Agency Unfiltered - Brendon Dennewill from Denamico

Digital Transformations Through Technology

Brendon Dennewill, CEO of Denamico, has made a key distinction in their flywheel model: they put customer experience in the center. Learn how to leverage data, systems, processes, and technology to help your clients succeed with a true digital transformation of their customer experience.

Read the Episode Transcript
  1. Listen to the audio

Episode Transcript

Hi everybody, welcome to Agency Unfiltered. I'm your host Kevin Dunn, and "Agency Unfiltered'' is a biweekly web series and podcast that interviews agency owners from around the world about agency operations, growth, and scale. Episodes can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, and you can find our videos, and full transcripts on In this episode, we travel to Minneapolis to chat with Brendon Dennewill, CEO of Denamico. We talked to Brendon about the flywheel model, and how Denamico puts customer experience, or CX in the center instead of CRM. In order to help clients use their CRM to its full potential, learn how to leverage data, systems, processes, and technology to help your client succeed with a true digital transformation of their customer experience. "Agency Unfiltered" begins right now. 

KD: Well, Brendon, welcome to "Agency Unfiltered." Well, welcome to "Agency Unfiltered," but thank you for welcoming me into your offices.

BD: Absolutely, yeah, good to see you here, Kevin.

KD: I don't know if you can see it on the camera, but somebody asked me on a Zoom the other day if I painted that, and I told them yes. So, we'll keep that lie alive. But, we're not here to talk about that, we're here to talk about a whole slew of things. And maybe the best way to kick the conversation off is to talk about the change to the flywheel framework that Denamico put into place. And so I don't want to spoil it, so maybe you can explain that one key difference in your flywheel versus the standard methodology.

BD: Yeah, well, as a lot of my team will know, I got very excited about the flywheel. But over the months, the first few months of working with the flywheel, we made one fundamental change, and that change is to the very center of the flywheel. Where HubSpot has CRM, we changed that to customer experience, or CX. And the reason we did that was we wanted to take the customer approach always. So again, y'know, solve for the customer. But what we learned over time though is that the two are inseparable. They're two sides of the same coin. You have to solve for the customer, but we know that to solve for the customer, you have to have a central database, which in our language we call the CRM.

KD: Yeah, so you're not saying it's replacing CRM, but it's the other side of that coin, so you think they're intrinsically connected?

BD: Absolutely.

KD: From your perspective, how well does the average CRM, or an average company's use of the CRM, enable a great customer experience? How well do you think businesses are doing with that?

BD: Well, as an aggregate, or an average rating, I would say very, very poorly. So I had the opportunity to speak with about 80 leading businesses in the Twin Cities earlier this year. And assuming that they were going to be, y'know, 80 or 90% of them would be using a CRM, and was shocked to realize that fewer than 40% actually even had a CRM. And of that 40%, 80% of them probably weren't using a CRM the way it should be used.

KD: Like to its full capability, so to speak?

BD: Right, and most of them really are using it as a prospecting tool. It's, y'know, it's the old funnel methodology where the customer is an afterthought of a sales process. And once you have a new customer, you kind of just move on to the next one. And that's not what a CRM should be used for.

KD: So you have an audience this big and you think this is how many CRMs I'm going to be speaking to. It's actually this many, but then the percentage of folks that are actually using it well is this. So it's a small slice.

BD: Right.

KD: That feels like a great opportunity for partners and service providers like Denamico to help consult and figure that out. So, when you see that this many folks need help with CRM, or with the use of their CRM, what's the approach, what's the process? How do you help them qualify the right systems or the right technology to use?

