How do you determine if your brand message is resonating with your audience?
This was the question Christian and Anna asked Jill Casey, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Renaissance Electronic Services, a.k.a. Dental Hero. When Jill joined the company in 2015, she knew that in order to take the company to the next level, she needed to make changes to their marketing.
In this episode, Jill describes the brand’s broken identity and how this realization gave her the ability to not only create new messaging but onboard a new marketing team to help rebuild.
Having a great product means nothing if your audience doesn’t understand how it adds value to their lives. Tune in to uncover how you can determine whether your messaging resonates, and what to do if it’s not.
Jill Casey: Everybody wants to be the hero of their own story. Right? They don't care about what it is that you do. They care about what it is that you can help them do.
Anna Eaglin: This product.
Christian Beck: Are we recording?
Anna Eaglin: Oh my god. Better Product. The only show that takes a behind the scenes look into how digital products are created.
Christian Beck: The businesses built around them and how you too can innovate better product. I'm Christian.
Anna Eaglin: I'm Anna.
Christian Beck: Welcome to today's show.
Anna Eaglin: Imagine stepping into a role with a mature company and feeling like you have a blank slate. That was the case for Jill Casey, vice president of marketing and business development at Renaissance Electronic Services, also known as Dental Hero. They have a couple of product lines focused on serving two markets, dental offices and the insurance companies who work with these practices. The company started in 2002. Jill joined in 2015 with an opportunity to change the story.
Jill Casey: But they were kind of in this transition point really kind of had this identity as a dental company and there was kind of this slow realization that maybe maybe that is not striking the right chord with people. There was the opportunity to come in and refine messaging and develop something that was going to resonate better with our customer base.
Christian Beck: So how do they determine suddenly that the brand wasn't resonating?
Jill Casey: From a sales perspective, it had been an almost purely outbound sales effort. Cold call sales effort. There was some recognition of the brand, but it took a lot of explaining who we were and what we did. And then from a recruiting perspective, as we tried to bring in new team members, and this was me too, I looked at the website of the company. I was like, I am in marketing and I don't fully understand what this company does.
Anna Eaglin: They knew to get to the next level, they'd have to make some changes. There wasn't necessarily a clear direction. So Jill had the opportunity to rewrite the script, if you will, and she knew one thing for certain.
Jill Casey: So I knew that at a fundamental level, I wanted to shift the focus from focusing on us to focusing on the people that we were trying to serve.
Anna Eaglin: In order to shift the focus, she had to talk to the customers, not just the customers themselves, but the people within the organization who talk with them every day.
Jill Casey: It doesn't take hundreds of calls, it doesn't take listening to hundreds of customers, but it does take listening to your team as well.
Christian Beck: All right, so she was starting to get clear on her audience and found that there was some clear misalignment between the customer and the messaging. Now what?
Jill Casey: I think it depends on what you're finding is broken. And for us, we found that a lot of things were broken at the basic level. Our identity as a brand was broken.
Anna Eaglin: And then on the flip side, part of marketing is recruiting. If your brand identity isn't conveying the value you can deliver to your customers, then it also won't translate to potential employees. So she had to ask, does our current team even understand what we do?
Jill Casey: The people that worked at our company. The people that we were trying to recruit. The people we were trying to sell to. No one had a clear understanding of what we did. And so it was really hard to explain when you know you have a good product and you're trying to communicate the value, the way that you can help people to achieve their goals.
Christian Beck: The brand identity was broken. The message wasn't resonating. That was true for people at the company, those being recruited, their customers and their target market. There was no clear understanding of what the company did.
Anna Eaglin: The challenge for Jill, or rather the opportunity wasn't about rebranding to align to a new vision as we often see with existing companies. It was the realization that their current message simply wasn't connecting.
Christian Beck: I wanted to understand the specifics behind this broken identity realization. What should a company do next? Do you hire? Do you revamp the website? Or do you come up with a new name?
Anna Eaglin: Well, what's the first thing Jill did? Take a listen and be sure to hang out after our interview with Jill as we break down some of the key themes from the conversation.
Jill Casey: I think the first thing that you do is ... so maybe you as the marketing team or you as the marketing person have identified that you have a problem. But I think that it's really important to get other people on board with the fact that you have a problem, too. And maybe problem is a strong word, but really an opportunity to do something different to communicate what's your about in a different way so that you can help more people achieve their goals.
