with Taylor St. Germain


Chief Outsiders Principal Pete Hayes joins us this week on TrendsTalk to discuss how accurate data can help your business overcome the economic challenges in 2024 and how implementing AI and automation can benefit your marketing strategy.


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Taylor St. Germain


Taylor St. Germain

As an experienced economist, Taylor St. Germain provides consulting services for small businesses, trade associations, and Fortune 500 companies across a spectrum of industries. His dynamic personality and extensive knowledge of economic trends and their business relevance are highly valued by clients and colleagues alike.

“Join me on the TrendsTalk podcast to explore the world of economics. Episodes offer insightful discussion and expert interviews. We cover relevant economic concepts in an accessible way. Whether you are a curious layperson or an industry professional, TrendsTalk is your go-to source for thought-provoking analysis and a deeper understanding of the economic forces shaping our world.”

Key Episode Takeaways

1:01 – Learn about Chief Outsiders and the benefits of a CMO and CSO
2:55 – Overcoming the many challenges companies will face in 2024
5:24 – How new technology and automation can improve marketing efficiency
7:36 – Benefits of implementing AI into your business strategy
15:47 – How to contact Chief Outsiders and learn more about their services

The below transcript is a literal translation of the podcast audio that has been machine generated by Rev.

Taylor St Germain 00:10

Hi everyone, welcome to TrendsTalk. I’m your host Taylor St. Germain and today I have a special guest on the show. ITR Economics has partnered with many great companies over the years and one of the most exciting partnerships we have is with Chief Outsiders.

Taylor St Germain 00:23

Now Chief Outsiders has been on the forefront of marketing, sales and more and they provide fractional CMOs to help mid -sized businesses with their marketing initiatives. They utilize the best technology and data to provide world -class value and insights to the organizations that they work with.

Taylor St Germain 00:42

My guest this week is Pete Hayes. He’s a principal at Chief Outsiders and today we’re going to find out what Chief Outsiders sees going into 2024 and beyond. Thanks so much Pete for joining us on this episode of Trends Talk.

Taylor St Germain 00:55

We really appreciate it.

Pete Hayes 00:58

Love the TrendsTalk.

Taylor St Germain 01:01

I wanted to start off with understanding a little bit more about chief outsiders, especially for the sake of our listeners. So can you tell us more about chief outsiders and specifically the benefits of a fractional CMO or CSO?

Pete Hayes 01:15

Sure, yeah. Well, the company was developed about 15 years ago with this observation that CEOs, they often have a vision for growth. They’re often frustrated with their organization’s ability to get it done.

Pete Hayes 01:31

And in mid -sized companies in particular, that typically don’t tap the resources of major consultancies and such, they were often missing the marketing executive role at the table. So you had a head of sales, maybe head of engineering or product and HR and so forth.

Pete Hayes 01:50

And marketing was kind of left up to the entrepreneur founder because they had the big vision for where they’re going to go. But they get to a point where they don’t have an engine to take them forward.

Pete Hayes 02:01

They’re missing that person at the table to hand off those kind of strategic key initiatives. And so that’s how it was founded. So the value that we provide is to fill the seat, provide executive level guidance on marketing, and then we just last year added the executive sales function.

Pete Hayes 02:22

So you fill the seat. And what kind of interesting in COVID, we lost some business, we lost some restaurants in particular that it kind of had to shut down. But because they’re part of the executive team, we weren’t treated like consultants.

Pete Hayes 02:37

We were pulled in like every other executive team kind of pulled together and hunkered down to get through the COVID timeframe. So that was kind of interesting and a proof point that we get to be on the management team.

Pete Hayes 02:49

And now of over almost 2,000 companies we’ve been on the management team of, so it’s a big deal.

Taylor St Germain 02:55

You know, as you’re talking with all these organizations you work with and all these business leaders, what challenges do you foresee coming this year? And how are you working with some of the organizations or CMOs and CSOs to overcome these challenges and drive growth in particular in 2024?

