B2B Marketers Marketing to Marketers
Like any good magician, a great marketer never reveals their secrets. The best marketing is so good that it wows its target audience on the stage, but when that audience is a group of marketers, things become a lot trickier. It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat at a magician’s convention—your fellow marketers already know all the tricks of the trade, so they are that much harder to impress.
In this episode, we spoke with three master CMOs of marketing to marketers: Norman Guadagno of Acoustic, Jamie Gilpin of Sprout Social, and Eric Eden of Postclick. In this insightful conversation, they share all kinds of tricks of the trade, from strategies to really engage the marketing community to how much MarTech is too much. Check it out!
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- Best practices when marketing to marketers
- How to engage marketers virtually
- How to get the most out of your MarTech stack
Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 234 on YouTube
- Gin tasting with Gray Whale Gin
- RTU Episode 209: Spinning a New B2B Brand Out of IBM
- RTU Episode 212: Making B2B Marketing More Social
- RTU Episode 71: Using a Refined MarTech Stack as a Revenue Generator
- RTU Episode 72: Best Strategies to Improve Your MarTech Stack
- [0:00] Cold Open — This is Renegade Thinkers Live
- [1:33] The Challenge of Marketing to Marketers
- [6:50] The B2B Value of Free Trial
- [14:40] Building a Marketing Team to Engage Marketers
- [19:11] Making Great Virtual Events for Marketers
- [27:24] Building a Community of Marketers
- [31:09] Balancing Brand and Demand
- [38:42] Key Learnings When Marketing to Marketers
- [46:56] Managing Your MarTech Stack
Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Norman Guadagno, Jamie Gilpin, and Eric Eden
[0:00] Cold Open — This is Renegade Thinkers Live
Hey, it’s Drew, and today’s podcast episode is from our 6th recording of Renegade Thinkers Live. This show was all about the unique challenge of marketing to marketers. You know, you can’t blow smoke at a smoke blower. These folks are really are really tough to reach. That is marketers—they are tough to reach, they are tough to engage, they know all the tricks.
I was joined by awesome 3 CMOs who’ve mastered this challenge: Norman Guadagno of Acoustic, Jamie Gilpin of Sprout Social, and Eric Eden of Postclick. From balancing brand and demand to running engaging virtual events to building a MarTech stack, we cover what it means to market to marketing professionals successfully. And bring your buzzword bingo sheets: transparency, authenticity, and empathy are key factors of the solution. I hope you enjoy the show! And if you do, be sure to write us a review—no, make that a rave review. Thank you!
[1:33] The Challenge of Marketing to Marketers“Most marketers are not buying technology for the cool technology components. They're buying it for how it's addressing their real marketing needs.” —@ThinkTone @GoAcoustic Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City and as I like to say on my podcast, hello, Renegade Thinkers! Now, there’s an old expression in the marketing business that says, “Don’t blow smoke at smoke blowers” and it’s in reference to the challenge of marketing to marketers.
These super savvy maybe even cynical folks know all the tricks of the trade and, as The Who proclaimed, won’t be fooled again. Here’s the thing about marketing to marketers: Marketers are spending money on tech—big money. They are outspending IT. The numbers are in in 2019 and we expect it to be the same in 2020. So, in today’s episode, you’re going to meet three masters of marketing to marketers.
First up is Norman Guadagno, CMO of Acoustic. Now, Acoustic is a 1,000-person spin-off—it’s like a start-up—that spun out of IBM. Norman joined me on Episode 209 of Renegade Thinkers Unite is focused on marketing automation, a software that’s directly aimed at marketers. So Norman, welcome!
Norman Guadagno: It is a thrill to be here, Drew. I hope it can be as good as Episode 209. One of my favorite experiences.
Drew Neisser: There’s a lot of pressure on us to up our game and bring some new value. Let’s talk about marketing to marketers. Why is this so darn challenging?
Norman Guadagno: You hit the nail on the head with the smoke blower comment upfront. The fact is that, as marketers, we are obviously in the business of both telling the truth and stretching the truth, as I like to say. We want to be able to be clear about what it is that we offer, but we know that there has to be some differentiation.
The problem is that every trick we have in our toolbox, our target audience, when they’re marketers, knows those tricks. What I believe we ultimately are faced with is, well I guess we just have to try to step back and try to be as transparent and direct as possible in what we’re saying and try to tap into what we know our peers actually care about.
