A Fractional CMO’s Guide to Business Growth: EP56 W/ Barb Bertsch

barb bertsch headshot


Barb Bertsch from Authentic sits down with Josh Becerra in episode 56 of How I Work. Barb is a Fractional CMO with over 20 years of experience in the marketing industry. She emphasizes the value of collaboration and learning from other marketing professionals. At the core, she highlights the holistic nature of marketing and it’s role in driving revenue.

How I Work, Episode 56 with Barb Bertsch

Barb discusses the foundational elements of marketing, including the customer journey and the use of AI. She also provides guidance for businesses considering hiring a fractional CMO, highlighting the need for marketing leadership and sharing her approach for an initial assessment of marketing needs. Some key takeaways:

  • Focus on the customer journey and provide value at every stage
  • Look at marketing holistically; it touches every part of an organization
  • When hiring a fractional CMO, look for marketing leadership and industry expertise

To learn more about Barb Bertsch and Authentic visit: https://authenticbrand.com/

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Transcription: How I Work, Episode 56 (Barb Bertsch)

Josh Becerra (00:19.266)
Hi everybody, this is Josh Becerra. Welcome to this next episode of How I Work. I’m super excited to have Barb Bertsch with me today. Thanks for being here, Barb.

Barb Bertsch (00:28.889)

Josh Becerra (00:30.218)
Yeah, Barb, 20 years plus of marketing experience, big jobs, global product manager at the Toro company. You know, what I love about your approach to marketing is you talk about it as being very holistic, meaning that marketing touches every aspect of an organization. You definitely show up wondering about core values of companies, their people, customers and processes.

And that’s how you kind of wrap your head around marketing. Currently working with Authentic as a fractional CMO, that’s how I’ve gotten to know you. So anyway, super excited to have you with me today, Barb. Thanks for being here.

Barb Bertsch (01:15.631)
Thank you.

Josh Becerra (01:17.066)
Yeah, so I always love to start these conversations by asking my guests to tell the audience a little bit about themselves. So why don’t you tell us about how you first got interested in marketing, what your career path has kinda looked like, what you were doing before being a fractional CMO, and who some of your current clients are today, or at least the industries that you’re working in.

Barb Bertsch (01:39.695)
Sure, no problem. So I took a bit of an alternative path to get into marketing. My undergrad, yeah, my undergrad in sports management with the idea of becoming an athletic director. But then I graduated and followed a boy. So don’t do that. Eventually I made it back to Minnesota and landed in an entry-level position at Toro.

Josh Becerra (01:44.894)
I love that.

Barb Bertsch (02:08.695)
I ended up spending about 12 years there and made the most of my time excelling.

in each role and moving up. You know, I didn’t have a degree in business, like I said. So while there were business aspects of my degree, it wasn’t with a focus of getting into a corporate setting like that. It was a great company and willing to invest. And I highly recommend if that’s your path to find a company that is willing to invest in you. And I eventually found my way into marketing and fell in love with that. So that’s where I stuck.

Josh Becerra (02:35.018)
Yeah, that’s awesome. And then the kind of fractional CMO role, do you want to tell us a little bit about that? Maybe how you typically approach the initial assessment of a company’s marketing needs, what methodologies or frameworks you think are most effective for marketing strategies? Super interest. Start picking your brain.

Barb Bertsch (02:46.779)
Yeah, I do.

Barb Bertsch (03:08.215)
Yep, yep, no problem. Well, when I first meet with a client, I spend a lot of time kind of reiterating what I heard them say when we first met. And just make sure that everything is still, that’s what they want to do and that’s where they want to go. And then I start digging in and conducting interviews with all levels of leadership and every member of the sales team. I think that’s key. Sales and marketing need to be aligned.

And then I can develop a current state and, you know, also at this point with Authentic, we’ve got some audits that we run. And taking the data that comes from those and the data I’ve gathered through the interview process, that current state is built out. And also at that point, we have Authentic, the Authentic team has developed some different methodologies. And a piece of that is our marketing roadmap.