Pete Hayes 03:14

Yeah, I think that’s a great question. And I think so much of it comes down to, again, how much confidence do you have to make the decision? We mentioned a lot of folks are kind of jumping in saying, hey, we’re past it because they’re looking at their 401Ks and they’re going, hey, yeah, things are pretty good.

Pete Hayes 03:30

SMB 500 is looking awesome. And that can be a leading indicator, as you guys will tell us. But at the same time, maybe not so much and you’re gonna have to be careful. The timing all has to do with, if you know what’s coming around the corner, then you can time to move.

Pete Hayes 03:50

So for 24, yeah, I think some of our clients are surprised that we’re saying not yet. It’s not time to go or it’s not time to go there. And even, it’s not just about marketing investments, that people are planning capital expenditure to go big, whether that’s warehouses, manufacturing equipment or any other sort of capital investment.

Pete Hayes 04:19

So the magic that you guys provide, obviously looking around the corner is the key to that. And 24 is a tricky year. And I think given that you guys are so bullish on the rest of the decade, if we can time the buy low, right?

Pete Hayes 04:36

If we can time that turn, where we can beat our competitors to investing or investing more wisely, then we’re in much better shape, right?

Taylor St Germain 04:47

Yeah, and that’s what we’ve been talking about a lot in 2024 on this podcast as well as, using this slower period of activity in 24 to be preparing for, as you alluded to, the decade or half a decade of growth we have between 25 and 29, of course, leading up to 2030 topic for another day.

Taylor St Germain 05:06

But as we come out of 24, we see consecutive years of GDP growth. So we’ve been urging organizations to really think of efficiency gains in ways to invest in particular inefficiencies in 24 to benefit 25 and beyond.

Taylor St Germain 05:24

And again, brings me to another question for you. When we think about investing in efficiencies and technology developments in automation, how can these technology developments in investments and automation streamline marketing processes and improve efficiency?

Taylor St Germain 05:41

I imagine marketing processes today look much different than even what they looked like five years ago. you

Pete Hayes 05:47

But I’m thinking of data cast as an instance of, for your folks listening, if they don’t know what data cast is, it’s, you become an ITR analyst on your data. And one of the things we do with many of our clients, just right off the bat, is we take their history of their sales data as much as we can get, we can get 10 years, that’s great, if it’s five, it’s okay.

Pete Hayes 06:13

And we create the 312 -1212 charts that you guys are famous for, and it helps our clients see where they are in their own economic cycle. And when you combine that with looking at their industry that they’re in, or the industries that their key customers are in, they’ve got an interesting set of data to begin to see how they may wanna go or not go, or just where they are.

Pete Hayes 06:43

So the technology platform of data cast that now takes some of that and allows you to see, especially from our own company, where do we sit? Do we know what indicators are we tracking with? And some of the insights we just recently, in fact, Alan Cullio took a look at our data and gave us a little peek, and he says, you know, you’re tracking these couple industries, you might wanna be watching them all the time.

Pete Hayes 07:07

But then he gave us a little, a nice little bonus, and you could see it right in the data. He goes, looks like you’re not keeping up here. He goes, there’s probably some internal things going on that need to be addressed.

Pete Hayes 07:19

And lo and behold, there are, right? There are some things that we’re having to change. There’s some changes we’ve made that maybe haven’t caught traction yet in our overall growth strategy. But we need to talk about AI some more.

Pete Hayes 07:32

And I’m ready to do that when you are.

Taylor St Germain 07:36

Yeah, certainly. And you’re exactly right. Where our organization has changed in a very meaningful way. You know, as we deploy machine learning into some of the models, even just our data organization and being able to interact with databases and recall data, automation in AI has been a significant part of our strategy and certainly will be moving forward.

Taylor St Germain 08:01

Do you have any interesting examples of organizations you’ve worked with that have deployed AI in marketing schemes, marketing plans?

Pete Hayes 08:10

Yeah, I mentioned the growth gears and the first gear being insight. So you want to analyze marketplaces, competitors, customers, and your own company. Well, look at the data sets that you may or may not have, or you can easily get.

