Search Interviews:

Jeremy Weisz 14:08 

What’s interesting, Lisa is, in your agency journey, after about five years, you realize we have this process that we’re doing and we’re really not charging for it, right? And then you decide, okay, we’re gonna charge for this thing. How do you decide at that point on the pricing? And then how do you position against what you were doing before, as the service?

Lisa Genovese 14:32 

Oh, such a good question. And I would say very vulnerably. It was hard, it was really hard to make that switch. I wish I had a great answer, but I’d say that we fumbled through it for a few years, until we started to pun intended, drink our own Kool-Aid and go back to the basics of doing our own mystery shop, doing our own competitive analysis to understand what are other agencies charging. What other service offerings are other agencies bundling in with this? And what was cool about that exercise, that we learned is that there really wasn’t another agency out there, and even to date, because we do it out now on an annual basis, nobody else is doing what we do in quite the same way. It’s more pieces of what we do that have been broken off into different service offerings, etc, and then the pricing was the other really big piece, where I found we were actually priced way too low in comparison to the competition.

I would say even today’s date, we’re still on the mid to low side of what people are charging for these type of services. But we’re a little bit more thoughtful about it now and more purposeful about it, because I want to continue to have the service be accessible to a mid-sized company. So a lot of the names that you read off at the start, that’s great, but we work with lots of clients who say we’re not Home Depot. We don’t have a $5 million budget to spend. We’ve got a $500,000 budget to spend, or we’ve got a $50,000 budget to spend, and we still want to be able to help those clients. I wish I could say it’s been perfect, in the sense that we haven’t been able to come up with something that suits a startup budget. So we haven’t been able to kind of go there. Kind of go there, but at least keeping it attainable for a mid-sized company, for sure.

Jeremy Weisz 16:27 

I know in the beginning, for something like that, we just want to get data right. What do you start off charging the beginning? Just to get data to see, okay, we never charged this before. We just want to improve the process and get some data?

Lisa Genovese 16:44 

Totally so we were charging $5,000 for an impact assessment at the beginning.

Jeremy Weisz 16:50 

Which, what’s the just to give you a sense, like, I don’t know if there’s a timeline like, oh, this takes x number of months, or what does that look like?

Lisa Genovese 16:59 

Oh, a typical 12-week engagement that probably had, I don’t know, about 120 team hours into it, like we were giving it away, but it would to your point about gathering data super helpful in that we had a couple clients go through as like a beta test. And granted, we had been doing this service offering, really, for five years at this point, but what we had formalized it into calling it an impact assessment. We had a couple of clients that went through at that $5,000 price tag in exchange for feedback on how it was, how it helped their business. And it was tremendously helpful for us and for them. So it was a great value exchange, but yeah, our pricing has changed a little bit since.

Jeremy Weisz 17:47 

What was some of the feedback you got early on to improve that?

Lisa Genovese 17:52 

So, way back then, we were doing a lot of these in person, and one of the big challenges was the time investment from the client side. So having to travel to our offices, the prep work that needed to be done, and then having an executive team in a boardroom for two days, five-hour sessions that was really, really challenging on their end. So, we fast forward to today’s date how we’ve evolved that we do most of these virtually now we don’t do really anything in person. We’ve cut down the prep work for clients a lot using AI as well, the time that clients are spending in discovery. We’ve shaved down now to five hours in total, instead of 10 hours in total. So half that, and that’s largely to do with we’ve changed some of the exercises. We’ve changed some of the pre-work they do that gives us more information in the discovery process. So, time was a big one, and just looking at, how do we innovate there? And that’s so far, the feedback has been strong that that’s been working really well.

Jeremy Weisz 19:06 

So typically, no matter what they come to you with Lisa, you start with this pathway, this discovery and this research. So like, hey, we I don’t know what is a common thing that people ask, like, we need a new website. I don’t know what are people coming to you with? We need more leads. Or I don’t know what they’re saying, and you are saying, that’s great. We need to start with figuring out why and doing the research. Is that accurate?

