I am CEO

Chief Marketing Officer Unlocks Business Success Through Strategic Marketing

Full Episode from I AM CEO Podcast - IAM1998

Effective marketing strategies play a vital role in driving growth and success. To gain insight into the world of strategic marketing, we had the privilege of speaking with Seth Avergon, an industry expert with over 25 years of experience.

Seth is the founder of Avergon Marketing Group and a highly sought-after fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) who has helped numerous companies elevate their marketing efforts. In this interview, Seth shares his valuable business insights, the importance of strategy, and how his unique approach sets him apart.

Finding innovative ways to carve a niche in the market can be a challenging task for businesses of all sizes. CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders often seek inspiration and guidance from seasoned experts who can provide actionable strategies.

One such expert is Seth Avergon, a marketing extraordinaire with a wealth of experience spanning multiple industries. In our conversation with Seth, we dive deep into his journey as a business leader, his philosophy on strategic marketing, and the key lessons he has learned along the way.

Conclusion:

Seth's journey as a fractional CMO and his ability to seamlessly integrate strategy and tactics set him apart in the industry. By immersing himself in his clients' organizations and understanding their unique needs, Seth delivers results that drive business growth.

Through logic tree planning and a genuine desire to listen and understand, Seth helps his clients unlock their true potential. His holistic approach to marketing ensures that every decision is rooted in strategy, creating a solid foundation for sustained success.

Website: www.avergonmarketing.com

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Full Interview:

Transcription:

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Seth Avergon Teaser 00:00

I can bring into my clients experience and strategies and campaigns from other industries that I think might work in their space.

So they get they get the benefit of, I play like a member of staff. And I'm bringing in a whole lot of outside experience and understanding the dynamics of other spaces that could potentially impact them positively.

Intro 00:18

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of. This is the I Am CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:47

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I Am CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today as Seth Avergon. Seth, excited to have you on the show.

Seth Avergon 00:55

Great to be here. I'm excited as well.

Gresham Harkless 00:56

Yes, absolutely. So you're doing so many phenomenal things. And of course, before we jumped into the interview, I went to read a little bit more about Seth so you can find about all the awesome things that he's doing.

Seth has over 25 years of experience and has held key positions at Citizen. Denso Automotive, Rain Bird, World Tableware, and RSI Home Products. His enthusiasm, leadership, and creativity have been the driving force behind dozens of successful product launches and marketing campaigns.

Seth is an acknowledged expert in both B2B and B2C marketing strategy and is the recipient of numerous professional accolades, including a Trailblazer Award. He's a sought after speaker and editorial. Source on brand and business strategy.

Seth holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Southern California and a master's degree in international studies from George Washington University with specializations in international business and international law.

And like I said, Seth is a tremendous wealth of knowledge. He has over 10 plus years in the marketing industry and is We were even talking about a little bit before, like you may or may not know that Seth is someone that is a lifelong martial artist. And I was talking about how I only spent a week in martial artists, but just, I love even talking a little bit offline, how it has helped him out in business and all the powerful things you get from knowing so much.

Seth, excited to have you on the show. Excited even more to hear about all the awesome things you're doing. Are you ready to speak to the I Am CEO community?

Seth Avergon 02:22

I am thrilled to speak to the community. I'd love it.

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Gresham Harkless 02:25

Yes, absolutely. To kick everything off, what I wanted to do, I know I touched on a little bit, but I wanted to rewind the clock here a little bit more on how you got started. What I call your CEO story.

Seth Avergon 02:33

Sure. So, I'm going to take you back to 2009 when I started Avergon Marketing Group. And I created the company. out of a need that I saw. Nobody was doing this. So in my world, and I was a corporate guy, I saw consultants coming in from one side and they were offering to create great plans for me.

But then they would hand them to me and say you should go do this. They would hand me the documents, say, have a good time with this. And on the other side, there were agencies and they were doing all the tactical work, but had a very limited understanding of strategy. So, The genesis for forming Avergon walking route was to bring both together.

That was in my mind. I said, wouldn't it be nice to someone would come in and they could do the strategy and manage the tactical execution properly. And so I decided, I guess it's going to be me. So I formed the company.

