By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

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This week’s show is called Multichannel Marketing Best Practices and Success Storiesand our guest is Nick Runyon, CMO at PFL.

Ryan and I are talking about tactile marketing, talking about building relationships and the value of still leaning in on a non-digital world when we can.

Ryan say of PFL “… we are a marketing technology company. We have a SAS solution that coordinates tactile marketing, direct mail, dimensional mail with your digital marketing efforts. So, we integrate with your CRM or marketing automation platform to have a true multi-channel experience by that coordination, the orchestration of the physical and the digital. And, we leverage a long history of printing expertise in order to have that entire vertical integration operating at peak capacity for all of our customers.”

What we’ve seen is what you would expect that the warmer the contact, the more relationship that you have there, the more impactful it is. And the more quickly you can connect with a prospect and carry that conversation forward, what we’ve seen is what you would expect– the warmer the contact, the more relationship you have, the more impactful it is. And the more quickly you can connect with a prospect and carry that conversation forward.

This and a lot more!  Listen in now and/or read the full transcript below:

Matt:  Well thank you everyone for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. If you’re joining us live on the Funnel Media Radio network, thanks so much for joining us. If you hear my children upstairs, taking a break from school having lunch, part of the fun this year, and if you’re listening to us on the podcast, thanks so much for downloading and subscribing. You can catch all of our episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio, past, present, and future on Each week, we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in all of B2B today is absolutely no different. Featuring today Nick Runyon, he’s the CMO at PFL and, Nick, thanks so much for joining us today.

Nick Runyon:  Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Matt:  Is it fall yet in Livingston, Montana, have you guys seen some change or is it still feel like summertime?

Nick Runyon:  Oh no, you nailed it. It is fall. It’s about a six day window and I think we’re on day four. And so, it’ll probably snow this weekend.

Matt:  The transitions from seasons have been getting weirder, for sure. I think I saw in Denver, it was 90 degrees one day and snowing the next. But I guess that just kind of is on brand for 2020. Speaking of 2020, talk a little bit about sort of PFL on the work you guys have been doing that you came back and joined PFL a little less than a year ago, and were only in the role for a couple of months before the, you-know-what, hit the fan again, talk a little bit about what the beginning of this year was like for you, being fairly new back in the leadership role and then facing some pretty significant headwinds.

Nick Runyon:  I think in a lot of ways, it presented some opportunities for us to make some moves. I think in an extreme environment, your realities, the truths of your reality get much more stark and maybe more clear. And so, some of those things that I’d identified early on and I kind of put together a 100 day plan. Coming back into this role, it was an opportunity to just pull the trigger on that and do so rapidly. And I think they were the right decisions. Nine, 10 months into the role, and looking back on the last, what is it? Six-and-a-half months of COVID, I think that we’ve weathered the storm pretty well and we’ve helped a lot of our customers do the same in the process.

Matt:  I think you guys have been a great story of resilience and success this year in relative fashion as with all of the rest of us, as well. And for those that don’t know what PFL does, maybe explain sort of what the business model is, what your focus is as a go-to market service and then sort of how that was uniquely challenged at the beginning of this pandemic as well.

Nick Runyon:  So PFL is a marketing technology company. We have a SAS solution that coordinates tactile marketing, direct mail, dimensional mail with your digital marketing efforts. So, we integrate with your CRM or marketing automation platform to have a true multi-channel experience by that coordination, the orchestration of the physical and the digital. And, we leverage a long history of printing expertise in order to have that entire vertical integration operating at peak capacity for all of our customers. And, one of the challenges I think you’re alluding to is, when you’re sending direct mail and automating direct mail as part of a digital marketing journey and then everybody goes from the office to remote work and just scatters to the wind. That was a pretty big challenge for us and for our entire customer base. I mean, I’ll tell you, my first reaction was to just hit the pause button. So for about a week, 10 days, we didn’t send anything because we needed to really quickly adjust and figure out where we were going to send it to.

Matt:  And I think that we’ve certainly seen some pullback on direct mail to business addresses, but I know you guys have found some pretty significant success and have some great success stories from clients in keeping direct mail alive and getting creative with getting it sort of coordinated and delivered to work from home addresses as well. Talk a little about what that transition was like, and what’s some examples of success that you’ve seen.

