In this episode of YouShouldTalkTo, Kathy Neumann, CMO of Rent, explains why it is important to test before pulling back the budget, even during hard times. Kathy and our host Daniel Weiner get into the benefits of digital to brands and consumers and discuss the importance of agency-brand relationships, how to work with agency partners, and how to get the most out of them.
💡 Name: Kathy Neumann, CMO of Rent.
💡 Noteworthy: Kathy is a strong marketing professional skilled in marketing, digital, social and brand strategy, market research, management, direct, performance and multi-channel marketing. Kathy joined Rent as the CMO in February 2022 with a wealth of experience in brand and consumer marketing. Most recently, Kathy oversaw integrated marketing at chewy.com, the beloved direct-to-consumer pet food and pet care brand, awarded one of "America's 20 Hottest Brands 2020" by Ad Age. Prior to Chewy, Kathy worked on building brands including Carter's, OshKosh B'gosh, Lands' End, Pink, and Victoria's Secret.
⚡ Test before you pull back the budget. The COVID pandemic has brought both changes and problems that have affected everyday life and the entire economy. Due to the uncertainty that followed COVID, many companies stopped working, and even now, we are witnessing many brands pulling back and controlling spending due to the current economic situation. Kathy points out that pulling back budgets is often a short-term reaction that can do more long-term damage, so she suggests testing first. "The most important thing to do is keep testing when you tend to pull back budgets. Sometimes we get that test because they're expensive in the short term or more inefficient in the short term, but that's what's going to give us the leverage to improve our performance over the next six, 18 months. And if you forgo your testing plan, you are really giving up future efficiencies. Whether that's new channels, new creative, new copy, CTAs, all of that stuff, it's still gotta be tested just like it was back when things were a little bit brighter, maybe. And if we walk away from that, we're walking away from really being good stewards of the business."
⚡ Agencies are a smart investment in partnerships to accelerate performance and learning. Often the success of a brand or a business depends on creating the right partnership with an agency because agencies can contribute a lot to their development. They can help you with many things, and you can also learn a lot from working with them. Kathy says that during her career, she has used agencies for many different things and that you should definitely invest in them. "Agencies can play a critical role in helping grow a business, especially as we're testing new things, and we're trying to find additional expertise, additional hands on the keyboard, skill sets that we may not have or we may not know we need yet. And it's often easier to partner with an agency and learn through something, and maybe there comes a time where you have an understanding of what's going to work for your business, you've learned through it, and it starts to migrate back into the house."
YouShouldTalkTo - Kathy Neumann
[00:00:00] Kathy Neumann: I think sometimes incorrectly we assume that we shouldn't be giving feedback.
[00:00:06] Sometimes agencies come in and present as the experts and you've gotta find ways to give feedback so that it, it can be melded with their expertise, right? It's like, how can we make one plus one equal three or four rather than, you know, being a negative experience in total.
[00:00:22] Daniel Weiner: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the YouShouldTalkTo podcast. I am Daniel Wiener, your Founder, and Host. Podcast is currently brought to you by myself, until we get a sponsor, potentially after today. YouShouldTalkTo pairs brands and marketers for free, with vetted agencies and or freelancers for pretty much any marketing or Tech need because finding great agencies is an enormous pain in the ass.
[00:01:23] Super excited today to be joined by Kathy Neumann, who is CMO at Rent. Kathy, thank you so much for joining.
[00:01:29] Kathy Neumann: Absolutely. Great to connect.
[00:01:31] Daniel Weiner: Awesome. Well, let's dive right in. We'll start with a little bit of controversy. What is an unpopular opinion or a hot take of sorts that you have in the marketing world in general?
[00:01:41] Kathy Neumann: Goodness. Jump right in, why don't you? I think one of the challenges we all have right now is, like, exactly what is going on, how is, 2023 gonna play out, and there's lots of folks that are pulling back and I, I tend to think that only as a short-term potential reaction and actually can do more long-term damage.
[00:01:59] So, not saying we should all be spending frivolously for sure, but we've gotta maintain a drumbeat of our brands in the market and still connect with consumers, especially. For my company it's, we, we help find people, find apartments and the next place to live. People still need to live regardless of what's going on with the economy,
[00:02:18] so we gotta make sure we're staying out in front of them and, and connecting in ways that make sense, um, and being really judicious about our investments, but keeping that drumbeat going.
[00:02:28] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I say it several times per day with brands that I'm chatting with that most of my advice is easier to say when it's not my own money. But I feel like we saw, we saw through COVID, at least, which, you know, not that it's necessarily indicative of right now, like, the brands that did not just stop spending and spent through it and, and,
[00:02:44] you know, again, something is better than nothing. I think where a lot of the brands that we saw come out on top and better positioned for future growth once we got out of, you know, the initial phase of COVID and all that stuff.
[00:02:54] Kathy Neumann: For sure. It's a, adage that I've said before too. It's like marketing works, integrated marketing works best, and if you start to pull back too many of those layers of that integrated plan, the fall-off is severe, right? You lose the synergies of all of the touchpoints, and today's consumer is just connected in so many different ways you, it's no longer a one-trick pony that sort of gets the job done.
[00:03:16] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. Marketing is exhausting is my overall sentiment, especially as a CMO when you've got visibility into, especially at a consumer-facing brand, I would say.
