Skip to content

250: How Product Experience, Marketing, and Community Coexist with FreshBooks’ Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan, CMO at FreshBooks

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

In this episode, Alan and Paul discuss the symbiotic relationship between product experience and marketing while touching on the intersection between marketing and community. They even 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 Paul stepped into his CMO role during a company rebrand. Like any good CMO, Paul 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, Paul 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.

Paul 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

Resources Mentioned:

Subscribe to the podcast:

Listen in iTunes (link:
Listen in Google Podcasts (link:
Listen in Spotify (Link: )

Connect with the Guest:

Connect with Marketing Today and Alan Hart:

Privacy Preference Center