Lisa Genovese 19:33 

Absolutely. So you hit the nail on the head. Usually it’s “we need a new website,” or “our sales team isn’t selling enough,” or “our competitors are eating our lunch,” and I immediately ask our sales team will ask, “why?” Why do you think you need a new website? And they usually, “well, our competitors website is better, or we’re not getting enough new leads from it.” Or fill in the blank, and it almost. Is always like 99% of the time, the answer stems back from a positioning problem, like, the new website is just a symptom of a greater challenge that they have.

I also think, in the marketing field, so many people are only looking at the promotion like they’re really only looking at, how do we advertise this thing? And they’re missing a whole lot of people process, pricing, I could go on and on of the piece, but if you don’t look at it holistically like that, you’re bound to miss something. And then it becomes like pushing a boulder uphill, versus, if your positioning is right, your pricing is on point you’re talking to the right customer. It’s easy. If it feels hard, you’re doing this, I’m wrong.

Jeremy Weisz 20:52 

Talk about the evolution of the team. Right. At first, you strike out on your own, and it’s you that’s right. What were some of the key positions that you hired for over the course of the business?

Lisa Genovese 21:07 

Yeah, good one. So yes, it was just me at the beginning, but a month in two of my direct reports from the previous agency came to me and said, Hey, can we have a job? And like a crazy person, I said, yes. And so that was a back end and a front end developer. And so we carried on, the three of us to about that five-year mark, and that was really when we started to make some adjustments. The first key hire I made was just an administrative assistant to help me with, like, emails and proposals and, like, just the back end stuff, I then, I mean, we outsourced it to an accounting firm. But finance has never been really my strong suit. So it worked with some great finance partners.

Next big hire was a project manager, so kind of like account slash project manager that helped me with client meetings, making sure things were getting done behind the scenes. And then from there, it kind of evolved into trying to think of the words for it, but more of a, I guess, a formal hierarchy where we started to hire and have, like, a middle management. We had different departments, very different than how things looked at the beginning. And I wish I could say that that was perfect, but it wasn’t. There’s been a lot of like, sways in the road as we kind of moved forward. And I made some great hiring decisions, some poor hiring decisions, but really what got us where we are now, as I was mentioning earlier, we’ve leveraged a lot of really great psychometric tools which have helped us, make sure we’ve got the right bums in the right seats, but also making sure that people have the tools to help manage themselves and lead themselves.

It wasn’t until I started making the effort to understand how I operated that I realized, man, this would be so useful for my managers, to understand how they operate and what their own personal emotional needs are, and then how does that translate to their direct reports? We’ve recently been doing some what we’re just calling leadership debriefs. So our management team gets together, or I shouldn’t say, sorry our management team, but all the managers get together once a week, and we go over, what is it? What happened in your week from a leadership perspective that you need support on, and we’ll do like live coaching on the calls where other managers can learn from a situation. And it has been amazing, the learnings that have come out of it.

And our team has really embraced so that the psychometric we use is called Predictive index, and really embraced that as part of our culture, where, you know, people will understand what one another needs, both from a communication standpoint as well as just a workflow management standpoint, and we had a lot happier people and a heck of a lot better progress and productivity because of it.

Jeremy Weisz 24:04 

What about you? Mentioned that it’s really valuable to have that ongoing call so people can express what’s getting in the way or what they need support on. What is one of those learnings that came out of that? One of the calls like someone said, oh, this is what’s going on. And people shared, maybe an experience from a leadership perspective,

Lisa Genovese 24:42 

Yeah, so, and I’m going to be a bit vulnerable. So we had something happen recently where we had made a poor hiring choice, and I was away on vacation, and there were some things that went down, let’s say that were less than nine people. So I came back to a bit of a, think we’ve all been there. Not what I was hoping to come back to. But so the I spent my first day back from vacation doing a bit of investigation about what had happened this person then effectively was let go the next day. And so that Friday, we did a leadership debrief. And one of the really cool things that came out of it was that this discussion about why did this person’s approach not fit with our team culture, and effectively, what all the managers had to say and what all of their direct reports had to share when they learned the news was that when someone doesn’t fit our culture, it almost is like a natural progression that they just move out of the organization, and I don’t mean it in a like a malicious way, but more so, if it’s not good fit, it’s not a good fit.

