CMO Confessions Ep. 8, Redback Consulting’s Sara Gonzalez

Hi everyone and welcome to yet another edition of CMO Confessions. Last week I promised you a double-whammy and I’m here to finally deliver. This week, we have someone truly special — Sara Gonzalez, CMO of Redback Consulting.

Sara took the time out of her busy schedule to speak to a few key items that I think us marketers here in the Americas need to keep in mind. First, things in the Americas aren’t all that different from things in APAC — and that’s largely due to their scrappy, agile nature to service a truly massive region. Second, that the ideas of B2B and B2C markets are largely a misnomer — people tend to buy things the same way. Finally, and this is something I could not agree with anymore, that marketing needs refocus its energies on strategy — and not to confuse it with tactics.

A few housekeeping items to take care of before we dive into it. First, if you’re interested in listening to our growing podcast series, you can find all of our episodes right here in Ppodbean. Alternatively, you can also find us on both iTunes and Google Play stores.

Second, Sara has helped pen an excellent eBook entitled, “10 Things I Hate About Marketing,” which you can find here. She and her colleague, Rob Brown also hosted a webinar on the subject, which you can listen to here. I highly recommend it.

Third, well, there’s not much for third. It’s time to get into it. Without further ado, welcome to CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.


Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO confessions a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland CMO here at ON24 and joining me this week all the way from Sydney is Sara Gonzales CMO of Simple. Sarah, you doing?

Sara Gonzales:

Good morning, how are you?

Joe Hyland:

Good afternoon. All right, so just a little bit about you from my perspective Sarah and feel free to jump in and then we can dive into what we’re going to talk about today.

Sarah, you help marketers removed the complexity and becoming more efficient through the reinvention of marketing resource management software. That rolls right off the tongue. Give us a little more from your take on what that means.

Sara Gonzales:

You did pretty well. So, thank you. Similar to yourself — marketing to marketers — and one of the things that we see here at Simple, and we see it globally as well as its massive issue of complexity when it comes to marketers. So, we’ve got so many channels to market. We’ve got so many, you know, abundance of tools that we need to use as well and, you know, MarTech space is getting bigger and it’s getting more complex.

So, Simple provides software to actually manage all those tools and connect the brand the customer experience. So, think of it as your strategic up-planning tool to manage execution tools below.

Joe Hyland:

That’s fantastic and you’re doing some really cool things — I can’t wait to talk about it. One thing I’ve been asked by my team to point out was below in the description we’ll have a link to your ebook, “10 Things I Hate About Marketing,” where you discuss everyday modern marketing drags and how you combat that, fight against it and bring the joy back to your job.

So, with that do you want to start off? I’m a pretty optimistic person but I’ll start off on a pessimistic topic — let’s start with what you don’t like about marketing. What are some of the drags of marketing?

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, the big pain points I think that grind us every day. I think one thing I don’t like, especially about B2B marketing, is that we call it B2B marketing still. I find, that marketing in general we talk about it being around the customer experience, but we tend to treat customers different; their buying behaviors,  the customer journey — based on whether we’re selling B2B or B2C — and I feel like every single person buys the same way. If you’re the CEO of a company or, Joe, you’re the CMO, you know when you actually go and buy something personally or B2B it’s a very similar journey.

So, I feel like sometimes we get really bogged down in there and I think that’s impacting especially B2B marketing and the way that we go out there and the way that we market. I don’t know what your thoughts on that are, but I just feel like if we want to own the customer experience, maybe we should understand the customer a little bit more.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, these are people, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. Funny story, I won’t name the company but I worked for an electronic payments company — I was in product marketing so I did not own the brand at the time — and we came out with a new corporate template and it was pictures of buildings.

And they said, “Oh, our CEO loves this because we sell the big banks.” And I said, “Yeah, but there’s those are people we sell to, like we don’t sell to  skyscrapers.” Yeah, so this is people that people marketing, right? It’s not business-to-business marketing.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, and I think just on that and I know the customer experience thing is massive and we’ve actually just done some research into our later study. We’ve done some research into the customer experience and how people, as marketers, actually manage or try to manage it. And one of the stats that came out of it is 59 percent of marketers actually said that their CMO or their marketing team was responsible for managing that customer experience and 87 percent said the brand consistency is really important, but it’s you know, very, very rare that they have any control over their messaging or their visual appearance or their personalities.

So, it’s sort of like we own it and we want to but we’re not really doing anything about it. So, I feel like there’s a bit of confusion for marketers which sort of gets my grind a bit. And, you know, the rest of the company has to sort of own that as well.

You need to be able to have control over those points if you want to own the customer experience in a true way. So, I think that’s something um that know I struggle with on a daily basis.

Joe Hyland:

I think that’s a fantastic point. Not that I’ve been doing this forever, but the coming up on a couple decades now — I got my haircut yesterday and there was a shocking amount of white hair on the on the ground— I saw in the last ten years, I’ve seen a real rise in the strategic nature of marketing, which is exciting. I see more and more marketers earning pipeline, which I think is really cool. But I think you were right that the next big movement, in my opinion, among marketers and marketing is going to be owning the customer experience. Because, you and I aren’t just doing our job if we get the message out and we help companies or people come and buy from us, right? Like what’s that experience? Like the entire life cycle? I think we should own that.

Sara Gonzales:

And, you know, at my previous company we had a lot of people come into our office to actually run events and a few other things and one of the things we made sure of is that we also in we also met with the customer support team on a regular basis — the frontline people. So, you could do everything as a marketer and you could create this brand and you create this, you know, there’s personality behind what you’re doing and then someone answers the phone for someone who calls the support line and they really piss someone off — there you go, that’s shut down. But you know, we started to work with our actual physical company, if you like, when people came in and our close ratio, when sales people brought people into the office actually increased because people came in and they felt this, “Oh, actually I get what your culture is like and I get them people and I want to be part of that journey.”