BD: Yeah, I mean, and this has always been a challenge for agencies, is that, they've often found a solution before, our clients. Businesses have found solutions before, but because they've approached that solution without asking the correct questions, they've ended up with something that hasn't been satisfactory and they feel burned, and are very reluctant to do it again. So that's the one challenge. The other thing that we're hearing a lot about now is businesses, especially businesses in the sort of 5 to 100,000,000 dollar range, a big incentive for them right now as they're setting up their goals for 2020, is this whole thing around digital transformation. And of course, so that's a big opportunity for us because we know that you're not able to do digital transformation without having first of all a CRM at the center, nevermind the rest of the tech stack that you need to, no matter what touch point the customer has at the end of the day with your brand or business. No matter where in the buyer's journey they are, they have to feel like they're being heard, and we know that that cannot happen without a central database at the center.

KD: So you need a CRM, a central database at the center, but any other touch points, technologies, softwares, whatever you else have, I mean, they have to be speaking to one another, right?

BD: And all that data, so every touch point is a data point, and if that's not being collected and fed into the central database, you're just missing so much opportunity with again, the primary focus being a superior customer experience. You just cannot provide a superior customer experience if you're missing half the touch points that a customer has with you.

KD: So every decision should be feeding back to this idea at the center that everything should be made to enable a superior excellent customer experience?

BD: Absolutely.

KD: You mentioned data there for a second, so how do you layer in, or how do you help consult around data. You mentioned all of these touch points. Do clients or customers ever have issues or questions in regards to prioritization, what KPIs matter more than others? Like, how do you layer in data to help them with that digital transformation that they're trying to figure out?

BD: Yeah, that's a great question, and in fact, is probably the biggest reason we see software, whether that's MA Tech or whatever part of the tech stack it is, the biggest mistake, or the reasons those implementations are failing, is because they're not considering data when they approach the technology. So they're purchasing the technology in isolation of their data, and also in isolation of their processes. So, every business should have marketing processes, sales processes, and customer service processes. And they are metrics for the folks in those three departments that help them create their processes, and then the technology is supposed to enable the processes using that data, those KPIs or metrics. And what we've seen with a lot of businesses that haven't successfully implemented a CRM or any technology, especially integrated technology, is that they haven't considered data and process in their decision making process.

KD: So, they have the blinders on to just look at technology, but they need the right data points to influence, but they also need to enable the process of marketing sales and service. This sort of digital transformation, as you talk about it, it's kind of an intersection of those three things. What if a client or a business doesn't have a buttoned up process? Like, what's your involvement in helping shape when needed, or do you usually stray away from that?

BD: Well, I mean, it really depends, because at the same time, we realize, y'know, again, with the businesses we work with and we meet with every week, new perspective clients, it is super challenging, y'know, being a business in this day and age, and y'know, arguably the CMO position who is often the people we're speaking to, is one of the most challenging positions to be in today because of the pace of change and the increase in velocity of that change. So, we get that it's difficult when you're... And these decisions are not only impacting the CMO, they're y'know, ideally the CEO of the company is getting involved, and as many other players, especially starting with the sales team and ending with the customer service team. And it's really difficult to unpack all the things that have to be done. And what we find is the most effective way to start that conversation is with what is the priority business goal that we're trying to solve for?

KD: So before you even get into that sort of triforce of tech, data, and process, step one is to find that overall primary business objective?

BD: Exactly, exactly. And y'know, that could be a really meaty or hairy objective, which is like a really long term business goal. But ideally, you want to try and y'know, get that a little more granular where you're trying to figure out what a goal is for the next 12 to 24 months, and then figure out okay, so if that's the business goal, then what are the key metrics and KPIs.

KD: What would be a good example of one of those business objectives that you think sets this process up for success?