[00:03:24] Kathy Neumann: For sure.
[00:03:25] Daniel Weiner: With so many different channels. To that end, you've worked at consumer brands most of your career, Chewy and Lands' End, to name a few, and now at Rent.
[00:03:32] Can you tell us a little bit about that journey and what's the biggest change you've seen, if any, in consumer behavior in general, I would say, from beginning of your career to now?
[00:03:41] Kathy Neumann: Yeah, I've, I've pretty much been in retail consumer brands my entire career until this role, really focused in the retail space. And what I really love about retail is the fast pace and the ability to sort of make a change and see an impact almost immediately. And especially in today's digital world, that's absolutely true.
[00:03:59] You can see clicks, good or bad, or maybe the absence of clicks immediately, and you know, whether it's working or not. When I think about the evolution that's happened in the course of my career, I'm trying not to date myself too much, but it, it is that digital consumption and the ability for brands, especially within a retail space, to enter the marketplace so quickly and efficiently now, between the use of digital channels, influencer marketing and just the ease of setting up a storefront, right?
[00:04:30] It used to be, you had to build a physical structure to have a physical retail presence, now with digital presence, it's so much easier just to stand up a storefront and be in business immediately. And so, you know, consumers have always had choice, they just have so much more choice now. And, you know, the big brands have gotta play, like, scrappy brands to compete, and that's definitely a different DNA than where we were when I started my career.
[00:04:56] Daniel Weiner: No, that makes total sense. You touched on it at the beginning, too, like, economy and flux a little bit,
[00:05:00] discretionary spending, in your world, people still need to live, hopefully, they can afford that. In general, what's your advice to other CMOs out there who were kind of like, you know, floor planning what the rest of 2023 looks like and even into 2024 already?
[00:05:14] Kathy Neumann: Yeah. It is time to do 2024 budgets already. I think the most important thing to do is keep testing, right? I think when you tend to pull back budgets, sometimes we get that test because they're expensive in the short term or more inefficient in the short term, but that's what's gonna give us the leverage to improve our performance over the next 6, 18 months.
[00:05:37] And if you forego your testing plan, you are really giving up future efficiencies, right? Whether that's new channels, new creative, new copy, CTAs, all of that stuff. It's still gotta be tested just like it was back when, you know, things were a little bit brighter maybe. And if we, if we walk away from that, we're walking away from really being good stewards of the business.
[00:06:01] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. I think the most common thing I see across all titles, VP of Marketing, CMO, Director of Marketing in general, is, things aren't given enough time to run their course. And even if they're really successful like the first week or the first month, I'm like, "Is that indicative of you wanting to triple your investment because it was so successful?
[00:06:18] Like, that could drop the next week?" you know? Uh, I'm impatient myself so I can understand it, but I'm curious your thoughts on that. Like, how do you view testing periods and stuff like that? Dependent on channel and?
[00:06:31] Kathy Neumann: Yeah. I think it's important to understand what you're trying to test and what are you trying to test for, right? So, there's continual optimization, but then there's testing where you're actually trying to learn something new or change paradigms or change understandings. I think to your point, you know, testing something back in the middle of COVID and thinking those results are gonna still hold today, not gonna be the case because the environment has changed so much.
[00:06:55] And so, when we're thinking about testing and we're thinking about learning, we really have to make sure we're continually testing against some of the things that we may have taken for granted are just sort of accepted as universal truths because the larger macro changes are so dramatic between 2020 to 2023, you can't assume anything's gonna be the same.
[00:07:17] And I think that's where some people potentially missed some of the mark, right? Is, to your point, it worked great the first three weeks I had it out there, well, it's now summer, and I was testing something in winter, and the world has changed, or just the environment's changed or the consumer need has changed, and it's not necessarily gonna hold, hold the same results.
[00:07:36] So, it's this continual learning environment that people have to get really comfortable with to really stay ahead of the changes.
[00:07:43] Daniel Weiner: I imagine, especially in your world with rental markets and just, you know, how the world works, there's an extreme or maybe not so sure, I'm curious, level of seasonality in terms of, like, testing as well of when people are looking for new places and things like that to an even further degree outside of, like, a consumer product where theoretically people constantly are looking for it.
[00:08:03] Kathy Neumann: Yeah, there is. And it's, it's interesting, I've only been in this industry for just about a year now, but there is a seasonality to it for sure, just, like, almost any industry, but to your point, there's definitely a consideration window, and then there's the "My lease is expiring, and I need to find a place to live" moment,
[00:08:20] right? And so, as you're kind of going through that natural seasonal flow, people are responding differently, right? People may be looking, and the PDP experience is so much more important. Well, as we get closer to needing to find a place to live in the next 30, 60 days, things, like scheduling a tour and going and visiting the property are so much more important.
[00:08:39] So, as we're testing that UX, that changes how a consumer engages with it during that timeframe. So, it's important to continue that sort of continual learning approach that we can understand how all of that impacts the ultimate customer journey.
[00:08:55] Daniel Weiner: That's awesome. What's your overall opinion on agencies in general? Did, how does Rent utilize agency partners as a whole?