Anna Eaglin: How did you go about doing that? How did you try to get others on board and who specifically were you interested in?
Jill Casey: So it's different for different people, right? So you have to communicate it in a way that supports what other people are trying to do. So, for example, if I'm communicating to someone on the engineering team the importance of the brand and improving the brand, the message might be something more to the effect of, hey, I know that you're trying to recruit developers and I know that having this website that makes us look like a dental company probably makes it really hard, especially when we're competing with other companies who have seemingly cooler products to recruit talent. So that might be the message for the engineering team. Whereas, if I'm speaking to sales leaders for example, it might be, hey, this will make it so that you're able to communicate the message more effectively. That your sales reps have a better way to communicate the value to customers.
Anna Eaglin: So when you started doing this, is updating your brand, your customer facing brand and your recruiting type brand, are those like one in the same or are you doing ... are those different initiatives?
Jill Casey: I think that they are very much intertwined. I think that your identity as a company, what you are to your customers and what you are to your employees or prospective employees it can't be that different.
Christian Beck: Once you've communicated it out out to the rest of the team, what is the next step?
Jill Casey: Kind of at a more basic level, for me, it was building a team. It was building the team of the people who could bring this to life. Who could work on things like taglines and the imagery and all the parts of the brand. It's kind of a funny story when you have something that is, that was what we had. That was kind of so far off the mark. I remember at one point interviewing a brand designer to a position that was responsible for really the whole identity, the whole visual identity of the company and the person that I ended up hiring, she initially backed out of the interview because of the way that our brand looked and that it just didn't align with where she saw herself going career wise.
Jill Casey: And I had to talk her into the fact that no, this is who we are now, but this is not who we want to be and that's why we need your help. And being able to have the right team in place. People who are willing to see things, not for what they are, but what they could be. People who are willing to take a chance on your brand and what it could be.
Anna Eaglin: Did you start with the brand and the messaging and then move into the website? Or what was the ... Because it sounds like those things probably are related to each other. So how did you go about doing one and affecting the other?
Jill Casey: We started to think about what it was in terms of messaging. What it was that we were actually trying to do. And for us it was, we know that dentists, that they go to school to be dentists. They go to school to work on teeth. They don't go to school to process insurance claims. They don't go necessarily for some of the business related things. They want to help affect change in people's health.
Christian Beck: How did you figure all that out? What you just said with dentists?
Jill Casey: We know the parts that go into dental school, right? And it's not a business school major. And we've also talked to dentists. We don't create products in a vacuum. And so we know kind of the ... some of the more business related things are not what they went to school to go do.
Anna Eaglin: How do you brand yourself to appeal to a group that is ... you're serving them a product that maybe they don't want in the idea that they don't want to ... they don't care about the business either. That's not their ... that's not what they feel good about. That's not what they're excited about. How do you message and market? Is it the dentist? Is it actually like the office manager? Like how are you kind of positioning and messaging to that group?
Jill Casey: Yeah. Typically it is the office manager that we're working with, but the dentists sometimes as well. The dentist is definitely involved in that decision most times. But the way you kind of frame up that message is ... I think with everyone, everybody wants to be the hero of their own story, right? They don't care about what it is that you do. They care about what it is that you can help them do. And so for us it was a matter of, hey, we want to help you get rid of all these things that you don't want to do and so that you can focus on the things that you do want to do.
Christian Beck: Yeah, I think that's really interesting thing to latch onto that you're helping them do those things. I mean I think a lot of the people we have on this show that we talk to are selling a product to do the things that they want to do better. You're talking about selling them something that gets them to do the other thing. [inaudible 00:09:29] here buy this thing. It does the things you really aren't interested in doing. And you said the word hero, which is a good segue because I love to understand now sort of like fast forwarding to why I was ... My interest was piqued because I went to Renaissance's website at some point and it redirected to dentalhero.com, which now I'm starting to see the connection. So I'd love to hear how you went from Renaissance to Dental Hero
Jill Casey: Dental Hero, it really captured what we wanted to convey to our customers. And that was that we believe that they do really important work and we wanted to honor what it was that they do and to be able to be kind of a sidekick for them to do some of these things for them that would allow them to be a hero for their customers.
