Episode 457

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CMOs have a lot on their plates, and similar to agency owners, their role can be lonely in the C-Suite. Because of this, CMOs rely heavily on agency partnerships to keep them in the know.

To help us understand the crucial role of agency-CMO relationships, Liza Adams is giving us an inside look at what it’s really like to be a CMO—what they value in strategic partnerships, what they need from agencies the most, and why agencies are an integral part of doing their job well.

This episode is packed with candid, practical advice from Liza for agencies to nail it in their client-agency relationships. When you boil it all down, if your CMO is happy, your agency will be happy. And that alone will carry you far in your business journey.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

agency-CMO relationship

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • What agencies don’t understand about the CMO role
  • Getting out of the competition mindset against other agencies
  • What a CMO wants from an agency-CMO relationship
  • The difference between an agency that gets recommended by a CMO and ones who don’t
  • How AI is changing the world from a CMO’s perspective
  • Should agencies be trying to experiment with AI for clients?
  • How AI will change the CMO role in the future
  • How agencies can help CMOs do their jobs better

“I think about agencies as part of my team. It's about bringing people, agencies, and groups with complimentary superpowers together.” - Liza Adams Share on X
“I tend to go with agencies that believe in the ecosystem and can work with not just my team but also with other agencies.” - Liza Adams Share on X
“It's about being authentic and being authentically you. We know that no one can be best in the world in everything.” - Liza Adams Share on X
“AI doesn't fix what's broken. It amplifies what's there.” - Liza Adams Share on X
“I believe that the market will reward companies that can harness the full value of AI while maintaining authentically human values.” - Liza Adams Share on X

Ways to contact Liza:


Hey, everybody. Drew here. You know, we are always looking for more ways to be helpful and meet you wherever you’re at to help you grow your agency. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve produced this podcast for so long, and I’m super grateful that you listen as often as you do. However, there are some topics that are better suited for quick hyper-focused answers in under 10 minutes. That’s where our YouTube channel really comes in. For quick doses of inspiration, best practices, tips and tricks, head over to youtube.com/the at sign Agency Management institute. Again, that’s youtube.com/the at sign or symbol.

And then Agency Management Institute, all one word. Subscribe and search the existing video database for all sorts of actionable topics that you can implement in your shop today. Alright, let’s get to the show.

It doesn’t matter what kind of agency you run, traditional digital media buying, web dev, PRR brand, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build, a Better Agency Podcast, presented by a White Label IQ, will expose you to the best practices that drive growth, client and employee retention and profitability, bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant. Please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here with, yep, you guessed it. Another episode of Build a Better Agency. We are rounding the bend and getting closer to 500, which is exciting. But every episode is exciting and fascinating, and this one is honestly one of my most recent favorites. This is such a great conversation that I am so excited to have. ’cause I think it’s so important. We’re gonna be talking about life from the perspective of the CMO and how they view agencies, and how we as agencies can best partner and support CMOs, whether they’re our clients or our prospects, or just people in our world. So I’m, I’m super excited to have this conversation, and I think there are gonna be a lot of takeaways.

Speaking of the c-suite, I wanted to make sure you knew that we have two virtual peer groups aimed at members of your c-suite. So the first one is the Chief Operating Officers, or the COO Director of Operations. That level of people, that virtual peer group meets every month for about 90 minutes. It is led by a sitting COO agency owner inside the A MI ecosystem, known her for years. She’s brilliant. And what happens is, in those groups, we have two groups. One for agencies under 20 and one for agencies, over 20 people, and they talk about the challenges and the opportunities and how they can help their agency and their agency owner grow a stronger, more stable agency.

That group has existed since late fall of last year, and they really are finding great solidarity and learning from each other. So if you have interest in that, head over to Agency Management Institute. And under the membership tab, you’ll see the COO Virtual Peer Group. The other virtual peer group we have, we are just kicking off, and that’s for what we’re calling Agency Money people. So that might be a CFO, it might be an accountant or an accounting manager, bookkeeper, anybody who’s sort of helping the agency owner manage the finances of the agency. Now, this needs to be an employee, not an outsourced resource, but this is led by longtime CFO and agency owner.

Again, been in the A MI ecosystem for probably 20 years. Brilliant, brilliant. CFO really understands how important the money people are to helping an agency run well. So it goes so far beyond just keeping the books. It’s really about forecasting and cashflow management and billing, and all kinds of different aspects of sort of the legalities and the money side of the business. So that group actually meets for a half day every quarter. And again, if you’re interested in that, head over to agency management institute.com under the membership tab, you’ll see money people, virtual peer group, and you can learn more about there.

So we are trying to help you shore up and strengthen the key people in your organization who help you run the business every day better, smarter, more profitably. And these two peer groups are really knocking it outta the park. So I think if you have great team members in those roles and you wanna keep them and you wanna help them keep growing and learning these peer groups might be a great way to do that. So, all right, so let me tell you a little bit about our guests. So, Lisa Adams has played many CMO roles in her world in her career, and I’ll ask her to tell you a little bit more about that. But she has worked with many agencies and, and she has a really interesting perspective on the role and relationship between an agency and A CMO, and also how the CMOs view agencies and sort of building out their internal team with agency support.