So, I think if you can start to own that or find ways that you can impact that then, you know, it’s a quick win almost and it’s something that’s just going to tie everything together.

Joe Hyland:

That’s a good point. That’s a more manageable way to start owning the experience, right? And then perhaps the real North Star, or utopia, is owning the digital experience. So you’re right that you got to start somewhere, right? So why not have it be the experience of when someone comes into the office?

Sara Gonzales:

Yes, absolutely.

Joe Hyland:

Okay. So, Sarah and I were in Sydney — was that four weeks ago, Sarah? It was about a month ago.

Sara Gonzales:

It’s gone really quick, yeah.

Joe Hyland:

So Sara spoke at our conference, Webinar World Sydney. I had to travel a little further than you did. We talked about some cool things. One of the things we talked about was the perception of marketers in Asia-Pacific.

First I love that, I like that those of us in the U.S. think that Asia-Pacific’s a really small region. It’s kinda big. Like a little big. No, but seriously, what is it about your market — the market, at least your region because your global — but where you live, where marketers tend to discount the sophistication of your marketing. That seems absurd to me.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, I feel like it maybe has stemmed back before my time.

Joe Hyland:

There we go.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, just the fact that Australians especially have been behind, or, you know, everything can come a little bit later than Americans, especially. But I feel like that now, we’re seen as being part of the APAC region now — you even got Japan in there as well. There is so many amazing things happening over here, but I don’t know if it’s the time delay or the accent or the weather.

Joe Hyland:

I think it’s the accent.

Sara Gonzales:

It has to be something…

Joe Hyland:

Here’s what’s absurd about it to me. So, you and I are both fortunate enough to run marketing for pretty cool companies. So, that’s fantastic. But we have the same challenges.

So, I don’t necessarily view that my challenges any different from yours, suddenly. They’re different companies. So, first, the challenges are the same. When I was down there — and I came down twice now in the last year — I saw really sophisticated digital marketing from you and your peers. So, I guess I don’t really see how this is grounded in reality.

Sara Gonzales:

I think, and you know what, I think it is changing now, slowly. And I think one of the reasons why people are actually looking to this region and saying, “You know what, you guys are actually getting shit done and you actually know what you’re doing,” is the fact that we are a lot smaller and we’re actually starting to take advantage of that. Because, now that we are smaller, we’ve taken a step back and said, “You know what, we can be a little bit more agile and we’re more nimble.”

That means we can increase our velocity and we can also get stuff done and we can be sort of trailblazers in certain key areas. And yeah, we don’t have the capacity a lot of companies, especially a lot of startup companies, down here. We’ve sort of you know, we’re the second round of Silicon Valley if you like. And we look to you guys over there and we’re like, “Oh.” You know, and start ups are massive over here. And we’ve got massive hubs that are invested in startups down here as well.

So, I think there’s a lot of learnings that we’ve taken from you guys over there and I brought them down here. But we’ve just sort of adapted them and we made them our own. So I think now, you know, Simple, as well, our company, we’re doing the opposite of most companies where we’re a start-up Down Under and we’re taking that to the U.S.

Obviously, there are some challenges there. But I think a lot of companies over in the U.S, —and you would know this at ON24, Joe, starting up in Australia — there are a few little differences. But, like you said, a lot of it is the same challenges, and it comes down to that fact that we’re all people. And we all you know, wake up. We all go to bed. We all do the same thing. I think the perception has to change — not necessarily around a location or what we’re doing — but the fact that it’s person-to-person marketing if you like.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, no. No, that’s right. Every individual at a company has a goal, a challenge, whether it’s personal or professional and great marketing is still mapping how you can solve those challenges, right? So, for me, that’s why it’s just a little silly. I think, joking aside, a lot of it is the time difference. I think that you’re in the middle of some pretty big oceans and it’s very far away from from the U.S.

I even see — I do this as well. I set up a call for us on Friday for the team and our team in Sydney said, “Is it okay if we don’t call in? It’s Saturday at 2:00 in the morning.” I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. So I think it’s just because it’s so far away. Very front of mind — a huge focus. But yeah, you can call in on Saturday at 2 a.m., right? That’s okay.

I have one question that I feel like Australians are quite proud of and they would in no way think that they’re behind America in which is coffee. So, the only complaint we got from our conference was “Conference was great, loved the content, speakers were phenomenal, the venue was first-class — you had absolute shit coffee.” So, talk to me about how Australians view their coffee.

Sara Gonzales:

You know, I did notice that at the conference — and I was looking for proper coffee because you guys have just the copy that you pour. Just like basic coffee…

Joe Hyland:

…You see? Just like classic Americans, right?

Sara Gonzales:

…Kettle coffee, we call it. When I was over there I remember sitting down one morning and I had a bit coffee and they came up — I was in San Jose — and she’s like, “Refill?” And I was like, “No no, no, it’s fine. Keep that away from me.” Yeah, it actually all started in Melbourne.

So, Melbourne is like the hipster place of Sydney, if you like. Marketing genius as well. Like, I couldn’t live in Melbourne because I’m not cool enough to live in Melbourne — that’s just a fact. I’d have to judge myself, what I wear every day,  “Is cool enough? Is this a few weeks ago?” You know, the trend.

Yeah, they’re very trendy and it’s all about the beards — and if your Barista who’s making your coffee doesn’t have a beard or a man bun, I think.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that’s a non-starter. Yeah, you got to have a man bun.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, exactly. So, let’s come over here and Sydney’s trying to be a bit like that. But, yeah, coffee is massive over here.

Joe Hyland:

Are they are they are they good marketers in Melbourne or is this just more hipster coffee scene?

Sara Gonzales:

I think just Baristas and coffee and, you know, the whole — even the coffee cups that you got us — there’s is outrage over here now because… So, I don’t know if you know this at ON24. So, simple one of our pieces of swag was a keep cup.