Anna Eaglin: How did the branding and messaging exercise, so updating that, getting that right, talking about what you do, how did it then tie into the website? Because it's not just ... it sounds like the website is, it's about like educating people about what you guys do, but also people are there to get something. Information. Get connected. So I guess how did those two initiatives tie together?
Jill Casey: So we took a look at what people were trying to do at their offices, like what their goals are and some of that information we captured through doing interviews with dental offices and kind of figuring out, hey, what are your goals? What are your pain points? And we use that to inform our messaging. We use that to inform the way that people could use our website. And we kind of blended that with looking at the analytics data from our old website as well as feedback from our customer facing teams about the ways in which they were directing customers to use the website and kind of the pitfalls that they were coming across there.
Christian Beck: When the new messaging and all that goes live, how do you tell whether it's working at that point?
Jill Casey: Well there were a few different ways where we and how we took a look at whether our messaging was effective. Some of it was qualitative. Some of it it was quantitative. So some of it we just ... we survey people. We ask people, hey, how was this? Are you able to find what you're looking for on this site? How do you feel about the new website? Are there things that you would change about the experience? So that was one piece of it.
Jill Casey: And then just kind of on the back end looking at the analytics, do we see drop offs in the places where we would not expect drop offs and using that to kind of inform whether from a usability perspective whether people are getting the information that they need.
Christian Beck: How do you figure out when something is a partnering opportunity or when it's a hire? How do you make that call?
Jill Casey: I think it's deciding whether it is a skill that you are going to need continuously over a long period of time. I think that if it's not something that you foresee having to have on your team, if it's more like a project that you're looking for, a scale that is needed for a project, then it's not really a hire. That's really something that you can look to a partner to help you with.
Anna Eaglin: I think, yeah, it's kind of something we've glossed over in the past. Like when is it time to bring someone in and when is it time to bring in an agency. But I do want to follow up on what you said about working with an agency because I'm very curious. So what are the attributes of that that you were looking for in an agency?
Jill Casey: We were looking for someone who was really collaborative and who brought us along. Who was open to having multiple face-to-face meetings and getting together in a room and kind of hashing it out and talking about, okay, what are the things that are important in this project versus what are the things that are not so important and really being able to work together as though they're part of your team even on just kind of a temporary basis.
Anna Eaglin: Why was that important to you?
Jill Casey: One thing that I have found to be true in a lot of cases is most people don't care about your brand as much as you care about your brand. And so finding someone that will work with your team and will work as though they're part of your team, it feels more cohesive. The brand feels more cohesive.
Anna Eaglin: What about on the opposite side? What does it mean to be disjointed? Like what kind of ... if you were to work with a partner that was not an ideal partner, like what would be the outcomes that you'd be like that was not a good relationship?
Jill Casey: I think when they come up with ideas about who your customer is, some assumptions about who your customer is that are not necessarily true. And I think it's easy to jump to conclusions about what it is that might be compelling, especially if you look at other companies that are within an industry to make assumptions about who a customer might be and what they might care about. And that's not always true. And so really being able to find someone who can evaluate what things are assumed truths and what things are real truths.
Anna Eaglin: So based on your experience, what advice would you give people who are looking to hire an agency or a partner to do some kind of a project? Like what things to look for? What things to ask?
Jill Casey: Look for someone who works the way that you like to work. And so if you are a company where there is a lot of collaboration, where there is a lot of cross functional work on different projects, look for someone else who does that too. Ask about the ways in which what the different touch points will be along the way on the project. If it's ... if you're a status call type of company and that works for you, then an agency that does that, that might be fine, but if you are a get together and work face-to-face and certainly you'll still have your own individual work to do, but just kind of making sure that your partner, that their work style matches yours.
Christian Beck: Almost seems like similar criteria to if you were hiring somebody to join your team full time, but maybe more challenging because they're not in the office all the time, so you got to rely on the trust that when they're not there they get everything that you're trying to do.
Anna Eaglin: Talk to us a little bit about the idea of customer support as a customer or a touchpoint.
