Finding a reliable and trustworthy agency is never easy, and many different factors go into picking the best external vendor for your business. However, sharing the same values with your agency should be at the top of your list.
In this episode of the YouShouldTalkTo podcast, our host Daniel Weiner welcomes Mario Paganini, the VP of Marketing at Stord. They chat about the benefits of working with smaller agencies, the importance of personal referrals, and the power of a strong client-agency relationship.
💡 Name: Mario Paganini, VP of Marketing at Stord
💡 Noteworthy: Mario is a 3x Head/VP of Marketing, leading 2 of those startups to unicorn status and seeing an exit with the 3rd.
💡 Where to find Mario: LinkedIn
⚡Playing it safe is holding you back. Marketing is constantly changing and evolving. That's why playing it safe may hold your business back. Mario explains, "Once we established that our goal is to be more successful than what is already out there, the game theory became unbelievably clear because if you're trying to be here and everyone else is here, and you look at them, and you say, 'All right, these big incumbent competitors that exist today, our goal is to unseat them. Our goal is to disrupt them.' The game theory becomes so clear that that outcome is impossible by playing the game the same way that these players are playing."
⚡Working with smaller and specialized agencies is better for your business. Specialized agencies are more focused on a specific goal and therefore, can lead your business to success. Mario says, "In cases where there's a specific area of skill that you need help with, and you are able to support them properly, manage them properly, communicate with them properly — hyper valuable. In cases where you're like, 'I don't know what to do. I need help. I'm just going to hire an agency and hope that they solve my problems,' basically, never seen that work personally."
⚡Build a strong relationship with your agency. When building a strong client-agency relationship, both parties need to do the work. Mario says, "It's about finding people you trust, finding people that have proven they're able to do work that inspires you. And then trust is a two-way street. You have to be candid with the agency. You've got to tell them when things are not going well in your business. You've got to tell them when things change. You've got to open the doors to and, oftentimes, the financial success of your business, the business goals. And once you've established that and assuming that you did the vetting right and have a good agency, they're going to be sharing in your success."
YouShouldTalkTo -- Mario Paganini
[00:00:00] Mario Paganini: If I can find someone who I trust that is gonna personally vouch for that agency, that's going to be more powerful than literally almost anything that I could evaluate on my own. So, that's a, a first and huge criteria for me.
[00:00:54] Daniel Weiner: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the YouShouldTalkTo podcast. I am Daniel Weiner, and this podcast is currently brought to you by myself, as well as YouShouldTalkTo, until we get a sponsor to pony up some big dollar amounts for us in 2023, maybe after today. YouShouldTalkTo pairs brands and marketers, for free, with vetted agencies and, or freelancers for pretty much any marketing or tech need, why?
[00:01:16] Because finding great agencies is a pain in the ass. Super excited today to be joined by Mario Paganini, the VP of Marketing at Stord in Atlanta, Darling, I would say, in the startup community. Mario, thank you so much for joining us. How are you today?
[00:01:31] Mario Paganini: I'm doing well, definitely, uh, I like your description of it, Atlanta, Darling. I'm out on the West Coast, but in the two years I've been at Stord, it certainly has been a trend that every time I go back to Atlanta, it seems like more and more folks in the local community know who we are,
[00:01:46] we've got one of our first ever hires, this guy Alex Kent, he's been at the company for coming up on five years now, and, and he always tells this story to new folks, he goes something like, "You know, when I first joined Stord, I would tell my friends around Atlanta I worked for Stord, and they'd be like, 'Who the hell is that?
[00:02:01] What the heck do you even do?'" And these days, you go around Atlanta and tell somebody you work for Stord, and they're like, "Oh, wow, you work for Stord?" So, doing something right.
[00:02:08] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I would agree, and I, we didn't talk about this before or off camera, but I'll, I'll bring it up now and put you on the spot, I just wanted to congratulate you on your, uh, your World Cup victory.
[00:02:16] Mario Paganini: Ooh, oh, thank you, thank you. I was, I actually was considering putting on my, my, my Argentina jersey, but I probably ever worn it at
[00:02:23] Daniel Weiner: I cons, I considered doing something
[00:02:25] Mario Paganini: 37 out of 38 days since, so, uh, no, I'm rocking the, the, the Stord hoodie. Thank you.
[00:02:30] Daniel Weiner: We'll, we'll do that next time, then. Yeah, let, let's, uh, let's get rolling. Uh, what is an unpopular opinion of yours or a hot take of sorts in the marketing realm?
[00:02:38] Mario Paganini: Uh, I hope you don't regret bringing me, bringing me on.
[00:02:41] Daniel Weiner: We, we love con, we love controversy here, you know.
[00:02:44] Mario Paganini: I, I got several, but I'll, I'll come out, I'll come out swinging with most people in marketing suck at marketing, like, that's, I mean, it sounds like a crazy thing to say, but I've thought a lot about this because, you know, if you were to go out, and I'm not here to narrow in on anyone or call anyone out specifically.
[00:03:01] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, a gr, a grumpy start to this, uh, to this interview.
[00:03:03] Mario Paganini: No, no, no, of course not. But if, if, if, if you were to go out and let's just say, okay, we're going to pull together some database, we're gonna find everyone with a marketing title across these industries, and we're gonna put them into this huge Excel spreadsheet or this huge database and analyze how good they are, I'm gonna analyze how good they are, 'cause again, this is still my, my opinion,
[00:03:28] it's not, uh, we can't pass this off as objective fact, but what you're gonna find, at least from what I've seen, is that the majority of these folks, how they got into marketing is through some more tactical route. They came up learning how to run Google campaigns really well, they came up learning how to do process really well,
[00:03:53] they came up learning some form of, of marketing strategy or, or operations, and, of course, all these pieces are extremely valuable, and I'm very, very thankful that we've got plenty of people at Stord that have a lot of these hard skills that I would be the first to tell you I'm not spectacular at, personally, but to me the
[00:04:15] core skills in marketing are communication, content creation, and ultimately what you're trying to do as a marketing team or a marketer is engage people, drive an emo, emotional response, and be agents of change. And so, when you go out and look at the average marketer and see, you know, how effective is this person at creating content that's going to solicit a positive emotional response, how effective is this person at being a great advocate for the brand, which they're marketing.
[00:04:48] You're gonna find that, you know, 70, 80-plus percent of folks would, would rank pretty, pretty poorly on that scale. It's, it's funny, I, I, oftentimes, I've got a lot of friends that aren't in the tech world, aren't really in the corporate world at all, and I always like to ask them, "Hey, you know, let's just pretend like you had my job tomorrow,
[00:05:07] no wrong answers, you know, what would you do? Like, you're, you're heading up marketing for a big company. What's the first thing you do?" And I tend to get some form of the same answer from almost everyone that I asked this question to, people that have absolutely no ties to marketing, absolutely no ties to, to the tech world,
[00:05:24] and they say something like, "Yeah, well, you know, I'd try to figure out what your company does and what they're trying to communicate to their customers, and I'd go out and try to find the most effective way to drive that outcome with customers, I'd find the most effective way to communicate the message that your company's trying to communicate in an emotionally positive way to your customers, to your audience." And to me, that's marketing.
[00:05:51] You go out, and you interview a hundred marketers as to what they would do if they had my job, you're gonna get a lot of answers of process, you're gonna get a lot of answers of strategy, you're gonna get a lot of answers about lead generation, process flow, all of these things which are important. But you can have all of these process pieces and still suck at marketing and not drive any business results.