And that one page image really walks a client through, okay, so here’s why you exist. Here’s your North Star. This is where you’re trying to get. And here’s your business priorities that are rolling up to that. So below that is everything marketing. So you’ve got the foundational elements. And what those are, there’s four of them. There’s your buyer journey. There are metrics, data and reporting, technology and process, and your brand messaging.

So you really need to have all four of those things in play. Some organizations I work with have nothing, and we’re starting from the ground up. Some have a couple of them and so on. But as a marketer, we like to start tackling those one by one. And we always tell our clients, these engagements are 12 to 24 months. It’s a long-term play. It takes a lot of time to build those. You’re a business owner, you know. The foundational elements

key to building that strategy and plan. So, you know, for example, if you are doing all these marketing things randomly, that’s one thing, but if you’re doing them and then not even measuring them, or have the technology and process in place to do so, why are you investing in that?

Josh Becerra (05:36.674)
Yeah, why are you doing it at all? Yeah.

Barb Bertsch (05:38.519)
Yeah, exactly. And that’s a trap that a lot of organizations find themselves in. And that’s why we exist. And we want to come in and be that leader for them. We don’t want organizations just, well, I think I need this person and hire. It doesn’t work, you know, and so.

Josh Becerra (05:57.854)
Yeah. I want to go back to like the very beginning, which I thought was kind of, uh, it kind of made me chuckle inside, which was you start by asking them like, okay, this is what I heard you tell me. Like, in fact, is this what we want to do? Have you ever had an experience where somebody’s like,

Really? We told you that? Like, that’s not at all what I think we need to do. Like, have you had people either flip on a dime or just like have no foundation whatsoever? And you’re just like, all right, we’re starting from square one.

Barb Bertsch (06:31.319)
Um, no, not exactly, but what does happen is they think they know what they want. They know where they want to go and they think they know how they want to get there when in fact it’s not. So that’s what I helped them kind of understand and we unwind that a little bit and say, well what about this and what about this and what about this? Um, and

For example, I have a client that I started with in February of 2022, and they literally had nothing, but they grew in spite of themselves. Whatever they were doing was working to a point, and then they couldn’t scale any further. People didn’t know who they were. They have zero brand awareness. So we started by building them a new website. You gotta have something to send people to, that is your front door. And if it doesn’t look good, what do you do when you’re searching the internet? You leave. So…

Josh Becerra (07:37.79)
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, yeah, anytime you land on a page and it just doesn’t, it feels like it’s like the 1980s. You’re just like, meh. Go back to the search results, find the next result. I get it. So.

Barb Bertsch (07:45.791)
Right, right. Yeah. Yes.

Josh Becerra (07:53.246)
Yeah, I would say that happens to us too at a Guryan where people will show up and just be like, we need SEO. And you’re just like, well, okay, why do you think you need SEO? Let’s just talk a little bit about your organizational goals, high level business objectives. And then it may come to be where

They really just need content or maybe it’s more of a paid media play. Like I feel like anytime someone shows up at my doorstep and they’re just like, I need this thing. Give me the quote. I have to be like, whoa, let’s, let’s make sure that we’re aligned strategically before we just start going, jumping right into tactics. I think it’s super smart.

Barb Bertsch (08:32.375)
Yeah, exactly because there’s so many layers below that, even taking your SEO example. Your question is, what do you think that means? You know.

Josh Becerra (08:43.911)
Right, yeah, the acronyms, they get all jumbled up and sometimes people show up and they don’t even know what they mean. Cool, so, you know, yeah.

Barb Bertsch (08:47.884)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, and that’s okay. That’s what we do, right?

Josh Becerra (08:55.434)
Yeah, we got to educate people. We got to help them understand how we can help them. Super important. So, you know, you gave the example of a client that you showed up and really was just getting started. Almost nothing. You know, in my experience, many times, the people who are kind of laggards when it comes to digital marketing, what we do, are people who kind of don’t believe in it, or they see marketing as like a cost center and not a growth driver. So have you had those same types of conversations with business leaders? And then like, how do you kind of help frame that conversation or kind of convince leaders that marketing can be a growth driver and it isn’t just a cost center?