Pete Hayes 08:26

But sometimes the company’s data sets, like their 312 -1212, is interesting. But I think one of the most interesting activities that we do with our clients and we do internally is just doing a massive extract out of your CRM.

Pete Hayes 08:40

So this is when a deal was created. This was when it was closed. This is how much money it was. This is who sold it. This is the channel in which it came in. And then you have your marketing investments and so forth.

Pete Hayes 08:52

And you’re able to ask questions. Like looking over the past three years, can you see any changes in our sales cycle? And your engine will say, actually, your sales cycle used to be pretty consistently at three weeks.

Pete Hayes 09:05

It’s moved six weeks. But the good news is that it’s stabilized. Well, that sounds like a conversation, but that’s coming right out of, I guess that was Claude. I was using Claude .ai for our own business.

Pete Hayes 09:19

So that and evaluating lifetime customer value, which is pretty drawn out analysis. Well, it’s not so drawn out when you’ve got an engine. Just the whole idea of things like pivot tables, I’ve never got good at pivot tables.

Pete Hayes 09:35

And I don’t have to because I can ask questions. You can ask it to chart things for you. You can ask it to spit data back. And we had a whole bunch of, well, actually, one of my favorite examples are net promoter scores.

Pete Hayes 09:49

So we take five years of net promoter score verbatims. So these are all promoters throw it in and say, what are the common themes of how Chief Outsiders helps its clients? Pretty good thing for a marketing team to know about.

Pete Hayes 10:04

Sure. What’s going on? And it tells you. And of course, then there’s the other question. You take your detractors. What are the, how do we let clients down and you get another data set? We took, we have 55 case studies all packaged up across seven different segments.

Pete Hayes 10:23

Companies can do this, right? They take examples of their work. We toss it into, I think that was Humana. And you ask, what kind of problems is Chief Outsiders solving? And here’s a set of value props and problem areas.

Pete Hayes 10:39

How does it different from financial industries to consumer? Completely different set of phraseology and value statements, right? So the kinds of things we’re doing in marketing in some ways, in some ways, it allows us to fail faster, right?

Pete Hayes 10:54

We can make decisions faster, which happens when we’re taking a client to market and they require a lot of iterations in their online ads. The more you can iterate and the more you can A, B, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, now Z test, the faster you can test value propositions to see what’s going to be attractive, the more quickly you can move.

Pete Hayes 11:17

And that changes a lot. It’s not like you were one and done. I know a company that has a pharmaceutical product, it’s over the counter, but they’re a $40 million company on one product. Well, they got two other products that they really know are great, but they just haven’t had the bandwidth internally to take them to market well.

Pete Hayes 11:41

Well, now those two products, after starting to use literally a chat GPT engine, they were able to iterate on these ads and now those two products are now 40% of the company. And the guy running that program says, I couldn’t have done it.

Pete Hayes 12:00

I couldn’t have done it without these tools. So it changes everything, right?

Taylor St Germain 12:05

Or, I mean, you said 55 case studies, that sounds daunting, but I imagine with AI it’s relatively straightforward process.

Pete Hayes 12:13

I mean, can you imagine asking somebody on your team to read through this stuff and look for themes and you get the little yellow marker out or something? I mean, just, yeah. So it changes everything.

Pete Hayes 12:25

And my advice to anybody is if you don’t have a tab and if you’re not subscribed to two or three different engines for one thing or another and you’re not talking to them every day, happy retirement.

Pete Hayes 12:42

You’re going to be left out. It’s not that your job is going to be replaced by AI. It’s that every job is going to use AI. And that’s just the end of the day, especially in marketing.

Taylor St Germain 12:57

And I think that’s been our message where, you know, as we talk about robotics and automation and AI, it’s making us more efficient and offsetting a labor constraint that we already have. And so we see this as the necessary path forward, even when we think about some of those larger conversations like the labor shortage that we have.

Taylor St Germain 13:19

And so, you know, it’s really interesting to hear how you’re using AI. And I know you mentioned some KPIs in your analysis there regarding AI. But do you have any other suggestions for KPIs or favorite KPIs that listeners who are just processing, bolstering their marketing team can take back to the bank with them?