BD: Well, so again, most businesses are still looking at it from an internal perspective, and are not really thinking about solving for the customer. So one of the things we want to do in this process is hopefully by the end of it, they're going to start thinking about it from a customer perspective. But even if they don't, it's quite understandable why they're thinking about doing this from a business efficiency perspective. And what drives most businesses, of course, is sales. And that's typically where the conversation starts. It's a revenue goal or a number goal for net new customers, and then we kind of, y'know, work back from there. And as we know in the agency space, most of us come from a marketing background and our metrics are all, at the end of the day, should all be aligned with the sales and revenue goals. But those are typically the ones we start with. One of the benefits, of course, of doing it this way where you're considering process and data as you're going through this, is you start finding other efficiencies in that process that the business wasn't even thinking about initially. So, that's where some of the real value comes in. So one example, which was actually the case study that I used in my Inbound talk this year, was the client came to us because he wanted to have a more efficient business that he could automate as much as possible without hiring more people. When we reverse engineered what we'd done for them, we realized that in fact, we had upped their customer experience beyond what they ever thought. And that was not their goal, but that was one of the unexpected results. And what we've seen when you do this this way, and looking at the trifecta, as you called it, of data, tech, and process, is that not only do you increase efficiencies, of course, when you have increased efficiencies, you have increased profitability. When you have increased profitability, and you're making life easier for your employees, you have happier employees, and of course the biggest result from our perspective which should really be where you start, is you have happier customers. So all stakeholders are happy from the business owners, the employees, the customers, and y'know, who doesn't want that?

KD: Right, you're solving for business efficiencies and profitability, but also improving the customer experience, that's like the perfect marriage. And so, I guess my question, how do you recommend measuring customer happiness, or customer experience. Like, what are the data points you use to help benchmark or measure improvement of that specifically?

BD: Well, I mean, again, it'll differ from business to business. But essentially, it's simply as someone is going through their buyer's journey, and beyond becoming a customer, and through their lifetime as a customer, are the questions that they have been answered at the time that they want those questions answered? And really, that's as simple as it is, is tracking the buyer's journey, and saying okay, well what questions do they have—and make sure that we have a way of answering those questions. Ideally, in a way that is both automated but also very personalized. That's really what people today expect.

KD: That's right. Obviously, we're talking about customer experience, but on the other side, I guess the other half of that marriage, we were talking' about profitability, business efficiencies. So, as you successfully navigate, I think we keep using the trifecta of using the right technology because it's informed by the right data and business objectives. They enable the right processes. But it's one thing to determine what system you want to use, and you roll it out to the company, but I think we both know if you don't have that user, like, it's one thing to say you want to use this tech, but then it's another thing to actually have that tech be used in the way you intended. So what's Denamico's involvement with ensuring user adoption or usage, because I would imagine it's a major factor in this.

BD: Absolutely. So that, I mean, I would say that's sort of the fifth of the five steps to really have this be successful, and that is the, as you said, the user adoption, or the training components. So, assuming you've had a successful implementation, the only way it's going to be sustainable is if you then spend time training the team who are now using this new technology, whose processes have been changed in the process, is then making sure that they're being trained and with the value of the change is being explained to them for potentially a period of up to 90 days. And that's just something we're starting to do now because we've realized because of the complexity of the change that we talk about, and with things like change management being a big deal, and I think will be a bigger deal for agents, and agents who will play a bigger role in change management going forward. And that's a whole different skillset. Probably one that you are quite familiar with from your sort of education and training perspective. I feel that's a big gap that exists currently in the HubSpot partner ecosystem. And one that we definitely want to double down on because we believe that is what will make those implementations successful is spending time afterwards on the training and user adoption fees.

KD: It's going to be harder and harder as the size of the technology or the more complex a system of record is, and how much data you need to migrate, or whatever the implementation looks like. The larger, more complex it is, the better you'd have to be at navigating and managing change management. You also mentioned the training component as well. How granular do your training programs get in regards to roles, teams, you know what I mean? Like, how do you tweak a training program based on marketers versus sales people? Team of two versus team of 10? Any nuances there?