[00:06:14] But if you have that flare, if you have the ability to efficaciously communicate your message, if you have the ability to drive emotional responses, hopefully, positive ones from your audience, that's really the fire, and all of the ways to actually connect that message to the audience are more commodities, in my opinion.
[00:06:32] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I think I also heard there, too, the part, uh, I agree with a lot of what you said, I hate to say most marketers suck, but I would say too, like, what I took away from what you said, which I do agree with, a hundred percent, is I think I'm lumped in with this as well, like, uh, we often overcomplicate marketing as well in terms of, like, you narrowed it down to, like, yeah, you need to create, you know, attention to your audience, essentially, stuff like that in a, in the right way and where they want to be reached and stuff,
[00:06:57] and when you lump in the 7,000 things that go into that, like, you often, I think, lose the sense of, like, the most simplest form, you know, the, the quickest route to your audience is probably the straight line, and we meander through 7,000 different tactics often as a marketing and sales professional. So, uh, I definitely agree with you in that front.
[00:07:15] Mario Paganini: I've got a marketing degree, like, I, I, I did four years of, of university to, to learn this stuff, and I'm happy that I have it, and I'm, I'm sure it's opened some, some doors, but I think through everything that I, I learned, getting a, a business degree and virtually none of it was any of the stuff that, that we talked about,
[00:07:36] you know, it was high-level strategy, it was philosophical marketing, you know, if I could go do it all again, you know, I actually teach a, a, a marketing course my myself, and the first thing I put up is, like, you know, "Here's, here's the five lessons I, uh, wish I had learned in, in marketing school that I actually use in my, my professional life."
[00:07:58] So, you know, it's not by fault of anyone who's, you know, whatever, whatever they are, five, ten years into their marketing career and doesn't feel like they align with my definition of marketing, it's that we as a marketing community, we as the people that shape the future of marketing need to do a better job at helping to communicate these values to folks, helping to mentor these folks,
[00:08:24] and ultimately, I think that most folks are going to succeed or fail based on how good of a first couple bosses they have or how willing they are to go out and identify folks externally, follow them, ask for their help, take them on as, as mentors, you know, a lot of what I learned, I learned from going out, looking on LinkedIn and, and finding the folks that are most successful, driving the most attention across the board and saying, "Dang, I wanna be more like them,
[00:08:54] I gotta follow them, I gotta see what they're doing." And those lessons I don't see anyone teaching in university classes.
[00:09:00] Daniel Weiner: Sure, yeah, college is broken in general, I would argue. But I'm curious, you, you've taken a, you know, don't take this as a knock a, uh, a traditionally, I would say not the most sexy industry, or a little more traditional for my experience of logistics and stuff like that, and you've, you've in my opinion, added some life to it, and I see a lot of the content you guys put out and I love, and I would say some's a little edgy, a little bit of, you know, you could say sex appeal and stuff like that.
[00:09:23] Can you talk, talk us through that a little bit, was that, like, impossible to sell internally, which I'm particularly curious about, and, yeah, just your experience with that in general?
[00:09:32] Mario Paganini: Yeah. So, you know, I, if, if you asked me 10 years ago, like, "Oh, Mario, do you think you're gonna end up in logistics marketing?" I would've told you you're crazy, and I hear this story from a lot of folks, it's that, uh, most folks don't intend to land in positions like I do, but once you're, once you're there, you, you realize that there's just something, like, oddly painful but also oddly appealing to it, and you stick around.
[00:09:55] So, you know, I, uh, I was doing kind of more of the traditional Silicon Valley SaaS path, and I happened to, to meet an e-commerce shipping tech company, Shippo, who recruited me out of a, uh, a different marketing tech company I was working for. And so, uh, spent a couple years there kind of building out their marketing team there, their marketing engine.
[00:10:17] And then, after that, that's how I met Sean and Jacob at, at Stord, and so, now, you know, four years into doing this, it feels like this is my, my niche and my career. But to answer your, your question more specifically, oh yeah, it's definitely, definitely hard, you know, as a CEO, and I can have, I don't know if I can have empathy 'cause I've never sat in that, that role, but I can certainly sympathize that it is easier to sleep at night
[00:10:44] if you are going out and doing things that are tested, that are proven, that are similar to what everyone else is, is, is doing. I think that, you know, Sean and Jacob, the co-founders of, of, of Stord, probably would've slept a little bit easier if I came in and said, "All right, we're gonna go and look at what other big, successful logistics companies are doing, and we're gonna try to do that as well as, as them." I think there'd be less sleepless nights.
[00:11:09] But the reason that we didn't take that approach just comes down to what we're trying to achieve, you know, when I first joined Stord and, and got together with Sean, Jacob, the rest of our exec team, the way that I framed it is, "All right, what do we really want? What's the outcome that we are trying to drive at Stord?"
[00:11:28] And the resounding answer, and still true today, is that we are building a generational company. I'm here because I have the utmost conviction that in the years to come, Stord will be the paradigm shift for logistics that we will be one of the most successful, profitable, publicly traded supply chain companies that the country, and maybe even the world has, has ever seen.
[00:11:52] That's the end goal, I'm not, uh, audacious enough to say that I know we're going to get to, there's a lot of hard work, but that's the end goal, that's what we're driving towards. And so, once we established that our goal is to be more successful than what is already out there, the game theory became unbelievably clear because if you're trying to be here and everyone else is here, and you look at them, and you say, "All right, these big, incumbent competitors that exist today, our goal is to unseat them,
[00:12:21] our goal is to disrupt." The game theory becomes so clear that that outcome is impossible by playing the game the same way that these players are playing. There are people that we brush elbows with, uh, in the industry that have been doing this for a lot longer than Sean and Jacob, the co-founders of Stord, have been alive.
[00:12:44] So, if we go out and try to play with the same tactics as a multi-billion dollar company that has been doing this for decades, in some cases coming up on a, a century, what intel makes us believe that we could possibly win that way? That's a losing proposition. So, once you realize that there's no route to achieving what you want to achieve and what you need to achieve by playing it safe, it becomes a lot easier to take those risks.
[00:13:16] That doesn't mean that taking risks is gonna work, it doesn't mean that it's going to be easy, but the one thing that I could guarantee two years ago when I joined Stord is, I don't know if some of our more experimental, outside-of-the-box stuff's gonna, but I do know with mere absolute certainty that the traditional, uh, tried and true old school logistics marketing playbook will not work.
[00:13:39] And so, once you kind of overcome that reality, you realize that your choices are either just give up on trying to achieve what you're trying to achieve or be willing to take risks, and if you want the market to see you as an innovative disruptor, as someone that has the potential to lead a paradigm shift, you need to separate yourself in the market that way.
[00:14:03] And so, you know, not that it was easy, but I think that everyone very quickly came to that same philosophical understanding that there is no path for Stord to get to where it needs to go by playing it safe, and once we overcame that, I think, uh, everyone was on board to be a little bit more adventurous,
[00:14:20] and, um, you know, it's easy to talk about now because we've, we've seen, seen great results, uh, you probably wouldn't be interviewing me if, uh, we trade wrecked and, uh, and I got canned six months into my tenure at Stord.