That’s the challenge because if we just try to market to the things we think they might care about or we try to say this is what we’re good at but we don’t actually tap into what they really care about, then I think we run into a brick wall very quickly because they’re quick to say, “Yeah, maybe not so much.”
Drew Neisser: Yeah, they’re pretty good at sifting through and saying, “No, I don’t think so.” Part of it is, only until recently marketers became good at buying products. They knew how to buy media, they knew how to buy agencies, but buying technology was a whole other thing. By the way, we’ve got some folks in the chat right now, and I wanted to do a shout-out to Paul Giardina, who’s commenting and says, “Hey, Norman, nice bar.”
Norman Guadagno: Paul, as soon as this pandemic’s over, if you’re in Boston, come by and have a drink.
Drew Neisser: Anyway, one of the things that I’m wondering having heard that is, is there something that you think that works particularly well? You mentioned transparency, but that’s a buzzword. We have to be careful. What does that really mean?
Norman Guadagno: I will take the buzzword hit. Somebody got a square on their bingo when I said “transparency.” I do take that one. What I think is important here, and I’ll be honest—we’ve wrestled with this problem a lot because we want to speak to marketers in a way that really does resonate with the problems they’re trying to solve.
In the technology industry in particular, there’s always a tendency to actually go back to technology buzzwords, focus on what the technology does. One of the things that I think has become very clear is most marketers are not buying technology for the cool technology components. They’re buying it for how it’s addressing their real marketing needs.
We are actually in the process now, at Acoustic, of building an entirely new engagement model if you will that is solely focused around the problems that we know marketers are encountering, that we know we can address. That problem-solution space, which is really the foundation of a lot of our next-generation content and go-to-market activity is driven by: “We’re not going to talk about technology first. We’re always going to talk about the problem first, and we know the problems that you face because we face them ourselves.”
I’m a user of my own products. I know I need to get more leads, better leads, faster leads, and I know I need to be able to look at customer journeys. Let’s turn that into something that is solely about the problems you’re facing rather than having technology speak.
Drew Neisser: I think marketers will really appreciate that. The last thing they need is another thing to put on their stack.
[6:50] The B2B Value of Free Trial“We have always been focused on creating an intuitive product. It's not about the free 30-day trial. It's about any marketer, regardless of sophistication level, can jump in and start immediately using the tool.” —@jamiewo @SproutSocial Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s bring on Jamie Gilpin, who is the CMO of Social and the star of Episode 212. Sprout, if you listened to that episode, you know—or if you’ve used it—that it’s a leading social management platform. Hey, Jamie, how are you?
Jamie Gilpin: I am great, Drew. Thanks for having me.
Drew Neisser: It’s great to have you and be here and talk about this. You heard Norman talk about the challenge and so forth. When you look at this challenge of marketing to marketers, what do you see as the biggest problem? Why is it so hard?
Jamie Gilpin: First of all, Norman, I love your comment about let’s solve for the problem versus market the features and benefits. We talk about it as what’s the outcome that we’re trying to achieve versus what the product does, what does it actually do for me?
The other thing I think about is, for us at Sprout, yes, we’re social media management platform but we also offer listening and analytics and insights into everything from brand to product innovation, all driven by social interactions. With that, we truly serve all segments.
Yes, I’m marketing to myself, so other B2B marketers, but I’m also marketing to CMOs, social media directors, and managers and comms managers and directors of enterprise companies and B2C companies. When I think about that, what we can’t get away from in marketing to marketers is just assuming that we’re marketing to our own persona and that we really understand the needs, the challenges of all different types of buyers within our set.
For me, the other side of it is—Drew, you mentioned this—how much technology that we’re buying where we’re going to be the biggest part of an IT organization, what I have found in that—because I’ve marketed now to marketers, HR people, leaders, global mobility lawyers… I’m trying to think of all the buyers outside of marketing I’ve marketing to. But marketers are absolutely the most tech-savvy. A lot of us have full engineering teams underneath our worlds. In terms of blowing smoke, cutting through the noise, being transparent as a buzzword but just talking in normal speak, talking to us like we’re humans is the most important.
Drew Neisser: Interesting. One of the things that we talked about—and Norman, this will be a real challenge for you—but last year during COVID, there was this moment where the CFO took over and said, “I am not buying anything new unless you can prove to me that it’s essential to our business in the next three months.”
Jamie, one of the things that I always thought was so cool is you have a free product to try and you could get usage. I’m just wondering, did you find that during the pandemic of last year that was really a helpful thing? To have that free trial as a means of generating at least getting some users into the pipeline?