And there was one individual that had had quite an abrasive conversation with this person before their exit, and she was vulnerable and shared in this leadership debrief that she had kind of felt uncertain, and she wasn’t really sure why. And then she brought it back to leadership terms, that this person was using authoritarian dictator-type leadership, and that is so not our culture and how we work. And so, she got a bit of coaching around that and how she might handle things differently, but it was helpful for all the managers to kind of see that it wasn’t just this one person that had the challenge, and it was also the entire company culture that we have built. Everybody kind of wanted to protect that when somebody didn’t fit that bill, like we’re clicky at BottomLine, because we are so not.

Jeremy Weisz 26:46 

No, I understand what you’re saying. I mean, I think, and I think it’s Jim Collins Built To Last. They do talk about this. And certain companies just have a culture and people naturally kind of make their way out of that culture if they don’t fit. And I think it was, it was built to last. They talk about whatever, Nordstroms and other companies, that it’s similar. Things happen there?

Lisa Genovese 27:11 

Totally. And I think you can look at those situations as a negative, or you can go through them and look at, where’s their silver lining, where is there a positive in this? And I think there was a tremendous amount of learning, both for my team, but also for me, through that situation, on what were the red flags during the hiring process? So we don’t repeat that again. And thankfully, it didn’t cause too much of a rocked boat that we didn’t, you know, damage anything internally?

Jeremy Weisz 27:41 

Yeah. I mean, the good thing is that you recognize those things quickly, and it wasn’t like 10 years later for the learning for that person approaching that other person, was that, when you did a debrief, was that the appropriate response? Or because, on one hand, maybe it caused a reaction of the person and you let them go, but on the other hand, you let them go because they’re not a fit. So would you, when you discussed it, would you go back and change anything? Would that person how they handled it or?

Lisa Genovese 28:20 

That’s a good question. I would say, in this case, the individual on our team will call her, just her and the individual who’s departed, I would say her response probably could have been a little bit different, and that was part of the coaching, because she kind of flipped out and was like, you can’t do this here, instead of maybe having a side…

Jeremy Weisz 28:43 

Maybe a little different, like set in a tactful way, as opposed to just less tactful, I guess.

Lisa Genovese 28:51 

Yes exactly. But in terms of, like, the person departing, etc, I would change nothing. The only thing I would change is going back to there was a red flag in the hiring process that was caught that I think we would in the future.

Jeremy Weisz 29:05 

At what point do you administer the predictive index? Is it in the hiring process or after?

Lisa Genovese 29:13 

Hiring process? And so we use it as part of, not all of us, a screening tool very well aware that that could be considered bias. So we have multiple other factors as part of the screening process as well. But it’s been vital in just understanding, does this person’s personality characteristics match up with what we’re looking for in this particular job, so that we’re not wasting their time or ours. Because if you look at my PI, if you put me in an accounting job, like I’d lost three weeks at best, like I couldn’t do it because it would burn me.

Jeremy Weisz 29:55 

So it depends what position you’re hiring for and what gets spit out, like this person’s wanting to come on. For this position, but they’re predictive, and it says maybe they wouldn’t be a fit?

Lisa Genovese 30:06 

Exactly, so I’m not high detail orientation, hence why I’d be really poor in a position as an example. So it does measure all of those types of characteristics. It does not measure intelligence. I want to be super clear about that.

Jeremy Weisz 30:22 

It just measures more like behavior.