[00:14:31] Daniel Weiner: That's fair. How, what would your recommendation be to other brands, either in your space or outside of it for winning in 2023? Like, you know, when people ask me that, I, if I had to pick one thing, it's whatever you need to do to gain attention, um, you know, what's your advice to somebody in a leadership role in marketing who's trying to figure out and navigate 2023 to leadership and their own, their own audience?
[00:14:52] Mario Paganini: Well, um, I'll start with the people in our space. Trust me when I say this, keep doing exactly what you're doing, uh, that's, that would be spectacular for me, you keep doing the old school stuff, we'll keep doing, doing our stuff, and I think that, uh, the separation will be even greater when, when the dust settles at the end of this year, but as it relates to everyone else, and my honest recommendation even to folks who are in the, the same industry as, as us.
[00:15:15] I think you really hit the nail on, on the head that when you think about all of the pieces that go into marketing, the ability to reach people, the ability to get your content in front of them, the ability to track interactions, to capture leads. These are all difficult technical challenges, but they're ultimately commodities that are largely up for sale.
[00:15:45] What isn't a commodity and can only be earned is attention. You can go, and if you have the money, you can show up in someone's LinkedIn feed, Facebook feed, Twitter, cross every site they land on, and these days in many, many more places. But if you are incapable of putting content and putting information in front of these people that actually captures their attention by doing one of a few things, truly showing that you have empathy for the challenges they face,
[00:16:21] showing them that you are relatable and putting content in front of them that they actually truly want to engage in, and, you know, ultimately, um, a lot of people discount this, but entertaining them, um, if you're not capable of, of doing those things, all you're gonna have is a bunch of impressions and you're gonna be in your exec review with finance and say "We spent all this money." "And what did you spend it on,
[00:16:45] Mario?" "Oh yeah, I got us, like, all these impressions, but there were no business results." So, for really any marketing team in 2023, this is not logistics, this isn't tech, this is any industry. It's about figuring out how to get that earned privilege, which is attention, and if your strategy isn't based on figuring out how you're going to effectively capture attention,
[00:17:11] all you're gonna have is tactics, and you're gonna be at the end of the year looking at how much money you spent and, you know, trying to justify it with, uh, "Oh yeah, we got this many impressions, but no new customers." And that's not gonna be a good fit for anyone, especially in a pretty tough economic year.
[00:17:26] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I think the gap between B2B and B2C is closed, uh, more than ever as well. I actually read right before coming on, uh, to chat with you, uh, a post on LinkedIn from, I think it was Kyle Lacy, who's the Head of Marketing, um, I'm blanking on the name of his new job, but talking about how B2B buyers want a B2C experience.
[00:17:43] Uh, you know, and if you're not entertaining and, and doing all these things, again, like, I think we get wrapped up in, oh, it's B2B, but like, there's still people, still the same humans who want a good buying experience to be entertained, all that sort of stuff. And if you're approaching it that differently because you're selling to a company and you forget the people, like, I would presume you've already lost.
[00:18:02] Mario Paganini: Yeah, I mean, think about, so, I, I've had this conversation a lot of times because multiple times in my career, both, both here at Stord and, and previous, uh, places where, where I've worked, I've, I've had this discussion. Someone has said like, "Oh, you know, Mario, we're, we're, we're B2B, you know, should we be doing this?
[00:18:19] You know, isn't that more of a, you know, B2C thing?" And, you know, I, I, the question I asked is, "Okay, well, who are we selling to? Are we selling to some, you know, big faceless corporate entity, or are we selling to people within that company?" And it's like, "Okay, yeah, we're, we're, we're, we're selling to people, but they're, you know, uh, executive business people at serious companies."
[00:18:39] And I say, "Oh, yeah, yeah, no, I, I, I know that, but let me ask you this. So, when they're not at work, do you think that they watch YouTube videos? You think that they watch funny movies? Do you think that they ever laugh when they see content?" And the answer's like, "Oh, yeah, I, I, I probably think that, uh, that they do."
[00:18:58] So, the only way in which you fail by taking this more, uh, B2C route is if you're truly selling to someone who just has, like, no joy in life, that doesn't like funny movies, doesn't watch YouTube videos, doesn't go on TikTok or YouTube, doesn't interact with any fun content outside of work then yeah, you probably should do the old school B2B playbook, but, you know, I'm playing the percentages and from everything that I've seen, you know, 95-plus percent of even supply chain executives outside of work still enjoy funny videos, still enjoy great content, still laugh with their families, still tell jokes.
[00:19:38] Daniel Weiner: And anybody who says that they're, we used to joke at my old agency in, in some sales meetings with the right audience if, uh, if you say that you're not sitting on the toilet scrolling on your phone, like, your audience is lying, like, those people are doing the same thing after work as well as everybody else, and they're still seeing that content and stuff like that.
[00:19:56] So, anybody who says, like, they clock out at five, and they're not consuming anything is just lying, I would say. I'm curious, we'll, we'll talk more about the, uh, the specifics around the agency search I helped you with, but, like, in general, you know, you've been in marketing for your entire career. What's your overall opinion of agencies, they get, uh, especially in 2023,
[00:20:14] I've seen a lot of, a lot of hate towards agencies on LinkedIn these days, but I'm curious, in general, love 'em, hate 'em, overall, uh, a fan?
[00:20:22] Mario Paganini: I, I'd say, overall, a fan. I've had probably, like, anyone who has a similar role to me have had positive and negative, and I guess in some cases neutral. But the neutral experiences are far rarer because, like, you're neutral on someone, and you just keep doing it, like, probably not the greatest strategy, you know,
[00:20:40] Daniel Weiner: Almost always a polarizing, polarizing, uh, experience, that's why it's I five, I'm, so, I'm cynical at this point with what I do when somebody tells me like, "Oh, I love them," or, "Oh, I hate them," or, "Oh, they're great," or, "Oh, they're bad." I'm like, yeah, every agency has, uh, detractors and, uh, lovers and all that sort of stuff, so.
[00:20:57] Mario Paganini: Yeah, but I, I mean, so, maybe I have a, I guess I, I was gonna say I have a unique vantage, but there's probably a lot of other people that are similar to me, so I'll be the first to, to, to tell you that I'm not the smartest dude out there, I'm not the world's most skilled, tactical marketer, if you, you know, put me in charge of optimizing storages, PPC campaigns, you know, the company's gonna start losing money pretty, pretty quickly,
[00:21:24] you know, I am certainly at, at my core, a product marketing content and, and brand guy. And so, throughout my career, I've certainly almost always leveraged agencies in some way, shape, or, or form because when I hire internally, and this is obviously my bias, but I tend to skew towards folks who have that really, really strong communication and content base.
[00:21:54] When I hire anyone, when I interview anyone from my team at, at, at Stord, you know, I ask people to pitch me on the company that they work for currently, or the last company that they, they worked for. Tell me why, tell me what the problem that company's audience has, and how you fix it. And I evaluate everyone regardless of, of kind of what you're gonna come do on the team,
[00:22:15] on how well you can communicate. And so, I certainly skew towards hiring these more, I'll call 'em fundamental marketers. And so, to be successful, you know, you can have a group of people who all can write really good copy, but that doesn't make you successful in and of itself, you need the ability to manage various channels,
[00:22:37] you need the ability to report on engagement, you likely need the ability, unless you have some, you know, deep in-house experience to, uh, put out press releases, work with media, work with analysts. And so, you know, basically everywhere I've been, there's always been at least one or two, uh, external agencies that, that I've worked with.