Jamie Gilpin: Of course. We had a great year in 2020. In some ways that’s hard to say because so many of us personally and professionally had tons of challenges. But as a company, in the world of digital transformation when social became business critical versus business optional, our demand funnel was quite strong. Part of that was just the change in digital behavior, consumer behavior, and the emphasis on social.
Then the other is, to your point, we have always been focused on creating an intuitive product. It’s not about the free 30-day trial. It’s about any marketer, regardless of sophistication level, can jump in and start immediately using the tool.
In a world where we’re all at home, there is no on-site implementations for software right now. To have a truly intuitive tool across all of the different plans that we have where a user can just go in and start getting immediate value, that is absolutely invaluable to us at Sprout, but also to our customers. And yes, the big reason why the Sprout marketing team drives over 90 percent of our new business acquisition.
Drew Neisser: Did you hear that, Norman? 90 percent of pipeline coming from marketing.
Norman Guadagno: I know, and I’ve heard that from Jamie before. I do think Jamie missed one key thing there, though, because—we’ve talked about this in the past. Our company is a customer of Sprout and frankly, you just made it easy. That’s one of the things that’s important. Like my head of communications said, “We need this.” I said, “OK.” They said, “This is what it costs,” and then it was done. There was literally nothing else that we had to do to go through that process. I envy the products that have such a short time from “I need it. I have it.’
For what we do in campaigns and marketing automation and analytics, it just requires more setup. It requires more investment and integration. That’s just the reality of the space we’re in. We want to make that simpler and simpler and that’s one of our goals at Acoustic, but the reality is that it does require some of that time.
But we’re working to reduce that cycle as much as we can. I’d love it if we could get to a place where somebody says, “I need Acoustic.” “OK. That’s done.” That is really well done, Jamie. It’s something that I think marketers appreciate because, frankly, we just like instant gratification.
Drew Neisser: We’re having a little Sprout envy here, which is cool. You do have one challenge, Jamie, that is a little different, which is that your user is not your buyer.
Jamie Gilpin: For the most part. Obviously for SMBs, so small businesses, even agencies, sometimes the end-users are the buyer, but for the majority of our customer base, you’re right. You imagine the customer life cycle: a social media manager finds Sprout—hopefully, due to some of our content that we’ve been so focused on and really enabling and empowering social managers to think about social differently. So they go on, they start a trial; there’s no credit card needed. It’s just immediately into the tool like Norman said, and then they’ve got 30 days to make the decision to turn into a customer.
The more complex that buying cycle is, more importantly, the more users they have to actually implement or get on board, it does become challenging. While most of our sales cycles are within that 30-day trial window, when you get into enterprise and these larger deals, they are absolutely in those one-month, two-month, three-month-long processes.
Luckily, we have a pretty incredible sales organization led by Ryan Barretto. He came from Pardot and Salesforce. They do a fantastic job of really leveraging that “champion,” as we call the user buyer, to one, give them the data—“Here’s how we’re making you more efficient. Here are the insights, analytics that you can pull from social”— and getting those to the buyers of the organizations. It definitely creates a little bit more of a strategic sales and marketing alignment.
[14:40] Building a Marketing Team to Engage Marketers“The benefit of marketing to marketers is it's a group that will engage. They like to attend events and give feedback. They're not shy about sharing their opinions and they can be pretty fun to work with.” —@EricJEden @postclick Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: I feel like Eric Eden needs to join us now. Eric, first, great to see you. Eric is the CMO of Postclick. He is the star of Episodes 71 and 72, that’s going back in the Wayback Machine and the company Postclick is in the post-click optimization world, which is sort of after—Eric, you can talk about that a little bit but, from what you’ve heard so far, have we nailed the challenge of marketing to marketing, or is there something else that you want to say, “Oh, these guys are hard to reach”? You’ve done this before. You did it at Cvent, too.
Eric Eden: Yeah, absolutely. I agree with everything you guys have shared and I think I can add just a couple of thoughts. I think the benefit of marketing to marketers is it’s a group that will engage. They like to attend events and give feedback. They’re not shy about sharing their opinions and they can be pretty fun to work with in the process.
The one thing that I have learned over the last 15 years in marketing to marketers is, when I’m building my team, the bar is high. And one of the things, when I’m building my team that’s executing programs targeting marketers, I need to add people to the team who raise the bar.
