The secret to creating effective partnerships with Marc Ginsberg

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Today on 3-Minute Marketing, I’m pleased to be speaking with Marc Ginsberg. He’s currently CEO at CallRail, a marketing and call recording platform we use here at WebMechanix that helps 175K+ businesses market smarter, drive more quality leads, and turn them into customers. Prior to CallRail, Marc headed up growth marketing efforts for notable financial brands, including American Express and Cardlytics.

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One of Marc’s biggest secrets to success throughout his career has been his ability to build powerful partnerships. I invite Marc to dig deeper into how he’s done this by asking, “How can you create more effective partnerships?”

Show notes:

  1. When you can find a great partnership that unlocks value for your joint customers, it’s an amazingly powerful growth lever.
  2. Ask, “What type of capability or offering can make our product or service better for our customers?” Start by understanding the needs of your customers and build partnerships accordingly.
  3. If you’re striking out on partnership deals, it’s probably because you’re not speaking the language of your partner’s market. Understand their challenges and you’ll be able to identify the opportunity.
  4. Partnerships help put you in the mindset of customers so you can better serve their needs.
  5. “Marketing” partnerships end up dying because you’re not driving incremental value for the customer on both sides. Choose partners that have the same goal and mission that you have for your customers.


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

– Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of “Three Minute Marketing.” I’m here today with Marc Ginsberg, who’s CEO at CallRail is a marketing and call recording platform that we actually use here at WebMechanix, now for many years. They work with over 175,000 businesses to market smarter, drive more leads and turn those leads into customers. Prior to CallRail, Marcus had a really, really impressive career. I think he started at Deloitte and then moved on to DirecTV, and then was at American Express, so really solid resume and very smart guy that I’m sure we could all learn quite a bit from. Welcome to the show, Marc.

– Thanks, Chris. Glad to be here.

– Absolutely, absolutely. So let’s jump right into it. I would love to hear from you today your thoughts on creating effective partnerships by keeping your customers at the center.

– Yeah, that’s great. And thank you for asking that. You talked a little bit about my background, and I’ve worked in a lot of different industries. I worked in consumer package goods, entertainment, telco, travel, financial services, marketing services, and at the core of it all, when you can find a great partnership that really unlocks value for your joint customers, it’s amazingly powerful, both for you, for the partner, and most importantly for the customer. And so the first thing I think about when I think about partnerships is what type of capability or what type of offering can make what we have better for our customers, right? So, is that, as an example, you talked about DirecTV, like when someone’s buying a TV at Best Buy, that seems like an appropriate place to help them get set up, right?

– Right.

– And so we created a partnership with Best Buy to say, “Hey, you have a TV, how do we help you make your life easier?” But it always starts, again, with that point of the customer. And so first, when you understand what their needs are, and then you can go through the different strategic partners that are out there, it helps in a number of different ways. The first is it helps you speak their language, right. So, I’m reminded I was at a company called Cardlytics a few years back and I kept striking out. We kept trying to do partnership deals with restaurant chains. And every time I went to a restaurant chain, I thought we had this great solution and every time we struck out.

– Yeah.

– And finally I went to someone I knew who worked at Red Lobster. And I said, “Can you come on a couple meetings with me and help me understand and tell me why we keep striking out so badly.” And he came to three meetings with me, and by the third meeting, I said, “Okay, you’ve been quiet long enough. Why do I keep striking out every time we try to do partnership deals at restaurants?” And he said, “‘Cause it sounds like you’ve never talked to a restaurant in your entire life.” And I said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Actually, I was a bartender, I was a cook, I was a waiter.” He said, “Well, then why do you keep calling ’em customers? They’re called guests, and it’s driving me crazy,” right.

– Yeah.

– And so I think by creating partnerships in the restaurant vertical, it helps me speak the language of the restaurateur and understand in their mind what their challenges are. When I was at American Express, I was on the B2B side, on the business side, and we kept thinking like how do we get more people who work in construction to help us? And finally, we created a partnership where she said, “Hey, if you want to come talk to construction folks, you need to work with me at 7:30 in the morning.” And I was like, “7:30 in the morning?” She said, “By 8:30 in the morning, they’re already on site,” right. So these partnerships, what’s so valuable about them is they put you into the mindset of the customer so that you can bring better solutions to those customers.