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[Gresham Harkless 03:18

Yeah, absolutely. Love that. It's so funny when you have that finger pointing out, like somebody should do this and you realize that there's three more fingers pointing right back at you and ends up telling you, you need to actually be the one to do that.

Yes. So I absolutely love that. So I wanted to drill down a little bit more and hear a little bit more on, what you're doing and helping how you're helping to support your clients. Take us through a little bit more of what that looks like.

Seth Avergon 03:38

Sure. Most of my clients that I serve are in the 5 to 50 million or even 10 to 100 million space.

And for those companies, I'm able to provide them tremendous value. And I love that I can do that because they very much need high-level strategic support. But they can't afford me, afford me on a full-time basis. So for many of those folks, I become what's called a fractional chief marketing officer, fractional CMO.

That's a fancy term for part-time with full-time responsibility. So they're renting me, right? Whether that's going to be a couple of hours a week or, or several days, several days a week to several hours a week, whatever that retainer turns out to be, I'm able to guide their marketing.

And make sure they're doing the right things. And they don't have me as a full-time hire. I'm in there as a hired gun. I will help them manage their in-house team if they've got one. I will help bring in the right resources for my Rolodex if they don't have it. And I'll make sure they're successful.

Gresham Harkless 04:32

Yeah, I absolutely love that. And I don't know, I know you said you started your firm in 2009. It seems like Fractional has been something that is been from my perspective, at least from what I see from the outside, looking in, it's been booming. Is that something that you've seen grow up and become more of an opportunity that people can leverage?

Seth Avergon 04:49

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And it's been more popular in Europe, and now it's coming over here in a big way. And I want to be clear. It started with the fractional CFOs, not the CMOs. So the chief financial officer, because a lot of companies would have an accountant or controller. Senior account or controller and the boss would come and say I want to look at maybe expanding the company and what would that look like and capital equipment expenses and how would I do the financing?

And that's not in most accountants. That's not in their area. So the CFOs at the fractional level brought in again, a really valued skill set for these companies and they came in and then the fractional CMOs, we were the second ones to come in. And now you're seeing even a fractional head of sales, chief sales officers, same kind of thing, right?

You have a sales manager, you've got some salespeople, but not a high level strategic experienced selling person who can come in and manage that department, even if it's only they're just one day a week.

Gresham Harkless 05:43

Yeah, absolutely. And I'm imagining you having that opportunity to be part of the team and be a fractional CMO, but also still having that strategy as well as that execution, within your organization and your firm that you've been able to build.

That probably allows those people to, Have I don't know the word I'm looking for, if it's like more of a partnership, somebody who's not just there, not just an agency coming and going, but somebody that's actually within the organization that understands like what the culture, all those things you're embedded within the organization, but you're still able to bring that expertise and that knowledge to those meetings.

And of course, in executing the actual strategies as well, too.

Seth Avergon 06:19

You said it perfectly. The word is embedded. So we. I, my team, we play like a member of staff. So we have the member, we have that member of staff mentality where we sit in meetings. I often have business cards for my clients. I email addresses set up.

I'm playing like I work for them full time, but I have the advantage and you touched on this of I also have other clients. So I'm seeing what's going on. I don't have that those horse blinders just sitting in that one company. I can bring into my clients experience and strategies and campaigns from other industries that I think might work in their space.

So they get they get the benefit of, I play like a member of staff. And I'm bringing in a whole lot of outside experience and understanding the dynamics of other spaces that could potentially impact them positively.

Gresham Harkless 07:04

Yeah, that's so powerful that you've been able to bring that in.

Seth Avergon 07:07

My job is to play chess with companies, right? It is that strategic game. I need to be objective. Whenever I sit down with a client, I need to decide what is best for them.

I'm very cognizant of always being agnostic.

I can't favor. One marketing strategy over another. I can't favor one type of tactic over another. Really needs to be about who they are, the space they're in and what is going to move them forward.

Gresham Harkless 07:31

Yeah, that makes so much sense.

Seth Avergon 07:32

And I often say to my clients, look, I'm a big, obviously I'm a big believer in strategy and planning and What I will tell them often is because I often I'll get the phone calls, Hey, let's, we want to do this specific tactical thing. I'm like, we'll stop for a moment.