Joe Hyland:

I didn’t.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, the cups where you keep and you walk around and you put your coffee in them because the actual coffee cups over here — a lot of marketers actually use them in terms of branding. So, if I was, you know, in selling something that was related to coffee I could go and give the coffee shop cups and say, “Hey can use my cups?” And, you know, people walk around with them. It’s great exposure. However, those cups are not really recyclable. And they don’t actually break down. So, now they’re actually proposing that they — over here on cigarettes, they have those warning labels with disgusting images — and proposing they do that on coffee cups now.

So, the coffee is great, but the amount of controversy that’s coming around coffee right now is whole other level.

Joe Hyland:

That would not fly over here. Do not tell Americans what to do. Do not regulate a thing. Yeah, that wouldn’t. That well, actually, it’s not true — in San Francisco that would be very popular.

Okay, we’ll get back into things. So, one of the things I love most about my job is, like, this. Like, how cool is it that part of my job is having a discussion with a peer? Like having a marketing discussion. Your role is cool and what you guys do at Simple as cool because I think at least, you’re helping marketers with their strategy.

I’ll talk to a lot of marketers and they’ll do one of two things. I’ll say, you know, “What’s your strategy, what are you trying to accomplish?” They’ll either list a whole bunch of tactics — I’m gonna do a white paper, I’m gonna do a webinar, I’m gonna do a blog — It’s like, okay, well, let’s not confuse a tactic with it a strategy. Or, and this is particularly bad here in Silicon Valley, we’ll just list a whole bunch of types of technology. “Oh well, I’m doing ABM, right? I know, I’m redoing my website.” And they list all this tech that they’re using — which is cool, but again, I don’t know if it’s grounded in a foundation of how to solve their business problem. So, you get to help marketers with their strategy, right? Like, I feel like that would be empowering and really cool.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, so, obviously managing, having a place to manage all those channels is important. And, in essence, that’s part of what our software does, but the other part of it is taking a step back.

One of the things we’re looking to do is getting markers to remember why they even fell in love with marketing in the first place. And I think a lot of that is, you know, there’s so much data around now and you know, it started off with creativity. And one of the things people are saying to us, you know, originally why they fell in love and why they still come back to marketing is that perfect blend of art and science together.

So, we’re no longer the crayon department and we’re no longer just about pretty pictures. We’ve got data or we’ve got science and we can actually use that — not to only justify what we’re doing and prove what we’re doing — but we can also start to make that impact. When it comes to revenue, and like you said, on the sales side, managing pipelines, but one of the things that we find is the tool that we don’t have actually piece this all together is — hate to plug ourselves but something like this — so, you know briefing, right? You know, you’ve got to write a brief. You’ve got to get a campaign out and for someone like myself, and even a lot of marketers we speak to, the brief seems to be the other forgotten child almost. Let’s do a brief, a few bullet points let’s put it together. Let’s suddenly run a campaign and then, you know what, suddenly the campaign doesn’t work.

So, you look to the tool that you use, or you look to your budget, or your look to the people who ran it and you look at all these tactics and you don’t actually look back to the brief and actually align that with the goal that you had in the first place. So, we find that’s a massive disconnect over here. So, what we’re trying to do is bring intelligence into this and say, “Okay, how can we use the brief and get marketers a place where they can actually keep going back to the brief and use it as their anchor point, almost. So, then they can actually fully understand how their tools are performing, what’s actually happening, how everything comes together.”

Because otherwise, I feel like we’re just blaming it on, you know, because we’ve got MarTec there and that, so we’re going to blame it on the piece of technology or, you know, we’ve got a sales team. So they’re going to turn around and blame it on that, but we’re not actually looking at the full picture and we’ve got way too much data.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, we have too much data I could talk about all day long. I think the problem is even worse than what you just described. I think so many marketers — and there’s so much — it’s a good problem to have, marketing isn’t just the pretty colors anymore so there’s pressure on marketers to grow and there’s so much pressure that we just want to do more, and more, and more and do it quicker, and quicker, and quicker and it’s like don’t worry about analyzing it — we’ll just figure it out. We don’t have time to analyze.

I think a lot of marketers — when you talked about a poor man’s or a light brief — I question how many marketers are even putting together a brief before a program.

And are they doing a proper post-mortem? I would criticize ourselves.  A couple years ago — so I’ve been running our marketing for three years — a couple years ago we ran a campaign, we had a brief. Like, I think we put a lot of thought into it, ran a campaign; it didn’t work. That’s okay, not everything will work — and there were people on our team that didn’t want to do a post-mortem. It was like, “We don’t have time to analyze why it didn’t work. We need to move on to the next thing.” It’s like well, “Don’t you think we’re at risk of just repeating the same mistakes if we don’t actually go back and analyze it?” So, I think that is more and more common than many people realize.

Sara Gonzales:

 And you know, there’s this some look it up, if you don’t know about it, there’s this famous campaign over here in Australia called, “Dumb ways to Die,” and it’s pretty much it’s hilarious, the creative is amazing and it’s about cartoon characters showing. The whole idea was to — a lot of people actually die on train tracks over here. So, a lot of young kids so cross the train tracks, I’ll get hit by a train or they’ll be graffiti on train tracks. So, it’s actually a really big problem.

But there they actually put a spin on it and it was literally the little cartoon characters with their bodies getting chopped off. And they had this really catchy song and it was great. And the amount of views and the amount of virality it got ‚ it just went everywhere. It was really shareable, social media went off. But actually — everyone spoke about that and they won all these awards — but when they actually go back to it, and this is something they didn’t actually advertise, obviously, more people actually died on trains that year.

So, that’s an example of, you know, you’ve got something out there and we’re like we want to be more than just a creative department and we want to be more than just pretty pictures. But you’re actually measuring your success by something creative if you’re not actually measuring results.

So, to me, that’s like, well, you know we want this but do we really? Is it just easier to sort of just tick something off the box and win an award for it? So I feel like yeah massive disconnect once again.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I think that’s a super good point. I agree that great marketing is the mix of Art and Science — it’s what’s fun about marketing for me. I love the intersection of these two things.

