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Chicago Agency CEO Liz Brohan on Surviving and Thriving During a Pandemic

kokou adzo



Liz Brohan CBD Marketing

We talked to Liz Brohan of CBD Marketing about performance-based marketing, and she had the following to say:-

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?

Liz Brohan: We’re doing fine, thank you. My husband and I have two young adult children, and we’ve all been pretty diligent about following COVID-19 safety guidelines. We’ve thankfully stayed healthy, as have our immediate family and friend groups.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded CBD Marketing.

Liz Brohan: I started my career here in Chicago at some of the big promotional and direct response marketing agencies like Draft and FCB. Performance-based marketing is a passion of mine, and it’s been exciting to see it evolve from mostly direct mail to very sophisticated, data-driven digital campaigns. I was thrilled to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing a couple of years ago, so you know I’m firmly planted in that aspect of marketing. In terms of CBD Marketing, the agency was founded in 1988 by Lori Colman. I joined as a partner about ten years later to develop more B2C and direct business. I’m now the sole owner and CEO.

How does CBD Marketing innovate? 

Liz Brohan: We innovate via technology solutions for ourselves and for clients. Our clients are mostly—though not exclusively—B2B. They are either 100 percent B2B as a corporation or the B2B division of very large consumer-focused companies. We innovate with them by introducing martech and adtech solutions they have not considered but which will absolutely impact their sales goals and bottom line. We take a crawl-walk-run approach, so systems are introduced in iterative ways that get buy-in from marketing and sales teams—and with IT that is dealing with legacy systems. We often apply solutions for analytics, automation, and attribution connected to the buyer’s journey. For ourselves, we’ve adopted best-practice level technology platforms for workflow, online research, a DSP desk for programmatic media buying, and other related tools.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Liz Brohan: The obvious impact on the staff is that we’re all working remotely and only occasionally coming into the office if there is a need for a small meeting. We expect this to be the norm well into 2021. We’ve adapted beautifully, I think, and have the technology tools and processes in place to work collaboratively and very efficiently, including for business development outreach. Happily, our revenue has not been affected. We have kept every one of our clients, and have added several new ones in the last year. That’s been very gratifying.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Liz Brohan: Limiting access to our office was sort of difficult, but the right decision. And we’re watching operating expense very carefully but have not had any staff reductions. In fact, we’ve hired several people as we added new clients and current clients continued to invest in marketing initiatives.

How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and CBD Marketing in the future?

Liz Brohan: I think everyone is trying to exercise more and just stay fit and healthy, physically, and mentally. As a company, we encourage camaraderie with fun get-togethers for the teams, even though they are virtual. Our holiday party is virtual, but with team building, some champagne toasting, and looking forward to whenever we can be together again. I’m sure when we can get back to a more normal office situation, we’ll have learned some interesting and positive lessons from these months working remotely.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Liz Brohan: Our competitors are typically medium-sized agencies in this part of the U.S. —usually full service and often serving mostly B2B clients like us. In a very challenging year, we’ve already proven that we are not just staying in the game; we’re winning at the game. Again, I am grateful and so proud of our teams that every single one of our clients from last year is still with us, AND we added several new clients to the roster. Our revenue held. That says everything about the passion, dedication, and talent we have at CBD Marketing. 

Your final thoughts?

Liz Brohan: First, appreciate every person you love in your life and do the right things to stay safe and healthy. Then—for your business—hang in there, right? Embrace new ways of being and working, hopefully as a business able to creatively survive and even thrive in a very difficult environment

Your website?

Kokou Adzo is the editor and author of He is passionate about business and tech, and brings you the latest Startup news and information. He graduated from university of Siena (Italy) and Rennes (France) in Communications and Political Science with a Master's Degree. He manages the editorial operations at

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