There are 100 ways that things can go wrong from minor glitches to more significant issues. Even the most minor of things, if people see that your marketing has flaws or issues, even if they’re small ones, the question comes up: “Why should I buy when you have these flaws in your process?” Which is a fair solution. If they’re buying a marketing solution from you and your marketing has some flaws in it, I think people want to work with suppliers and partners that can fly in formation like the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds. Four feet apart, way up in the sky, flying it at max speed. That’s the sort of partners people want to work with.
I think that setting that sort of example is a challenging thing to do. What I’ve learned is, it’s true you need the right tools, but more than the right tools, you also need the right team to run those tools and the right processes and to put the right inputs into those tools and processes. My biggest advice is to build the team that can do that because trying just to manage every little thing that can go wrong, there’s a lot of complexity to that versus if you hire a team who can help you manage that. That’s probably the way to solve it.
Drew Neisser: It’s interesting—as you say it, I think back to years ago when DoubleClick was a client of ours. This was before they were bought by Google. It was some of the best work that we did as an agency back then because they were marketing to marketers and publishers.
By the way, Eric, thank you for using the term “raise the bar” because in a show that features a gin tasting, we appreciate any kind of language like that.
The other thing that you said that I wanted to bring up— this is a fun group of people and I wonder, one of the ways that we used to have fun when marketing and marketers is we used to be able to get together. We could do really fun things with those marketers and they would show up and that was removed as an option. I’m really curious how the three of you dealt with this fact that you used to have ways of reaching these folks and gathering them together and you just couldn’t physically get together and express fun.
[19:11] Making Great Virtual Events for Marketers“Marketers actually love talking about marketing, we love criticizing marketing, we love engaging on what's happening.” —@ThinkTone @GoAcoustic Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: What did you do to replace events? Anybody want to jump on that one?
Jamie Gilpin: I can jump in. We just had our company kickoff today and that was one more moment of, “Oh man, I miss our team. I miss that human interaction.” I’m extremely proud of the Sprout team. Previous to 2020, we hosted user events, customer events in all of our big cities. It’s usually about 100 customers each. Tons of insight, lots of networking, people staying long after the event.
In March—we were planning to have our next one in April. March hit, so we did a full digital event in May, about a month and a half of planning. It wasn’t the same. It was amazing. There was so much content and thought leadership, but it was missing the component of that networking piece, so this is where our communities became actually really powerful.
Today, one of the things we’ll do in 2021 is launch a Sprout owned community, which will be part of our social communities. Whether it be Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, that is where are our buyers, especially our customers, social media managers, are going for solace. They’re going to vent. They’re asking, “This just happened in culture today. How are you responding? Are you pausing?”
Even the events of last week, I think, or two weeks ago on the 6th, there was just constant advice, but also just how we were dealing with things. The communities became really powerful for us during these times.
Drew Neisser: Let’s bring all the guests back, because this just reminds me, as we talked about community, I’m going to do a quick plug for CMO Huddles in the middle of this show. We launched that in 2020. CMO Huddles is an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. One CMO recently described it as a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session. I kind of liked it. Eric, Jamie, Norman, does that sound about right?
Norman Guadagno: Yes.
Drew Neisser: So anyway, if you’re a CMO that can share and care with the best of them, visit cmohuddles.com. Speaking of marketers, back to this. I love the notion of community as a means of doing that. It really depends on where you are in your cycle and so forth in order to do that. We’ve got this community part, we’ve got to try to figure out a replacement for events, and we need to find a way to be fun and clever. I’m just wondering, Norman, Eric, did either of you go at this challenge of no more events in a fresh way?
Norman Guadagno: And find something fun and clever? I wish I could say we found something fun and clever, but I think that we tried to be thoughtful about how engaged we can be. I think that community, as Jamie said, is critical.
Virtual events like this—we actually have a kickoff coming next week. We ran one last July. We engaged a lot of fun around that, but what I’ve seen emerge across all of this is getting smaller groups. A video chat like the four of us and all the audience are having right now is much more engaging than even eight people. Certainly, when you get to 10, 12, 50, 100, 500—I run company meetings sometimes where we have 500, 700. That just becomes overwhelming, and you don’t get any of the benefit of that interaction versus six people, bring them together, find a good way to have a conversation, facilitate the conversation.
That also is one of the lessons you learn. Video conversations don’t just run themselves. Somebody has to facilitate and keep it moving along. Drew, you do an amazing job doing that. That’s what you need in this process.