I found a couple of things interesting here. One, I think a lot of marketers didn’t go into marketing because they’re data-driven if you will, though I don’t really love that phrase, but so I think sometimes it’s a challenge. I think, you know, it’s not necessarily a first love. And then the second point I would make is —our observation — is that there’s so much data today. Like, I find in — we use Marketo — so, if you open up a lead record in Marketo and you look under the activity history or their interesting moments — there might be hundreds of interesting moments. What am I supposed to do with that?

I find it’s hard to make sense or see trends in these seas of data.

Sara Gonzales:

And it’s funny because I feel since automation has come about — and I’m a massive Marketo fan as well — but automation has come about and we’ve got all these data but I feel like you sort of manually need to go through it. And you need to actually have this Instinct. So, there’s the instinct that comes into marketing because you’ll go through it — and there are certain things that you can’t have a robot pick up, right? — so If you do go through those hundred records, you’re going to need an inside sales person or someone to go, “Oh actually that’s interesting” and in their head tie it back to something.

So yeah, I find it really interesting as well and I think you know — on that point — the whole impact of AI and how it’s going to impact marketing and all the machine learning and everything like that. You’re still going to need people there because you’ve still got — marketers have that instinct about certain things and I think it’s probably maybe 25 percent of what I do. That feeling, it’s like, “Oh I know this is right and I’m looking at data there and I can see the patterns.” So yeah, I think that’s an interesting point.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, and the art doesn’t go away like I don’t I um, I don’t yeah, the Geeks are kind of coming into to marketing. I mean, I think that influx has occurred. But one of my one of my first bosses — I was a year out of college — and I said, “Well actually doesn’t matter what the email copy is and what the subject line is, we’ll test everything, we’ll A/B test it.” And he said, “Well, you know, any idiot or a monkey can just throw a dart board and just keep adjusting but like great marketing is knowing your audience.” And like right like there is some gut feel and there is really knowing your personas inside and out so you don’t have to A/B test everything. So, yeah, people aren’t going anywhere. Marketing departments when they get more money, they’re still hiring people, right? Like, I don’t see everything being outsourced or everything being automated.

Sara Gonzales:

Yea absolutely.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, what are your views on AI in marketing? Are you guys using any? Are you anti-AI? Do you think it’s the wave of the future? What are your thoughts?

Sara Gonzales:

Well, our new platform has been built on Microsoft. So, we’ve got massive potential to bring the intelligence into it. And we will. But I feel like for us it’s so big. And over here there’s so many conferences and every now and then — you have these run of conferences every year, Joe,  and you go to them — and there’s something really shiny people love, you know. Two months ago it was all about blockchain. It’s all about machine learning and it’s all spoken — up here.

So, as a marketer you go there and you get really excited and you go back to your desk and it’s like, “Oh, you know, this is what I learned and it’s like, well, how does it actually apply to me as a matter? How am I going to use that?”

So I think that the potential is massive and I think, like you said, I’m not scared of it — I think if anything it’s going to increase jobs within marketing because you still need that human element. But what I do think is that there’s very few organizations, especially software companies, out there telling us how it’s going to impact what we do every day, how it’s going to help us tie everything back to that customer experience. And you can have great technology, but it’s not going to solve all of our problems. And I think, as marketers, who are selling technology out there, you need to if you could go out and say, “Here’s how this is going to impact what you do every day and here’s how you’re going to be able to tie that back to your goals.” If you do that, you’re going to go into a winner.

So, I think, as a company, that’s our next challenge and how we do that. Because, like I said, we’ve got so much potential with so much technology, but not everyone needs it all.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, no, totally. Great marketing is about the “why” not the “what,” right? Like, I think if I could give advice to myself 15 or 20 years ago, it would be always focus on the strategy and the foundation first and don’t rush the tactics. I think we all sprint to the deliverables — they are tactics and they’re critical to executing on the strategy, but it, in fact, starts with the strategy.

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. So, I have a question, which I don’t think you’ll see coming. So, when we were over in Sydney, I was…

Sara Gonzales:

It’s early for that

Joe Hyland:

It is early there, right? Yes, but I won’t stop you. This is actually easy for you. But I don’t think you think I’m gonna ask it. When I was over there, I was incredibly impressed with how sophisticated you are with your digital and webinar marketing — and we’re not going to be able to show that over a podcast, right? But, I think our listeners would benefit from hearing you talk for a minute or two on your views on digital marketing how you’re doing content and webinars,  how you look at your strategy to drive attendance, keep engagement during a live event, actually have an on-demand strategy. Like, you’re doing some really cool things and I was pretty impressed and I think people would love to hear it for 90 or 120 seconds.

Sara Gonzales:

Firstly thank you. It’s nice to hear that.  Secondly, I think and I mentioned this to you while you over here that webinars are pretty dirty over here —and they’ve got a bit of a bad reputation.

I think, for us, webinars are not just something that we have to do as a tactic. So, going back to your point, they’re part of the bigger picture. So our content — we create a lot of content because marketers love content, right? And part of our content strategy you know webinars come into that. So like I said, they’re an extension of the content that we create. So, any given month we have a key theme, and like I said, too, we’ve released its research report and this is probably a good example because I was really impressed with how this worked out two days ago.

We created this research report. We went and interviewed 300 marketers and we came up with these amazing results. So we’ve got the results, we’ve got some nice pretty graphs, but how do we actually disseminate that information actually start a conversation around it?

So ,firstly we partnered with the Australian Marketing Institute over here. As the peak body and to also give them credibility and then we did a co-webcast with them. On the webcast, though, and our webinars — I call it a webcast but this sort of interchangeable, arrive? I don’t want to get caught up in semantics.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, same yes,

Sara Gonzales:

And this is great, having a webcam, but in terms of engaging marketers and I think even, you know, understanding that webinars are an extension of your brand we have panel discussions. So, it’s almost like TV on the internet, if you like.