Barb Bertsch (09:44.511)
Right. Um, that’s a loaded question. Um, I think that those organizations that are doing, um, like I said earlier, random acts of marketing probably do see it as a cost center because they’re just, it’s like the wild west. Well, we do blogs. Okay. Well, tell me what they look like. Let’s talk about them. How often do you do them? Well, we did one like last summer.

Josh Becerra (09:57.473)

Barb Bertsch (10:12.343)
You know, so it’s helping them understand why that’s not working for them, why leads aren’t coming in, and why you do see it as an expense. And that’s just one really small example. Did you measure the effectiveness of it? What kind of technology do you have in place to get that out to people? So it’s…

It’s going back to those foundational elements and helping them understand that when all of these things are working well together, and I can give them client examples like the one that we were just talking about, where step one, we built this. Step two, we’ve been building content consistently for a year and a half. And our numbers now went from this to this, and our leads went from here to here. We also threw in some paid media, and that also helped to drive more interest.

It’s being able to walk somebody through what the life cycle should actually look like. Leads are not magic and when the leads start coming in, it is absolutely a revenue generator.

Josh Becerra (11:10.624)
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So you’ve talked about these foundational elements. I know one of them is the customer journey. I know you’re big on customer journey. As a matter of fact, I think I saw you on a authentic panel talking about customer journey, so I know you’ve got a point of view on this. So why do you think that’s such an important foundational element, and how is it most effectively used?

Barb Bertsch (11:46.499)
Great question. First, I like to call it a buyer’s journey, because they are a buyer before they’re a customer. So it’s really a two-pronged approach. If you look at, if you think of it as a spreadsheet and a map and you’re following awareness, consideration, just a basic funnel, and you’re trying to figure out, OK,

Here’s who we think is the ideal customer profile for us. Let’s figure out how they show up, how they buy, what they need along the way to make them pull the trigger.

And along that journey, you’re also placing in, you know, in these columns, if you will, this is the type of marketing asset that needs to go out at this point. And then they’re going to need this and then they’re going to need this. So when you think about yourself as a consumer going out and doing research on something, you know, you have a process. Well, they have a process too. So whether it’s B2C or B2B, it’s no different. There’s a process there.

It’s really important to revisit it also. Think about COVID. That changed the way people buy. People become, you know, already self-sufficient. Now they want to get to the point where they can just place the order and not talk to anyone.

And you know, and that’s true not for every company, obviously, but it’s true in a lot of cases now that we’re seeing. And what I was saying about being two parts, you know, once they become a customer, it’s really important for the latter half to be focused on. Think about the delivery. So following up as soon as they’ve become this customer and following up and saying, how’d your first shipment go?

Did you get everything you needed? How are you liking it? Is there anything we could do differently? Really making them feel important right out of the gate and then staying on top of that, providing them with programs and a B2B scenario, for example, and things that are of value to them still, even though you’ve already landed them as a customer. Because where we wanna get is loyalty and advocacy. And in a lot of organizations, like I said, stop when they become a customer.

Josh Becerra (13:59.995)
Mm-hmm. Right.

Barb Bertsch (14:14.149)
So building out this buyer’s journey, that’s how you use it. That’s why it’s important. You’re constantly looking at it and it’s a tool for sales as well as marketing.

Josh Becerra (14:14.186)
Yeah. I think that’s really a great call out that like after the sale, there’s like this very important piece to like, yeah, customer service, creating loyalty. I do think that more and more people are less loyal. Like, there’s just always options at everybody’s fingertips. Many times it’s easy to kind of move, you know, because of technology and kind of tech stack and things.

people can move their business from one vendor to another without changing their tech stack and there’s Plenty of vendors out there that understand the tech stack that a company has so anyway Yeah, spending time on thinking about well once we have them as a customer like how are we gonna keep them and what’s of value to them? Now that they’re our customer. I love that

Barb Bertsch (15:05.04)
All right.