[00:22:57] And in the area of you bring on an agency that has hyper-specialized skills in a specific area that it's very unlikely that you're gonna hire someone who's gonna have that level of skill, and you use them correctly, it can be extremely valuable. But in the case where, you know, I've, I've seen plenty of agencies try to market themselves as,
[00:23:23] you know, you hire me, and these business results are just gonna come in where, like, turn switch. I have literally never seen that work where if you bring on an agency and say, "Oh yeah, you know, you said that you're, uh, you know, lead generation agency, you know, all right, I'll talk to you in a month and, and show me all the qualified opportunities you generated."
[00:23:41] I've literally never seen that model work. So, in cases where there's a specific area of skill that you need help with, and you are able to support them properly, manage them properly, communicate with them properly, hyper valuable, in cases where you're like, "I don't know what to do, I need help, I'm just gonna hire an agency and hope that they, you know, solve my problems." Basically never seen that work, personally.
[00:24:05] Daniel Weiner: No, I'm with you there, and I'd say, like, since COVID, I've seen a bigger shift, especially or more so in bigger brands who are working with bigger agencies and holding company agencies, moving towards like a hyper, um, targeted and focused, smaller specialized agency of saying, "Hey, we want an agency who's good at one or two things, who do those two things really well, and we'll work with them for that."
[00:24:26] Is that what you've seen as well? Is that your, uh, preference too? Like, talk me through that a little bit.
[00:24:31] Mario Paganini: It's certainly my preference, I probably can't speak as much to, you know, what the teams at huge companies, like, Nike or, or, or Walmart are, are, are thinking I'd have a great finger on the pulse, but me, personally, I have virtually, exclusively worked with smaller agencies that, uh, every, every time I've had a successful agency experience, it's been mostly that, you know, either, whether it's the founder or CEO or, or someone else fairly high up there, I've got a text-message-based relationship with, and those are the ones that end up driving the most value,
[00:25:06] those are the ones that end up, you know, going the extra mile to truly understand what we're trying to do, truly understand our business, and that's certainly the model that, that, that I've seen most success for because if you go, and I've certainly tried this and interviewed several of them, not to shit on anyone specifically, but you go and work with one of these, you know, really big agencies and when they pitch you, they wow you with this, you know, unbelievable work.
[00:25:31] Look at what I did for insert super aspirational brand here, and then when you end up working with them, it's, like, you get, you know, the most junior team out there, and the people that did any of the work that they pitched you on are certainly not on your account, especially not, you know, maybe if you are Nike, you're gonna get those people, but, you know, as high of an opinion as I have on, on Stord and as successful as we are, I don't know if any of the world's biggest advertising agencies are going to put their best people on Stord over
[00:26:01] Nike or Walmart or whoever it is. So, I've certainly enjoyed finding folks that are, you know, smaller boutique agencies, hyper-specialized in an area, and folks that, you know, we can actually build a personal relationship with, folks high enough in the agency to have influence.
[00:26:19] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I think to your point, that's kind of, like, my overall thesis of, like, why I exist, I guess, like, I see a lot of people, especially the narrative around, you know, bad agency experience is like, "Oh, the, the agency was bad, they didn't do this." Or like, "We couldn't find the agency that was right for us." And I think in general what I see is, you know, there's, like, 90,000 agencies in the US alone.
[00:26:38] In general, most marketers I chat with are gonna talk to three to five agencies, you know, when they're doing an agency search, something like that. And in general, they're talking to the wrong agency for their situation, even from like a budget standpoint, to your point, like, yeah, you guys make sense to work with presumably, like, a, call it 50 to 100-per, person shop, not the 10,000-person holding company agency like a Nike would stuff.
[00:27:01] And I don't think that's a bad thing, I think, in general, it's, uh, just significantly more relevant to have those conversations with the same size and type of agency for your situation so you can evaluate apples to apples, and ideally find that right fit for you, but I think that's a good segue into, like, the experience of finding an agency through me,
[00:27:18] um, you know, without naming participants, I know we didn't work together directly on that, but you vetted all the agencies and stuff like that. Talk me through that process a little bit, like, what ultimately led you to hiring the agency that you did and, like, what you were looking for during that process?
[00:27:33] Mario Paganini: Yeah, absolutely. So, probably start with kind of the business case. So, when I first, uh, joined Stord, and I won't talk about what Stord does for, for too long, but I'll, to, to, to make it super quick. We have multiple different logistics products, multiple different software products, and when you're an earlier-stage startup, your ICP tends to be, you know, whoever's going to give you money, and that money actually land in your bank account.
[00:27:58] So, I guess the, the, the check actually clears. And so, earlier on, we definitely were trying to go after virtually anyone that could use any of our products. And so, you know, that leads to tens of thousands of potential customers running a, I'll say, pretty traditional large-scale lead generation, demand gen approach,
[00:28:20] and I think this is a very good thing, as we've matured as a company, we've really developed a much clearer POV around this is the specific ICP that is going to use the right, uh, suite of our logistics and technology products that we are gonna be able to service really freaking well that are gonna be really profitable
[00:28:44] for us, and we've seen really great product market fit with them. And so, as a byproduct of doing that, we've narrowed our focus from going after, you know, many thousands, if not tens of thousands of, of companies down to attacking a, a market with probably less than a thousand total companies that we can go after.
[00:29:06] And so, if you think about demand generation on a spectrum, if one end of the spectrum is just pure old-school e-generation, and the other end of the spectrum is pure target-accountless-based ABM, we've kind of moved to one side of that spectrum. And so, while we have a lot of great folks on, on the team that are familiar with how to run various digital channels, that are very good in my biased opinion at creating content, crafting messaging.
[00:29:34] We didn't have that super technical, super strategic ABM expertise, we onboarded 6sense as an ABM platform, we were, you know, working on figuring out how to best use it on our own, but it became very clear that we were either going to need to hire for someone to come in that has that deep experience of running the actual targeted ad campaigns, reporting on engagement, passing intel back to our SDR and sales teams, and so, we kind of dual tracked it.
[00:30:11] We went out to the market and, and looked for an individual hire to come on, and quickly found that, number one, we would either need to hire multiple people or hire an outrageously expensive, uh, senior resource to get this done, and we still probably wouldn't have as much coverage as we would by bringing on an agency that specializes exactly in that, specializes in getting the most ROI out of using a 6sense
[00:30:39] or other ABM platform, specializes in getting hyper-targeted in terms of targeting specific people through our ad channels, reporting on that engagement, scoring every account, sharing that intel back to our sales team. So, you know, it became clear to us that we were gonna need to bring on an agency to help us.
[00:31:00] And so, you know, we, um, not me, like you said, but some folks on my team ended up working with you, and you helped us to identify literally an agency that does, if I, like, could name my specifications, the agency you hooked us up with they literally do exactly that. The CEO of the agency is, you know, on a, like I said, text-message-based relationship with me. So, yeah, worked out pretty well.
[00:31:23] Daniel Weiner: Well, that's great, I'm glad to hear. In general, though, like, outside of, you know, that, before hiring, of course, you can look now and I, I appreciate the pat on the back that it ended up being perfect. I'm just curious 'cause it's funny, like, I'll even put a knock to what I do, it's harder to, like, to hear that it was perfect for you,
[00:31:39] uh, that's wonderful, it's rare to hear that when I don't work directly with you. So, I'm curious, like, you know, if you were to look for a new agency for anything, like, what are you looking for in general, though? That one sounds like it was specialization more towards, like, their experience in, like, doing only that, which, of course, was a win.