I don't believe in spending one penny on marketing. Until there's a plan in place. Now, I don't care if that plan is written on the back of a napkin, but we're going to have something as a point of departure as a plan. So we understand this is where we're going. And then from that information, this is what we need to do.

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And this is what success would look like, right? Without those pieces of information. You're just shooting wildly out there.

Gresham Harkless 08:10

Yeah, absolutely. That's a lot of times when you get the results that you really weren't looking for. And do you feel like that's part of what I would call your secret sauce? It could be for yourself, the business or a combination of both.

But is it that understanding of again? I feel like it's you're embedded within these organizations, but you're not embedded to, the solutions or ways that people can provide those solutions. Do you think that's part of your secret sauce and the thing that you feel like makes you more effect makes you stand away from the pack and be able to break through the noise.

Seth Avergon 08:40

I think so. And that's, it's part of my core values. So it definitely is part of my secret sauce. The biggest piece is what I mentioned earlier, where I bring strategy and tactics together under one umbrella, which is very rare. People usually Like we talked about earlier, like they're locked into their one way of thinking.

I do both because it serves my clients the best. There are strategy specialists, there are tactical specialists. I'm doing both because that is what will get them where they need to go. But yeah, my humility my earnestness and being able to listen to my clients. And it's, it's funny you bring this up because I was trying to determine my secret sauce at one point.

And I thought I knew what it was and then I went to my clients and said, so what do you like about working with me? And I was waiting to hear about, oh, it's your analysis methods, it's your techniques. And the thing I got back was you listen to us. You don't push your ideas down our throat. You listen, you reflect, you echo back on us, and then you come back with advice.

But so yeah, it's a combination of that umbrella I mentioned before with strategy and tactics and it's and it's a bit of my own core values, as you said, humility and just leaning in and wanting to know and wanting to listen to them and what their needs are and trying to match that up. With what I can do.

Gresham Harkless 09:51

Yeah, that's so powerful. Reminds me of the quote that people don't care how much, until they know how much you care. And I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack.

So this could be like an apple book or a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Seth Avergon 10:06

It's gonna be a combination. So I'm a big believer in the morning ritual. So for myself I get up around 5 30 a. m. And I meditate for about a half hour. And that just Man, I used to wake up in the morning, listen to the news, and that was just killing my soul, so I'm going to stop that.

So I do a meditation in the morning, just to get myself centered. I go out, I walk the dog, I come back, I make a cup of coffee, and then I listen to Audio cliff notes on a book. So every morning I will pick a book and it takes about the same time as for me to finish the cup of coffee about 15, 20 minutes and I'll use an app and I pick a book in the morning and listen to those audio cliff notes and it just, it helps me pick up new information, get inspired and bring more creativity out of myself.

After I'm done with that, I work out, I take a shower and then I'm done hitting the road, and then I'm out in the world. But that morning ritual, yeah. And that, that, that hack of, of using, it doesn't have to be audio cliffhangers, whatever you can read something that inspires you in the morning, that's something that kind of feeds your soul a little bit and feeds your mind and your creativity.

I find that a wonderful way to start with that.

Gresham Harkless 11:18

Yeah, I think it's so powerful. So what would you consider to be what I like to call a CEO nugget? A little bit more word of wisdom or piece of advice. I usually say it might be something if you were to hop into a time machine, you would tell your younger business self, or it can be something around marketing, some piece of advice you might give to a potential client.

Seth Avergon 11:35

At one point I spoke on the five flaws of marketing, that a lot of companies do, and I'm going to pick on one of them today which is Living in a vacuum, and we touched on this a little bit earlier, but I want to go deeper with it.

Be aware that you're, if you're in an organization, there's a mindset, there's a group mindset that kind of develops inside that organization, and you start living in a vacuum in the way you think about things.

And so, The nugget I would give people is to start thinking in terms of what's called, what I call logic tree planning. So instead of just thinking in your little vacuum of, we just do this the military are big fans of logic tree planning. That is, if they do X, what does, what happens over here at Y?

So in other words I'll give you a concrete example from my history. I was sitting in a meeting and they said, we're going to lower our prices by 10%. And when we do that, everybody's gonna buy more stuff. And I'm in the back, I'm the young executive who doesn't know to keep his mouth shut, right? And I say, that's great, what happens if our competitor lowers their price 10%?

