How to align your brand and performance marketing teams with Jeff Biesman

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Welcome to another episode of 3-Minute Marketing, where we interview the world’s top growth marketing leaders and turn their insights into bite-sized TED Talks for your listening pleasure.

Today’s guest is Jeff Biesman, CMO of National Debt Relief. National Debt Relief is the number one provider of debt relief services in the country, as well as the most trusted. Jeff has an interesting background. He started on the brand side of things with stops at Sony, Disney, and Bank of America before transitioning to performance and demand generation roles.

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Jeff’s unique background in both brand and performance makes him the perfect person to ask, “How do you align your brand and performance marketing teams?”.

Show notes:

  1. Performance marketing is what keeps the lights on, puts food on the table for everybody, and grows the business.
  2. When you’re doing a brand strategy, it has to be concrete and connect the shared interests between a customer and your business in a way that filters everything down.
  3. When you’re filtering things through a good brand strategy, you’re clear on how you’re going to say things, what you’re going to say, and who you’re going to say it to.
  4. That’s what every performance marketer wants to be able to do instead of having conversations about things like whether the tone is too aggressive, or having performance marketing be stripped down and declawed.
  5. At National Debt Relief, every conversation is centered around “how can we help each other?” instead of “you can’t say that” or “that doesn’t feel right”. “Feel” is too subjective when you’re developing a brand.
  6. What are the pillars of your brand that you want to speak about? How can you articulate what your business is about in a way that’s easy for consumers to understand? That’s what a great brand should do.


– You’re listening to “Three Minute Marketing”, where we interview the world’s top growth marketing leaders and distill their knowledge into actionable, bite size insights. Now here’s your host, Chris Mechanic.

– [Chris] Hello, everybody and welcome to another episode of “Three Minute Marketing”, I’m your main man, Chris Mechanic. Super excited today to have Jeff Biesman on the line with us. Jeff’s currently CMO at National Debt Relief, which is the number one provider of debt relief services in the country, as well as the most trusted. But he’s got a really, really interesting background, having started on the brand side of things, many moons ago was at Sony and at Disney, spent a lot of time at Bank of America and then kind of did this interesting transition more toward the performance side of things and the demand gen side of things and has now of course, ended up as CMO. But he’s got some really interesting takes, I’m excited to talk to him. Jeff, welcome to the show.

– [Jeff] Chris, thank you. It’s awesome to be here. I’ve listened to your podcast many times and it’s awesome to be in the seat this time instead of just being a listener, so great to be here.

– [Chris] Absolutely, so I’ve got a question geared up for you. Full disclosure, Jeff is a client of ours, so we know each other in real life, and one thing that struck me in such a delightful way is when we were trying to get these ads approved that were working and we were having trouble in terms of the brand kind of compliance and adherence and it was just taking us a long time, and you were the one of the first ever CMOs to really, I think like saw and address that problem in an interesting way. So if you could today spend three minutes talking to us just about your philosophy on brand versus performance or more interestingly, I think brand plus performance, which is how you probably view it. So go ahead whenever you’re ready.

– [Jeff] So, I’ll tell you a really quick story. This is what opened my eyes and pushed me to try to figure out a way to resolve or reconcile these two things. I was at a large company, and over time, the observations that many of us performance marketers had, was that when the brand folks came along, they were just going to take stuff away from you. Make your jobs harder. And I remember a very specific instance where there was a conversation about a direct mail letter, not going out the door with a call to action in an 800th number, because maybe we don’t want to be that aggressive as a bank, my performance marketing brethren we were like, we’re struggling here. What struck me as it was like a misinterpretation of the goal of a brand. And at the end of the day, performance marketing is literally what keeps the lights on, puts food on the table for everybody, grows a business. And so you have to be able to reconcile, what is the real scope and role of what a brand is supposed to be. When you’re doing a brand strategy, it absolutely has to be super concrete and it has to connect the shared interest between a customer and your business in a way that allows you to filter everything down and extract it into, here’s what I’m going to say that’s going to get people to listen to me and take action. If you do that, you’re going to create resonance, you’re not going to take away from. When you’re filtering stuff through a really good brand strategy, you’re getting really clear on how you’re going to say it, what you’re going to say, who you’re going to say it to. And that is ultimately what every performance marketer wants to be able to do. Not have these absurd conversations about it might be too aggressive of a tone and we don’t want to be that kind of company, so let’s strip down our performance marketing or literally . We avoid those conversations at National Debt Relief. We’ve got a team of brand folks and creatives, and we’ve got a team of performance marketers, and for the most part, every conversation is, how do we help each other make this thing better instead of, no, you can’t say that or that doesn’t feel right. Feel is too subjective when you’re developing a brand. Again, it’s concrete. We think about things in terms of directives. Like what are the, literally the pillars that we want to speak about, or the ways that we want to articulate what our business and our brand is about that make it really easy for somebody to understand, really easy for a consumer to understand. And that’s what a great brand should do.