[00:09:02] Kathy Neumann: So, we use agencies a couple of different ways here. We use a mix of established agencies for some of our core programs. We are working with agencies to help build our brand and buy media at scale, right? Just so that we, we're not having to think of it as our own internal investment from a resource standpoint.
[00:09:22] Um, and then we use some freelance agencies too, to help with sort of the ebbs and flows of just content building and whatnot, again, so that we can have a broader reach in terms of expertise and have more short bursts than long-term ongoing business.
[00:09:35] Daniel Weiner: Love them, hate em, necessary-evil agencies, uh, especially at your level. Everybody has good agency and bad agency stories, which we'll, we'll talk about in a bit, but I'm just curious in general, like, what's your overall opinion of agencies necessary to the growth of your business or?
[00:09:49] Kathy Neumann: I think agencies can play a critical role in helping grow a business, especially as we're testing into new things and we're trying to find additional expertise, additional hands on the keyboard, skill sets that we may not have or we may not know we need yet, right? And it's often easier to partner with an agency and learn through something
[00:10:08] and maybe there comes a time where you kind of have an understanding of what's gonna work for your business, you've learned through it, and it starts to migrate back in house. But I definitely think over the course of my career, I've used agencies for a host of different things. To your point, there's been some good relationships and some bad ones.
[00:10:24] But I definitely think, you know, it's not a necessary evil. I think it's a smart investment in a smart partnerships to accelerate performance and accelerate learning.
[00:10:33] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I think that's an important distinction too that you mentioned about learning through stuff 'cause I talked to so many different brands who think like hiring an agency, you know, you start today and tomorrow, like, results just start pouring in or you're guaranteed success. And truthfully, like, some of the best magic, I would say, comes from learning together and failing.
[00:10:51] Like, to your point, accelerating it so that you're not, you know, failing for an extended period of time, but learning stuff and then, like, the magic comes 90 days in, or 6 months in when you have figured out what works and things are optimized, and you're spending so much more efficiently. But yeah, it's not a silver bullet from my experience.
[00:11:07] Kathy Neumann: For sure, for sure. And I think, you know, there's things that make for great agency relationships, and a lot of that, quite frankly, is on my side of the table, right? And how we think about utilizing an agency, getting them up to speed, the clarity of direction. I think one of the, the most crucial things, especially when you're working with an agency in a, in a brand role, is if the organization itself doesn't understand what they want the brand to be.
[00:11:31] That poor agency doesn't have a chance of success, right? If, if we can't align internally, and I, I've been there over the course of my career, not necessarily today, but in prior years where we've got debate inside the organization is where we think we should go and thinking we can hire an agency to solve that, in my experience has never turned out well, right?
[00:11:51] It's like we're trying to hire somebody to break a tie, and that, that's never been a successful model in my, in my experience.
[00:11:59] Daniel Weiner: How do you recommend getting the most out of your agency partners?
[00:12:02] I think there's three core things to having a really good agency relationship. One is making sure that you're being fully transparent on the needs of the organization
[00:12:13] Kathy Neumann: whether that's, you know, we need you to help us
[00:12:16] do a small case today, and there may be something bigger to come, but if we're not upfront with that, it doesn't work well. Two is really clear on what does success look like. If the internal company and the external agency are not aligned on, at the end of the day, what success will be, there's usually not a good chance those sides will be happy.
[00:12:36] Right? And then lastly, I think it's just open and frequent dialogue. I've never been a fan of, you know, writing a brief, pitching it over the fence, and waiting six months for something to come back. I think the best relationships have always been ones where there is frequent dialogue, open dialogue, and constructive feedback on those sides, right?
[00:12:58] Where is my side of the table dropping the ball? Where do we want to get more from an agency in Gainville, have that open dialogue ultimately ends in a better end product.
[00:13:08] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. I actually, uh, unintentionally, uh, a good segue, I posted about this yesterday on LinkedIn actually, about how I often talk to folks in your role who have just ended an agency relationship and are looking for a new and they think, you know, grass is always greener on the other side, and it's often not, to your point, like, it sounded like the thesis of all that was like investing in the agency partnership and relationship. Grass is greener where you water it.
[00:13:30] I, of course, didn't come up with that sentiment, but yeah, like, you know, when I'm advising both sides, typically, occasionally when there's, like, you know, disarray at the beginning or something like that, I'm like, "Talk to each other, why is everybody talking to me? Like, I can mediate to a certain degree, but you guys should be having frequent health checks at the beginning of a relationship,
[00:13:48] similar to a romantic relationship to say, 'This is what, this happened, and we didn't like this, and how do we figure out how to not to do it again?'" Like, I think it's naive to think that, like, everything just starts out and is, like, 100% perfect 'cause processes, you know, how you like to be communicated with is different than how the next CMO likes to be communicated with.
[00:14:07] So, yeah, those frequent health checks are, uh, paramount.
[00:14:10] Kathy Neumann: Absolutely.
[00:14:12] Daniel Weiner: Most folks I chat with, with your title, the elusive CMO title, are getting hit up about 700 times a day via virtually every single platform, including text, phone, email, the whole shebang. Is that the case for you?
[00:14:25] Kathy Neumann: Yeah, I would definitely say it's a very, very active market out there. There's lots of activity going on, and I think, you know, the CMO role has kind of gotten a bad rap in the last couple of years, right? It's the highest turnover in the C-suite and has been for a while.