Lisa Genovese 30:24 

Exactly. And also, so what is your innate like, your natural state of being? And then also, you’ll see through this, it’ll show you where do you feel that you’re actually having to change the way you normally are for the job that you’re currently in. So again, you would if you put me in an accounting role, you would see that my detail orientation is having to stretch so far that I’m going to burn out at some point and or I’m going to be really grumpy and cranky. So yep, you’ve got it out there. That’s the exact and it’s been pretty fundamental.

Jeremy Weisz 31:06 

One thing Lisa, you share, which I think is really interesting, you’ve said a few times, is mystery shopping. And talk about how you do that internally, because I think it’s really valuable to think about that as a company in general?

Lisa Genovese 31:22 

Yeah. So the most simple way to do it is really figure out, okay, what answer Am I looking for, or what am I trying to evaluate? Then you’re going to develop your backstory and your targets, and then you’ll draft, what are the questions or the things I want to find out about in what sequential order, what’s super important about when you do your mystery shop is making sure that you’re comparing apples to apples, so you’re asking the same questions of each of the companies that you’re shopping and then where possible record, because our Human brains cannot remember every little detail, and although it may feel insignificant at the time, often can be that one, you know, golden nugget that you overlook. So we try, if we’re doing like an in-person mystery shop, most of our team will actually have a recorder used legally, I want to be clear about that. And or if we’re doing a full…

Jeremy Weisz 32:22 

Well, oftentimes you sounds like you’re mystery shopping your own clients too. So you have approval from them, I assume, to do that.

Lisa Genovese 32:33 

Absolutely, absolutely. But yeah, that’s the key thing. Just make sure it’s an apples-to-apples comparison. And you can find, oh my gosh, the things you can find out are crazy. I have a fun story, actually, about my story shopping. So we did some work for a debt solutions company that’s here in Calgary, and they have a location in Edmonton, and their greatest challenge was that they would have a tremendously high conversion rate on booking an initial appointment. So they were running a digital campaign, but after that appointment was booked, they had like an 80% no-show rate, 80% they wanted to know why, so they hired us to figure that out for them. And I will never forget the day that we placed the recorder down on the this was back when we were doing them in person, but recorder down on the boardroom table, we played that tape for their CEO.

Now, the reason why people were no-showing is their receptionist would call to confirm the appointment, and she was a little bit crusty and a little bit not the nicest person to talk to. People were already scared about coming into an appointment, such as selling their debt with the government. Of course, they’re not going to want to come to an appointment where they feel like they’re going to be judged and have to deal with a prickly receptionist. So what’s cool about that story, though, is they got her some customer service training, and I think she still even works there to this day. So it wasn’t as if the person got fired, and that’s what everybody always assumes. But no, the person just needed some proper training around how to deal with those calls and smooth sailing.

Jeremy Weisz 34:14 

Love that — the prickly receptionist. Very, very nice way of saying it. I’ve dealt with those too. It’s amazing. I do think of it. From a company standpoint, our judgment is on whoever’s answering the email or whoever’s answering the phone, no matter if they’re world-class or not. And there’s companies, I know they’re amazing, and when I’ve called, I’ve dealt with the prickly receptionist, and it sours the experience. It makes me not want to do business with them.

And it’s kind of unfortunate. I mean, and people aren’t usually going to say something, they’re just going to leave, so it’s so important, each touch point is important. I’d love to highlight. A little bit more and share what we went through the process. Thanks for sharing kind of how research applies to business and how the process works. Let’s talk about a few examples and I’m familiar with through the background in health-related things, pure encapsulations and what you did there.

Lisa Genovese 35:19 

Yeah, yeah. Happy to. So Pure, they’re a Nestle Health Sciences brand, and when they came to us, they were really struggling with their digital footprint and uptake on some on the practitioner side, but a lot on their DTC work and so sorry, direct consumer. I am terrible with acronyms, so we took them through our digital assessment framework. So a little bit different than what we showed before, but similar. So it was a deeper dive into, you know, past digital campaigns that they ran, all their content marketing, their current website, and also just to kind of understand their audience, we did some qualitative on that one as well. And hence, super interesting what we found.