And to Eric’s point, which I think was so important that marketers like getting together. We like talking to each other. We like talking about what we do and having fun. In a past life, I did marketing to software developers. They are a very different group. They love getting together, but they don’t necessarily have a lot to talk about when it comes to marketing. They talk about other things. Now, there’s a lot of overlap, but you can see the dynamics in different groups. Marketers actually love talking about marketing, we love criticizing marketing, we love engaging on what’s happening. Finding ways to bring that to light is critical as we remain in lockdown for the foreseeable future.
Drew Neisser: Eric, on this topic of replacing events, bringing some fun, because you were the one who actually brought up fun. I saw when you were at Receipt Bank, you weren’t targeting marketers, but accountants and you managed to bring fun to that category, but it was through events. How are you dealing with it over a Postclick? Frankly, it’s a very serious world. It’s hard to bring any kind of fun.
Eric Eden: I think that it’s interesting, over the years, having done studies multiple times of “Did prospects buy only from in-person events or only from virtual events or did they attend both?” The answer every time I’ve done that study over the last decade or so has been, “You have to do all three because they all contribute relatively equally.”
If in-person events had 30 to 40 percent of sales for the marketing mix for a lot of B2B companies, I don’t think that the right way to think about it is that you can just make it up by doing more on digital. But I do think there are ways to be creative and digital. Similar to the tasting we’re doing today, we’ve done some virtual wine tastings with some of the Napa vineyards and had them come on and talk with customers. There are opportunities to do creative things and be fun in the virtual environment. It doesn’t necessarily always translate to being the same.
The one thing I’ll note that I have seen in the last year is that it’s not just that the marketers doing the marketing have to change their habits. The buyers have to change their habits, too. People who used to only buy when they went and could shake someone’s hand in person and could meet people, there are a lot of people who like to buy that way, but they’ve had to change their habits.
I think more as a result of those people changing their habits, a lot of companies have been able to get a similar result. I do think that there is some opportunity to be fun and creative with virtual events rather than just the traditional PowerPoint. I think there’s lots of opportunity for that.
I have also seen across industries some of the virtual conferences have actually been—people that had some learning in the last year—some of those are coming along really nicely. Some people are doing some awesome things and bringing celebrity speakers onto some of the virtual conferences. I went to one last month that had Arnold Schwarzenegger and Matthew McConaughey. I think people are people are doing some creative things. There is room for that.
[27:24] Building a Community of Marketers“Direct mail still works and it's actually working better than ever.” —@jamiewo @SproutSocial Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: We’re almost ready for the tasting. I’m ready even though I’m doing dry January. This is just a little tiny taste for me. Before we do that, Jamie, in terms of “you built the community,” what does that mean? We all talk about community, we throw it out there and we say we’re going to build community, but how do you do that?
Jamie Gilpin: Our primary persona is social media managers. They’re very social. They’re very familiar with communities, right? They build their own communities on social. We do have that working for us in our corner.
I won’t remember the stats exactly, but definitely over 100 percent growth, both from members in our communities, but also engagement. The big way that we did that, one, off of our digital events, we would host these smaller conversations in our communities to build off the content that was delivered in the event. Another big way—we didn’t talk about this and I find it fun—direct mail still works and it’s actually working better than ever.
We sent a mental health package to a ton of our customers in the middle of all this with a back massage—I don’t remember everything that was in it. Then we had a conversation about how are you dealing with your mental health in our community?
When you talk about integrated marketing, especially from a digital perspective, how do you bring all of this together? They get the package, they come in and have a conversation about it.
We do have a phenomenal social media team. Eric, you mentioned that we have to set the benchmark as marketers, so I will say our social media team is pretty incredible. Last year, my mantra for the team was we have to be the marketers and specifically the social marketers that others aspire to be. They are phenomenal with seeding those conversations, asking those questions.
We are very open and authentic about what we are dealing with, whether it’s racial injustice, how do we respond to our employees. We put ourselves out there quite a bit as the conversation starters, but I would say all of those things together is how we made our communities much more successful than they’ve been in the past.
Drew Neisser: Really interesting. There are so many thoughts that are going through my mind in terms of what that direct mail piece really was about.
Norman Guadagno: I want to understand the massage in a box.
[31:09] Balancing Brand and Demand“I consider myself a marketer who understands that brand and demand are two sides of the same coin.” —@ThinkTone @GoAcoustic Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Now, I thought at this moment, it might be an interesting time—we’re talking about marketing. I just have a question. Hey, Google, what is marketing?