– Got it, got it. Yeah, so in thinking about creating effective partnerships you’re really solving for the customer first and foremost but it sounds like you’re also kind of solving for the partner in a way, in terms of speaking their language and understanding their rituals and habits and routines, but I’m really really interested in the partner channel. And I know that developing that partner channel is kind of your forte. So if you have time, let’s continue talking about it, but let’s wrap the official episode right here. But if you were to summarize, just super briefly, like the biggest-

– Yeah.

– The biggest takeaway, is it basically to look at your product or your offer, identify potential gaps or shortcomings that your end user actually would be interested in, and then solve for those, or how would you summarize it?

– Yeah, I’ve found that like marketing partnerships in general, where you just say, “Hey, you have a lot of scale. You have a lot of customers that look like my customers,” they end up dying, right. And if you keep ’em going for a little while, because you’re not driving incremental value for the customer from both sides. And so that, just because, I had someone call me recently and said, “We sell marketing services, WebMechanix is a great customer of ours, you’re a partner of ours, because we both have the same goal of trying to deliver, help businesses be more confident in their marketing. And we have this aligned goal, we bring different capabilities to the table.” Someone came to me recently and said, “You have 200,000 businesses you guys work with. You should sell business loans.” We’re like, “There’s a million places they can go for business loans.” Like why are we a good partner for that? Because we have cheap reach? Well, that’s not going to help businesses, right?

– Right, right.

– So I think what we need to do is stay true to our mission and find partners that are going to help deliver more confidence for businesses when they go to market. And that part of our mission is not to get them business loans. It’s not to get them food services, right, all of these things. We have access in a, probably a very efficient way to reach them. But it won’t last, right, because it’s not a natural compliment to what we do today.

– Absolutely. So I want to wrap this up. I don’t want to go too long, but I am interested, ’cause I know you’re fairly new at CallRail, if we could close out, maybe, just let everybody know kind of where they could learn more about you, more about CallRail. And I’m also personally curious about just like what attracted you to CallRail? ‘Cause I know they’re probably small than most organizations you’ve worked at previously.

– Yeah, what attracted me most to CallRail I’d say is two things. One is the mission of the business, right. I’ve always worked in B2B, I think small business in particular, medium businesses, over the last couple of years, have well documented, have struggled. And I think we have capabilities that we’ve built that help them get more confident in their market, that help them get more confident in their spend. When I was at American Express, we had a marketing budget of hundreds of millions of dollars. And some things worked and some things didn’t, and that was okay. We did more of the things that worked and less of the things that didn’t. But for businesses, the sides that we work with, if they make a mistake in their marketing or they spend money that doesn’t work, that could be their kids’ college fund, right. That could be their retirement. And so the ability really to make an impact, and the second thing, for me, was I got to know the people, and it always, right, always comes down to the people. You read about the awards that the company might win best places to work, fastest growing companies. But it was a company of people that were so dedicated to the to the vision and the mission of the organization and so dedicated to building incredible products. And I felt like I could come in and help them bring those products to a wider audience, and potentially frankly, to a wider array of strategic partners to help make a bigger impact.

– Brilliant, love it. Well, we’re super excited to see what you and CallRail do from here. You guys continue to impress us. We’ve made fast friends right when we met and have been friendly with you guys ever since for years. So thanks very much. Hey, if you guys like this, do us a favor. Drop us a like, a comment, share with a friend to help us build out our community. And Marc, thank you very much, and we will talk soon.

– Thanks, Chris.

– I’m curious because the initial, or the talk sounded like it was a lot about solving for your customer, right. But I wasn’t immediately certain like in the two examples that you provided, like with American Express, you were talking about how you were going after, or how your target was construction, like the construction industry, construction companies. How did you, so I guess, how did you arrive at construction? That just seems kind of a little bit random. Like what was the, I guess what’s the thought process? Like before you even start learning about how construction people conduct their meetings and their day, how did you even zero down on into construction in the first place?