So their messaging is quite given the nature of the business, it was sterile. It was very medically focused. And although that resonated with the health practitioners, it really was tough for their the D2C stuff, because as a consumer, when you start talking about methylation, and half-life of medication, and like all of those things that they really had no idea. So we helped them with a little bit of a reposition, especially on a messaging for that D2C audience, and then we helped them run a pretty comprehensive programmatic campaign to reach that audience. So they did, geofenced a bunch of naturopathic clinics, and I believe they also did, like nutraceutical dispensaries, if you will, or like an amaranth or a community natural foods.

Jeremy Weisz 37:09 

Yeah, there’s like, a lot of health food stores, or health kind of vitamin shops.

Lisa Genovese 37:13 

Yeah, exactly. And so we geo-fenced all those locations, um, grabbed the user ID from iPhone and Android devices. It’s all to a GDPR standard privacy I should clarify that. And then we imported those lists into a DSP where we ran programmatic ads. And so you’ll see here, like what you’ve got up on the screen. We ran brand awareness, then we followed up with social. And then further down the funnel, we leveraged some Google search and display, as well as some hyperads to foster that conversion. And it worked very, very well for them. They saw a pretty tremendous lift, this year, we’re tasked with doing something similar for their healthcare practitioner audience. So the messaging will be still staying on that more scientific side, but we’ve got some really fun stuff that I can’t quite share all of it right now, maybe rolling out for them this year to just further build their HCP audience as well.

Jeremy Weisz 38:13 

With this example, Lisa, were they trying to drive people to stores to get it or were able to get it on a website somewhere?

Lisa Genovese 38:25 

Great question. So there’s actually three places. So this was a big thing that has been a bold contention internally for them, they do sell through Amazon, D2C. You can buy through E-commerce as well as you can buy in a retail environment, along with a month a bunch of other e-tailers, like healthy planet, I think they’re on, and it’s tough, because knowing the breakdown of their target audience selling on Amazon isn’t really conducive to reaching that healthcare practitioner. Audience, they don’t love that patients can also just go and buy it directly on Amazon. And so that’s been something we’ve been working through them. I gave it a little bit because I think there’s no one-size-fits-all all answer to this. It’s really come back to what’s their biggest bang for their buck? And it has been healthcare practitioners that are going to, you know, buy in mass quantities versus, you know, the end consumer that’s going to buy one-off products every month.

Jeremy Weisz 39:33 

So in this case, some of the time it may have been to a physical location, yeah, okay, yeah. Because if I were a physical location, that’s pretty enticing. If the company is going to geo target and run ads to drive people to my location, it should be like charging those companies, or you should be charging those companies too, like you’re driving traffic to those stores, essentially, yeah, that’s a pretty good deal for them, actually. What about Verge Agriculture? What’d you do there?

Lisa Genovese 40:11 

They’re an interesting one. So they came to us when they weren’t called Verge. They came to us when they were called Whipcord, and they were effectively a co-location in a data center, but they had just acquired this agritech product called first pass and well, at that time, they weren’t really sure what to do with it, so we took them through an impact assessment, helped them kind of pull apart the layers of the onion on is this going to be something that they package alongside Whipcord services, or is it going to be something else? It ended up being something else. So we helped them develop the verge brand.

Came up with new obviously, new name, new position, new visual brand identity, and then we did a second impact assessment, where we helped them bring it to market in multiple different continents. The first one was, I always mix this up. First one was Australia. Then we moved into South America, primarily Brazil, and then over into Europe. They’re in other countries now. But effectively, this was a really big, big undertaking, because to split those two brands was one behemoth, and then to really look at, how do we bring this to market in Canada and then all of those other markets, and it happened in a very short timeframe. We did that work in 18 months, and had them in all those continents in 18 months, which was felt like blew your hair straight back.

Jeremy Weisz 40:23 

That’s a lot.

