we are and and what we value. But those first generation customers that trust trusted us, I value them deeply and greatly and I'm so grateful that they were willing to let me use their their success with us as a story to support and extend that trust to next level buyers because I was very bullish about asking for testimonials asking for use of logo asking for video stories that we created out of that first and second generation pool of clients because why else would my third and fourth generation clients who have never known Jennifer Zick trust me.
Susan Tatum 33:07
Good point as you grow? Yeah, you get further further away from kind of Yeah, yeah. Well, you know what? I could talk to you for like four more hours.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 33:16
Oh, you and I shouldn't meet for drinks.
Susan Tatum 33:20
We should do that for sure. We do have to wrap it up here though, for people that want to follow up with you. What's the best way to get in touch with you?
Jennifer Lynn Zick 33:26
I'm really accessible on LinkedIn, Jennifer Zick. I'll pop right up and I would love to hear from you. And anyone who wants to learn more about authentic brand can visit our website, which is at authentic brand, all one word, no punctuation. It's not plural. It's just authenticbrand.com
Susan Tatum 33:46
All right, awesome. Thank you so much for being here.
Jennifer Lynn Zick 33:46
Thank you so much for having me. It's been fun.