So, everyone who downloads the report gets invited to a discussion, but the people on this discussion is myself, who’s interviewing one of our key customers in the financial services — and she’s really big on compliance and she’s passionate about probably three key areas that we were speaking about — another one of our prospects and then also our chief product officer.

So we started having this conversation around the results. First of all, within the platform we started, people — before we went into the results, for example — one of the questions might have been what’s your biggest struggle with briefing? We actually use polls to actually ask the audience what their struggles were and then we actually showed them the results so they can actually feel like they’re part of the study.

Joe Hyland:

So you make it interactive, right? Rather than just like a talking PowerPoint for an hour, like you’re literally asking people for their feedback and then the dialogue changes based off what they say.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, and then compare it to the actual study and then have the people talkin about the studies. So it’s much more of a conversation. Utilize the resource folder to actually then upload the report and other pieces of content that we have relating to the report. Because once people are actually on that event the more you can engage and the more sort of content you can give them is obviously going to benefit you and also the data you’re collecting. But now that we’ve got that we’re actually going to break down that panel discussion into — I think we know that down into eight different short videos that we can use and repurpose for marketing content.

So, one of the things that I said to you as well afterwards is not everyone wants to sit down and watch a 45-minute recording. And we only had 40 percent attendance on that event. But those are the 60 percent of people, they can choose to watch the 45 minutes or they can choose to watch maybe a five-minute segment or something they’re interested in. So, it’s really…

Joe Hyland:

I think that’s an important point and I’ll interrupt for one second because… So,you’re right so you got four out of 10 people who registered to show up. It’s easy to focus is easy to just say, “Okay, well, that’s my new audience. That’s all I care about.” You keep them really engaged with these polling strategies right and making it interactive but then afterwards you have a different strategy for the 60 percent.

Sara Gonzales:

Yep. Yeah, right. So I love that. Yeah, and that way we’re engaging people, you know, not just within that one day and you know our investments for that one hour then turns into a six to 12-month investment as well.

Joe Hyland:

Ah, yeah, that’s smart. Have you measured — speaking of Art and Science ‚ the impact of sending follow-up emails to the those who registered but didn’t attend —with the shorter content versus the full 45-minute discussion panel webinar — did you see different results?

Sara Gonzales:

Well, one of the things we do with our webinar marketing before during and after we’ve got sales development reps and we get those guys involved. So, first of all their text-based emails and their conversations with people, as opposed to an HTML email going out from marketing. So, it’s from a person her name’s Jenna she’s had contact with them for a while, and we actually see in terms — even the quick ratio that we get for people watching the on-demand content — it’s probably around 30 percent of the people afterwards actually go to watch those shorter videos.

Joe Hyland:

Okay, that’s great.

Sara Gonzales:

Yeah, it’s something we’ve only started this year and it is a little bit more difficult with the editing process afterwards. But,  even looking back like you said to their profile in Marketo and saying, “Okay, this person has actually downloaded a lot of content that revolves around compliance. So let’s make sure that they receive the compliance video.” And in the flow, we make sure that they’re receiving using keywords to actually send them content that they’re probably more interested in as opposed to something like reporting.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. Um, yeah. No, that’s fantastic. And I think it’s also really smart that you guys have your SDRs involved throughout the process. I mean, if it’s a demand generation use case, which it sounds like this is, I think having pre-sales involved from the start is smart, right?

That way doesn’t feel like a jolting experience and afterwards someone is reaching out to them.

Sara Gonzales:


Joe Hyland:

Okay cool. Well, we are at the top of the half hour. You and I could do this probably for the next 45 minutes and I feel like time would fly by, but I want to wrap things up.

Sarah, this was this was fantastic. I’m gonna look up Dumb Ways to Die. I was not familiar with this campaign. So I’m excited. It sounds like you guys are on a mission over at Simple to make marketers great again. That is a phrase that is …

Sara Gonzales:

You always have to throw that in, right?

Joe Hyland:

I said very similar…

Sara Gonzales:

 I’m not making that a thing, Joe. I’m not going to use it — stop trying to…

Joe Hyland:

Sorry, once I say it for the third time it sticks. You said webinars are dirty over here, so we’re gonna have to dig into that next time. But it seems like you’re cleaning things up and you’re doing a great job with it. So that…

Sara Gonzales:

I’ll take one for the team.

Joe Hyland:

You’ll take one for the team, thank you. With that, let’s wrap up Sarah. Thanks again. This was this was fantastic.

Sara Gonzales:

Thanks, Joe.

Joe Hyland:

All right by everyone.

Announcing Webinar World: Engage for Action

At some point, your audience stopped caring. They tuned out your communications and skipped over your content. It’s what happens when people are reduced to data points.

We know you get it. We also know that the pressure of keeping the business running is so overwhelming that you have no choice but to produce more. More content, in more channels, with more fleeting touches delivering superficial data and diminishing returns. The more you interrupt, the less it feels like a genuine conversation. So, when the conversation ends, so does any real connection to your audience, along with an opportunity to gain meaningful insights about the real person on the other end.

That’s why it’s imperative for every brand to rethink engagement. At ON24, we know there’s a better way—a more compelling, human approach. It starts with dynamic, relevant, multimedia content, delivered both live and on-demand, connecting with your audience when they want to through interactive features like polling, chatting, surveying, and more. And, finally, turning connections into insights that you can act on and share seamlessly across your operations.

Join us at Webinar World 2019 and to learn how to Engage for Action. Because if you redefine the way you engage with your audience, you can redefine your success.

Summer Reading: The Five Elements of Webinar Storytelling

For the next summer series playlist track, we’re going to put on the ritz. Jazz it up a little. Add some flair to the webinar air. We’re going to talk, of course, about generating great webinar stories.