Google: According to Wikipedia, marketing refers to activities a company undertakes to promote the buying or selling of a product or service. In 2017, the New York Times described it as the art of telling stories so enthralling that people lose track of their wallets. It’s one of the primary components of business management and commerce.
Drew Neisser: All right. So we are in the business of helping people lose track of their wallets but we’re talking about having marketers lose track of their wallets. Anyway, I love that definition. I am curious—as marketers to marketers, how much do you think about brand and how much you think about demand when it comes to your mix?
Norman Guadagno: I’ll just jump in on that. Amongst marketers—and I’m sure Eric and Jamie have had this experience—once you become a marketing executive, you regularly get calls from executive recruiters, headhunters. The first question they almost always ask is, “Do you consider yourself more of a brand marketer or more of a demand marketer?”
Some companies said, “We have a brand problem, hire us a brand marketer.” “We have a demand problem, hire a demand person.” My answer to that has always been, “I consider myself a marketer who understands that brand and demand are two sides of the same coin.”
They are so deeply intertwined that if you really, truly pull them apart, you will succeed at nothing. If you understand particularly as a senior marketing executive in a company that they have to interlink—now, of course, there is discipline under brand and specific things you do and demand you do, but if you don’t understand that those two things feed on each other endlessly in a dialectic, you’re just not going to be successful particularly in 2021.
Drew Neisser: I know that and I’m thinking of Latané Conant. She’s a marketer to marketers, she’s the head of marketing for 6sense and was on the podcast. She said, ‘There is no demand without brand,” which I love. Nice, succinct phrase.
What was interesting about her approach to marketing in the pandemic was to do the salons, which she was doing and continues to do, gathering CMOs and sharing issues on a weekly basis, on a virtual level, bringing in experts and talking to them. I thought that’s so interesting, coming from someone who was selling a tool that enables marketers to measure, track, and figure stuff out, that her focus is all about building the brand.
It’s probably a stupid question, but as we think about it—again, you guys in many ways are being evaluated not just on the effectiveness, but marketers are looking at what you do. It’s interesting. Anyway, Eric, Jamie, help me out here. Do you have to look at brand versus demand in your budgets differently?
Eric Eden: I think it’s about just having the right mix. I think different companies may be at different stages and have different goals and challenges. I think obviously you need both, but the question is, what is the right mix and blend? Companies may need a different blend at different stages. The key is what is the right balance to strike there?
From a brand perspective, in terms of the New York Times quote of making marketers forget their wallets, I do think that all marketers appreciate good storytelling. It’s hard to get somebody to engage as part of demand if you don’t have a good story to tell. That’s where you need both as a mix. It’s hard to get the demand if people don’t have a good story to tell and people don’t understand who you are.
I think that just striking the right balance there—and companies should just really think about it. Sometimes there are errors made on both sides where brand is a majority percentage of the focus and then there’s not enough demand and revenue. Sometimes it’s possible to focus too much on demand and not get the response you want because people don’t know who you are and what you stand for. I think balance is key.
Drew Neisser: Jamie, anything to add on that?
Jamie Gilpin: Similar sentiment to Eric and Norman. It depends on the stage. For us at Sprout, one of our first employees, let alone marketing employees, was a demand gen manager. We can give most of the accolades to our content marketing and our trial funnel and everything else that is built that we’re still optimizing today to that leader way back 10 years ago.
As we look forward, and we’ve got a couple of tailwinds behind us, the IPO being one of them, it’s about getting even more so into the enterprise segment going upmarket. I think that’s where the brand becomes extremely important. The balance is important in weighing, at least from an expense perspective, budget perspective, what am I going to spend on demand gen and direct response versus what am I going to do with the brand awareness campaign?
For us, the way that we think about brand, it’s that consistent message, drumbeat. If you go to our site, everything is immaculate when it comes to design, creative, and even the content itself. We do less on the brand awareness side and more on that feeling and that experience that a prospect or a customer has with us. That will change a bit. I just launched that at our kickoff today. On February 2nd, we will be launching a bit more from a brand awareness perspective, but that’s where our foundation has been.
Drew Neisser: We’ll circle back and put some notes on the show but at this moment in time, this is when we like to ask the question, what would Ben Franklin say? It’s a thing that we do on the show.
He would say, I think, “Let us beware of every word and action that may betray a confidence in its success, lest we render ourselves ridiculous in case of disappointment.” What he’s saying is, “Don’t overpromise.”
That’s an interesting thought, and that’s really tricky because you want to hype up—Eric, you were speaking to that earlier—you want to hype up how good your brand is because if you can’t say good things about it, who will?