And so when I met her, I just knew that she could give us a view that we don’t often get sort of, sort of from that CMO lens. So getting to sort of step on the other side of the equation and really hear and learn more and feel what’s going on inside the CMOs head and heart, and how we can connect with them, better, support them, better, be a better partner, and also have the kind of relationship that benefits us as agency owners and leaders. So, without further ado, let’s welcome Lisa to the show. Lisa, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Hi, drew. So excited to be here.

Tell everybody a little bit about your background because it’s, you’ve had a unique career path that I think is gonna be really helpful in our conversation today.

Yeah. So, so Drew, I have, I do have a unique background. I started out as an electrical engineer, not a marketer. Right, right. And, and love technology, love math, and realized that when I started out as a sales engineer, that I could tell stories and I could translate these highly technical things into things that people understand better. Yeah. So that was my foray into marketing, and I have not looked back since. And I’ve spent 20 plus years in B2B tech marketing. I’m based here in Denver, but half of my career has been spent in the Valley with some of the fastest growing and largest companies. And most recently I was head of marketing for an E-R-P-C-R-M and e-commerce company for the beverage alcohol supply chain.

So that’s kind of like my, my background in, in B2B Tech and in marketing.

So what do you think the thread is? If you look at your career, what is the thread that has woven all through your career?

Yes. When I think about the thread, it makes me feel really old.

Okay. The very short thread of your career,

Because I have, I feel like I’ve gone through every single major inflection point in the market from internet, cloud, mobile, social SaaS, and then now ai. You know, on the AI front, it was, you know, 10, 12 years ago, it was machine learning and predict predictive analytics, and then now generative ai. And that is the common thread, right? It, it’s this ability to change, adapt, you know, think big, start small, move fast, and, and be super empathetic in the journey that people have to go through. We have to meet them where they are and then bring them along towards a vision.

So that has been the common thread. It’s, I love innovation, I love the change, but mostly I, I love driving that change with people, you know? Yeah. ’cause change management is hard. And, and I think there’s a huge element of this that’s more people oriented than technology oriented.

For sure. For sure. So you spend a lot of your time on the other side of the desk from agencies as a CMO. Yes. So, I’m, I’m curious about what do you think agencies don’t understand about the role of CMO and how they view and interact with agencies and agency partners?

Yeah, so, you know, this is so critical in the role of A CMO and as a CMO, I always think about building teams like the Justice League. So, if you or your listeners are big fans of superheroes, the Justice League has, you know,

Everybody’s, everybody’s big fans of superheroes, right? Yes. Right? Yeah. From the time we, from the time we, we tied the towel around our neck as a kid, to now I think we’re big fans. Yeah,

That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. And, and I, I’ve taken that to heart, you know, and how I build teams and I think about agencies as part of my team, right? And, and it’s about building the Justice League, and it’s, you know, bringing together people, agencies, groups with complimentary superpowers, right? And, and doing that in a way where everybody works together towards the same mission. Whether the mission is growing, the revenue, penetrating a new market space, getting the best ROI, ensuring sustain profitability. Everybody works towards the same thing, right? Yeah. And I think when I build those teams, you know, the agencies may not see all of the different team players, you know?

Yeah. They’re, they’re wondering, Hey, why, why are you asking for those types of things? Why are you choosing this type of agency? Why do you want us to do those things? Why are you looking for that expertise? It’s because I am building the Justice League. Right? Yeah. And I think the other thing that the agency needs to think about is the bigger picture. Oftentimes, an agency might see a very small piece of what’s happening. I at least try to do my best to give them the bigger picture. Not all CMOs do that. And I think an agency to deeply understand the, the source of the ask, the source of the question, why do you want us to do, to do that in man gen?

Who are you exactly targeting, and why are we targeting those people? Yeah. I love agencies that ask a lot of why questions, because when you get deep into the understanding of the source, then you may not just be taking orders, orders. I love agencies that go, oh, Lisa, I know that you asked us to do that, but because your why is this, I would love to recommend something else

Be or something in addition, or, yeah.

Yes. And I think there are some agencies that fall into the tactical execution, and there’s a place for that. Right,

Right, right.

In a world where so many things are changing, even the CMOs purpose and our why is changing our customer’s purpose, their why, and their behaviors are changing, I would love agencies to like, step up, you know, help me out. Help me think about this more strategically, differently than I’ve ever thought about it before.

So from your perspective, is it appropriate for us to ask about the Justice League that the client is trying to build? Like, I get that I am, you know, the Aquaman of the team, but who, what, who else is on the team and what is their job? And you know, I I, we do a lot of research. Every year we do something called the Agency Edge, where we talk to CMOs about some aspect of their relationship with agencies. And one of the things that we know and we’ve seen over the last decade is very few CMOs only work with one agency anymore. Most of them have multiple partners. To your point of building their own Justice league, is it appropriate for us to ask about the Justice League and how we can help support the greater good of being a good team member?