Yep. Well, exactly. Well… And as an organization, are you categorizing your customers? You know, you’ve got your A and B, you’ve got your C and D, and you need to know something about all of them. You need to know what makes them tick. Even though you think you should focus on your A’s, what if those D’s want to move up into a B category? You don’t know unless you’re building that relationship beyond them just becoming a customer. I’m passionate about this. Sorry.

Josh Becerra (15:46.206)
Yeah, yeah, that’s so smart. Yeah, yeah, no, I mean, I, I just like, what’s going through my head is I’m just thinking about what, what do we do? What are we doing at a Guryan that’s ensuring that we’ve got that loyalty? Um, so anyway, we’ve got a significant focus on our kind of buyer journey. Actually have done some work with Authentic on that and, uh,

Barb Bertsch (16:01.645)

Josh Becerra (16:13.33)
Super excited about it, but yeah, it gets me thinking about, all right, what’s post sale? What does that really look like? Um, so it’s always good reminder. I want to ship gears.

I want to talk about a couple of things. So one is AI, because everybody’s talking about AI. And then the other is just, you know, you’re a fractional CMO. I think there’s a lot of businesses out there that are starting to see marketing as important and are like, how can we do this? And I think the new fractional space is a really great way for people who maybe

Barb Bertsch (16:32.429)

Josh Becerra (16:55.224)
CMO strategic person in there that they can they can at least get some help So I’m interested in your take on AI and then I’m just interested in like what for companies that might be Thinking about hiring a fractional CMO what you think are like the most important things They should look for when they’re engaging with somebody like that

Barb Bertsch (17:19.523)
Okay, so AI. Well, I think it’s going to both disrupt and enhance the marketing function. I think every day in our company Slack channel, there’s a new recommended AI function to check out. I cannot keep up with that. I see company roles in AI tech becoming standard.

Someone that specializes in all things AI and supports all functions of the organization. I mean AI breeds efficiency but no one person has time to learn every single tool that can support their role.

Just the basic chat GPT has helped me a bunch. Whether my clients are realizing I’m using it or not, I’ll tell them I’m using it. I think a lot of them would be in support of it because that’s less time I’m eating up their dollars. You know, it’s helping me be a lot more efficient. So yeah, that’s my take on it.

Josh Becerra (18:20.067)
Yeah, I’m kind of in the same camp. I just I feel like at least today, the way that I’m we’re using it is, yeah, finding efficiency. So we actually have a goal this year of finding 20 tasks where we can gain 20 percent efficiency. It’s just kind of like and task that down to the teams like each team has to find a set amount of tasks and like, let’s get rid of some of the kind of

Barb Bertsch (18:46.587)
I like that.

Josh Becerra (18:58.628)
Manual things that take time and if we can do that then we can spend more time on strategy. Which is the higher value kind of stuff? So I definitely see that as a use case. I also think it’ll be a disruption. I Was on another interview and the guest said that she believed that AI isn’t gonna replace people, but people who know how to use AI are gonna replace people who don’t know how to use AI. So like that for sure resonated with me.

Barb Bertsch (19:30.139)
Well, I can see that. Mm-hmm. Yes.

Josh Becerra (19:34.998)
So, well, let’s talk about the other question, which was the fractional CMO. Like if I’m looking for one, what should I be asking myself? I’m the buyer in that buyer journey. What have you seen that is important for businesses to be considering if they’re gonna go with a fractional?

Barb Bertsch (19:47.163)
Well, I think there’s first of all, a lot of confusion in what a fractional CMO actually is. What does the word fractional mean? Are you part-time? Do you do just partial work? Like, what does it actually mean? And so helping them understand that, you know, not every business can afford a senior leader in marketing, but they’re getting to this point where they realize they think they need one. So let’s just ask them that question. Finding an organization like Authentic or whatever, and asking the question, like, I’m not sure I need this, but can you help me figure that out? Like, where are you at today with your marketing, and are you doing random things? Does it feel disjointed? Does it feel like you’re doing a bunch of stuff and it’s not getting you anywhere?

and you’re not measuring it or you don’t even know you’re supposed to be measuring it. Is your business at a point where it’s no longer scaling growth? That’s a red flag. And you’re not doing any marketing. It’s a…

Marketing plays a key role in business as we talked about earlier. It touches every aspect of the business. It’s not just in a silo. It’s not just partnering with sales and providing support. It’s much bigger than that in an organization where it’s internal branding. So you’re working with HR and culture and things like that as well as externally branding your company. It’s building awareness about your organization. It’s not just driving in leads.