[38:42] Key Learnings When Marketing to Marketers“When marketing to marketers, make it very customer inclusive.” —@EricJEden @postclick Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: Let’s try to wrap this up into a nice bow. One of the things that you all know as CMOs who’ve worked on different brands is that it’s a discipline that you can apply. You learn your target, you figure out what the right story is, you figure out how to make a connection to them. You’re sort of a torture test of marketing because marketing to marketers is hard.
Let’s talk about some lessons that we could share that would be applicable to any marketer that, in your crucible of marketing to marketers, you’ve learned and could be applied. For example, we know that marketers like to have fun and having something fun and interesting is good, but we don’t see that much in B2B. Why not?
Norman Guadagno: I think we can have fun in B2B. We define fun a little differently sometimes in B2B. I think people are people. To answer your question, Drew—actually Jamie said it earlier, and I think it’s something worth circling back to. As marketers, we’re trained to do things in a certain way. We all know how to define our target audience and how to create personas. Personas are one of those fundamental things that we use to say, “We have this one, this one, this one. This is what they need, this is how we’re going after them.”
The thing, that’s important though is, personas don’t buy anything. People buy things. Taking those personas and turning them into real living, breathing humans is so key. When my team ran our sales kickoff last year, they introduced this notion of living personas. We had our personas and then we got a real VP of Marketing Ops, a real CMO, a real person and we sat with them for 30 minutes with our sales organization talking about who they are as real people.
I think when we talk about marketing to marketing, we’re really talking about the fact that it’s people just like us. It’s just like me and Jamie and Eric and you, and I want to have real discussions. One of the things I love about B2B marketing to marketers is I can have real discussions and the person across from me is facing the same problems that I’m facing. I can learn just like they learn in that process and that makes our marketing better through what we learn.
Drew Neisser: There’s a certain amount of empathy that you can have with this target and express on an ongoing basis that we’re sort of all in this together that that makes this unique. I do believe that’s applicable to any target.
Jamie, as you look at this, what do you think? You’re talking to marketers in other fields and helping them, advising them. What do you think is something that you can advise marketers and that you’ve learned from your experience marketing to marketers?
Jamie Gilpin: So, Norman, I think your buzzword was “transparency.” I’ll use another one. “Authenticity.” “Empathy” is a good one.
Drew Neisser: We’re just checking them off. Bingo, who’s winning? Authenticity, transparency, and empathy.
Jamie Gilpin: Another way to say “being authentic,” but again, speak like a human. Assume you are marketing to yourself, right? Break through the smoke and mirrors, speak to your audience, speak to your customers like they’re human. The Ben Franklin quote—I’m glad you dissected that a bit more about not overpromising, because the first time you said that I was really trying to figure out exactly what he was trying to say there.
Drew Neisser: It’s a long one.
Jamie Gilpin: Yeah, anyways, we can talk about that later. For me as a marketer, my role—and I feel like this with my team as their leader, but also with our audiences, too—it’s not about overpromising, but it’s about inspiring. How do we inspire our customers and our audience to think differently about a certain problem that we’re trying to solve?
I’m definitely an idealist. I’m ENFJ on the Myers Briggs. I always go to this to this area, but in that inspiration, it’s not about the smoke and mirrors of your product; it’s being authentic about how you can solve that problem. That inspiration piece, I think, is the role of marketers. It’s through storytelling and all the things that we’ve talked about, but for me, that’s the key.
Drew Neisser: What’s so interesting about the notion of inspiring is we can go way beyond speeds of feeds of what you’re talking about, what we’re selling. If we’re inspiring them in some way or another that goes beyond it, we have a chance to have a really interesting conversation.
It also feeds back to what you were saying earlier about interesting execution. If we inspire them with our actual marketing, if whatever it is that we’re creating is so cool and interesting that they go, “I just want to talk to these people because I want to know what they did and how they came up with that,” I think that’s really those two things tie together. Eric?
Eric Eden: I’ll just add to that in saying that, when marketing to marketers, make it very customer inclusive. The most successful programs are like when customers speak at events or give live case studies, do video interviews and things like that. Infusing the customer into it is what people really want to hear.
In our case at Postclick, we work with a lot of direct-to-consumer brands, and when they’re buying from us, they want to hear from other direct-to-consumer brands. They want to hear how they increased their advertising conversion rate by 50 percent, what are the big ideas and creative execution they used to do that with us? I think those sorts of customer evidence and being live as much as possible in the process is really what convinces marketers beyond just what the partner or supplier will say. That’s, I think, been the most successful thing I’ve done over the years, getting customers out there to talk about those big ideas and creative executions and how they were successful.