[00:31:54] But, like, in general, you know, it is my somewhat of a hot take in the marketing world is that the work doesn't matter, and what I mean by that is, of course, the work matters, but you don't get to do the work if they don't like you, like, and I feel like so many agencies hammer home like, "Oh, we're great at doing this."
[00:32:08] And I'm like, "You haven't, like, built rapport yet, you haven't got them excited about what's going on, like, all the presale stuff." So, I'm curious, like, what's important to you if you were to go find a new agency for something different tomorrow, like, what are you looking for?
[00:32:21] Mario Paganini: A couple things. I think the most powerful thing, in my opinion, is, if someone that I trust, and it's, you know, I have thousands of people that I'm connected with on, on the internet, and I hate to say I don't trust all of them,
[00:32:34] Daniel Weiner: I would hope, I would hope, that would be bad.
[00:32:37] Mario Paganini: but if, you know, someone, someone who's in my network that I know personally that has been in a similar kind of leadership role to where I am if someone like that comes to me and says,
[00:32:47] "Hey, I worked with these people, and it was freaking awesome." That is the most powerful recommendation I could possibly imagine. So, you know, the first step is if I can find someone who I trust that is gonna personally vouch for that agency, that's going to be more powerful than literally almost anything that I could evaluate on my own.
[00:33:11] So, that's a, a first and huge criteria for me. A second one would be the, like you said, kind of the cultural fit that I can go and look at your portfolio, and you can have all of this great work, but I have no way of knowing whether or not that's going to be the same quality of work that, you are going to do for, for me, nor is it gonna be possible for us to get that level of work if we don't have that deep relationship with the agency, so what we are trying to do is not some standard playbook, I can't point to someone else and say, "Oh yeah, do this exact, the same thing for us," for an agency to be successful as Stord.
[00:33:56] Based on everything we've already talked about, taking risk, doing things differently is inherently part of Stord's DNA and inherently part of my team's DNA. And so, for an agency to be successful working with us, we need someone who's going to be willing to step up maybe a little bit outside of their comfort zone.
[00:34:16] Many agencies, not all of them, I'm not gonna shit on them, but many agencies somewhat thrive on being able to kind of deliver the same pa, packaged experience to every client, and for us to be successful, our strategy is inherently about not doing the same thing that everyone else is doing.
[00:34:35] So, we need to be able to find someone that we can develop a real personal relationship with that shares our ethos, that is willing to be creative, willing to kind of go a little bit outside of the lines. And so, once you kind of get to a point where you've found someone that you feel like you've got a personal relationship with,
[00:34:56] you know, you are interacting with the agency as an entity, but you're also able to interact with the people that are working on your account, human to human, I've tended to find that as being a, another really successful criteria. And then, ultimately all, look at the agency's previous work, it's rare that I see something and say, oh yeah, you did this thing, and I want you to do the exact same thing for, for Stord,
[00:35:21] but I'll go out and try to evaluate what they've, they've done in the past and see, like, "Okay, does it look like every single client that this agency has is doing the exact same thing?" Or is it, "Wow, every client this agency has is doing good things, but they're all unique," and really trying to suss out whether that agency is gonna be able to say, " All right, Stord, here's your goals.
[00:35:42] Let's build a custom plan based on what we can do tailored to your goals." Or is it gonna be a case of "All right, Stord, like, here's what we do, like, we're just gonna start executing our checklist now."
[00:35:52] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. I think that's to, to your point, like, I take the opinion, again, when I'm talking to a marketer, I want to present them options that work the best for them, like, what they're specifically looking for, and I'll give my 2 cents, but ultimately their decision, and I often get asked for, like, industry-specific agencies, and I think all the work starts looking the same
[00:36:09] if you only work in one vertical, like, it's, it's just really hard. But to your point about, like, some agencies needing to, like, get out of their comfort zone, I think to your point, like, some agencies are better at checking a box, and it's not necessarily a bad thing, and some are better at, yeah, pushing the envelope and, and breaking shit, for lack of a better word.
[00:36:27] And I think both are valuable, it goes back to the original thought of, like, talking to agencies that are relevant to your scenario, and we used to use a, at my old agency, like, the running joke, a Ferrari and a Toyota Camry, which no knock to the Camry, I drove that in high school, my, uh, very first car, like, a Toyota, or a Camry, and a Ferrari, both get you from point A to point B, do you need the Ferrari? Some brands do, I would argue, and I have conversations with so many different marketers, and it's funny, like one of the questions I ask oftentimes, usually around the context of creative, which I'm curious your opinion on, uh, when they're looking for a creative agency, I'm like, great,
[00:36:59] like, are you looking for a creative agency that's gonna win you, like, or like, win you an award in general? Are you looking for, like, more, they're gonna check the box, you know, it's not gonna be bad, presumably, or I hope not, but like, I don't know that you're gonna get these world-class, creative ideas.
[00:37:16] Like, what do you want? And a lot of marketers, truthfully tell me, like, "Candidly, I don't need the, you know, the high-end thing, like, I need somebody who's gonna, like, make my life easier, communicate well, and, and check these boxes, you know?" I'm, I'm curious of your opinion there.
[00:37:31] Mario Paganini: Yeah. And it's, it's, uh, I'm sure you've probably also noticed this, that there's a lot of folks out there that say, I want, and maybe even I need the, the, the Ferrari, but I, I've got the $15,000 budget, yeah, exactly, um
[00:37:45] Daniel Weiner: They get the aftermar, the aftermarket Ferrari.
[00:37:49] Mario Paganini: Oh, man, and then they, then they find out that the real cost of a car like that is, is maintaining it, and then it only lasts six months. But, I mean, I, I'm, I, you probably anticipated this answer, but I have a little bit of a, a different opinion on, on this. I think as it comes to creative and content, the bar is just unbelievably high. So, if you think about an academic scale, you know, you got an A, you got a B, you got a C, you got a D, and ultimately it's a hell of a lot better to get a B than to get a D on your report card or, or, or on your test.
[00:38:24] But that mentality really ill prepares you for what it takes to be successful in the marketing world, in the media world because, in my opinion, when you look out and ultimately, all brands are generally speaking plain in the same places. I tell people this all the time, I don't know any secret marketing channels,
[00:38:43] I don't know any secret marketing tactics. If you wanna hire me, I'm gonna candidly do the same shit that everyone else is doing, and my strategy is doing that shit a hell of a lot better. And so, when you think about what it takes to, for your content to be the thing that stops someone scrolling on LinkedIn or your content to be the thing that causes someone to watch that 30-second YouTube video ad instead of clicking skip after five seconds, the bar is really a, or bust.