You have to be found first. So there’s a lot of, there’s a variety of questions that needs to be asked and those are just a handful. But just starting to do your homework, just like any other buyer would do. And finding an organization like Authentic where you can start asking those questions. And Authentic has a boatload of resources on their website. So.

Josh Becerra (21:52.332)
Yeah, you know, I think. No, but you know, I will speak to my experience as a buyer. And I do think that I was able to educate myself through some of those resources that you’re talking about.

Barb Bertsch (22:05.103)
I’m not plugging authentic, by the way. I’m just saying.

Josh Becerra (22:27.63)
I’m super impressed with the kind of process, you know, the thinking that has gone into it. So like there’s some kind of questionnaires or inventories to kind of help a business owner understand kind of where they fit on their own kind of journey towards becoming a very robust, formalized marketing organization. They may be in the very early stages. They may be in the middle.

And so those tools, I think, were super interesting to me. And then lastly, what I liked about like going with more of like a company that has a number of fractionals is there was kind of this opportunity to talk about like who’s who might be best suited for this like what was their experience you know have they owned an agency have do they know what digital marketing is like so that there isn’t this huge learning curve and I think that’s uh those are the things that I as a buyer thinking and infractional I would want to look for, right? Does this person know my industry? Is there going to be this huge learning curve? What tools and resources are they bringing with them that are going to be impactful? So anyway.

Barb Bertsch (23:36.219)
Right. And you know there’s a big difference between marketing support and marketing leadership. So, you know, if you want somebody to come in and just do tactical execution, um, that’s fine. You’re going to fall into that trap of random acts of marketing. You don’t do that in any other aspect of your business. You work off of a strategy and a plan, right? So why should marketing be any different? Um, and then the other thing that you hit on that’s important to note about our business is we have this mind share.

Josh Becerra (24:08.459)

Barb Bertsch (24:20.559)
You know, we have 20 of us. We hop on a call three times a month for an hour, and we learn from each other, and we, you know, there’s just a wealth of knowledge in one room, and we can lean on each other any time, all the time. That’s wildly important for our clients to know.

Josh Becerra (24:37.663)
Yeah, I love that. Okay, so the last question I always ask all my guests are just kind of, you know, you’ve been dropping knowledge bombs on us here through this interview. So tell us where you go to like find your thought leaders. Are you reading any books? Do you have any podcasts, recommendations, anything like that?

Barb Bertsch (25:02.711)
Well, it’s funny, I know many people are on the podcast bandwagon. I am not one of them yet. Um, I’m not an avid reader. So, you know, I follow my connections on LinkedIn avidly. There’s tons of information out there. Like we were talking about AI earlier. I can’t keep up with everything. Um, you can’t read one book and keep up with everything.

So those are my resources for inspiration and knowledge. Also my team at Authentic, like I was just saying, we have a very unique part of our business called the Mindshare. And we learn from each other. We discuss challenges that we need help solving. There’s no marketing unicorn. I don’t know if you knew that. A lot of people think there are. We can’t possibly know all things marketing these days. So we all have, if there’s 20 of us,

Josh Becerra (25:46.826)

Barb Bertsch (25:57.353)
We have 20 different unique experiences behind us, and somebody has an answer to something that we don’t know how to do, and it’s great. And that’s really what I spend my week focusing on, is that. And on the weekends, I just go have fun. I don’t read books.

Josh Becerra (26:16.202)
Yeah, I love it. Oh, I know you like to get out in downtown Minneapolis and bike and do all the fun things. Well, cool. Well, this has been great. I really appreciate your time today, Barb. And we’re gonna say goodbye for this episode of How I Work. Thanks everybody.

Barb Bertsch (26:23.616)
That’s right.

Barb Bertsch (26:34.043)
Thanks Josh.

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