Jill Casey: For most people after they buy your product, their interactions with customer support are going to be their most frequent touch point with your brand. And so having customer support and having good customer support, it's really a good way to differentiate yourself. I think that making sure that your customer support team is aligned with the other departments in your company and that you're all kind of speaking the same language about what it is that you do and offering a good experience for your customers is really important.
Anna Eaglin: So you talked about initially when you got to Renaissance that everyone was kind of speaking a little differently inside and customer support, like you said it, they need to be aligned in what everyone's saying. How do you ensure that customer support is speaking like everyone else or has the right messaging?
Jill Casey: I think it's a challenge no matter who you are as a company. And we're a medium to large company, we have 150 employees and about 40 of those employees are support employees. And so it's kind of a continuous process. One, talking about it in the onboarding process, talking about who we are as a company. Making sure that customer support is brought along on the messaging that our sales and marketing teams are giving to our customers and just kind of making sure that as a whole they're invested in what it is that we're doing as a company.
Anna Eaglin: We talked a lot about dentists. Is there anything ... I don't think there's anything else. Is there anything that we haven't talked about as far as like going through the brand process, going through the website redesign that you definitely want to make sure that people are aware of? Or was like a big issue for you? Or anything else that you think would be relevant?
Jill Casey: I think one of the things that I learned along the way is that you can't rush the process. I know that as a team we did a lot of brainstorms that seemed like kind of silly exercises at the time where the outputs from an hour and a half of work were seemed like nothing. And then we would go back and revisit it later and be like, well maybe not this, but we're on the right track with this. It's important to build in some psychological safety with your team so that they can throw out all those dumb ideas, all those wacky ideas because I think that we found with us that the really wacky ideas, they got us a lot closer to where we want it to be.
Anna Eaglin: What does better product mean to you?
Jill Casey: Better product means a focus not on yourself, but a focus on your customer and everything that you do.
Christian Beck: That was Jill Casey. You can check out the rebrand and refocus by heading on over to dentalhero.com.
Christian Beck: So what I would like to start with is a core aspect of of Jill's workplace, which is that she's working with Renaissance, which is a mature, niche company focusing on dental offices. And I think that that's interesting because we have a lot of people on the show and a lot of our listeners are working on B2B apps that are solving problems that may be more widespread with sales and marketing and all of that. But this particular one feels a little bit different than those because it's a mature company. She came in there after it was a decade old and it's very niche and I think that comes with some very interesting challenges.
Anna Eaglin: Yeah, I agree. I think they serve a very specific audience. They are serving these dental offices. She said mostly they're small and just helping them do basically do the administrative stuff that they really don't want to do. I mean like just like she said, these dentists, they go to school, they don't go to school to run their businesses. They go to school because they want to help people. They want to do these dental things. Cleaning people's teeth. Making people feel better. And so it's interesting that that the product that they build is actually not one the dentist would be like, "Oh, I can't wait to use this admin software."
Christian Beck: Yeah. It's not a brand new drill that they can torture their patients with.
Anna Eaglin: Right. Right.
Christian Beck: Which is what I think most dentists like doing.
Anna Eaglin: Or help their patients.
Christian Beck: Help. I'm sorry. What did I say?
Anna Eaglin: You said torture.
Christian Beck: Oh shoot. I always make a mistake with dentists.
Anna Eaglin: Must have been a slip of the tongue.
Christian Beck: I gotta get my tongue check.
Anna Eaglin: That's right.
Christian Beck: Do dentists do that too? No, you mentioned something interesting there, which is that it's helping people do things they don't want to do and I don't know if that's specific to this type of business, which mature, niche business, but it almost seems like it because a lot of the things we use, like me and you specifically, we use things like Slack or Airtable or Gmail and these are things that that we kind of want to use because we want to use them to do our jobs. But the job of a dentist has nothing to do with that. It's like they're working on your teeth. What do you think is the biggest challenge when working in a space like that? When you're building a product for somebody that kind of doesn't want to be using the product?
Anna Eaglin: I think it goes back to what she was saying when she was talking about how they had to do a lot of explaining when it came to their messaging. I think messaging is probably super key for an audience in a space like this because again, you're definitely solving a problem for them, but you also have to convince them that purchasing this software, again not something that will probably directly affect them on a day-to-day basis [inaudible 00:21:10] things will run smoother and it's a little bit hands off.