[00:39:12] And so, if you were to look at the end results and you were to stack rank companies based on how good their creative are, how good their content is, you've got the A's, the B's, the C's, the D's, the F's. What you're gonna find, and what I've found, is that the A's are eating 95-plus percent of all of the food in the market, and then the B's, C's, D's, and F's are all getting the same little scraps,
[00:39:38] and the difference between D and B, teeny tiny, marginal. The difference between B and A enormous. And so, it's not that you necessarily have to have the, you know, award-winning artist agency to achieve this, but you need to have some form of a strategy to do this. So, if you don't have that creative power, if you don't have that kind of brand design muscle internally, then yeah, you, I, if you want my recommendation, it is worth the money to go and pay
[00:40:09] for, for the Ferrari because you need to get there, inversely, you know, if you've got a rock-solid brand identity, if you've got great creative minds and you are able to kind of tee this up, if you're able to create a great creative brief, if you're able to kind of sketch out exactly what you want and you need more of the Camry to just execute on it, it's still possible to create great content, but you need one or the other,
[00:40:36] you need either that, you know, world-class, kind of Ferrari-level agency that can go and both do the inspiration, ideation, and execution, or you need to have that really strong ideation and kind of strategy side internally, and then by the time you pass it off to the creative agency, it's like, all right, here's exactly what I want, I just need, you know, you to animate this video that I've currently given you, whatever it is, you know, storyboards for.
[00:41:06] Daniel Weiner: Sure. And now that you've hired an agency if you were giving the advice to somebody 'cause there is truthfully a lot of pressure on folks in your, uh, in your role, how do you get the best out of an agency?
[00:41:19] Mario Paganini: Oh, sorry, I lost my light there for a second.
[00:41:21] Daniel Weiner: No worries.
[00:41:23] Mario Paganini: Again, maybe, maybe a cop-out answer, but it is about actually having a real relationship with them, it's about having that agency truly understand what success looks like because if you just work with the agency and, say, "Okay, agency, you know, your," if it's a creative agency, "you know, your role is to deliver 10 assets per, per week."
[00:41:42] To them, success is whether or not they delivered those 10 assets per week. But if you are able to develop that relationship with this agency and have them understand, okay, the reason we are working together is because we need to create this business result, this is what success truly looks like, and they're invested enough to work with you to, to share in that success, I think you're gonna get a, a much, much better result.
[00:42:10] But I've seen, and I've probably been culpable of this early in my career, where you kind of shield the agency where you only give them enough information, just the bare minimum, such that they can do what you're asking them to do, and that's not, you know, positioning anyone for a successful outcome.
[00:42:27] So, you know, it's about finding people you trust, finding people that have proven they're able to do work that inspires you. And then, trust is a two-way street, you have to be candid with the agency, you've gotta tell them when things are not going well on your business, you gotta tell them when things change, you've got to open the doors to, you know, and oftentimes the financial success of your business, the business goals. And once you've established that and assuming that you did the vetting right and have a, a good agency, they're going to be sharing in your success. Whereas another, the opposite would just be, you know, someone giving you things to plug in and, you know, who knows whether those things are gonna drive any results, and the agency never even knows whether their work is actually driving that success.
[00:43:11] Daniel Weiner: What do you think is something that agencies oftentimes get wrong or something that you wish more agencies, quote-unquote, got?
[00:43:17] Mario Paganini: That's a good question.
[00:43:18] Daniel Weiner: My first time asking that que, that was one of my new, uh, new questions 2023.
[00:43:22] Mario Paganini: I wish, yes, and I actually have a good answer to this. I, I wish, or I would recommend, we'll put it that way, that more agencies did a better job of marketing and advocating for themselves, you know, I've worked with creative agencies,
[00:43:41] Daniel Weiner: Uh, cobbler with no shoes type issue?
[00:43:42] Mario Paganini: I've, I've worked with plenty of creative agencies, I've worked with plenty of advertising agencies, I've worked with PR agencies, and not every time, but in, in, in most cases, I was never really able to assess how good they are at doing that 'cause they're not doing whatever it is they do for themselves. There's a lot of PR agencies out there that are not, you know, none of their executives, none of their team are active on LinkedIn,
[00:44:14] none of them are thought leaders, they're not driving any sort of excitement or buzz for own businesses, there's a lot of advertising agencies out there that are not, you know, if an ABM agency wanted to sell to me and they were able to target me in the same way that I am asking them to go and target my audience, that's gonna be such a strong proof point and ultimately a, agency that we
[00:44:40] ended up partnering with a couple of quarters ago now, and so far it's been going spectacularly well, uh, a PR agency, the reason that we started talking to them in the first place, and a huge reason as to why we eventually said yes and started giving them our money is because their team, their CEO especially, but virtually everyone on their team
[00:45:01] is not just extremely active on LinkedIn and other social channels, but they are all respected as genuine thought leaders, they are literally wearing the proof of their wears on their sleeve that, you know, and they don't have to do any other inbound marketing, they don't have to go and spend any money on, on paid ads.
[00:45:20] I'm like, "Okay, what do I want as a PR agency?" I want an agency that is going to be able to efficaciously get my story out there and drive engagement, and 9/10 PR agencies, they tell me they're gonna do that, but I see no proof, whereas, you know, this one I look like, "Oh wait, like, literally if uh, they were just able to do, like, exactly what they're doing for themselves, obviously you gotta, you know, shift it to Stord, that'd be awesome for us. Let's work with those guys."
[00:45:49] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, no, it makes total sense. I mean, a lot of agencies don't market themselves in general, which is a, a miss, I mean, I think, I know the cobbler with no shoes, uh, reference kind of gets overplayed, but yeah, no, it's a good actionable tip for agencies who, uh, I hear from most people I interview on this podcast, like, within two to three weeks they get hit up by people on LinkedIn referencing the podcast like, "Hey, we heard that,
[00:46:10] like, you ready to talk?" So, uh, we can see how they do with that once that occurs for you, but, uh, final agency question, then we'll move into some fun ones. Do you think a negative agency experience, so say you hire an agency, you know, runs its course and something happens and it turns negative, you know, do you think that once that seed of doubt has been planted, that it can be salvaged or, uh, kind of point of no return?
[00:46:33] Mario Paganini: It depends on what it is, I guess, I would say that, I guess I'd be lying if I, if I truthfully said that I have experience kind of coming back from that point of no return, you know, you
[00:46:48] Daniel Weiner: You're saying, you're saying you don't, right? Or?
[00:46:50] Mario Paganini: Yeah. I, so, I have
[00:46:53] Daniel Weiner: I agree with your, uh,
[00:46:55] Mario Paganini: In, in, I, I think about a lot of the not successful agency relationships I've had, and this isn't just Stord, this is, you know, across my entire career, and I think about every single agency that I've parted ways with, and in every single case, there was a point in time where I or people on my team realize this really wasn't working, that we were quite frustrated or disappointed with the results in every case we went to the agency and, you know, had a
[00:47:26] conversation, explain that, to the credit of all these folks, every single one of them, "Listen, like, yes, like, we totally get it, we are going to improve, we're going to change." And every single time I've given, you know, these agencies leeway to show that change, but I can't honestly say that I've ever been at a point where I've had that conversation of, "All right, things are gonna need to really change or this isn't gonna work," and actually seen the agency change enough for us to not end up partying ways with them.
[00:47:57] So, I've always given every agency, like, a chance, but there's never been one that's been kind of at that, like, you know, come to Jesus moment and then actually came out successful on the other side.
[00:48:07] Daniel Weiner: I agree. It's why, like, you know, with the agencies that I do work with, I, there's a certain level of coaching and feedback, I get so much data from folks like you, like, while talking candidly with them about their agency search, and to your point, like, yeah, you'll attempt to make it better, but I think it's that trust thing, like, once the seed of doubt and since you have so many options in the agency space, I think, yeah, it's why I preach so much about the proactivity of the relationship side outside of the actual work, like,
[00:48:35] you can fudge data to say a lot of different things, creative is subjective to who you're showing it to, but, like, relationship and process is so important. And I think a lot of agencies get too comfortable, uh, once a relationship is good, and things are going, especially if the results are good because then they are like, well, why would we rock the boat?