– It it’s almost the same process no matter where it is, right? Like in DirecTV, it was hotels. And in American Express, it was construction. And here it’s at agencies where you quickly, you basically drive into the data to understand what is the long-term value of different types of customers? How valuable, qualitatively, how valuable are we to them and why? And so you start to dig into why construction need short-term loans, right, or they need the ability to lend. For every one hotel at DirecTV that we brought onto the platform, that was the equivalent of like four sports bars. And they stayed a lot longer, ’cause they had to build out like a really deep infrastructure to be able to deliver high-definition TV to a 300-room hotel.

– Yeah.

– And so at ad agencies, not only at CallRail, not only is important that we help businesses to be at market with confidence, but the added layer of an ad agency, like you guys is, they want to prove that all the work you’re doing is valuable and they’re getting ROI on that work, right. And so I think it’s really admirable, like you guys use us to help grade your homework, right?

– Yeah.

– On top of the ability to optimize marketing and and such spend and whatnot, so-

– Frankly, to make our homework look a lot better, ’cause if you don’t have call tracking in place-

– Right.

– You’re just counting form submissions or just counting transactions. Like you’re missing a big chunk of the pie. And I remember when I was a very young marketer, the first time somebody ever showed me that, I was running a PPC campaign, probably like in the roofing space or something.

– Right.

– And it was like, man, these clicks are expensive, like calls per leads, like over 100 bucks. And then somebody was like, “Hey, let’s track calls.” And we found that literally we were getting twice the number of conversions that we thought. It was about half of ’em were coming in via a phone call. And we were like, “Oh!” And then ever since then-

– Amazing, right.

– Ever since then, every campaign’s got it, culture that is.

– It’s funny about a year ago we realized a lot of those calls were coming in, and then people would leave a message, and then we didn’t track the call back, like the bidirectional flow of that. So we launched this capability called lead center which allowed us to not only call people back, but call back at the same number that came in on and then be able to understand that truly was a qualified lead or a lead that closed. Like we only had half the picture. And so it’s this constant, again, so in that case, let’s take a home service. It becomes really important, like a home services company where they might be out with a client, they don’t want to answer the phone. Well now it looks like a call that came in but it doesn’t necessarily get marked as qualified, but then they call back and closed the sale. That’s a much different, that solves a big problem for home services. For a dentist office, it’s not that big of a deal, ’cause typically there’s a receptionist to answer the phone. It’s not as big of a problem for them.

– Yeah. So now switching gears again to the Cardlytics example where you were trying to crack the code on restaurants. So you learned to call their customers guests, which I imagine helped but did you ever actually crack the code in restaurants and turned into like a big driver for Cardlytics? Or like what were the other elements in cracking that code?

– Yeah, well here’s the secret to partnerships, the real secret to partnerships.

– Okay.

– Hire great people, they know how to do partnerships. So the guy from Red Lobster, I hired him, he’s still at Cardlytics. I said, “Why don’t you come in and show me how to do this?”

– Yeah.

– And so a year later we had, I think it was something like 17 of the top 20 restaurant chains were spending money with us, but he went in there and he understood their problems. He understood what they were trying to solve in a way that I never could, because he was talking to restaurant marketers and he happened to be one of the great restaurant marketers in the world. And so he could relate to what can help them and frankly what would not help them and how to think about framing the solution within their business. So the brilliance on my part, I suppose, in cracking the restaurant industry, was knowing that I didn’t know a lot about the restaurant industry and hiring someone who did.

– Yeah. Well, that’s a good secret, I suppose, right. Build a room with people smarter than yourself.

– That’s right.

– And now at Cardlytics and that American Express, were restaurants and construction just like one vertical of multiple that you were tackling or were you guys spread out and sort of verticalized, whereas you got like the construction team, you got like the team, number two, focus on a different vertical.