I don’t think we think about it that way. We think about them as competition, as opposed to we’re actually part of the CMOs same team. How do I be a better team player?

Oh my gosh. I know your listeners can’t see me, but I’m doing the Amen. You know, preach Jew, I know you phrased that as a question, but preach, this is one of the key things that I do in my CMO roles. I bring in all of my agencies, including my team, the leaders of my team, and we do a half day to a full day session. I introduce everyone to each other. Yeah. I, I share with them their expertise, what they’re doing. And in fact, we have a number of meetings where multiple agencies are in there, they know their superpowers, right? So everybody understands the, the Justice League of, of Lisa’s team, the Justice League, and our mission.

And I also don’t believe that any one agency could be best in the world in everything. Right.

In fact, pretty hard today. Very

Hard. Right. In fact, what I evaluate agencies, I say, you know, tell me, what are you best in the world in,


Right? If you had unlimited opportunities and you had to turn away certain opportunities, which types of opportunities would you keep? Because you are so good at it, you can serve us the best, and it would be very difficult for any other agency to do what you do and add the, the value that you do.


And if they ramble on and tell me like three to five different things, I say bs.

Right? Right. So in other words, you don’t believe in a full service integrated marketing agency.

Well, there’s a place for that. Right. You know, if, if you’re like, Hey, you know, I, I only, I, I can only manage one, you know, but, but I tend to go with the, the best of breed. Right? Right, right. And I tend to go with agencies that believe in the Justice league. They believe in the ecosystem that can work with not just my team, but also with other agencies. We’re gonna be best friends because I’ve got your back and you’ve got my back.

Right. Yeah. Which isn’t, which isn’t always the way that happens, right? It’s, it’s, I I’m trying to steal the work from you. I’m trying to throw you under the bus. And from the CMOs perspective, talk about that for a minute. When your agencies behave that way, what does that do to your world?

Yeah. So I I, I have this beliefs drew that what you don’t say is indicative of what you tolerate.

Yeah. Right?

So if that is happening, then you’re tolerating that behavior. Right. And that’s not just among agencies, that’s also among my team members. Right. For sure. If I see somebody taking a lot of credit or not collaborating, and I let that behavior perpetuate, then you know what? The problem’s not the team, the problem’s me.

Right? That’s absolutely right.

But the problem is the leader, right? I, I put a lot of responsibility in myself when there’s a challenge in the team, and that team includes the agency, I can tell you, I don’t care if it’s the best agency in the world, lots of recommendations, awesome. You know, insights, awesome results. If they can’t work with my team and me and collaborate to accomplish the mission, they’re gonna be below the line. Yeah. Right? So trust is a huge part of building teams without the underlying trust, I think we are just on a hamster wheel.

This thing’s not gonna go mo move forward. Yeah. My my opinion,

So as you evaluate agencies, one of one of the questions that we often get asked is, what role is the agency owner supposed to take in a relationship with the CMO? How, how, ideally as, as you were building your justice leagues across all of your different roles as CMO, where did you want the owner to show up?

Are you talking about the owner of the agency or the account manager? Or is that the same person, or, yeah,

So no, I mean, hopefully the agency owner isn’t the account person. Yes,

That’s right. Yeah. Unless they’re super, super small, right? Yeah.

Right, right, right.

I would love, you know, the owner sees so much more than what an account manager might see. Right. The owner in a lot of instance, also tends to be the thought leader, right. For the business.


They also tend to be the visionary for the business, not all the time. Right, right. Some owners very operational in nature, but the, the, a lot of the agencies that I work with, the owner has that vision that owner is thought leading in the market. Right. It, they’re pushing their teams, they’re pushing their clients. I want a very personal relationship with that owner. Right. I don’t want you to call me every day. Right. But I have a couple of agencies that I currently work with, like on occasion on my drive home, they’ll call me and say, Lisa, I saw this article and I have an idea for you. Oh, I have this client that’s doing this thing in one industry.

I think it will apply in your industry. If you’re interested in talking more about that, let’s schedule some time next week.


My god.

So you want them to be your thought partner. You want them to be thinking about you and the business and coming to you proactively with ideas and, and thoughts and questions.

Absolutely. And here’s the reason why, drew, it’s not because, like, I want a lot of attention, right? Yeah.


The, the CMO role is super hard,


We don’t have, you know, let’s be honest, if we look at the C-suite, it’s one of the harder functions to understand, you know, the, the rest of the c-suite doesn’t really quite understand the language. Some of them don’t deeply understand what marketing is all about, you know? Right. Some perceive marketing as tacticians, you know, focus on the tactics of marketing rather than the strategy of marketing, right? Yeah. The deep understanding of the customer segmentation, targeting, positioning category, making those kind of like Right. Are amis for many people. So it’s lonely is my point,


It’s, it’s very lonely. And there are not a lot of collaborators. That’s why you see a lot of CMOs join communities of CMOs, right? We’re on CMO coffee talk, right? We’re on pavilion, we’re on empowered CMO because there, we learn from our peers, we get to commiserate, we have rants. We, we, we feel secure in those environments. And my gosh, if I have an agency or a set of agencies that will treat me as a peer and give me some ideas, allow me to vent, right? Allow me to see, you know, what they’re struggling with and what they’re also experiencing.