Nick Runyon:  So, the transition really involved us doing kind of a full shift to a fully digital marketing effort in the first week or two. So, internal and our own marketing team, we began sequencing and emailing about 1,000 prospects in that time period, just made kind of a rapid change. I didn’t really know what was coming … A lot of people. And immediately, we saw a decrease in our effectiveness. One of our main leading indicators that I’m looking for is meetings booked with our named accounts. So, we’re running an account-based marketing strategy. We know who we want to go target and go after. That meeting booked rate for our prospects dropped to 0.9% from that was much higher before that.

About two weeks later, we began using a mix of publicly available data, some consumer data resources, and we were able to match with a high degree of accuracy, prospect, first name, last name, city to what we would assume is a home address, but we would message it as a preferred address. And so, as part of our sequencing when we were doing outreach, we’d say, “Hey I want to send you something to help explain kind of what we do and how we can help transform your business, is this your preferred address?” And we saw our meeting booked rate go from 0.9% to about 9.9% immediately once we started doing that. The interesting thing was that people replied to that email and I said, “Yeah, that’s my preferred address, I’m happy to talk.”

That meeting booked rate went to over 20% to 22%. So really in the early days of COVID, we were figuring out. This is still a valuable channel and it’s very valuable when direct mail is coordinated with the rest of your effort. And we were able to prove that out. And then, we started putting that into a product, to roll it out to our customer base. So that’s our preferred address capture methodology that we provide for all of our customers now, and others are seeing the same type of success of high connect rates and creating that moment in time where their marketing, messaging and that prospect journey can continue to move forward.

Matt:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Nick Runyon, he’s the CMO at PFL. And, Nick, I’ve had a number of questions from people over the last few months, just asking, “Hey, what is it like for marketers when they are forced to work in an all-digital marketing environment?” And my first reaction is, “This is not an all-digital marketing environment. The telephone still works, believe it or not, direct mail still works.” I love your example of getting a preferred address and seeing some pretty exponential increases. Is there a difference in sort of getting that address when you have sort of a cold prospect that may not know you, is this better if it’s integrated in with sort of a warmer sequence with a prospect that is known, or that already has a relationship with your business, is there a context in which that preferred address, work from home direct mail, tactile integration can work better?

Nick Runyon:  Well, I think what we’ve seen is what you would expect that the warmer the contact, the more relationship that you have there, the more impactful it is. And the more quickly that you can connect with a prospect and carry that conversation forward. You mentioned telephone. I think it’s important to remember, just kind of note there that, this is a multichannel experience that we’re talking about so, I’m going to kind of draw a spotlight to the direct mail aspect of it because that’s the part that we fulfill for some of the biggest brands in the world. However, it’s integrated into a digital journey. And then we sent a timely delivery notification, which allows a representative to make a phone call in that moment when that box or that package, that drag mail piece is in the hands of the prospect. And so you’re right, it’s not an all digital environment.

I don’t think we exist that way. There’s a blend between the online and offline. And I think in the blending of those channels is where true relationship gets established, which brings us back to that warmth of the contact idea that you mentioned. So, we see people that use tactile marketing automation as part of their marketing strategy to enter the conversation and kind of penetrate new accounts and make connections with the right prospects. But we also see it used to continuous sales process to maybe expand an account and the greater depth of relationship you have with an account or a set of contacts, the more impactful this is going to be. Because it’s really not about kind of what’s in the box or sending something, it’s about using that moment to add value. And the more that about a prospect, the more you’re able to hit that value target, really, and create an experience that you know is going to help them be more successful. Which I think is really the point of marketing, right? Is to help communicate how your offering can help that brand win.

Matt:  I completely agree. Hey, if you want to take a quick break, pay some bills, we’ll be right back more with Nick Runyon, talking about tactile marketing, talking about building relationships and the value of still leaning in on a non-digital world when we can. We’ll be right back on, Sales Pipeline Radio

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Paul:  And once you do that, don’t go anywhere. Because Matt’s back with his guest.

Matt:  Here we are and we got a few more minutes here with our guest today, nick Runyon, he’s the CMO at PFL. And I think I want to use, sort of plug something we’ve been doing together as an example of I think, a good multi-format, multi-channel and integrated program, the CMO Book Club. Talk a little bit about sort of the CMO Book Club from your perspective, sort of the value of having that as a sort of an executive leadership or executive engagement tool, but then also a little bit of how we’ve used that as sort of like an online and offline experience.