Anna Eaglin: So I think probably the messaging has to be really precise and really touching those pains, hitting on those goals. And I think she was totally right the way that they went about it, where they talked to Dennis and they really talked to the office managers too, because the office managers are the ones who are really going to be using the software. So I think that yeah, I would imagine the messaging has to be super spot on to really talk to that crowd.
Christian Beck: It seems like the name that they picked, the Dental Hero was kind of born out of that. It was like the hero for dentists to do all those things that they don't want to do.
Anna Eaglin: Right.
Christian Beck: At least that's [crosstalk 00:21:45].
Anna Eaglin: I mean, and I think that's another really good example of how I think they ... Dental Hero is not, oh really clever. It's not like a higher level metaphor. It literally is like Dental Hero. It's interesting. It's short. It's easy. You immediately get it. It's for dentists. It makes ... I mean I think that like there's a lot of like greatness about the simplicity of it and specifically when you think about the market that they're actually selling too.
Christian Beck: Yeah. I agree. And there may be a subtle, like the fact that it's dental and not dentist helped make people think, oh it's not dentist software, it's dental. Like it's related to dentists. So I think that probably helped. The other aspect that I know you're interested in too, that is maybe not unique but very correlated to niche companies in particular is this idea of being able to hire. I know we don't talk about hiring a lot on here, but she mentioned it being cool and stuff like that, and I think also with Renaissance, the image that they had publicly was out of date with who they truly were, which not only hurt their sales and marketing and all that, but it also hurt the recruiting efforts like when she was trying to build her team even.
Anna Eaglin: Yeah. That was a really good point that she made that one of the consequences of their kind of broken brand, if you will, is that they had trouble recruiting. I think it's kind of something I never would've really thought about, but it makes total sense. If you can't explain yourself to your customers, like how can you explain yourself to a potential hire?
Christian Beck: Yeah. Maybe it's like the difference of when you're buying a house that needs to be like a turnkey house that's brand new versus the fixer upper and you have to message it right. Say, "Well, no, no, no. What you're looking at, hear me out here. It's a fixer upper and you're going to get on the ground floor of that." She also talked a lot about that on even internally, everybody just feeling like, we're going to work on this new brand and you have to get that aspirational side in front of everybody internally as well to say, "I know what we have currently today isn't quite right. Maybe it doesn't feel cool, but this is also an opportunity for you to be a part of actually creating something new." So it's a different conversation that a niche company like this or maybe a more mature company has to have than say a hot new startup where there's a lot of buzz around. She almost had to create that buzz and convince people that this current state is actually the stage for doing something better.
Anna Eaglin: Yeah and I think a niche company like that can also really tie what you're doing to the actual people using the software and you are enabling dentists to do better work. I mean a lot of them are small business owners and have been running their own business for years and so I think you can really tie the work that you do to enable them to kind of live their best life and find their higher purpose.
Christian Beck: It also seemed to effect the way they chose partners. Effected the way they do everything. Another way that it effected, you brought up as well was their customer support and I think that's another key that we could really even talk a lot more but just to kind of give a flyby, we talk about the connection between marketing and sales and marketing and product. This was interesting to think about. She said they have 40 some people in customer support out of a hundred ... I can't remember. I'm so bad at numbers. They have over a hundred employees and I think about 40 some were customer support and I don't know percentage wise where that falls like in the world, but it seems ... that's about almost 40% of their company deals with customer support.
Christian Beck: And she made a great point that the most frequent brand touch point after purchase is customer service or customer support. So I think it's really important for people listening to this to understand that once you sell the product, customer support is that touch point. And so whatever you're doing on the brand side and your messaging, whatever promise you make to your customers has got to continue following through even through the support. And I think that was a really important point she brought up.
Anna Eaglin: Definitely. I agree.
Anna Eaglin: Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. If you haven't yet, be sure to subscribe, rate and review this podcast. Until then visit innovatemap.com/podcast and subscribe to learn how you can take your product to the next level. As always, we're curious. What does better product mean to you? Hit us up on twitter @innovatemap or shoot us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christian Beck: I'm Christian.
Anna Eaglin: And I'm Anna and you've been listening to Better Product.
Christian Beck: Better Product.
Anna Eaglin: Drop mic.