So, how can you add some glitz to your webinar story glamor? Simple: organize. Plot, plan and then push your content. Getting the elements of your story right is critical because, as Mark Bornstein notes in “10 Secrets for Creating Great Webinar Content,” webinars are getting longer — up to 56 minutes on average in 2017. That added length means you have an exceptional opportunity to draw your audience in and push great content out.

So, where to start? Well, right here:

1. Have a goal in mind.

First, you need to have a goal for your specific webinar. This is where having detailed ideal customer profiles, personas and buying cycles in place helps. By knowing where your proposed webinar is going to fall across those three elements, you can select, craft or recycle highly relevant content that benefits the audience your aiming to address. Consider this the plotting stage of your webinar story.

2. Find inspiration in content that works

Your organization has stories. It has content. It has material you can take and turn into a webinar. For example, it has content for top, bottom, and middle-of-funnel buyers. Find the material that performs best — whether it’s a white paper, ebook, case study, research or just a blog post — and use it as inspiration for your webinars. Break your selected content down into topic areas and build out webinars based on those topics.

3. Refine

Once you have a topic selected — one that solves a problem for your audience — it’s time to refine. By refining, we mean focusing your webinar entirely on one subject and one subject only. Refrain from asides. Don’t try to connect one subject to another. Just focus on the topic you chose. By going deep into one issue, you’ll provide your audience with tangible benefits and prove your expertise.

4. Build your story

Finally, it’s time to build your story. This is where you get to add the neat little details. It’s hard, sure, but the good news is most of the heavy lifting is already done. You have an audience in mind, a topic and a specific pain point you’re trying to address. Now, all you have to do is decide how you’ll address your topic.

You’ve got a few options. You can showcase a new concept, compare strategies and tactics, demonstrate your solution (if you’re talking to bottom-of-funnel attendees) or give news-like updates on new industry developments. Whatever you chose, make sure the event sticks to your agenda, speaks on what you’ve advertised in your webinar abstract and is paced so your audience can follow along.

There are two things you should avoid, however. First, don’t make filler content. Your event should only be as long as it takes to address your topic (plus questions). Second, don’t pitch until it’s time to pitch. Audiences are coming to you for advice and help — help them first, then, when a prospect is at the bottom of the funnel, you can start talking about your company.

5. Outline and build your slides

Right, you have your narrative built out. Everything’s practically done except for the actual event content. Often, this means slides. Don’t worry — building slides to your content is easy.

First, outline what you’re going to go through during your event. This outline will serve as the basis for your slides. Second, know who’s speaking to your slides (heck, it could be you) and build your deck to their speaking cadence. This could range anywhere between 20 to 40 slides.

Does that sound like a lot? It not as intimidating as it sounds. That’s because when you build your slides, you should use a lot of white space, very little text (typically no more than three to four bullet points) and use pictures that either build a connection to your audience or help you to tell your story. The slides will fly by.

And that’s it! The basis of your webinar story is built out. All that’s left is for you to practice, adjust and present.

What else can you do to build out excellent webinar content? You can check out our entire Webinerd Summer Playlist right here. You can also check out our summer reading list for track three:

1. Webinars As a Content-Delivery Machine

2. How to Build a Killer Webinar Presentation

3. Q&A with Alex Blumberg, CEO of Gimlet Media

4. Four tips to detox your webinar slides

5. The Role of Webinars in the Buying Cycle

Are MQLs Relevant Anymore?

This article was first published on

The concept of relying only on marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to measure effectiveness might be going the way of platform shoes and disco balls.

MQLs are losing favor as a one-size-fits-all measure of marketing’s ability to push sales leads down the pipeline, say B2B industry leaders.

Although marketing automation gave rise to the prospect of MQLs becoming the standard marketing metric for organisations, many believe they are too open to misinterpretation and deception. Some see them as nothing more than a marketing vanity metric.

The MQL measure is certainly unable to take into account the circuitous journey B2B customers make on their way to making a buying decision. Businesses that bombard poorly targeted MQLs with sales and marketing collateral are unlikely to deliver exceptional experiences to potential customers, either. Then there’s the common complaint that so few MQLs convert into actual sales leads.

Joe Hyland, CMO of webinar software company ON24, says MQLs are misleading and not a useful gauge of marketing effectiveness within many B2B businesses.

“You can manipulate MQLs very easily,” Hyland says. “If my boss said ‘Joe, I need to see a 50 per cent increase in MQLs over the next quarter’ I can go into Marketo and change what qualifies as an MQL and immediately double the number.”

Hyland says because marketers can move the threshold of what qualifies as an MQL, it’s open for abuse … especially when incentives are attached to its importance. He thinks marketers should concentrate on what is right for the business and their customers.

“I’m less interested in having 10,000 MQLs a quarter than I am in having 2000 meaningful interactions where I’m helping persuade someone,” Hyland says.

ON24 has now changed its approach to lead generation. In the past, the ON24 marketing team had such a low MQL threshold that its sales team complained about receiving too many leads. The sales team was so awash with opportunities, it could only make one follow-up contact on each lead.

“We redefined our addressable market – what we call our ‘ideal customer profile,’” Hyland says. “Unless a company asked to be contacted by sales, it wouldn’t qualify [as an MQL] if it didn’t match those qualifications.” Hyland says ON24 also decreased its overall level of marketing activity, concentrating instead on making quality connections with prospects.

“We actually saw a massive decrease in MQLs … but we also saw pipeline [activity] go up 75 per cent,” he says. “A sales rep may only get two leads in a week but they are high-quality leads. We’ve decreased the noise and allowed salespeople to really focus.”

The Mercer Experience

MQLs certainly have their limitations in B2B companies with relatively low lead volumes.

Mercer, for instance, is a global consultancy in superannuation, HR and financial services. Its Australian operation gets 30 to 40 leads a month, sales contracts range from $25,000 to $5 million, and sales cycles can be from one week to two years.

Natalie Truong, who is Mercer’s Head of B2B Marketing, Pacific, spoke at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum about how she has thrown away the traditional lead-scoring model.