– [Chris] Yep, and this is a great topic, we’re going to continue talking. We’re at just about time for the official episode, but if you guys are liking this, stick around, ’cause Jeff and I will continue wrapping on brand versus performance, as well as some other topics. Please do drop a like, a comment, a share. If there’s any other topics or any questions specifically that you’ve got for Jeff, we will definitely make sure that they make his way there. Jeff, let everybody know how they can learn more about you as well as National Debt Relief.

– [Jeff] Well, I’m not the important party here, Chris, National Debt Relief is, so if you’re struggling financially with debt, feel free to look us up online at or call us at 1-800-300-9550 and we’re happy to help. And if you’re a bright marketer or a bright executive of any kind and you’re interested in talking to us about an open position, please feel free to reach out, look us up on LinkedIn, et cetera, et cetera.

– [Chris] Absolutely, and I bet that’s the exact right phone number for the proper attribution.

– [Jeff] Of course it is, Chris.

– [Chris] You are indeed a data driven and I think performance first CMO, which is refreshing to see.

– [Jeff] Thank you.

– [Chris] So stick around. There’s probably a link above, below, sideways, somewhere around this video for the bonus footage, or if you’re watching this on the website, it’ll probably start in about five seconds. I want to drill a little bit deeper into ways that a brand can actually emphasize and enhance, especially in terms of like some of the newer media channels and the newer media outlets. And you’ve had a really interesting way, the way that I interpreted what you said to us was basically, unless it breaks the brand rules, like there’s certain unbreakable rules that we can’t do, but like including a call to action is not one of them. Right?

– [Jeff] Yep.

– [Chris] So I guess, is that the way that you think of it? Like, do you think of brand as like, okay, we’ve got to operate within these guidelines because they’re important to what we believe in and who we actually are and how we want to go to market, but in terms of the specific color and the specific font and stuff, like if it’s better to use the native ad building tools on TikTok, like let’s just use those.

– [Jeff] That is absolutely right. The way I think about it, and the way I believe our team at NDR thinks about it, is, its performance marketing first and things that are endemic to whatever channel, let’s just take paid social on Facebook. Those need to be resident in your ads, in your campaign or it’s never going to work. Period. And so we don’t really have those kinds of conversations. In fact, I’m not a huge soccer fan but I’ll use a soccer metaphor, I’ll pull the yellow card or the red card at that point and say time out, we’re not talking about this stuff now. This has to live or die based on the basic principles in the channel. And that’s hearing like, well, that doesn’t feel like us, isn’t good enough. Again, what I look at is like the brand is going to do two things, it’s going to inform and enhance and make better, ’cause you’re now super clear. And then there’s just basic stuff that I’d call more compliance and like, you know, you never do this anyway. We’re never going to do bait and switch, an unfair and deceptive advertising practices and say something that is truly disingenuous that we can’t live up to. And so that’s not even like a real brand strategy, that’s just basic business. And so I almost look at like the filtering process for a brand is not lot of takeaways but a lot of additions or a lot of like, again, clarity on, we know that the way to articulate this message is exactly like this, so do the ad just like that and then go test it in the channel and let’s make sure it actually works and delivers, and you go from there. So it’s a very simple process when you boil it down to what brand should actually be doing for your performance marketing channels.

– [Chris] Now, do you think, this is a random question, but do you think that they should be called brand teams and performance teams, ’cause just the language and the nomenclature kind of inherently separates the two? Have you thought of any other ways to like, just, I mean, ’cause words matter, like have you thought of any other like the org of the future, do you think there will be still brand versus performance or is there some merger that should happen?

– [Jeff] Maybe not. There is definitely a merger on our team at NDR. We have folks that are stewards for the brand that are actually working on performance marketing, and it is very deliberate. Because when you have to live and die by your numbers, it’s like a cold bucket of water if you came from an environment where you were working on one side and not the other or vice versa, and now you have to reconcile the two. And so it’s literally a forcing function for the team to not get put into one camp or the other, not think one way and not the other. And it’s interesting, even some of our creative folks that are working on the brand, they’re like small business owners, or former small business owners, or they’ve had to live and die by the numbers too. And so when you start having these conversations, there’s great empathy for both sides. And that has created a little bit of a blur here of the lines which I think is exactly what you’re getting at. It’s like, stop working in these artificial silos that we created as a marketing team, and by the way, can you name the last time that a consumer looked at a piece of advertising or a marketing program and said, that’s a brand thing and that’s a performance thing, never ever does that happen. They look at National Debt Relief or WebMechanix or whatever, and they either, like it resonates with them or it doesn’t. That stuff doesn’t matter. It’s a little bit of a long winded answer, but that’s how I think about it and that’s how we’ve sort of built our marketing team at National Debt Relief.