[00:14:40] Daniel Weiner: 18 months is the, is that the current, I think?
[00:14:42] Kathy Neumann: It's somewhere in that neighborhood, right?
[00:14:44] And I think somewhat about what we talked about with an agency holds true for a CMO role internally as well, right? I've gotta have great alignment with my C-suite, the rest of my team, with my CEO as to what we're gonna focus on, what we're gonna deliver, and how it's gonna manifest itself. I think there's a little bit of, obviously, there's art and science in marketing completely, and sometimes that mix isn't aligned with the rest of the organization,
[00:15:10] right? And, and I think, you know, when times get tough, there's a desire to have more maybe art, and maybe almost the borderline of magic happen with marketing and make things, you know, all better instantly, and that's, you know, if we actually had that magic wand, it'd be awesome, but it, it takes work and dedication, and there's process, and there's, there's discipline within the space.
[00:15:30] It's not all, you know, great fonts and pretty colors if you will.
[00:15:34] Daniel Weiner: It's not, it's not just the fonts and colors?
[00:15:36] Kathy Neumann: No.
[00:15:37] Daniel Weiner: I've seen a common thread lately as well from mostly CMOs at bigger brands, especially in 23 of do more with less, like, that it is magic of, "Hey, like, economy's down, budgets are down, but we still expect you to exceed last year's numbers or do the same" and stuff like that.
[00:15:54] Which, to your point, like, yeah, that's not possible most of the time. It's, nothing is impossible, but that makes it efficiently more difficult, so that alignment is crucial. How do you, what do you recommend to other CMOs in terms of trying to find alignment internally with other C-Suite members and boards and stuff like that?
[00:16:12] Kathy Neumann: Yeah. I think there's gotta be real transparency in what's happening, the good, the bad, and the ugly, right? Not everything's gonna work. Things are gonna miss the mark, but if you can build that trust and that transparency as to maybe why something didn't work, what you think happened, even better if you know what happened from testing or, or insights and share that openly
[00:16:34] and then what are the next steps that are gonna come? How are we gonna fix it? Where do we need to go? Really helps build that case so that there isn't sort of that mythical, like, you know, I, I don't really know what's going on, and I just know I don't like the results. But if we can work to dissect it and let people behind the curtains a little bit to understand it, the better off you are, whether that's
[00:16:53] working with the CEO, you know, my head of product partners, engineering partners, what have you, that always ends in a better result. And I think it's really important just to be transparent about where you think you've got opportunity to walk things back and not have an impact. But guess what? I'm not gonna give that to the bottom line.
[00:17:12] I'm going to reinvest it in something that will work better, right? And so, it isn't always about cut, cut, cut, but maybe it's about cut to invest.
[00:17:21] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. No, that makes sense. I think the, uh, I totally agree. I hear from a lot of folks the unfortunate side of that, there is transparency, and once you get involved with other C-Suite members and boards and stuff like that, the answer is oftentimes like tough shit, you know? Like, we appreciate the honesty. Like, you gotta figure it out in some capacity
[00:17:40] and to your point, like, you can't just wave a magic wand at marketing. So, to all other C-Suite people listening out there, be nice to your CMOs these days.
[00:17:48] Kathy Neumann: Right, exactly.
[00:17:50] Daniel Weiner: Once you've decided that you need to look for a new agency partner or you wanna evaluate and stuff like that, what in general are you looking for in terms of like, you know, is category experience the most?
[00:18:01] Is, you know, case studies the most important, you know, expertise for that service? What do you look for an agency stand out?
[00:18:08] Kathy Neumann: I think it's a mix of things. One is they've gotta have the expertise and the area we're looking to explore, right? So, if we're trying to expand our social footprint, we need to be going to somebody that is really good at testing and exploring that space. Secondarily, I think it's really important and especially in, depending on where you're sitting and what company you're working with, that your company matters to the agency, right?
[00:18:31] There's nothing like being the small fry at a large agency and just sort of getting lost in the weeds. I've found better success in working with agencies to where my, my business actually matters. Sometimes that seems pretty basic, but sometimes we get hung up on the big, the big brands, if you will, within the agency world
[00:18:50] and if you're just not of the budgets or of the budgets yet to reach that, maybe that's not the best fit. And then lastly, I think, it really is, it comes down to a gel, right? Are the teams going to be able to work together? Just like you're hiring somebody for your team, you're gonna make sure it's gonna be a good fit.
[00:19:09] There aren't, you know, red flags, people are gonna be able to work together because you've gotta be able to work with the folks on the agency side just like you would with somebody sitting next to you at your desk. And so, those three components, I think really are sort of the, the lens I use when we're evaluating who we're gonna work with.
[00:19:27] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I think agencies often forget, even the ones I work with occasionally, how important the meshing of the team is. It's like, you could be the best at designing a website or building a social strategy to your point, and if the teams don't get along, you're not gonna get good work 'cause nobody's gonna enjoy the process
[00:19:45] and that's what arrives at, you know, award-winning work and stuff like that.
[00:19:48] It was good to hear truthfully about the business mattering, especially I, I came from an independent agency, small, we were like 25 headcount. I was there for 7 years up until COVID. I've seen a bigger shift before COVID, but especially since and especially in the role I'm in now.