“In 2016, when I started at Mercer, we had an MQL target of 1060,” Truong said. “The business wasn’t fussed about what was going through the pipeline, or conversions or why leads were rejected, just as long as we were getting MQLs into the pipeline.”

Truong said that despite only achieving an MQL score of 270 that year, the team generated $1 million in marketing-related revenue with a 7 per cent conversion rate.

“So, what would be the logical thing to do in 2017?” Truong asked. “Up the MQL target.” The business set her team a new MQL target of 1364.

Truong decided she wanted to find another way to measure marketing effectiveness. “I said to the global team: ‘How about instead of worrying about the MQLs in the pipeline, I take a slightly different approach and I’ll guarantee you double conversion and double revenue?’ I wasn’t sure if we could do it, but what we were doing wasn’t working anyway so I had nothing to lose.”

Mercer began to filter its 30-40 leads per month manually and stopped its spam engine, which had sent 180,000 emails to about 5000 contacts in the previous 12 months.

“In 2017, we achieved 343 MQLs – nowhere near the 1364 we were set anyway,” Truong said. “But our conversion was 37 per cent and we generated $2.5 million in revenue.”

Truong said Mercer’s change in direction was unlikely to work for every business, especially those with high lead volumes.

How Webinars are Reshaping Continuing Education

According to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, 92 million adults in the United States are enrolled in some type of educational program and nearly two-thirds of them are taking a work-related course.  As so many things are in today’s society, many of these courses are available online, which means attending lessons and meeting the demands of your career without leaving the comfort of your home.

And that is a good thing — continuing education is a requirement and a necessity for professional development as well as to remain at the top of the field.

As an Early Learning Multimedia Manager for the Southwestern Child Development Commission Inc., I’m tasked with facilitating high-quality learning experiences in a variety of formats to the men and women who aspire to teach and renew credits. Thanks to webinars, the majority of our courses alleviate the need to be in a specific place at a set time and date.

Utilization of webinars in our continuing education program has removed many of the traditional barriers seen in the past, such as challenging work schedules, traffic and difficulty traveling, family obligations and other commitments. Webinars also may be more economical for some learners because they do not incur any travel, meal, babysitting or other expenses on the day of the class. They also help us offset the travel costs for our instructors, such as mileage and any overnight accommodations, if necessary, as well as providing copies and other materials used during face-to-face learning events.

We strive to keep our webinars engaging for our customers as we would a face-to-face event through a variety of different activities embedded into the event and utilization of adult learning techniques.  We strongly believe customers should be active participants in the learning process. We aim to create events that fully engage all types of learning styles through the use of audio, visual, kinesthetic, and social interactions.

For distance learning, we follow a particular process. Each distance learning event is peer-reviewed and offers continuing education credit.  We complete a series of forms and each has a syllabus and outline that is kept on file.  We also document the relevance of each topic for the field through a needs assessment — this is based on request — survey results, end of course evaluations, or through local/state/federal requirements.  All of our learning events are designed to meet best practices, impart practical, useful knowledge which can be applied immediately.

If your organization uses webinars for continuing education, or even internal training, it helps to follow a proven formula. To that end, here is a brief checklist to keep in mind when establishing and maintaining a continuing education curriculum:

  • Specify an overarching goal for your lessons (e.g., earned credits or certificates) and break down what professionals will need to know to earn that goal
  • Draft each of your lessons
  • Send your lessons for peer-review (this can be a peer or superior from your company or a consultant)
  • Refine based on feedback and publish your series
  • Within your series, incorporate polls and surveys on topic relevancy
  • Include an end-of-course evaluation
  • Assess feedback and incorporate for your next course iteration

Understand your virtual audience through their digital body language

This post was originally published on

As marketers, we’re in the business of understanding behavior and what makes people buy things. But in the age of technology, when we can communicate seamlessly with anyone, anywhere with an internet connection, crucial elements still get lost in translation.

It’s somewhat absurd that with the rise of digital, we’ve actually masked a lot of the behavioral signals that help us piece together the person behind the action.

Sure, someone clicked, but do you know why? And how should you engage them next, since customer engagement drives purchase decisions?

Your prospective customers aren’t necessarily saying anything to you verbally like you’d hear a loved one or a boss. So, we’re left to sift through click-through rates, time spent on web pages and drop-off times on videos. But, it’s vital that we decipher what our customers are trying to tell us online, just as we would in an in-person conversation.

Despite their seeming silence, customers are continually giving off signals about their mindset through their behavior during their engagement with your assets — powerful signals I like to call “digital body language.”

How Best Buy is using its insights

In recent months, for example, Best Buy realized their special sauce was the in-person conversation — the interaction people have in-store with the “blue shirts,” the employees wearing the well-known bright blue polo shirts. So Best Buy exploited this point of differentiation in its most recent ad campaign.

Recently, Best Buy Chief Marketing Officer Whit Alexander said:

Telling the story of our people — and how we make a meaningful impact on customers’ lives — is at the heart of this work,”  “The core of what differentiates Best Buy vs. everyone else — and makes us awesome for customers — is that we understand your unique needs and how tech can enhance your life.

There are nuances to the process of buying electronics, especially big-ticket items, and an online description frequently doesn’t meet shoppers’ needs. That’s why Best Buy has shifted its focus to make its business model all about reading and engaging their customers.

One 30 second spot, for example, shows an employee helping a customer choose a refrigerator — a purchase decision based specifically on fingerprint-resistance.

This is a powerful lesson for B2B companies to apply to our own marketing — we need to create an environment online that mirrors the showroom experience, where we can take cues from prospective customers.

Reading buyer’s digital body language

So you’ve got all these metrics on your prospective buyers, but the difficulty lies in deciphering what their actions actually mean. Your data should provide intelligence into how to approach each customer.