– [Chris] So quick change of subject, you guys are impressively it seems, able to make broadcast TV still profitable at scale. If you want us to cut this part out, we can, but teach us some of your secrets in that regards. Like how can a digital first brand actually adopt broadcast TV and make it profitable?

– [Jeff] Can we do a little bit of editing, maybe we could say, something around curious about your thoughts on TV as a media and I’m happy to cover that topic , Chris.

– [Chris] So we’ll reboot. We’ll cut that last minute out basically. And I’ll say random question, talk to me a little bit about your thoughts on TV, linear TV as a medium.

– [Jeff] Okay, cool. Ready for me to go?

– [Chris] Yeah.

– [Jeff] I’m not a digital guy and I’m not an offline guy, we’re just like, we’re media folks, we’re marketing folks. And we live in this digital world, but people, they consume stuff and we want to be wherever we can that makes sense for us. And certainly TV is an awesome medium. The marvelous thing about TV and if you sort of like look at it relative to just about anything else that’s scalable out there, it is probably your best pitch for your product or your service because you’ve got 30 to 60 seconds to get your point across, you’ve got visuals, you’ve got audio, you can do see and say, et cetera, et cetera. And so like these large broad cast mediums have somewhat been forgotten by some digital first marketing organizations, but they provide this really amazing halo. And stuff happens when you get to significant scale, and some of this broadcast media, like you start to see a Facebook advertising work better. Your sales conversations might actually get shorter because the person that’s on the other end of the phone now understands your business and your product and perhaps you build a little bit more credibility and trust and things like that. So it takes a tremendous amount of effort. It’s not for the faint of heart and it’s not as easy as flipping the switch to do Pay-per-click, not saying that’s easy either, but making an investment in a broadcast performance media takes a lot of effort, but when done right, it can be very, very beneficial for your organization.

– [Chris] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I can tell you firsthand that brands that have made that investment in the awareness building, in that more broadcast media, you stand up a Pay-per-click campaign for them, and it’s quite a bit more profitable than a brand that has no awareness whatsoever. It’s quite easy to run ads for Amazon, for instance, versus, you know, “Joe Schmo” e-tailer.

– [Jeff] That’s absolutely right, Chris.

– [Chris] So, but I’m curious for the listeners out there that’s are with more emerging brands that don’t have a whole lot of general brand awareness, I think everybody would agree that it’s absolutely a major benefit and a magnifier to any direct response campaign, just to simply to be known. And it’s like, okay, I’ve heard of them, they must be legit. But how do you think about like the ROI equation on some of those channels that may take longer to produce fruit?

– [Jeff] You’re probably not going to love the answer, but the answer is complicated. You live right now for the most part and kudos to all of you that have developed a fine tune multi-touch attribution model, but for the rest of you, you live in the world of first click or first touch last touch, something like that. And it’s like super concrete and finite, I ran an ad, somebody clicked on the ad, they visited my website, they purchased, they filled out a lead, a pixel fired. Kaboom. And a lot of your, a lot, all of your offline media, for the most part, aside from having like a phone number on the screen or in your direct mail piece, doesn’t exactly work like that. And so it’s suffice to say the significant amount of modeling and analytical work to get there, and again, it’s not for the fame of heart. It requires time. It requires big budgets. I’m not trying to dissuade anybody, I’m just trying to say, you got to know what you’re getting yourself into, but if you do it right, it can be, to your point, Chris, massively beneficial.

– [Chris] Absolutely, yeah. So there’s no way to dip a toe in the way that you might in PPC or Facebook?

– [Jeff] Not exactly. And you know, look, test budgets are, everybody’s like appetite for how much money they want to spend to learn if something is going to work is different. But there’s probably not a marketing channel out there when you really think about it, that’s going to require a larger investment and more time to figure out than something like TV advertising. And it’s not just the media cost, it’s creative costs. You got to figure out what you’re going to say and you’ve got to go out and actually shoot spots. And that whole process in and of itself is a costly and time consuming. And so there are a lot of big bets you need to make as a company. And so if you’ve got a nascent brand or a nascent business, I’d say go nail as many lower costs of entry or lower barrier of entry digital channels as possible, get growth and get scale, and then start worrying about or thinking about these bigger channels where it’s, again, high risk, high reward. And that’s how I think you need to go about it. If you are like, hey, we got a little sign of life in Facebook and a little sign of life and Paid Search and now we want to go spend a half a million dollars testing TV. Probably not the best idea.