Because they're bigger than we are, and they have more money than we do. So, if this is a race to the bottom They're going to win. They're going to lose. Yeah. They're going to win. We're going to lose. They did not like that question. But that's a bit of logic tree planning. It's okay, they just said, Oh, great.

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We lower our price. 10 percent people buy more. And I'm like, okay, you lower your price. 10%. They lower their price. 10%. Now, what are you doing next? How does this scenario play out? And so that would be the nugget I would tell people is. Do this kind of a logic tree planning of what happens after you do something.

What is the response from the market? What is the response from the competitor? What is the response if there is one from your clients and your customers? How are they how are they looking at what you did? If they look at it as, oh, that's wonderful. The price is lower or, oh, so you were charging me too much before?

Is that why you're lowering your price now? What is their perception around?

Gresham Harkless 13:13

Yeah, I appreciate you sharing that. Absolutely. I love that. So I wanted to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO.

We're hoping to have different quote-unquote CEOs on this show. So Seth, what does being a CEO mean to you? A

Seth Avergon 13:26

CEO means to me that. Everything is your responsibility, right? I'm quoting Jocko Willink's bit, this concept of extreme ownership but I bought in hook, line and sinker, so I'll take it.

Everything is your responsibility. If things are going wrong in sales it's not just, it's not on the sales guys, it's partially on you. If things are going wrong in marketing, if things are going wrong in operations, you need to be able to touch. And maneuver. You're the guiding force.

You're the cheerleader. You're the disciplinarian when it's needed. You've got to be everything on this. So to be the CEO means it's all your responsibility. I've never believed in scapegoating. If somebody's doing something wrong, it's because they weren't trained properly for it or they weren't put in the right position.

Or they weren't the right person for that job, period. But you put them there. So it's on you again, right?

Gresham Harkless 14:11

Yeah, absolutely. I love that definition because I feel like it comes full circle to anything, especially how you and why you started everything you're doing.

Seth Avergon 14:18

Yeah. I think there would, there used to be this conception of top-down management, it's the CEO at the top smoking a big cigar and kind of telling people bottom up and that just ain't the way it rolls really is more bottom up. where you've got to go down to the base levels, to who's ever in the field, who's on the line working, say how, what, back to my question, how do I best support you?

How do I best support you to get this done? What do you need to get the job done? And then sure, then I've got to go back up and set policy around that. But I got to know what that guy on the line needs for that gal on the line needs to make it happen because me just. Sitting on high and shouting out orders doesn't get us anywhere.

Gresham Harkless 14:51

Yeah, absolutely. Seth, appreciate your time even more. So what I want to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know.

And of course, how best people can get ahold of you, find out about all the awesome things your team are working on. Sure.

Seth Avergon 15:05

The best way to get a hold of me is come on over to my website. It's Avergonmarketing.com. Abergon is A as in Alpha, V as in Victory, E, R, G, O, N as in November. And yeah, what I've got coming out, if you're following me on either on social media, on LinkedIn or on my blog, I've just started a four-part series on planning for 2024.

So I'm trying to guide people out there through the four steps that I see in creating planning. And for the record you have to do planning. If you think you don't have to do planning for next year, let me tell you right now, you've got to do planning. This is not a, should we do planning? No, you got it.

Even if, even if you just end up taking an hour or two to do it, it needs to be done. Also I'm working on a book right now, so I'm excited about that. I've got a great publicist and she's keeping me accountable and it's actually not on business. It's actually more about as we touched on my core values.

I want to really present to an audience. I've been very, very blessed with some good mentors and some lessons that I got. And so I'm trying to codify those lessons that I was given. And push them out to the next generation possible.

Gresham Harkless 16:09

Nice. I absolutely love that. And of course, we're going to have the links and information that show notes to so everybody can get a hold of you find out about all the awesome things that you're working on.

. And of course, I appreciate your time today.

Seth Avergon 16:19

My pleasure. My pleasure.

Outro 16:21

Thank you for listening to the I Am CEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I Am CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Don't forget to schedule your complimentary digital marketing consultation at blue16media.com. This has been the I Am CEO with Gresham Harless, Jr. Thank you for listening.

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