On this 250th episode of “Marketing Today,” I speak with Paul Cowan, the CMO of FreshBooks, a cloud-based accounting solution for small businesses and self-employed professionals. Over the past 20 years, Cowan has marketed everything from booze to SaaS products, learning that product experience and marketing go hand-in-hand.

In this episode, Cowan discusses the symbiotic relationship between product experience and marketing while touching on the intersection between marketing and community. We also talk of activism — or really slacktivism — and what it means for businesses.

The conversation begins with an overview of how FreshBooks came to be and how Cowan stepped into his CMO role during a company rebrand. Like any good CMO, Cowan believes it’s important for your customers to understand the pain you address, but it’s even more essential for them to understand what makes you different. From a brand standpoint, Cowan says marketers need to look internally and find what he calls the “bits of goodness” that exist within the product experience and communicate that to customers.

Cowan goes on to explain how to use that pain to build a community, what slacktivism means, and how it impacts business, for better or worse.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to take a pain point and use marketing to exploit it
  • How to find your company magic and use it as your superpower
  • What the symbiotic relationship is between product, customers, marketing, and community
  • What role slacktivism plays in marketing and in pushing companies to be purpose-driven

Key Highlights:

  • [01:33] Why Paul isn’t allowed around chainsaws
  • [03:01] What is FreshBooks and Paul’s path to becoming CMO
  • [05:38] The pain FreshBooks set out to solve
  • [07:06] The FreshBooks rebrand
  • [11:42] The overlap of product experience and marketing
  • [13:27] Using pain points to build network and community
  • [19:15] What is slacktivism, and how it applies to purpose-driven companies
  • [27:51] An experience that defines Paul, made him who he is today
  • [29:31] Paul’s advice for his younger self
  • [30:17] A recent impactful purchase Paul made
  • [31:22] The brands, companies, and causes Paul follows
  • [33:03] What Paul says is the biggest opportunity for marketers today

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Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.