[00:20:01] Quote-unquote, bigger name brands moving towards smaller
[00:20:04] independent agencies who were specialized and call it one to two things, which sounds like that's attractive to a brand like you or you in general, just how you think about agencies. Can you talk a bit about that?
[00:20:16] Kathy Neumann: Yeah, I definitely think it's important. I think there's a couple of things. One is just having an agency that's a specialist at something. I spoke about it earlier, right? I tend to use agencies to learn into spaces. So, I wanna get somebody that's, you know, it's not their first rodeo. They've been around the block.
[00:20:32] They've learned, and I can get, gain their experience of what they've done with other partners transparently. Right? And I'm willing to pay a premium for that because I'm gonna benefit from their learning and experience. So, oftentimes, you know, if you go to a really broad agency, you've got probably as much experience collectively against the types of initiatives I may be looking at, but they're spread across so many different account teams,
[00:20:56] you never get the benefit of that full experience. So, I've just had better success, been able to accelerate things more quickly by being in with somebody that really knows the space, and we can have that very frank dialogue as to, "Here's what we recommend you should do, and here's why," um, and it'd be based on that experience.
[00:21:15] Daniel Weiner: Can you think of in the past or either even currently in your current role, um, of a really positive agency experience that you've had and what made it so positive?
[00:21:25] Kathy Neumann: Yeah, I think early on, gosh, this is several years back, but early on in the content days, we had worked with an agency to bring an idea we had to life about, you know, integrating content and more lifestyle information within sort of our normal selling process, again, I'm working for retail consumer brands. And really leaned on an agency that had done some work with that in, in the past. And they were really able to help not only provide us
[00:21:51] great insights, but be able to help us build the case internally to invest in this, right? So, again, this is sort of in the early days of the web and, and all things that have since become commonplace. But this was back maybe when that wasn't, wasn't the typical, typical, go-to-market plan. And so, we were actually able to work with them to bring an idea to life.
[00:22:14] They were able to sort of take our thoughts and help us build out a plan, but then importantly, sell it back to the larger organization with the experience of results and metrics that they've seen from others. So, we got past the idea of, sure, this sounds great, but what's it gonna do for me?
[00:22:33] Right? And that was always sort of, one of the hardest things early on as digital was really taking off, it's like the shiny object, but is it, is the juice worth the squeeze? Is it worth the investment? What is it gonna do to help build the brand?
[00:22:46] Daniel Weiner: And I'm curious, was it more the work or the process because I generally, this is the first time, I think this is episode 23 in general, everybody, nobody mentions the work, which I find just to be an interesting, you know, anecdote. I'm curious, was it the end product that was what made it positive, or was it the, you know, the road and then the journey to get there, essentially?
[00:23:06] It sounds it was kind of both.
[00:23:08] Kathy Neumann: In this case, it was absolutely both. Right? And I think it goes back to again, what we talked about earlier, being aligned on what does success look like at the end so that the work was very focused on where we wanted to go, right? And so, again, in the early days, you could go anywhere with things, right?
[00:23:24] But making sure we, we had those guardrails in place, and we knew where we were trying to get to, really helped us stay focused and actually ended up being an award-winning campaign that we did together with agency.
[00:23:36] Daniel Weiner: That's awesome. I think that's interesting too. Like, I generally ask the question of, "Do you want like a more collaborative engagement, or you want to be told, you know, more what you need since you're paying an agency?" And it sounds, to your point, kind of both depending on the scenario, you know? You mentioned you want an agent, you wanna learn quicker by, you know, investing in an agency and paying a premium, but you want to kind of learn together.
[00:23:57] So, it sounds like you're looking for both a little bit when you wanna find a true agency partner.
[00:24:01] Kathy Neumann: Yeah, I do. I do. I think from our, from where I've been and where we are today, this is really about a partnership and almost, I view agencies almost as a pseudo staff augment, right? Like, helping fill a void, helping fill a need rather than, again, pitching that work over the fence and just expecting it to come back.
[00:24:21] I've just never seen that work well long-term. Every once in a while, you know, anyone's gonna get a chance to hit something out of the park and be really, really good work, but it doesn't usually maintain that momentum over time if it's not a collaborative experience and at least in, from what I've seen.
[00:24:40] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. That's why I'm always amazed it's so outside the norm. I can't remember which agency I was looking at recently who has like a 30-year partnership with one of the iconic American brands. I can't remember who it was, which is wild because
[00:24:51] agency relationships, I think it's also now because there's, I think, something like 90,000, quote-unquote agencies in the US alone, everybody is an agency, like, it's just hard to build like the long-term relationships, especially now that people move jobs, you know, significantly more than they did in the past, so those types of true partnerships are really hard to find nowadays.
[00:25:10] Kathy Neumann: For sure, for sure.
[00:25:12] Daniel Weiner: Not to get negative, but can you think of a, a wildly negative agency experience you've had and what made it, you know, not as positive as what you just described?
[00:25:22] Kathy Neumann: I think, you know, everybody's had their horror stories for sure. I can remember a time where I inherited a project that was, I would say, halfway, halfway complete and things weren't going well. When I came in, again, the brief had already been done, work had have been, been put pinned to paper.