Right? I, I, I think that kind of relationship just goes so far. It, it, it becomes less of an agency relationship. It becomes more of a peer like relationship, in my opinion.

Right. Right. Well, and and, and your point is, CMOs don’t have a lot of safe places inside their organization. And so if an agency owner can be a safe thinking partner in a safe place for that CMO to, to think blue ocean kind of ideas without being criticized for just suggesting something outlandish or out of the norm, or a place where you can vent or talk about a frustration or a challenge or problem solve on the fly cmo, what I’m hearing you say is CMOs don’t have a lot of other people to do that with.

No, we, we don’t. And I think, you know, it, it’s not, it’s this having someone or set of people that have knowledge beyond what I have. Right. You know? Yeah. You’ve seen other clients do this thing, you know, and they can connect and, and have the, have the guts to tell me I’m wrong. Right. You know, like my team, you know, probably won’t have some are afraid to say those things. Right. But I’m hoping an agency will, will be comfortable enough to tell me, Lisa, you are the pros, the cons, and here’s where I, what I believe the areas that, you know, you guys should be doing better.

’cause this is wrong, you know, for the following reasons. I love that.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, when you think about over the course of your career, I’m sure some agencies have made the move with you on occasion and other agencies have not. When you think about the agencies that have had, you know, in encore performances with you as you changed roles, you brought some of them with you when it was appropriate, what was true about those agencies as opposed to the ones that you didn’t give the encore opportunity to.

So this is actually a really good summary for the other questions that you’ve asked. And in fact, next Friday, I’m having a little happy hour at my house here with three agencies that I’ve brought with me in two to three different companies. Yeah. So you can see they have become my friends. Yes.

Right, right.

They, they are no longer just owners of agencies or marketing experts. They have become true friends and, and lifetime friends, in fact. Right? Yeah. So I, if I could think about three things. One is we have built this sense of trust, like for sure, truly trusting relationships. Secondly is they’re not best in the world in everything. I, I, I can tell ’em, oh, you, you’re not a good fit for that, but this other agency here, here is better fit. And, and you know why, right? You know why I’m not gonna bring you in for this? Oh yes, of course. You know, we’re, we’re best in the world in pr. We’re not best in the world in demand generation.

Great. Awesome. Great. We, we, we know that, right? If anything changes, let’s say you get acquired or you acquire somebody, or you bring in some level of expertise, let me know. But right now in my head, you are a PR agency, right? Right. Yes. Okay. Awesome. The third thing that, that is super critical to me is vision. Get ahead, get ahead of me. Right. Get ahead of my team, get ahead of what’s happening in the market, and don’t, don’t, I’m not interested in, you know, being Right. But have a vision for what’s possible. Yeah. Right. Because, you know, I’ve spoken with a lot of CMOs and I, I, and I believe this myself, you know, we don’t necessarily buy based on a product we buy based on a vision, right?

If a,

If a agency has a vision, right? And you’ve got awesome products today, then I could go, wow, this agency can take me from today to three years from now, and they’re going to show me the way I like that vision. If something in the market changes, they’re open to zig and zag, and that’s fine. So I think those three things, drew, are super critical in my mind.

Yeah. I love that. Such a great recipe for us of how, how to show up, you know, not not just in front of clients, but in front of prospects and on our website, all of those things. That’s, I think about it, it’s almost a maturation, right? So I think when you’re young and in your career as an agency owner or leader, you feel like you have to prove yourself. And so you have to be smart about everything and do all the things. And as you mature, I think this happens to us personally too. You get more clear about who you are and who you aren’t, and more comfortable being okay with exactly who you are and understanding the value you bring to our relationship, personal or professional as yourself.

And what you’re talking, what you’re talking about is that, is that they, that they are comfortable in their own agency skin and proud of what they can bring to the party, but understand they don’t have to bring the whole party.

That’s right. It’s, it’s about being authentic. Yeah. You know, authentically, you, you know, we know that no one can be best in the world and everything. And in fact, I loved it when an agency said, oh, that’s not for us, but we have a recommendation. We have a partner. Like, awesome. Right. You know, because now I know you have a partner, you have a trusted relationship with that partner. You guys can work together, and they’re best in the world in that. Now, it made it easier for me to build my justice league, right? That That’s right. ’cause you brought in somebody that’s already been working with you. So IIII just love that, that notion of lifting others and then we all rising tide lifts all boats.

Yeah. So I, I think that’s one of the benefits in our world of, of agencies belonging to a MI is that they get to, in an ecosystem built on trust and community, where you don’t screw the other person. You don’t poach each other’s business, but you can build relationships with other agencies that do different things than you do. And to your point, you can be part of the construction of the Justice League by saying, oh, you need a PR agency we work with so and so. We’ve worked with them for a decade. They’re awesome. Let me introduce you to the owner. And to your point, I can see from a CMOs perspective, now that you’re saying it, that that’s like, that’s like Nirvana’s, like they’re a vetted resource.