BD: Great, great question. And that will continue to evolve, but I'm guessing what we will do most of in most cases is a workshop for the entire team to start off that user adoption piece so that everybody's in the room at the same time with sort of an umbrella explanation of what it is that we've done and why and what the benefits are to the people using the technology. Which is essentially to make their lives easier, and help them spend time on the things that are going to move the needle and make their lives easier. So, but having everyone from the CEO to the people who are actually doing the execution on those tools everyday. Having them in the same room, going through that process themselves I think is going to be a big part of that. And then beyond that, breaking them down into teams. Typically marketing, sales, and customer service. And if we need to do a separate one for leadership, we could do that. But I think that's how that will look. And whether its a team of two or a team of 20, in each of those departments, I think that might not change all that much other than logistics. So if they're not all available to do the training on a particular day, we might break that up. But those are all the things that y'know, are new to us too.

KD: You're actively considering and trying to script that out. So, I would imagine that the crux of a training is how, right, like here's how you use it, here's what your processes look like, here's how you use the tools to enable those processes, get the data you need. But where does the why fit in, right? If we go back to customer experience at the center of Denamico's flywheel, how strong are you pushing that why for a business change or a systems change? Does that matter to the frontline users?

BD: Well, it does. And it will increasingly so. But I think the why at the end of the day is always we want to solve more for the customer. And even if that's not their why coming into it, that's what we think a common reason could be for everybody. And the businesses that we're speaking to realize that as long as their technology is not integrated, and is, y'know, Frankenstein-ed, or whatever term you want to use, which is not enabling the leader of a department or the leadership team of an entire business to have access to real time data at all times to make better and faster decisions. You're never going to achieve that customer experience. So again, it's the yin and the yang of the customer experience and the CRM or tech stack. They really do have to work together, and I think solving for the customer is a common why that every business will have. Obviously, when you get into the culture of the business, which we don't typically get into all that much in this particular, that might be another why that you would build into, let's say a workshop for the user adoption right after implementation.

KD: Final question for you. Not related to customer experience or systems of record, but what, from your perspective, is the weirdest part of agency life?

BD: I think about this pretty frequently. The weirdest thing, and it's kind of related to our name too. So we started Denamico in Spain, and Denamico is a play on the Spanish word dinamico which means dynamic. Because when we white boarded, going through sort of the naming process, we did a white board and had words that kept floating to the top, and eventually we ended up with Denamico at the top. Because we realized that one of the things that we would be dealing with, and that we would be helping our clients with, was continuous change. And that has been absolutely true. The only difference has been the velocity of that change. And what's interesting now in our critical partnerships like the one with HubSpot, we have thousands of software engineers trying to do better things and create better technology on the one hand. And then we have all these agencies that are anywhere from two to 200 people trying to use that technology to help our clients, who again, might be anywhere from 20 to a thousand people or more. And we're kind of stuck in the middle trying to learn and adopt this technology ourselves, and then package that in a way that makes it simpler because we have to add our layer of services to the software and then bring that to the client. I think that is definitely weird and kind of more ironic I guess than weird.

KD: Team of 10 just in this intersection, right? And just boiling it down, synthesizing, what's our service offering, and then bringing it to the client side coming out of the engineer side, yeah?

BD: And another sort of more playful version of that I guess is we do have a saying that is used pretty frequently around here, which is keep it weird.

KD: Nice. Yeah, you gotta just yeah, keep it unique. Keep it weird. Awesome, well that's it for me, I appreciate you coming on, having me here. But it's been a pleasure.

BD: Thanks for being here.

Yeah, of course. But that's it—that's Agency Unfiltered.

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Agency Unfiltered. If you like what you saw, heard, or read, make sure to subscribe to our playlist on YouTube, our podcast on Spotify, or Apple Podcasts, or our newsletter on Alongside episode launch notifications, the newsletter also comes with a ton of other helpful, strategically curated agency content from yours truly. If you want to keep the conversation going, or provide a counterpoint to this episode's discussion, tweet me at @Kevin_Dunn. I'll see you again in two weeks, but in the meantime, keep it unfiltered, and let's all grow.


Subscribe to Agency Unfiltered