Lisa Genovese 40:42 

But it was fun. So some of the kind of key pieces out of this project as well. So their target audience, of course, was farmers and larger-scale farming operations. And I think I mentioned this to you, that I came from an agriculture, farming background. I grew up on a cow-calf operation, and so this one was kind of near and dear to my heart. And we did a lot of the qualitative in person. So we would actually go out to the fields, have an interview with a, you know, a farmer. So he’d hop down off of his tractor. We’d sit on the tailgate of the track, do the interview, record it, come back to the office. So that was really fun. Another big thing that we did when they were promoting Verge in the different markets is they did, like, Tailgate or Toolbox barbecues during harvest season.

So they would invite all the neighbors to come in, and they’d show a little bit about Verge, and then they would like legitimately do a wiener roast off the back of the tailgate of the truck. And they did some contests where we gave away branded YETI Coolers that said, verge down the side. So that was all fun. We changed it a little bit depending on the continent. So that worked really well in Canada, in Latin America, we tried to, again, tie in some of that Latin culture. So those were kind of the research bits and bobs. But the other thing that we did on this one that was, like a big project, and a big milestone was they wanted to showcase video and with their product, it was really challenging, like on a computer screen, and you’re even seeing it here to actually demonstrate, well, what is first pass and how does it work. So we did a week-long photo shoot out in Saskatchewan, where it was harvest season.

So there was all the equipment was moving in, in order, doing their thing. We captured all of it on video. And then we had videographers get in the cabs of either attractors, combines, you name it, and they would capture video of the screen of first pass actually. So it’s a route guidance tool that helps farmers optimize their path. Hence, first pass path. It’s got a new name now, but back then, that’s what it was called. And anyways, we captured first pass in its real form, working, and it helped them so much. On the other side of connecting the dots for farmers, for them to actually understand how is this going to work in actual practice, instead of them, just like whipping out an iPad with some photos of it, they could actually show through animated anime, like animation. Here’s what this actually looks like, and then here’s what it looks like in the cab of the tractor and using it.

Jeremy Weisz 44:43 

That’s really cool. Lisa I have one last question, and I would love to hear a lesson from growing up on a farm. But before you answer that, I just want to point people to to learn more. And actually, while you think of that, I was watching this video, I came across this video the other day, and I loved it. And if you’re watching the video here, there’s a video, I guess it’s Brandon William channel. I don’t know the person, but it’s farmers versus bodybuilders, and they go through a series of competitions to see who’s stronger. It’s fascinating and it’s fun. So anyways, talk about lessons from a farm.

Lisa Genovese 45:30 

Oh my gosh, that’s awesome. I got to go find that video. Oh my goodness, so many things, but I would say the value of hard work and the value of community are the two really big things that stick out to me from my childhood, right from an early age, we were expected to get out of bed and do I did chores before every day, before I went to school, but learning that routine and that…

Jeremy Weisz 45:53 

What time were you waking up and what were the chores? 

Lisa Genovese 45:57 

Usually 4:35, ish, my boss picked me up at 7:04 every morning to go to school. So it was usually a combination of feeding cows, feeding horses, checking waters, all of that fun stuff. But yeah, the lesson definitely was just the value of hard work in that hard work always pays off, and then the value of community too. I spent a lot of time in 4h as a kid, and some of those relationships that I built, I still have to this day. And I think back to public speaking, what we’re doing right now. Public speaking was a requirement as part of 4h you couldn’t advance to your next year if you didn’t do your public speaking component. I hated it at the time, but it’s been really helpful to me in my career now. So those are my two big ones. Build good relationships and work hard, and it always pays off.

Jeremy Weisz 46:56 

What does the morning routine look like now? I’m assuming you don’t wake up at 4:30 still? No, you deserve to sleep at this point. No, but Lisa, I just want to be the first one to thank you. Everyone, check out more episodes of the podcast. Check out to learn more, and we’ll see everyone next time. Lisa, thanks so much.

Lisa Genovese 47:17 

Thank you.