[00:25:40] deliverable was a couple months out maybe, if I remember correctly, and it, it just was not going well. The internal team just dreaded meeting with the agency, and I'm, I'm sure there were the same conversations in the car ride over to meet with us from a client standpoint. Right? This was back before all sorts of, you know, work-from-home situations that, and it was a tenseful meeting every single time, and just that negativity took over the entire project.
[00:26:05] And it, it got to the point where we had to call a, a time out, reestablish ground rules, and we delayed the project. We launched a probably a good 90 days past the target date, but we were gonna end up delivering a product that was not gonna be good, was not gonna be received from the consumer and, quite frankly, the internal teams.
[00:26:25] We're never gonna embrace it and build upon it either because this, the whole environment was so negative. And it came back to sort of what built the lessons of how I engage with agencies go forward is alignment on what the outcome needs to be, open dialogue and just frank dialogue and a lot of transparency, right?
[00:26:45] Because the teams have began to shut down, and that's what filled the void was just, you know, let's make it through the 60-minute creative view and move on and, and just deal with it, and that, that never ends in a good product.
[00:26:57] Daniel Weiner: I've been in those meetings on the agency side and
[00:26:59] they suck for, for all parties. Did that relationship end shortly after that, you know, launch?
[00:27:06] Kathy Neumann: No, to be fair, we probably removed some folks on my team from the project, and we requested some replacements on the agency side as well, on the working team, but we actually continue to work with that agency for another good, I would say 18 months to 24 months.
[00:27:23] Daniel Weiner: That's interesting. My next question is a perfect segue, then I always ask everybody. Do you think a negative agency situation can be salvaged and overall consensus is not really once like the seed of doubt has been sewed, it's really hard to get back to homeostasis, so to speak. But it sounds like this is a good example that it is possible if you really do have that, you know, "Come to Jesus," and you assess teams
[00:27:45] and to your point, it sounds like the teams on both sides didn't mesh, and that was, you know, changed, and it did reach alignment, so it sounds like you do think, you know, it, it can be salvaged.
[00:27:56] Kathy Neumann: I absolutely think it can be salvaged if there's willingness on both sides, right? So, in that instance, there was a lot of top to talk conversations that needed to happen, right? And, and people on both sides of the table willing to accept responsibility, right? We had done things that weren't professional,
[00:28:10] we had done things that weren't right, likewise, we didn't feel we were getting the same on the agency side, and so it was for me and my counterpart to align on that and both be willing to solve and take accountability enabled us to move forward. If that would not have happened, we would've dropped the agency after that project for sure.
[00:28:29] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, that's, truthfully, I don't hear that much, and that's so important. I hate to draw everything to, like, a LinkedIn post I've made, I'm turning into the LinkedIn. But I posted the other day, like, every agency situation I hear about from brands, you know, and
[00:28:40] they talk, "Oh, this happened." It's, it's always both sides.
[00:28:44] Like, it's almost never, nobody does anything egregious on purpose. If it was, it was usually 'cause to your point, there was either bad communication or something. And generally, to the point of, like, the grass is always, uh, is not always greener on the other side, like, having those on, honest conversations can save so much annoyance.
[00:29:03] And even though I like helping people find new agencies, of course, and that's my business, like, you can usually find common ground if everybody has, like, a very honest conversation with each other. I just think in general, people avoid confrontation, and they think, "Oh, we'll just give it to somebody else. Like, not worth trying to salvage it."
[00:29:19] So, that's good to hear.
[00:29:21] Kathy Neumann: Yeah. And I think it's difficult too because inevitably, you know, from a marketer standpoint, we're hiring somebody from an agency to help us. We're hiring them for their expertise. We're hiring them to be that thought leader and help us deliver a product.
[00:29:34] Daniel Weiner: And to make your life easier, which I.
[00:29:36] Kathy Neumann: For sure. For sure. Right? And so, I think sometimes, wrong, or, you know, probably more incorrectly, we assume that we shouldn't be giving feedback.
[00:29:49] Right? I'm just speaking in general from a marketing industry, it's like sometimes agencies come in and present as the experts, and you've gotta find ways to give feedback so that it, it can be melded with their expertise, right? It's like, how can we make one plus one equal three or four rather than, you know, being a negative experience in total?
[00:30:09] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I think in general, like, marketers who are not giving a ton of feedback to the agencies, but also even during, like, the pitch process, like, if you're being pitched,
[00:30:19] you know, you don't have, I, again, if, if you have a general conversation with an agency, I don't know that you have to, like, give them a ton of feedback.
[00:30:26] But once people are participating and, like, doing work to earn your business, like, when they don't get feedback, which happens a lot, which to me is a little bit bizarre, I think negatively affects the industry as a whole and is a detriment to everybody, brands and agencies. What feedback everybody gets, the better it gets for everybody.
[00:30:42] Kathy Neumann: For sure. And there's an art to delivering feedback, too, right? And that's a muscle anybody in the marketing field needs to learn how to do. Right? Constructive feedback is paramount to building good campaigns. I think the other thing that's really important is if you're doing a good job onboarding the agency,
[00:31:02] you are investing time, you're investing effort, you're investing, you know, a piece of your brand with that agency team. It shouldn't be something you wanna just toss out the window the minute it's something may go sideways, right? Because to your point, the grass may be greener, but it takes a lot of work to get over there to that other grass patch as well
[00:31:20] and maybe by the time you get there, it's not as green.