You already, you’re not gonna introduce me to them if they’re not good at what they do. And I know you like each other, so I don’t have to babysit you. I know you’re gonna work well together. That’s like a nirvana moment.

Yes. And it, it’s such a gift, drew, if I think about it, right? When someone opens up their network to you, my god.

Right? Right.

It better be good, right? Because your network is, is, you know, that’s gold, right? Yep. And if somebody opens it up, I’m like, wow. They, they, I mean something to them, right? Yeah. And, and, and they mean something to, to, well, ultimately it means something to me because that’s a trusted relationship. You don’t wanna break that. So I, I, I put a lot of value and have a lot more confidence in, in something like that.

Yeah, totally. So I wanna talk a little bit about, hey, how AI from a, a CMOs perspective is changing the world and what we need to know about sort of that juxtaposition of CMO and ai. But let’s first take a break and then we’ll come back and talk about how, from your perspective, that’s the game changer that we all know it is. But what do we need to understand as agencies from the CMOs perspective? So, fantastic. Let’s take a break and then we’ll come back to that. Hey everybody, thanks for listening today. Before I go back to the interview, I just wanna remind you that we are always offering some really amazing workshops. And you can see the whole [email protected], on the navigation head to how we help scroll down.

And you’ll see workshops, and you can see the whole list there with descriptions of each workshop. They are all in Denver, and we’ve got them throughout the year for agency owners, account execs, agency leaders, CFOs. We have a little something for everybody, no matter what it is that you’re struggling with, people, new business, money, all of those things we’ve got covered. So check ’em out and come join us. All right. Let’s get back to the show. All right. We are back with Lisa, and we are talking about from a CMOs perspective, how are agencies viewed? And right before the break, I said I wanted to kind of turn the lens a little bit. So AI is obviously shaking up the world, and I have to think that CMOs are feeling a lot of pressure to figure out an, in air quotes, ai.

So talk a little bit about how from the CMOs perspective, AI is changing their world, what we need to understand about that and how we can be helpful in that.

I love the word helpful, because we need a lot of help, right? Right. If you think about the CMO, we have to work, worry about board meetings, organizational change, customer behaviors, margins, everything. Right? And then now we layer AI on top of that, and it’s bigger than a bread box, right? This is potentially much, much bigger than the change that we’ve experienced from internet, cloud, mobile, social, right? And so on, right? It, it, it’s, you know, to many, it is deemed to change not just the way we work, but the way we live.

I mean, it is, it is our generation’s computer, right? I mean, when you think about going from not having a computer to everything we do because of a computer today, it’s that sort of world changing.

That’s right. That’s right. And, you know, CMOs are already Swiss army knives, right? Right. So we, we are strategists, we are tacticians, we’re storytellers, we’re, you know, we’re the man gen gurus. We’re, we’re all of these things. And then now we layer on top of that, it gets super hard.


And I think the role of the agency, when I think about my agencies, I think about, gosh, they’re pushing the boundaries. They’re learning things faster than I can because they can concentrate in their area of expertise,


They can, they can have a vision faster than I can in that area of expertise, because I don’t have, they don’t have to worry about all the things I worry about. So I think especially in the world of AI where things are moving quickly, that those agencies, they’re able to stay on top of it and be able to relate what’s happening today to what could potentially happen in the future, and how might we adapt change incrementally. Maybe that increment could happen fast, right? How might that happen? So agencies that are forward looking like that, and I think one of the big things that I’m looking for is, you know, we’re all about deeply understanding the customer, the end customer.

Yeah. Right?

That’s super hard. Especially as we went from growth at all costs to sustained profitability through those two are diametrically opposed, right? Growth of all costs. That’s like a land grab, you know, broad marketing go after more verticals, more personas, more use cases to the extent, you know, and, and, and we’d be okay with higher churn because we’re just doing a land grant, right? Right, right, right. And then now we said sustain profitability. Well, that means narrow the aperture, go deep, deeply understand the customers, and pick the ones that you know so well that you can serve the best so that you don’t get a lot of churn and you get high lifetime values and high profitability because you can serve them the best and the fastest.


And, and over and over again, right.

Over and over again. Right. And you build a relationship with them, you, they are loyal, they value you and all sorts of things, right? Yeah. My gosh, that’s a hard pivot. And an agency that can help us figure out how to choose and how to deeply understand those customers is super, super helpful. Right? And even if that’s not your world as an agency, let’s say you’re, you’re downstream, you know, after all those decisions are made, right? Let’s say you’re an ad agency or a demand gen agency or a PR agency, ask those questions, right?

Or your target customers, if they start rambling off and saying like, a lot of broad vertical segments, or a lot of personas, lots of use cases, then start questioning, right? Like for this particular campaign, which ones of those are the top priority?

Yeah. Right?