Drew Neisser: I want to dwell on that for a second because there’s so much rich insight in here. I attended a webinar the other day where the CEO spoke and then the head of sales spoke and then the head of marketing. They didn’t get to the case history of the customer until about 35 minutes in. That person spoke for 20 minutes. They allowed about two minutes for questions. To me, everything was backward in that, that we didn’t have the opportunity to actually engage.
The customers wanted to engage with the customer, so when you think about your webinar, flip it. Put the customer right up there because your job is to make the customer look good.
Second part of it, earlier we talked about these small groups, these micro-groups where like Eric talked about, a wine tasting. Invite your customers to those. You won’t even have to talk about your product at all because your customer will do it. I’ve heard that that is a great way—if you have a group of prospects, say 7 to 8 of them who are close to buying or in consideration and you’ve got a couple of customers, they’ll close the deal for you.
Eric, customer inclusion as a form of marketing, particularly now, is so important because I think a lot of brands survived in 2020 by cross-selling and upselling existing customers because it was so hard to get new ones. Transactions were difficult. The further reason of embracing your customer and co-marketing with them is that there’s a chance that you may actually grow your business.
[46:56] Managing Your MarTech Stack“My rule of thumb has always been if we can get 80 percent of the outcome with the tools we already have, you don't need a new tool.” —@ThinkTone @GoAcoustic Click To Tweet
Drew Neisser: We’re getting to the last licks here on this. I’m curious, this is sort of a micro question, but you’re all in the tech world and you’re all selling if you will part of the tech stack. I’m curious, did you sunset any tools in 2020? Did you get rid of any?
Jamie Gilpin: We didn’t sunset. We did transition from one marketing automation tool to another. We didn’t sunset, but we don’t have a huge tech stack in general. We’re very focused on the problems that we’re trying to solve.
Eric Eden: We reduced from across our company from about 200 SaaS tools down to about 150. Like most SaaS companies, we’re really in love with SaaS. We put in place a tool to start managing all of those blissfully. I think a lot of it came from just analyzing all the different tools we are using. What were the overlapping capabilities? And did we really need so many separate tools?
I think that, for most companies that adopt a lot of tools, there’s usually room to look and see what is the overlap, can certain other tools do it, can you standardize on certain tools across the company and get a better deal? I think there’s opportunities for that.
Drew Neisser: Norman, anything on that?
Norman Guadagno: We’re in the exact opposite because we’re less than two years old as a company, so we’re still building our stack. Fortunately, the combination of our own tools and a few other things. I’m a minimalist when it comes to the stack.
My rule of thumb has always been if we can get 80 percent of the outcome with the tools we already have, you don’t need a new tool. We’ve been very clear on that. We just add a few small things into our stack to try to get the most value out of it. Then we push the tools really hard because frankly, a lot of the tools that people use in marketing, they use for the shiny thing they bought it for, not for all the capabilities it actually delivers.
Drew Neisser: Yeah. That’s a problem. If you use all the things, then you have a lot of people to support it but you probably didn’t budget that when you sold it in, so you, by definition, end up with a situation where you are underutilizing tools. It’s a thing that I have ranted about and been known to rant about.
I think in your particular case, for the three of you going through the experience of buying technology, it’s got to make you better at selling technology, right?
Norman Guadagno: Very true.
Drew Neisser: And if you guys can’t be sold, then you know what you’re facing. It’s so interesting to put that hat on as you try to figure out what is it that’s going to make someone in the marketing world stop and go, “I’ve got to have this.”
I think that’s a really interesting part of this. When I think about 2020, we talk about this world of essential, right? Were you essential or not? If you weren’t essential, you either had to create a product that was essential or you had to move to this next tier where you could plant a lot of seeds, where you could do what Jamie had the opportunity to do—have free trial so she could get a lot of people into the pipeline.
I know one of the things that people looked at in 2020 was trying to create a light version to make it easy. This is the thing. I think that one fun part of having the three of you on this show is you have a very hard audience. I know you guys are masters of marketing and I want to thank you for being on the show. It’s so great to have all three of you.
Renegade Thinkers Live is produced by Melissa Caffrey. For show notes and past episodes, please visit renegade.com, home of quite possibly the savviest B2B marketing agency in New York City. I’m your host Drew Neisser, and until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.