[00:31:23] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, no, I totally agree. What's something you think agencies, in general, get wrong? Or what's something you wish more agencies, quote-unquote, got?
[00:31:31] Kathy Neumann: For me, I think it would be really helpful for agencies to really, really understand the nuances of an organization, right? Like, everybody's got the same basic box on org charts, but everybody's boxes work differently, right? And so, taking the time to also understand how the organization is set up,
[00:31:50] when certain people need to be brought in, when they don't, who really has the decision authority is really, really helpful for an agency to understand coming in, too, right? And just sort of get those rules of engagement established upfront just goes a long, long way. And I think sometimes are agencies that have been so quick
[00:32:09] to jump to, "Let's get to the work of the work" and sort of start to share product that we don't always necessarily have the right folks at the table. When that comes around, and it ends up delaying things or causing rework and it, it adds to frustration for both sides.
[00:32:23] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I see that as one of the most common, like, budding of heads between agencies and brands agencies or brands oftentimes, you know? I talk them through, I'm like, "When do you want to get started? What's your timeline?" They're like, "We need to get started, you know, next week." I'm like, "You didn't even hire an agency yet,"
[00:32:36] you know? And they want to just start like cranking stuff out, which for certain things, sure you can probably do that, but to your point, like, a deeper business cases, and, you know, fully integrated campaigns and stuff like, yeah, you, you need some time, and it puts agencies at a, in a tough position 'cause, of course, they wanna say yes and hit deadlines and stuff like that but yeah, you need to let, give things the time they need to run their natural course a lot of the time.
[00:33:01] Kathy Neumann: Absolutely. And that's part of those ground rules up front and having that transparent conversation. I've been in a case where, you know, worked with an agency, and, of course, everything's a fire drill, everything needs to happen tomorrow. And, you know, came to the pressure of condensing a timeline and put themselves in a real bind, right?
[00:33:20] And then that, that never works good either. So, it's better to just, again, the more you put into an agency relationship upfront, the better it's gonna be in the long term, just like anybody you would bring onto your team.
[00:33:32] Daniel Weiner: Giving me PTSD for my agency days. I can just remember, we did a lot of website design and development, and I can remember, you know, getting edit. And we'd be like, "Yeah, this will, we can totally do these. It's even in budget. We don't even have to change the budget, but it's gonna move timeline," and getting responses of, like, "What do you mean?
[00:33:47] Like, it cannot change timeline." We're like, "You have just changed the scope. Like, we're not even charging you more. We just need more time to do these things." And yeah, like, I think that's on the client's side, like yeah, being understanding to those situations when possible. Everybody's dealing with pressure on both sides.
[00:34:02] So, that's good to hear, your proponent of that.
[00:34:04] Kathy Neumann: Yeah. And I think it's also about trade-offs too and being just really, again, transparency is a theme here, being transparent about the trade-offs, like, you know, I, I worked in retail. Christmas is December 25th every year. Thanksgiving's the third Friday of November every year, right? We've gotta hit certain dates along those timelines, or it just doesn't matter.
[00:34:25] So, how do we, you know, deal with a situation, like you just said, it's like, yeah, we can make the changes, but it's gonna take us two weeks. It's, nothing is ever as black and white as it's first presented, and it's being able to get underneath the covers and understand which ones really are the pain points, which ones are gonna take a long time to address, and how do we prioritize and align and still be able to hit them, those major milestones 'cause some dates can't move.
[00:34:49] Daniel Weiner: Also, just nothing is quick and easy in the marketing world, it seems. Esp, once the Internet became a thing, like, it's just wild how much stuff there is and how much time, little my new things take.
[00:35:00] Kathy Neumann: For sure, for sure.
[00:35:02] Daniel Weiner: What are you most bullish on in the marketing space these days? We've got, we've still got NFTs, we've got Metaverse stuff that's, uh, I don't know, I think maybe on its, uh, out in terms of prominence that I see at least, but in-person events are back, and all that sort of stuff, what are you most pumped about?
[00:35:17] Kathy Neumann: Yeah, there's two things. So, this industry, the multi-family industry, is a big conference-and-events-driven space, so it's so good to have everybody back. Last June was our first big events that we've been able to have since COVID, and so the events since then have just kept building, and they keep getting bigger and bigger ,and they're just great, especially for a newcomer in the space to learn and obviously make the relationships.
[00:35:39] The other thing from a marketing standpoint that I'm really, really fascinated about is just all the AI capabilities. To your point, they're shiny objects, you know, Metaverse and whatnot that may have a place in the future, but things we can do today around AI that can really impact our business and improve our marketing is really where I get excited about.
[00:36:01] Right? And just getting others within my marketing team to just, just start to play with these things and think about the what-ifs and how they may help either, you know, make work easier, make end-product better, think about how they can be applied is really where the fund happens, right? Anytime there's disruption, there's chance for change and change for growth
[00:36:22] Daniel Weiner: and I absolutely think this is one of them. Yeah, it's an interesting time in the AI space. I think Chat GPT4, their newest version, came out yesterday, actually, which I've yet to play with, but it is pretty wild. I don't, uh, I've utilized it a little bit as like a starting off point for creating some content as, like, an outline rather than staring at, like, a blank sheet of paper, which I have found to be super helpful for me,
[00:36:41] but it's wild. I'm curious where it'll be in, like, five or 10 years, uh,that's a little bit of a scary proposition.