I I, I, I keep telling people, you know, AI as an example, AI doesn’t fix what’s broken. It amplifies what’s there. So if there’s bad product market fit, so as an example, right? If you’re targeting a lot of markets and you’ve got a single product, there’s gonna be bound to be a bad product market fit somewhere, right? So much like you can’t out exercise a bad diet, you can’t out campaign a bad product market fit,


You’re, you’re an agency, you’re a demand gen agency CMO says, oh, let’s do this campaign for these verticals with these messages. You do the best job you can on, on crafting a campaign, doing some demand jet out there. Well, guess what? You’re about to fail. It’s got bad product market fail. It’s like doing an all out campaign for snowblowers in Florida,

Right? Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter how good the campaign is or how good the price is.

Doesn’t matter,


So I think this is where an agency could be that trusted sounding board. And I would love for somebody to say, Lisa, my god, five verticals going after five personas per vertical. You got messaging pyramids for each one of those, and you only have so much money. We’re peanut buttering Lisa there. I, you know, I thank you for your business, but I can’t achieve what you’re trying to achieve.

Right? Or you’re not gonna get as much doing it this way. ’cause you’re gonna get a little bit of everything as opposed to a lot of one or two really. Right. Fits.

Yes. Yeah. And, and they would say, and Lisa, I know you’re a big proponent of ai, but even if we infuse AI in our campaigns, let’s just say we become more efficient. We, we become more targeted. We personalize, that just accelerates our path to failure. Yeah. It amplifies the disconnect at that product market fit level. So an agency that’s astute enough to see that, you know, before I start wasting my money and resources right. Is so valuable to me. Yeah.


A really critical example.

And I, and I think too, that gets back to the AI conversation of AI can do a lot of things. I would think that part of what a CMO needs an agency for is to figure out which things make sense for their business and which things to just leave alone.

That’s right. That’s right. And, and this also gets into, I love that you kind of teed this up. This gets into this notion of which part of the Justice league will do the work, and how does AI get infused into that work, right? Right. So maybe it’s an agency, maybe it’s the team and who’s going to do what. That’s also a tricky thing because you know, right now, I, I work with a lot of CMOs and a lot of marketing teams. There’s not a lot of time to really drill into the potential for ai, you know, at the highest level, people know, oh, I can create a blog or Right.

You can summarize a rep a long report for me. Or you can start me up with an image for an ad. I would love an agency to inspire my team with what’s possible. Yeah.


And it could be something like, oh, I’ll, I’ll, we’ll, we’ll help you figure this out with AI and we’ll show you how we’re doing it. And that showing, you know, right. I know some agencies might feel like, oh, if I show them that they won’t hire me anymore, the possibilities are endless and they, this thing will just get better. Right. And, and, you know, people have said that this is the dumbest AI that we’ll see moving forward.

Right? Right. Well, we’re, we’re the dumbest about using it and the tools are the dumbest that they’re going to be. Right. So as the tools get smarter, we kind of have to get smarter too.

That’s right. Yeah. That’s right. And I so believe that this is a world where we can’t even have imposter syndrome because there are no experts. We’re all learning this together. Right. But we have to share, learn together. So if an agency has an idea, they’re gonna use ai. My gosh, show me, show our team. Right? Right. Because we might not say, Hey, great for showing us now go away. It might be one of those things where, wow, I didn’t know it can do that. I didn’t know that you could a, use AI as a thought partner. You’re not a strategy agency, you’re a PR agency, but you just inspired me with what’s possible in using ai.

I can now use AI as a thought partner for strategy.


Now. You just gave me some value add.

Right, right.

As a result. Right. Right. So I, I think this helping the CMO and his or her team inspire them with what’s possible in various functions. Show them how you’ve done it, and then help ’em figure out how to drive adoption responsibly in the company. Yeah.

You know, you said, you said something really interesting, which is nobody is an expert in ai and we’re all students of it, and we’re all learning. I think that’s one of the big shifts. And I’m curious how you view this. Agencies are used to approaching clients from a position of expertise and knowledge. So I think it’s uncomfortable for a lot of agencies to go, we have no idea if this is gonna work, but we want to try it. Will you try it with us? So from the CMOs perspective, when it comes to AI kind of things, how do you think an agency should approach that ideation and that experimentation? What does that conversation look like with a client? And is it okay to acknowledge we’ve never done this before, or we’re, we’re not sure this is gonna work, but boy, if we can carve out a little bit of budget, it’s probably worth the experiment.

So talk a little bit about how an agency has that conversation with a client when they can’t be the expert.

It, it’s not only okay, it is the right thing to do and it is authentic. Even the largest AI companies in the world, and AI ex experts in air quotes have said, just like the, we don’t understand that how the human mind works. We don’t exactly understand how AI works.


So if the people building these things, most of them are in San Francisco, don’t know, and they know less the impact of it, how can we expect ourselves, I don’t care agency, CMO, whatever, CEO to know. Right? Right. And, and I think the attitude here is just intense curiosity. I love this notion of being intensely curious about ai. So curious that you’re thinking about the implications of this, pushing it to its boundaries, doing some experiments Yeah. Responsibly, right? Yeah.