Nick Runyon:  I’m going to throw a lot of credit for this year away. Because I came into PFL and kind of did an assessment of, what’s on deck, what you’ve been doing that’s working, what do you guys want to do? And Jason on our team said, “Matt and I talked about this CMO Book Club idea. I still think that it has some merit.” And I loved it from the minute I heard about it. So, what it is, is we started with a pretty targeted list of CMOs that we knew between your network and mine and just reached out and said, “Hey, we want to create a conversation that’s incredibly valuable, that’s pretty flat. There’s a lot of conversation across the community, but really, it’s a community that can engage and learn with one another around some of the most popular, most helpful business and marketing books there’re today.”

And I think that invitation was really well received. We’ve got a great, kind of core group that’s put together. And what we do is, we’ve built a kit with PFL. You’re doing some of our creative collection materials and we deliver a book and an invitation box to this CMO group every other month. And then, we read the book, or sometimes people don’t read the book, but in either case, you’re welcome to the conversation. And then we host a Zoom call with the author and anybody that can attend. And those have been some great conversations. I think it’s added a lot of value. It’s kind of a pitch-free zone. Now the you’ll tend to hear that benefits the entire network and what we’re seeing is that a lot of people are hearing about that and asking to be involved and included. So I was actually just before we jumped on here, I was approving some other applicants to the CMO Book Club, connected with them on LinkedIn. So it’s been a lot of fun. Have you enjoyed it as much as I have?

Matt:  I have. No, I love it. And I think it’s been a great way to sort of in a no-pitch, no-pressure environment, engage in an interesting conversation that in itself generates content, in itself, generates value for, I think everybody involved, it’s always a huge validation when you’ve got participants in your marketing campaign, inviting other people to be part of that marketing campaign. So, I wanted to give a shout out of our own. I think on your team, Chelsea Axline has really been doing the lion’s share of the work on this and making this possible.

So I’m sure Chelsea is listening live. So, Chelsea, thank you very much for all the work you’ve done on this. And the other reason I wanted to bring this one up is because, I mean, this is not what I would consider a demand generation campaign. This is not an immediate pipeline builder. And yet, you said this has been an initiative that you’ve enjoyed, that you value. How do you put a community building initiative like that into the context of your marketing strategy? When I assume ultimately your boss and your board still needs you to generate pipeline, how do you justify and then integrate that kind of a program?

Nick Runyon:  Well, I think this is going to resonate with some of your listeners. We did it because it’s a great idea and it’s the right thing. I mean, I think that the concept of a CMO Book Club really connects well with your brand and with my brand and partnering on this, just to deliver that highly valuable engagement opportunity, is the right thing to do. And so yes, there’s costs to it and we had some budget that’s made available. But how I justify it, and now I’m sharing some of my secrets. This was a don’t ask for permission kind of thing. We rolled that out, but now absolutely, I’m messaging it to the board and to our CEO saying, “Hey, we’ve been doing this and it’s going great. And this is the impact that we’re seeing and what we’re hearing from the people that are involved and how they’re inviting others into it.”

So, I think if there’s margin in a leader’s strategy and budget to do something like that, I would think creatively about how do you create those types of communities or those opportunities for your target market? That’s probably backwards. And in fact it is backwards from how we would approach most things. We’re coming into Q4, 2021 planning. That’s what everybody’s doing right now. This is an effort that kind of fits into the gap for us and it’s been great. It’s been a great experience.

Matt:  Well, I think a program like this, if done well also has extension. You can have sort of some VIP members that are getting the books and that are directly invited or have to get approved by you. But then if you do an author Q and A, you can certainly have that available to anybody. You can have a transcript or on-demand of that author discussion available to a broader audience as well. So, I think there’s re-purposing opportunities and a lot of this to sort of give it a little more leverage, but I think to your point, it does take a little bit of forethought, a little bit of vision to be able to say, “Listen, we’re going to do the demand gen stuff, but if we’re going to go close these big deals, we need to build relationships. We need to build relationships and credibility and trust with senior marketing leaders. And this is a way to do that.

You also mentioned, as we wrap up here, we’ve got a few more minutes with our guest today, nick Runyon, the CMO of PFL, 2021 planning. So, last Thursday of September, heading into Q4, people starting to think about next year. This might be one of the more difficult planning challenges for marketing leaders to figure out, what is next year going to look like, what can we invest, what should we invest, what market are we going to see? What are some keys for you to be able to increase your confidence in the plan you put together? What are the things you’re looking at, what are things you’re prioritizing and what are some of the ways that you’re working through building your 2021 plan?