– [Chris] Cool, I know we’re just about time here. If you’re liking this, please drop us a like, a comment, a thumbs up or share with a friend. If you want to learn more about Jeff or a National Debt Relief or any of the other awesome feats that Jeff has achieved throughout, you can check out and/or Jeff Biesman on LinkedIn. One last question for you, Jeff, real quick, if you would indulge me.

– [Jeff] Absolutely.

– [Chris] For the large org that might be listening that is struggling with that friction between brand and performance, what’s like one or two things that they could do to just move in the direction of kind of integrating those two functions so that they’re additive to each other.

– [Jeff] Yeah. What do they call it in England where you switch jobs, aside from Boxing Day, I think it’s Boxing Day where your brand folks go and do performance marketing for a week and vice versa. I think there’s no silver bullet here. I was very fortunate at National Debt Relief to basically build a team from scratch and imbue that philosophy, if you’re not so fortunate and you’re at this impasse and you got your brand folks over here with their ideals and your performance marketing folks over here with their ideals, the best first step is to sit down and talk it out. And you’ve got to get people, like you’ve got to build empathy. And then you’ve got to figure out, what is the stuff, I hate to say the monuments or the statues or whatever you want to call it that are inherent in large organizations, sacred cows maybe, and start tearing ’em down and saying, this doesn’t make any sense for our business. You know what I mean? And if you’re fortunate enough to figure out like, you’re like, we need a brand strategy or we need a new one, then you really need to do the work to say, it’s not going to be fluff, it’s going to be super concrete. Out of it, we’re going to get real directives that are going to tell us how to talk to our prospects and our customers in a way that’s going to get ’em to take notice, to resonate, to create response, to create a little bit of separation from all the noise, all the copycats and the me too players that are in your space. Ultimately that’s what a really good brand ought to be able to do from a performance marketing perspective. And if you do that, you will find success.

– [Chris] And one thing that you’ve done, I don’t know if you know that this is the unique, but I’ve worked with a lot of CMOs, you’re definitely, I’d say, a little more hands on than most CMOs that I know, and a little more like toward the performance side of the pendulum. But I think for the average CMO or marketing leader, I think just simply sitting in those calls where creative reviews take place, and hearing the types of commentary and the arguments from both sides I think would really be useful. ‘Cause that’s what happened with us. You heard what we were telling you, which is like, our brand wants this and that. And then you were like, “Guys, we got to get this live. Come on, we got to go with what works here.”

– [Jeff] Yeah, that’s right. And in fact, when we did that a few weeks back, I looked at some of this stuff and I said, “I don’t have any problem with any of it. This is great stuff. And this is stuff I think that will work on Facebook.” And I called it out at the time to say, we have to be careful. Somebody had mislabeled a failed set of ads as, well, this brand stuff didn’t work. And I’m like, “Well, wait a minute. It has the brand on there and it has our color palette, but this is just bad advertising. This had nothing to do with brand standards or some filter it ran through, it’s just like bad and lame, I could have told you before you launched it, that it wasn’t going to go anywhere.” And so yeah, you do, you have to get really close to it to see like, if you’re sitting in the C-suite or you’re a high level marketer and you’ve got a brand strategy over here, guidelines or whatever, and you’ve got your performance folks over there, get a little closer to it and look at how that stuff is being interpreted. You might be surprised and you might go wait a minute, the problem is not the brand stuff, the problem is how we’re actually bringing it to life and interpreting it, and we’re not doing a very good job there. And that can solve a lot of problems.

– [Chris] And one last thing that I’ll mention and I will let you go, but you did a really smart thing, I think, is you took one of your top performance people and basically educated them on the brands to the sense that now the approval process doesn’t happen really at the brand level, it happens with a well trained performance person’s eye.

– [Jeff] That’s a exactly right. And again, because they’re living it, they understand it. We spend a lot of time as we’ve developed, like what is our brand all about, educating people and getting them to not be afraid of the , and how it’s going to be helpful. And the fun thing is when it actually starts to work. And you get these good results, your performance marketers pay attention. They’re like, my God, really, when we did it like this, and you walk them through a methodology and an approach and how you, you didn’t just get there by sticking your finger in the air and seeing which way the wind is blowing, you got there through a real process that’s grounded in the same stuff that a lot of performance marketers do when they’re testing stuff out or they’re scaling stuff up, and that demystifies all of it and gets everybody to believe. So it’s a great question, I’m glad you brought it up and it’s a reason we’re finding success.

– [Chris] Brilliant. Dig it. Well, thank you so much, Jeff, for all that you do. We really appreciate you, I hope you’ll come back sometime and we will call that a wrap.

– [Jeff] I’d love to and thank you very much. It’s been so much fun, Chris. Really enjoyed it.

– [Chris] Cool.

Jeff Biesman

Jeff BiesmanCMO

Chris Mechanic

Chris MechanicCEO & Co-Founder

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