And there’s this notion of think big, start small, move fast, fail fast course, correct as needed. Zig and zag, you know, agile marketing, agile software development, do it in bite-sized chunks. Right. You know, that’s wrong course. Correct. Right. Rather than looking, waiting for the perfect, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. ’cause no one has the handbook on Perfect.

Right. Well, and in AI perfect changes every freaking day.


So, even, even if you knew it yesterday, it’s different today.

Yes. But I, but I, you know, given all that though, I love a vision, you know? Right. I, i, I love it when an agency can connect the dots, oh, here’s how I think the market might change. And customer behaviors are changing. One, there’s zero click search. What’s the implication of that? Two, there’s this thing around brands becoming more trusted. We need to be more trusted in the era of ai. What’s the implication of that? Personalization? More customers want highly personalized content. They won’t buy unless they get served up personalized content. What’s the implication of that to marketing experiences because of the MarTech stack? What’s the implication of that to marketing the rise of, you know, more human experiences?

Right. Because there’s this paradox that the more we engage digitally, the, the higher our hunger and our yearning is for more authentic human connections. All right. If all those things are changing from the buyer’s perspective, I’m an agency, how should a CMO and a marketing team think about adapting to that change? Yeah. What is the implication? I’d love a vision for that. Right? Yeah. Like zero click search. What is your vision? What is happening? You know? Yeah. How do

We even, even just a lively conversation around it.


Right. So how do you think ai, when you look at the role of CMO, how do you think, now I’m now asking for your vision. How do you think AI is gonna change the actual job of the CMO?

Yeah, and I’m going to expand that a little bit because I, the success of the CMO is dependent on the success of it, her, his or her team, and ultimately the business, in my opinion. And I believe that AI will push us, especially marketers, to be more strategic and to be more authentically human.


Ironically, and you know, we, I’ve given a good example earlier where this, using AI to help us deeply understand the customers and to do segmentation, targeting and positioning to ensure that we have good product market fit before we do an all out campaign, is something that we’re gonna be forced to do it, right? We’re going to need to really narrow the, the aperture and deeply understand the customers. So that’s strategy, you know, figure out product, market fit, figure out, go to market strategy, the rest gets easier. And we can infuse that work with ai, AI will help us become more strategic,


On the authentically human side, this is about personalization, deeply understanding the customers. And I believe that the market will reward companies that can, you know, harness the full value of AI while maintaining authentically human values. So our roles just got harder because now, right, we have to balance personalization with conv, convenience, with transparency, personalization, with privacy innovation, balance with ethics automation, balance with human touch.

That is hard. And I think the role of the CMO, not, not only did it get harder, became more strategic and it became more important to the business. Now, it’s another thing for us CMOs to say that for us, why that? But it’s another conversation to convince others in the executive team, including the CEO to believe that. So to the extent that agencies can help the CMO and the marketing team elevate and, and, and help educate others about the value that we bring in the era of ai, I think that’s going to be super helpful moving forward.

I was, that’s what I was just gonna ask you, is how, how do we as agencies, so maybe you can drill down into that a little bit for me. Yeah. As we wrap up, how can agencies help CMOs do that better? Give, give me some thoughts around how we can show up to help that job, that hard job that’s getting harder. Be easier,

Drew, you’re doing it. The fact that you have this platform where you’re having people like me and and others in the agency community talk about these things, right? You’re, you’re elevating this podcast will be heard by a number of people and hopefully they’ll be talking in this way and helping propel the role of the CMO as one thing. I know a lot of agency owners that are visionaries, they’re very vocal. They’re, they speak at events, they write, you know, they get published, they’re in social. When you’re a thought leader, the reach, you know, doesn’t stop at, at the CMOs or at the marketers, those things.

There’s an underbelly that happens, right? It gets forwarded, it gets talked about in communities, it gets shared. And I think the more conversation we have around the strategic role of A CMO, how it’s now harder and it could propel the brand, we are right at the intersection of figuring out product market fit, fit and building trust. Those kinds, you know, the word brand in in is a bit polarizing Yeah. To, to many, right? Because some feel like it’s the logo and the colors and the, the other end of the spectrum, it’s the full brand. It’s the entire experience. Like when I’m talking to someone that doesn’t really understand brand, I talk about trust building,

Right? Right. It’s about, it’s about actually being who they think you’re going to be over and over and over again. Yeah. Yeah,

Yeah. So, like, if the agencies can help decode a lot of these things, start talking about it in, in words that people understand. Don’t just talk to marketers. Talk beyond the marketers that are your customers. Because yeah. Those people that are beyond are the people that we as marketers need to influence. It’s super important because if others don’t understand that we are actually in danger of becoming irrelevant.


And in danger of somebody else taking the narrative or crafting the narrative. So let me just give you an example. If somebody says, oh, the CMO and the marketing team, they’re primarily tacticians. They, they just execute campaigns. They just do events. They just do nice social posts. Oh, and by the way, with ai, we can be more productive and we can automate a lot of those things. So therefore, you don’t need the 25 people in marketing. You just need five. Right? And when you just need five, you don’t really need a CMO. Those five people can just go to the CRO. Guess what happens? You lose your relationship with the CMO, with the marketers.