[00:48:54] And I agree with that, too. It's why I think the client-agency relationship is a super interesting one and, uh, a fickle one that can turn so quickly based on a million different factors, and I feel for both sides, truthfully, it's very hard, it's why, like, it was, uh, supremely more rare now, but when I read, like, of some, like, iconic brands who've been working with the same agency for, like, 20 years, I'm like, "Oh my God, like, how have they done that, that's insane, you know?" How has no one fucked up royally enough to get them kicked out, it's crazy, it's amazing.
[00:49:23] Mario Paganini: Well, I've actually talked to people who've been in, in, in that experience, and this probably isn't the case for every single time this happens, but I've seen a lot of cases where the story goes something like this, it's a, you know, either it's a smaller company, or it's a, or it's a company that, that doesn't have a lot of in-house expertise in, in, in whatever area that they, they work.
[00:49:45] And so, you know, here I'll give you a marketing example, you know, the CEO of the company, you know, prob, not at a point where that person feels like they need to go and, you know, hire a good VP, hire a good CMO, but realizes that we need some baseline level of marketing. And so, they go out individually or, you know, someone on their staff that's not a marketing expert goes out and, you know, finds an agency to do our
[00:50:07] marketing and, you know, in that case, there's really no one internally that's truly able to evaluate how good the agency is and then, you know, they end up just kind of basically becoming the in-house marketing wing for, for that company. And so, you know, we, an example being that we had started, acquired a, uh, another 3PL in 2021.
[00:50:30] And that, that company did not have any in-house marketing resources, but they did have a, agency that was just basically do, it wasn't a PPC agency, it wasn't a PR agency, it was just, like, we just do marketing and not to, you know, not, not hear a shit on this, this agency, but, you know, the, obviously the first thing that I did when we, when we integrated this company, it was, like, I looked at what they were doing,
[00:50:53] and I tried to get to the bottom of the data of, like, "All right, you know, yes, we're running ads, yes, we're creating content, yes, we are, you know, making posts, but like, can we show really any traction, like, you know, let's," I, I went and asked CEOs like, "Okay, of all of your customers, which of them came in through the work of this agency?" And we, you know, we couldn't find a single example of that.
[00:51:18] And so, it's just this, this case of, you know, we had, or yeah, we, 'cause I'm involved in this as much as anyone, this, you know, agency that have been years and years and years doing marketing, but in a situation where there's no one, no one in-house that's going to tie them to specific business objectives and no one in-house that is going to be able to evaluate how successful they are, you kind of
[00:51:39] Daniel Weiner: The dream account for the, the dream account for the agency
[00:51:41] Mario Paganini: Yeah, exactly, yeah, and these, these folks, rightfully so, they're quite upset when I, when I told them they were parting ways, they probably realized, like, "Oh, man, we just lost, like, the, the, the easiest and most profitable client we've ever had."
[00:51:54] Daniel Weiner: It would've been better if they were like, "Well, we had a good run, so, you know, like."
[00:51:58] Mario Paganini: Yeah. No, I actually was kind of expecting that 'cause I met with the CEO of this agency, and they kinda, you know, I very quickly realized that this probably wasn't gonna work. And so, you know, I'm, I try to be as candid as possible, so I sent them an email and just said, like, "Hey, look, you know, here's the reasons,
[00:52:18] Stord's a much bigger company, we have a marketing team, we have a couple agencies we work with, it just doesn't make sense for us to continue this relationship." And then, this person kinda emailed me back and said like, "Yeah, I, I understand, but, you know, I, I'm gonna be out in the Bay Area, and I just, like, really appreciate the opportunity to meet with you."
[00:52:36] And I was like," Eh, I don't know if I really wanted this, but fine, like, you know, you're, you're, you're gonna fly across the country, I, I will, I will meet you for, meet you for coffee." And so, this person kind of made the, kind of made the, the full pitch and, you know, told me how good they think they are and how much they wanna stay,
[00:52:54] and I kind of said, "You know, look, I, for this exact reason, this is why I sent you an email before I, it just makes absolutely no business sense for us for us to continue working together." And then the, I vividly remember this, the guy gets up and goes, "Well, in that case, there's just nothing else for us to talk about." Picked up his coffee and walked away. I was like, "Dang," I was like, "You flew all the way out here for this?"
[00:53:15] Daniel Weiner: Good for both of you, I would say, a, a mutual, uh, a parting of ways, you got your time back, and he got a coffee. What, uh, I know you have to get on a flight soon, so, we'll, we'll wrap this up shortly, uh, what are you most bullish on in the marketing space at the moment? We've got NFTs, which maybe they've, uh, seen their bubble burst, Metaverse, we've got ChatGPT and artificial intelligence taking over. What are you most excited about?
[00:53:38] Mario Paganini: Call me old school, which is something that, gosh, I never thought that I would brand myself as, but I'm not in, really involved or, uh, making that much of an investment in, in any of these areas, we're not in the Web3 space, you know, I've, like anyone else, you know, toyed around with ChatGPT, it's, it's cool as hell,
[00:53:56] it's, it's awesome, like, but I am one of the people that's not of the school who thought that this is going to revolutionize marketing, like, once I saw everyone doing this, I pulled it up and I wrote, asked a bunch of prompts, I asked it to write webpages, asked it to write blog posts, and I was very impressed
[00:54:15] that it was able to, to do it and do it at a pretty good quality, but ultimately the, the reason why I am more bearish on this being the future of marketing is that inherently this program is designed to create content that looks like what is already out there. So, if you're going for a just pure quantity play or you're going for like, "Hey, I want to have marketing that just looks like the other marketing out there."
[00:54:41] Yeah, use, use AI, don't hire people, it's way, way cheaper, way faster, way, way easier, but, you know, per everything that we've, we, we've talked about, my thesis of, of, you know, what is truly going to drive success for a brand, it was true in 2022, it will be true this year in 2023, and, uh, I'd be shocked to find it's not true in 2040 and further on long after I'm hopefully done, done, done doing this stuff that what is truly going to drive success,
[00:55:12] what is gonna separate your brand from everyone else that's vying for the same attention is your ability to truly differentiate yourself, your ability to rise above the noise, your ability to create a stronger emotional connection with your audience, and you do that by, you know, you can't, just being different isn't enough,
[00:55:32] you know, I could probably go and just post ads with, you know, just huge words, profanity, and people would look at it, and they'd be like, "Oh, that's interesting, that's an emotional reaction," you know, it's more than just being different, but if you are truly able to create that emotional relationship, which starts with proving to your audience that you truly understand the problems that they're facing, proving to your audience that you have the authority, that you know how to help them and entertaining them along the way,
[00:56:02] you are going to see success, that is the pinnacle of successful marketing. You choose a brand, you go and ask people, you know, which companies do you admire for, for their marketing? You're never gonna find anyone that answers the question based on, "Oh yeah, I admire this company because their Facebook targeting's really good."
[00:56:18] Or, "I admire this company because their Google Analytics is set up really well." It's, "I admire this company because I love their content, I admire this company 'cause I love their brand." And no matter how much the tech changes, no matter how much the internet change, having that great branding, having that great content is never, ever, ever gonna go outta style, in my opinion.