Nick Runyon:  It’s incredibly difficult as you alluded to 2019 and everything before that, all the baselines feel really unstable. One of the things that we’re looking at just as a starting point is, what were we able to do in 2020? And so, we’re looking at past efforts, campaigns, they showed lift and a positive impact, and we want to extend those further into the market. And we’re also looking for other opportunities based on some of the needs that have arisen since March. I’ve spent a lot of my time, the last two weeks, at least a half a day, three days a week, just listening to customer phone calls. We use Gong here at PFL, which is a wonderful tool. I love it. I love some of the AI that they put in there that helps review subjects from the transcripts. So, I’m spending a lot of time understanding what are the challenges that our customers are facing.

And then we are taking approach to match solutions to those biggest problems in terms of budget, what kind of metrics can be expected? Like I said, the baseline is kind of out the window, but we’re using the current last two, three quarters kind of as a foundation and then making estimates off of that. And of course, setting some stretch goals, which, I think is possible and I think it’s valid in this environment. I think the teams really need to consider, where do we need to be at the end of 2021? How can we take some ground?

I think that we’re aware that the tendency here is to be cautious and I wouldn’t advise anybody to go out and spend a ton of money. I mean, cash is really important right now, but at the same time, if you’re just standing still, you’re actually losing ground, in my view. So we’re talking a lot about, “How do we build solutions that match our customers’ known and stated problems in order to take some ground in the market this year?” My advice to anybody is, if you’re not using address mail, you should.

Matt:  Well, I think there’s certainly a big opportunity for companies, I think to integrate direct mail, if not back into their programs, but in a greater way. I think there’s a lot of wide space there. I think a lot of people are going to continue to be working from home or working in a hybrid environment. And if everyone else is pulling back on it, it’s clearly an opportunity for you to sort of backfill and sort of stand out and differentiate, and I would think your comments about planning and having a longer term view, it’s not just nice, it’s necessary right now. I think that we need to have leaders with some visions, that are willing to take some bold steps, to think about what their market needs and how their business can serve those needs.

And that’s not just thinking about next week’s emails. It’s thinking a little broader about where the market is going to go and how we’re going to bounce back. Speaking of this year and the headwinds we face, Nick. A question we’ve been asking a lot of guests on Sales Pipeline Radio lately is just, once things kind of shut down in March, and just thinking over the last few months, what’s something you have missed from the old world that you are looking forward to being able to do or enjoy again, to get back to some version of new normal, and then what’s something you don’t miss, that was part of your old world, that you are not looking forward to making part of your new normal, moving forward?

Nick Runyon:  I just mentioned listening to a lot of phone calls and we’re all doing the Zoom calls and everything. I miss sitting with customers, I miss being in their environment, walking the halls of their businesses, meeting. We always have those presentations and boardroom opportunities when you do a site visit. But I love the hallway conversation, kind of the rest of the team. You just get a feel for a place. Being in the marketing technology space, working with those marketing teams. It communicates a lot to me about a company, their culture, their team, what their needs, what their wants are, when I’m standing in the office in the middle of a team. I miss that a lot. One of the things I don’t miss, I don’t know, that one’s hard. I’ve tried really hard to be optimistic about our current reality.

I think a lot of things have shifted, some for the better. I miss the quiet. You mentioned your kids having lunch upstairs. On one hand, I really like having my kids around when I’m working. There’s opportunities for lunch, we’ve got a little bit of a longer breakfast, those kinds of things. Those are the good sides of it. The bad side is, when you’re on a call or when you just have to lock down. I really don’t like having to close the door on my kid, helping them understand the work-life separation and the balance between those things, there’s been some good conversations that has come out of it, but I don’t know. I don’t like that separation. Sometimes, it’s easier when you just go to the office and come home at the end of the day.

Matt:  Yeah. I mean, I think the things that I miss are the things that are sort of the opposite of those reasons why I feel like it’s been sort of blessing this year, is being able to spend a little more time at home, being a little more time with the family. I’ve only got about a 20 minute commute to our office normally, but it’s just not having those 40 minutes where I miss all my podcasts that I don’t have as much time for now. But I think being able to spend more of that time on intentional things I care about has been nice.

But I think, to see your point, I feel the same way you have. If we hear a version of, I miss people, I miss being in front of people, I miss hanging out with people, I miss interacting with customers and colleagues and friends, professionally and personally. So, we’ll get back to that eventually. But in the meantime, Nick, thanks so much for joining us today. Our guests, Nick Runyon, CMO of PFL, you can check him out at If you’re interested in learning more about the CMO Book Club, you can certainly email me or Nick. And we’ll happy to tell you more about that, but we’re about out of time for today on behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.


Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel.  I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing.  If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.