You have to build a new relationship with the CRO. That only is the marketing team less relevant? The agencies become less relevant. Yeah. There’s a downstream impact in the supply chain and in the ecosystem. Yeah. So to the extent that the agencies understand the plight of the CMO, making it more relevant in the era, era of ai, however you wanna do that, use your voice, take up space, go beyond marketing to US market to others that are influencers. That would be super helpful to us.

Yeah. That’s, that’s, that’s quite a task. But, but you talk, you, you, early on in our conversation, you’re like, look, this is how you’re not an order taker. This is how you’re not an order taker. This is how you are a trusted partner that A CMO invites to their house because they’ve taken you to their last three jobs. Right?

Well, it’s quite a task. But I also believe that rising tide lift cell boats and that when we stick together, our combined voices is really loud, right? Yeah. Like my voice, I’m like one person, but I combine it with your voice and the hundreds of members that you have and other CMOs that believe that I, what I believe in, we, we could be loud, we could be loud and LinkedIn, we could be loud and social, we could be loud at events. So that’s just my ask of, of everybody, right? If you believe in the same things that I do, you know, get on the bandwagon and let’s let, let’s get this thing going.

Yeah, agreed. This has been a fascinating conversation. Thank you so much for being on the show and giving us this lens that we often don’t have of understanding the CMOs perspective. So this has been, this has been awesome. Thank you.

Thank you Drew. It was so much fun. And I hope your listeners enjoyed it as well.

I, I, I know they did. So if people wanna follow you, if they want to connect with you, if they wanna learn more about they work you’re doing and, and join their voice with yours, how do they do that?

Yeah, so I’m on LinkedIn, so it’s LIZA, so it’s Liza Liza Adams. And my website is www do growth path.net. And I post a lot on LinkedIn and I try to be a thought leader and I share a lot. So please follow me and I’d love to engage if you wanna collaborate.

Awesome. Thank you so much again for being on the show.

Thank you Drew. You have a great day.

You too. Alright guys, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. I love this conversation. I, I hope as you were listening, you were like nodding your head and sort of thinking about some of the CMOs and clients you work with and hearing their challenges, their opportunities, how they’re viewing things through Lisa’s voice and through the examples she gave you. Because I think the better this is true, this is marketing 1 0 1. The better we understand our client, our customer, the more we can be helpful and valuable to them. And, and this last hour was all about you understanding the unique world that they live in and how much more challenging it’s become in the last few years.

And how we can come alongside them, be a part of the team that helps them be successful. And I’ve often said, I believe one of our jobs is to understand how our clients get a, raise, a promotion, a bonus, and help them accomplish those things. ’cause when we do, not only are we helping the company, but we’re helping that person. And that’s the person that is our conduit to the work that gives us the opportunity to do more and to be of even more value. And at the end of the day, I think that’s why we all got into the business. We didn’t get in the business to execute stuff. We got in the business to matter, to be helpful, to be a partner, to be a thinking partner. That’s what we all love about the work.

And so the conversation today with Lisa was all about how do you get to do more and more of that. So I hope you took a lot of that away. This would be a great like lunch and learn conversation where you take the generalities that we talked about today and apply them to the specifics of your agency. And how do you show up in a way that A CMO is like, oh, I’m so glad I found them, or I’m so glad I’m still working with them. That’s ultimately probably the greatest compliment we can get. So, lots of, lots of food for thought in this episode and I hope, I hope you apply it well and often and that this bounces around in your brain for a long time. I know it’s gonna be bouncing around in mine. I was taking notes while we were talking ’cause I, it’s like, oh, I could do a solo cast on that or, oh, I can talk to Lisa more about that.

So I’m hoping you did the exact same thing. ’cause I think this was really a, an idea rich episode and I hope you found it to be that too. So before I let you go, two last things. First of all, I wanna thank White Label IQ for being the presenting sponsor. As you know, they’ve been with us a long time. They are a great partner to agencies. They are a great example of what Lisa was talking about. How do I come alongside my partner and help them be better, help them serve their client or their customer? So as you know, they do a lot of white label design dev and PPC. You can learn more about them at White Label IQ dot com slash aami. And last, but certainly not least, and in fact perhaps most important, I just wanna remind you, I am super grateful to hang out with you every week.

I love that you afford me the opportunity to have these kind of conversations. If none of you listened, then people like Lisa would be like, yeah, no, drew, I do. I do not wanna spend an hour with you. They wanna spend the hour with you. And so you are the conduit for me to get to have these kind of great conversations. And I am super grateful that you keep coming back and you help me attract smart, interesting guests to help all of us get better. So thank you. Thank you, thank you for listening. Thanks for coming back. And guess what, I’ll be back next week and I hope you will too. Alright, talk to you next week. Thanks for listening.

Come back next week for another episode, designed to help you build a stronger, more stable and sustainable agency. Check out our workshops, coaching and consulting packages and other professional development [email protected].