[00:56:37] Daniel Weiner: I like it. What keeps you up on the other side? What keeps you up at night from a marketing or business standpoint? The best answer I've ever received to this question was the last one of 2022 with, uh, the Head of s, or Head of Brand at, uh, Semrush who said, who's in Barcelona, who said, "Truthfully, I sleep pretty well." It was, I thought the best answer, everybody else has given me the stress in their life, I'm curious.
[00:56:57] Mario Paganini: I mean, honestly, I do sleep decently well, but, um, I do think that something that keeps me up at night and something that I think about a lot is that, um, there's a lot of marketers out there that I just have a lot of empathy for, and, and the reason for that is that, you know, when, uh, when we enter more challenging economic times, which we're certainly in right now, when, when companies are, you know, fastening their belts on, on, on budget, which is a probably the right thing to do for most companies right now.
[00:57:31] The unfortunate thing is that in, in many, many, many cases, marketing is one of the first, if not the first areas where there's quite a bit of pullback, whether that's, you know, less dollars to spend, I think, I can't think of a single CMO that I've chatted with that hasn't, you know, shared that they are working with less budget than, uh, in 2023 than they, they were in 2022,
[00:57:52] and in previous years, um, I've seen hands on many different teams, uh, in similar spaces, parting ways with really, really, really talented people. So, I certainly feel a lot of empathy for a lot of marketers that are in a lot of pain right now, but more acutely, the thing that, you know, makes me sad and certainly, uh, you know, hard to grapple with is that I see so many marketing teams that are doing good work that aren't able to earn that right seat at the table internally within their companies.
[00:58:26] So, everything we've talked about in this interview as it relates to marketing is, you know, my philosophies on how to be good at marketing, but there's another element of this equation, which is, you know, how do you be good as a CMO, how do you be good as a, a marketing executive and you can do all these things and still fail at that, that if you are not capable of really earning that seat at the executive table of having executive leadership, the board, your executive peers bought into why this is so important.
[00:58:59] What results its driving, and why we need to continue investing, it doesn't matter how good you are, the reality is that most folks don't understand marketing, it's like the most overused marketing meme on, on LinkedIn, "Oh, the CEO doesn't understand marketing, don't work for a CEO that doesn't understand marketing."
[00:59:18] I don't believe in that, you can work for a CEO that doesn't understand marketing if, uh, you are able to build enough trust, build enough of a relationship with that person that they trust you to invest in, and sadly, there's a lot of marketing teams that are kind of cowering in the shadows right now that, you know, when a company comes down and says, "All right, we need to cut back on budget," most folks are, you know, too fearful or not capable of, of pushing back.
[00:59:42] And when I think about what's gonna separate the great brands from the, you know, okay ones in, in 2023 that when everyone else is pulling back when budgets are, are, are tightening, you know, fortune favors the, the bold, the brands that are able to, to stay the course and continue to invest are gonna see even more outsized returns in this market where everyone else is pulling back.
[01:00:05] Daniel Weiner: Sure. That's kind of why my opinion when people ask, say like, "Oh, I had a terrible agency experience with someone," or, "I hate this agency," or even about in-house marketers, uh, when I follow up to those, I'm rarely curious, I eventually want to hear about it, but I'm really curious about the results,
[01:00:19] truthfully, like, I take the opinion if even in the scenario of you, like, if you go in and put a strategy in place and it doesn't work, does that make you a bad marketer? I don't think so, I think what I see a lot of that I grapple with is, like, I see inactivity, uh, and lack of proactivity on agency side and marketer side, like, the biggest, uh, the worst thing you can do is not taking action, you know, and getting complacent and stuff like that, but, I mean, if you try and fail, you learn not to do that thing again. So, to me, like, the best marketers I see and the folks I admire truthfully, just take a lot of action, and they're very said fast, and they know it may not work, but they're doing it anyways, it's kind of
[01:00:55] Mario Paganini: A hundred percent. It's kind of what I said earlier that, um, if you've already made it and your company is gonna succeed no matter what you do. Sure, great, play it safe, play conservative, I don't, I don't blame you, but I don't really know any marketing leaders that are in positions where their company is gonna be successful no matter what they do.
[01:01:14] And so, when you are faced with the challenge of bringing your company to, to greater heights, the one thing you know is that doing nothing or doing the same shit that everyone else is doing isn't going to work. Doesn't mean that doing something different's inherently gonna work, but you already know one end of the equation, which is doing nothing or doing the same shit is absolutely guaranteed not to work.
[01:01:36] So, you need to have the conviction to try something different, try something new and is it gonna work every time? Hell no, but I do know for sure that if you don't do it, you're gonna fail.
[01:01:46] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. We'll rapid-fire the last few, what was your very first job?
[01:01:50] Mario Paganini: Tennis coach.
[01:01:52] Daniel Weiner: Did it, have you taken any of your tennis coaching, uh, into what you do now? Does it translate at all?
[01:01:58] Mario Paganini: Maybe a little bit, uh, there's, like, a patience element, which is certainly very, very important, uh, for anyone, not just marketing, and then there's a, you know, being really good at explaining things is an unreal superpower.
[01:02:13] Daniel Weiner: I agree. Death row meal, hopefully, you're not on death row, but what would your final meal be? A less morbid version.
[01:02:18] Mario Paganini: Thankfully, thankfully, I am not, gosh, death row meal. There's this place in Oakland called Millennium, like fancy, bougie vegan food, and I just freaking love that place, way too expensive for me to go regularly, but I could go out well on a millennium, fancy, vegan, multiple-course meal.
[01:02:37] Daniel Weiner: Perfect. And then, our final question before we wrap up. Who is somebody who inspires you either personally or professionally?
[01:02:43] Mario Paganini: I've actually never told this, I've told this story vaguely, but, uh, I'll quickly tell it now. Uh, this dude, Chris Orlob, uh, he was a marketing leader, then a sales leader over at, at Gong, and like, many, many years ago, I actually interviewed to, to be on his team, and he turned me down, which, like, I was crushed at the, at the time, but, um, gave me really good feedback,
[01:03:04] and, um, from that point, I've been following him ever since, and I'd be lying if Chris's work and, uh, the work from, from the Gong team hasn't been, uh, a massive inspiration to what I've been able to do and what my team's been able to do at Stord.
[01:03:18] Daniel Weiner: That's awesome. Hopefully, uh, it's a, a very, uh, a good fitting end of, uh, when one door closes, one door opens, and stuff like that, cliche but true. But, uh, no, thank you very much, I know we went for, like, an hour and a half, we had a technical difficulty, we got through all sorts of stuff. Think you have a flight in, like, 20 minutes, you said, or you need to leave for the airport soon, so.
[01:03:36] Mario Paganini: I've got, I'm at, I'm going on freight waves at, in 40 minutes.
[01:03:40] Daniel Weiner: Oh, you're doing that first, and you go to the airport.
[01:03:42] Mario Paganini: And then, my flight's in, like, three hours' time. So, I've got this, like, very, very tight today. But, uh, no, I've, I've loved the conversation, thanks so much for, for thinking of me and, and having me on, and, um, we'll, uh, be excited for the two of us to, to chat more, I can share some more of the secret details of some of the agency relationships with the offline.
[01:04:00] Daniel Weiner: Absolutely. We will talk to you soon.