– At Cardlytics we were verticalized from the beginning. We had a retail team. We had a restaurant team. We had a subscription team, think about like cell phone providers and cable providers. And all those business models were very different. At DirecTV, we had no verticalization. And one of the first hires that I made was someone from the restaurant industry to create a restaurant vertical. And then we brought in someone from LodgeNet who understood hotels and institutions. And then we brought in someone who understood the retail sector. So we started to think about those very differently. I might say is on a journey, not to give too much away, and construction was sort of one of the early verticals that they start thinking about from a go to market. And it was really effective and they’re continuing to transition to better understand how they could develop more unique solutions for different verticals.

– Yeah. Now I think that the partner channel is untapped pretty much across the board. A lot of SaaSes, especially the larger SaaSes are into it. There’s, of course, HubSpot who famously switched their whole go-to-market and pivoted their entire thing to go all in on the partner channel with great success. Are you familiar with the HubSpot-

– Yeah, we have .

– It’s an amazing job.

– But I think that it’s largely undertapped, and one of my mentors is this guy, Jay Abraham, who’s like a legend in direct response marketing circles. He’s an author and a speaker. I don’t know if you know him or not, but he’s huge on partnerships. And there’s just like a lot of untapped opportunity there, I think for especially smaller businesses. So if you were like a smaller business or maybe even a midsize or a larger one, that’s just starting to tap into the partner network, what would your playbook be? Like would you target a few different verticals and kind of like see what’s sticking? Or how would you go about identifying that initial sort of product market for you, if you will?

– I think in BDE or partnerships, it’s a game of exploration, right? I mean, I think you’re trying to understand that solution fit. And I think my advice would be to kiss a lot of frogs and be really thoughtful on who the prince is going to be, right, and really invest hard. Again, I think partnerships, a lot of partnerships on paper, like they require, I’m mixing metaphors here, but they require feeding, they require watering, right. You can’t just set it and forget it. So I think be really, I would say cast a wide net, but then like make some big bets and put a lot of emphasis into those bets and know that it’s not easy. If it was easy, then someone would’ve already done it. So they’re not easy to build a partnership. It takes to, there’s a lot of legal you have to get through. There’s a lot of responsibility, who’s going to own what, whose customer is it? Is it mine, is it yours? But if you work through all of that, to your point, like you just doubled the size of your go-to-market, right, effectively, certainly in a vertical. And so for us, we’re probably like fairly early stages of trying to think about partnerships and we’re talking to a lot of different folks, but we want to be really thoughtful not to do a bunch of partnerships marginally well and to do a couple and deeply, one of the things I all my team is I don’t want to do a partnership unless the systems are deeply integrated, right. I don’t want to do a marketing partnership with anybody, ’cause they’re short-term, and maybe there’s a need to do it in the short-term, just kind of as a help or as a benefit. But it’s not a solution. It’s just “Hey, like we have your attention, maybe I can share some information with you.” But we just joined a company called that we’re integrating with, and they have API integrations with thousands of companies. And I think that’s another good tip, right, versus trying to do one off integrations which are difficult for smaller companies. Try to look for some of these providers that have the kind of one to many API integrations, and that could sort of enable, certainly in the medium-term, some interesting relationships. But just because you have the tech, unless it’s aligned and delivers incremental customer value, it won’t be a good use of your time either.

– Got it, got it. All right, well, I know we’re time here, I want to be sensitive to your time. So let’s wrap. I do appreciate having you guys on here today, and we could go for many more hours. But if you guys are enjoying this, feel free to drop us a like or a comment. We will do our best to respond to all of them. If you’ve got any ideas for future shows, also let us know that too. And Marc, thank you very much. I’m going to go check out I don’t know, I guess the Agency Partner Program is live already. I think we’re in it.

– Agency Partner Program’s live. We service thousands of agencies that help get their customers market with more confidence, any agencies that support businesses that take phone calls, and you need to close the loop on that marketing attribution on the phone, we’re certainly would love to help them.

– Yep, check it out guys. It is our top choice for call tracking at the moment. Great product, lovely people. Support is excellent as well. So ’til next time, Marc and Anna, thank you guys very much, and we will be in touch soon.

Marc Ginsberg

Marc GinsbergCEO

Chris Mechanic

Chris MechanicCEO & Co-Founder

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