[00:36:48] Kathy Neumann: Oh, my goodness. Yes, for sure. And I think there's obviously new technology always brings some areas of concern. I, I know as a, a parent of some high school students, I'm not really a big fan of, you know, AI writing term papers or what have you, but you know, how do, how do we use the power for good and make sure it's, it's a benefit, we'll figure it out.
[00:37:08] Daniel Weiner: I'm with you. I could have used Chat GPT in college as a communications major, writing essays. Final marketing-related question for you. What keeps you up at night from a marketing or business standpoint, especially in 2023?
[00:37:19] Kathy Neumann: Yeah, so for me, from a marketing standpoint, it really is about where we are in building our brand. We are still just a few months in, we relaunched our entire company under a new brand rent last June, and in the sort of building brand's timeframe, that's not very long.
[00:37:37] So, we still have a lot of work to do and so just keeping the momentum going and finding new ways to tell our story, engage with our consumers and just keep that momentum building is really sort of where I find myself spending most of my energy and maybe my, my wee hours of the morning thinking about.
[00:37:56] Daniel Weiner: Sure. I'm curious, how are you measuring brand? Two podcasts ago, I talked to Kyle Lacey, who's CMO at Jellyfish, totally different brand, but, you know, his kind of hot take was like, "I think we try to measure too many things, or we're obsessed with measurement, and if we can't measure it, we don't do it,
[00:38:11] which, you know, kind of like hinders creativity," and brand is often one of those things I hear well, like, "Oh, like, it's really hard to measure brand." How are you viewing the measurement of that?
[00:38:21] Kathy Neumann: Yeah, so we've got a couple of different things we're looking at. Obviously, there's brand awareness trackers out there, but again, it, it takes a while to move the needle, right? And so, we're, we're watching those traditional metrics, but we're also watching things like social engagement. But the other one that's been a real surprise to me is just the internal impact on our employees and sort of the rally riots created and this, this moment of pride for our internal teams to really get behind the brand and how that is continuing to build is one of the sort of most in-your-face, day-to-day metrics we look at.
[00:38:56] Daniel Weiner: That's great. We'll wrap up with a couple fun ones here. What was your very, very, very first job?
[00:39:02] Kathy Neumann: Um, maybe this is what set me down the course where I spent the next 20 some years, but I started working in retail in high school. Right? I started in a little local boutique and kind of stayed, literally stayed, in retail for 20-plus years. So,
[00:39:16] I guess, I guess it was in my blood.
[00:39:18] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I was gonna say, you think, uh, being in that environment actually helped contribute to your success and from a marketing standpoint of having that, you know, experience?
[00:39:28] Kathy Neumann: I definitely think it did working in the retail environment and understanding sort of what that consumer experience was. Again, I started in retail before digital was a thing, so being able to understand that physical space, that sort of full cycle of how do you get product to market and then market it is definitely been beneficial in my, over the course of my career.
[00:39:50] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, it's wild. I can remember forcing my parents to take me to, uh, Abercrombie and, uh, American Eagle before, I don't even know if you could buy online back then. I'm guessing
[00:39:58] Kathy Neumann: No.
[00:39:59] Daniel Weiner: couldn't. That, that would've been, like, yeah, it's madness. And my father embarrassing me in the Abercrombie by dancing to the music is my, my fondest memory of that.
[00:40:07] Kathy Neumann: Oh, my goodness.
[00:40:08] Daniel Weiner: What would your, uh?
[00:40:09] Kathy Neumann: Video then, somebody would have that on, on camera for you.
[00:40:13] Daniel Weiner: If any of the Abercrombie execs are listening, if I can get, uh, the surveillance from a decade or two ago, that'd be great. What would your final meal be?
[00:40:21] Kathy Neumann: My final meal. Goodness. I think probably some of my grandma's home cooking. Right? Which is not gonna be possible, but she was always such an amazing cook. It'd be great to go back and have a Sunday dinner with her again.
[00:40:33] Daniel Weiner: Okay. And then, who is somebody who inspires you either personally or professionally?
[00:40:39] Kathy Neumann: Again, I'll go with the family reference. I think my dad has been a driving force for me my entire career. He's been a, he was a very simple man, was always able to boil things down to very, you know, discreet decisions, and that's really helped shape how I approach things, you know, both personally and professionally.
[00:41:00] Right? It's, like, you can't boil the ocean. What can you impact? Let's figure that part out and move forward.
[00:41:07] Daniel Weiner: That is a, uh, a superpower in and of itself.
[00:41:10] Kathy Neumann: For sure. For sure.
[00:41:11] Daniel Weiner: I, I can very much relate to that as a solopreneur of focusing on the things that you can control and attempting to not worry about the rest, so, no, I totally get it. That's great. Thank you so much for joining, Kathy. This was awesome. If anybody wants to check out Kathy, find her on LinkedIn or Rent.com if you are in the market, I presume, for an apartment.
[00:41:31] Kathy Neumann: Absolutely.
[00:41:32] Daniel Weiner: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining.
[00:41:34] Kathy Neumann: Thank you. Have a good one.