Quit Pointing Fingers: It’s About Brand and Demand Balance, with Palmer Houchins, G2


“Do more with less” is this year’s most-hated phrase for marketers. This thought process often directly impacts budgets responsible for a company’s reputation. On this episode of SaaS Half Full, Host Lindsey Groepper talks with Palmer Houchins, Head of Marketing at G2, about the lopsided finger-pointing that often happens between demand and brand teams, especially in a recession when short-term ROI is king.

Grab a drink and join the discussion as Palmer dives into what CMOs often get wrong about their brand spend, how to intertwine brand and demand to create balance, and why a founder brand works for some organizations, maybe not others.

Strike the right brand-demand balance

As humans, we want to categorize things. Maybe that explains why brand and demand colleagues — who, by the way, are working toward the same organizational goals — often find themselves at odds, according to Palmer.

In reality, demand cannot exist without brand, and vice versa. For example, say an organization identifies that paid search is performing well. In response, they increase their demand budget at the expense of brand. Their pipeline triples by the second month. But by the fourth month, their pipeline peters out entirely, and they’ve lost brand recognition and momentum — AKA, they’re back to the drawing board for both brand and demand.

Palmer said he’s been in a situation like this more than once, and it’s convinced him that balance is beautiful.

“It’s not about brand or demand. It’s about creating that symmetry. And it looks different for every company,” said Palmer. “I think if you approach it from [the perspective], ‘oh, well, demand is where our pipeline’s down,’ or ‘we’ve gotta get more leads to our sales team, [so] we’re just gonna invest there…’ That may be a short-term strategy, but long term, it’s going to put everyone behind the eight ball.”

But how do we measure brand?

The age-old question is receiving more mileage recently as executives turn to metrics to understand their organizational spending. Unfortunately, brand is trickier to quantify than some other business functions — however, it’s not impossible if you get creative.

Palmer has developed two methods to track brand initiatives and brand-marketing balance.

  • Nimble surveys or awareness testing: Palmer suggests using relatively inexpensive testing methods to track brand awareness over time. Theoretically, awareness should constantly be increasing.
  • Brand perception studies: Quick questionnaires placed in channels your audience already uses — like Google, Youtube or Facebook — can help gauge how your brand is performing relative to a competitor’s.

Although they’re “no silver bullet,” Palmer said these initiatives have helped him and his team create an action plan when brand awareness lags behind demand.

“It’s less about finding that one framework that’s gonna work everywhere and more about being… nimble and taking a temperature in a bunch of different places and trying to add that up to a recipe that works,” said Palmer.

Founder brand doesn’t  — and shouldn’t — always look the same

Just like there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to measuring brand, there’s no “correct” path for establishing a founder brand. For some founders, it works; for others, it doesn’t. Palmer advised marketing professionals to follow their founder’s lead here.

“I’ve seen some founders who just say, ‘you know what, this is not me. I’m more of a technical founder. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person. I don’t want to do that,’” said Palmer. “But I think when it’s done right, it can be really effective. Frankly, I think when it’s done right, it’s less about the founder and more about the brand, if that makes sense.”

As an example, Palmer discussed his time in Marketing at MailChimp. MailChimp co-founder and then-CEO Ben Chestnut didn’t love public speaking, but he was a fantastic writer. So, he provided near-daily customer updates that became “evangelism of its own.”

Listen to Episode 346 of SaaS Half Full for more of Palmer’s insights.

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