Pete Hayes 13:42

Sure, I think time and again, we find with our clients that when they’re complaining of CEO saying, you know, where’s the growth? Where’s more business? And you immediately look at the sales funnel naturally, you know, we want more business.

Pete Hayes 13:58

But the focus is always on the top of the funnel. Every time we need more opportunities. And yet when you look at the funnel, you find things like, okay, well, a third of our opportunities weren’t qualified.

Pete Hayes 14:13

Okay, well, a third of our mark qualified. Are you spending money to attract that business? And maybe you need to spend it differently. So you’re attracting better qualified opportunities. Then you’ll see things like an a third of our opportunities are they go cold.

Pete Hayes 14:31

So now I’ve got a middle of the funnel problem that says somebody either isn’t finding the relevance or the sales team’s not following up in a timely fashion. Something’s broken in sales operations, right?

Pete Hayes 14:44

Or it’s the bottom of the funnel where we just literally lack the skills or or we’re not aware of what sometimes at the bottom of the funnel is where competitive activity kicks in. Because you may not even know it depending upon how good your, you know, sales processes are you in a competitive situation.

Pete Hayes 15:01

And as a result, are you able to compete? Effectively, right? And so there’s gold in the middle of the funnel is kind of the bottom line to that. And so rather than just measuring top of funnel KPIs and bottom of the funnel deal closed.

Pete Hayes 15:19

Find ways of measuring things that are going on in the middle, such as the things we talked about. And then the other the other classic things are, it’s funny how many companies don’t spend much time looking at a lifetime value of a client and trying to extend that.

Pete Hayes 15:33

And then things like sales cycle like we mentioned previously, if you can, you can shorten the sales cycle by 20%, you just made your sales force 20% more efficient.

Taylor St Germain 15:43

Look for the gold in the middle.

Pete Hayes 15:45


Taylor St Germain 15:47

Well, Pete, you’re a wealth of information and that’s why many of us, and for many reasons, are so happy to have you as a partner of ITR Economics, you and Chief Outsiders. Could you let our listeners know where they can find you and Chief Outsiders if they’d like to get in contact with you?

Pete Hayes 16:04

That’s chiefoutsiders .com. I’m Pete Hayes is my Twitter handle. Pete at chief outsiders is my email. So it’s all pretty simple. And all of our CMOs and CSOs, their backgrounds, you can reach them, their contact information is all on the website.

Pete Hayes 16:21

They’re always up for a conversation. Don’t think that contacting them puts you in some sort of massive sales structure. They’re consultants, they wanna help. Again, the mid -market companies we’re helping, when the big companies are grabbing a McKinsey or a Bain, that’s what they’re getting.

Pete Hayes 16:41

They’re getting market insight. They’re getting economic clues about where to invest, where not to invest. And with your data and with smart fractional executives, man, you can really make big things happen.

Pete Hayes 16:57

So it’s our pleasure to be part of your partnership.

Taylor St Germain 17:02

Well, we really appreciate you being here. I’m looking forward to joining you on stage for our panel at your upcoming conference. Yeah. Yeah, everybody.

Pete Hayes 17:11

You guys can’t come, Taylor’s coming to our National Conference. We bring everybody in from across the country and Taylor’s gonna participate with everybody on that. So that’ll be fun, that’s not too far off.

Taylor St Germain 17:23

Yeah, it’s going to be a great time, that’s for sure. Well, thanks for your time today. Thanks for joining us on TrendStop. We really appreciate it.

Pete Hayes 17:29

All right, thank you, Taylor.

Taylor St Germain 17:31

Thanks so much to Pete and Chief Outsiders for joining us on this episode of TrendsTalk. As a reminder, please like and subscribe to TrendsTalk wherever you listen to your podcasts. There’s a link in the description of this episode to Chief Outsiders’ website.

Taylor St Germain 17:47

Please feel free to reach out to Pete directly. We appreciate your time today. Looking forward to the next episode of TrendsTalk. And thanks so much for tuning in.