Here are some general guidelines about how to interpret and act on your prospect’s online behavior:

Multiple visits to your website or content
This is the equivalent of bumping into someone a few times and making small talk. You’re not quite friends, but you are acquaintances and know a few things about each other. These buyers are aware of your product and offerings, but may not know much about them.

It’s best to engage them with introductory content, and not get too into the weeds too fast. If you have a sense of what industry they work in, you should tailor your content based on those insights. Keep these pieces of content on the short side, so you don’t lose their attention.

Above average time spent on your website or content
You’ve captured someone’s attention, for whatever reason. This is a person leaning into a conversation. While they may still be unfamiliar with your product and offerings, a person who is spending longer than average perusing your content is engaged.

These prospects are deeper into the evaluation process, and, while they may not fully understand your offerings, they’re more willing to commit to longer forms of content because they are engaged. You should market to them accordingly.

Answering your surveys or questions embedded on your web pages or in your content
These are prospects who are actively engaging with you and carrying on a conversation. They likely understand your offerings more than most, and ant specific information on how they can apply your solutions to their specific industry or role.

These people want to buy your solution, but are doing their due diligence and need that final reassurance they’re making the right decision. It’s your job as a marketer to provide information that’s tailored to taking them across the finish line, from prospect to customer.

Understanding why people are engaged

We’re all looking to try to find prospects and capture their attention. And no metric is foolproof.

Someone might have visited your content and started a video, and then left it running on another tab without paying any attention to it. Or they may have watched for a while, but spent the majority of the time rolling their eyes. That’s why it’s vital to engage with your prospects throughout — whether by conducting surveys or asking questions when they arrive on web pages through platforms that offer such functionality.

Identifying engagement involve a lot more trial and error than most marketers like to admit, and we can accept that. What we shouldn’t accept is a failure to do the analysis after the fact to understand how and why we captured a buyer’s attention. The signals are out there, even in the digital world. It’s up to us to find them, learn from them and replicate our successes for future marketing campaigns.

No matter your approach, it’s vital to respect your audience at every step of the sales process. Today’s noisy and competitive marketing landscape makes it virtually impossible to go without an outbound marketing strategy. But you must take care to avoid simply adding to the noise.

The way you’ll truly resonate with your potential customers by being in tune with their digital body language, reading their digital cues and responding accordingly, just as you would face to face.

CMO Confessions Ep. 7, Sam MeInick

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of CMO Confessions. It’s been a busy few weeks, but we have a double-whammy for you to tune into to make up for it.

First, we have Sam Melnick, VP of marketing at Allocadia. Sam is a seasoned marketing pro who approaches his field with an eye on statistics, a la sabermetrics, and a deep understanding of how to measure ROI. Sam’s insights into how marketers measure success are remarkable — not the least of which is because we both hail from Boston.

You can find Sam and his latest insights on his Twitter feed, @SamMelnick.

Finally, if you’re interested in listening to our growing podcast series, you can find all of our episodes right here in podbean. Alternatively, you can also find us on both iTunes and Google Play stores.

Later this week, we’ll have Sara Gonzalez of Simple on to discuss how she approaches marketing in Australia and APAC in general. It’s another great episode and I highly recommend you tune in.

Without further ado, welcome to CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.


Joe Hyland:

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO confessions, a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast that explores what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24, and this week I am psyched to have a fellow Bostonian, Sam Melnick, VP of marketing at Allocadia, on. Sam, how’s it going?

Sam Melnick:

I’m doing well. Thanks for having me. It’s always great to reconnect with the East Coast. Allocadia is a West Coast company, we’re based out of Vancouver, and I’ve got a Slack channel that’s called East Coast, Beast Coast. So, you’d be a member if you if you’re ever on our Slack channel, all right?

Joe Hyland:

I like it, thank you. Yeah, no people. Some friends of mine, rightly so, give me shit that the only Boston thing about me now is my six-one-seven area code and otherwise I’ve converted so. But at heart, I’m still a Boston dude.

Sam Melnick:

Well, there you go. As long as you got the six-one-seven will keep you.

Joe Hyland:

I will literally have that for the rest of my life until Verizon forces a regional area code.

Well, listen, I’m as I said, I’m psyched and thankful that you’re taking the time to be with me and our audience today. You’ve got some cool experience. I love you’ve been doing this stuff for well over a decade. I’d love to get your take on how you got to where you are today because I think — and I’ll start there — because I think it’s interesting that there’s not a one-size-fits-all path or approach to leading marketing and I think your approach and your path is actually pretty cool. So, you want to give us a couple minutes on that?

Sam Melnick:

Yeah, sure, absolutely. I wouldn’t quite call myself an accidental head of marketing, but I certainly didn’t start off my career being like, “I’m gonna be a VP of marketing or CMO.” I actually went to school, at UMass Amherst for sport management and I was supposed to be the next Theo Epstein. I actually started my career off running a small baseball team and working for a sport marketing agency.

I eventually found my way into tech, where I worked in marketing at a start-up — a 30-person start up in Boston. But then I pivoted over to an analyst role at IDC in a group called the CMO advisory service. So, we worked with large marketing organizations or large companies at large tech companies. So, like IBM, Dell, Cisco — all those types of companies were customers of ours. And we covered the marketing operation space and worked with CMOs on how they design their organization and where they spend their dollars and their resources.

And that was, you know, — analyst was an amazing experience because you get to talk with all of these people who have so much more experience than you and different experiences — I’ve seen so much scale — but you get to learn from 20, 30, 40 people on how they’re taking on marketing. And that kind of that’s slung-shot me into the MarTech space, because I started hearing about all these cool Technologies — you know, the ON24s the allocate of the world and I started creating a list of different interesting MarTech SaaS companies because I saw this growing. Like, I would, tweet back and forth with Scott Brinker before anyone knows who Scott Brinker was. Like, I saw this Market growing and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I was a believer that SaaS technologies were going to be the differentiator and so I ended up at lattice engines and a customer-facing world.

So, Lattice is a predictive marketing organization — it’s customer-facing which, again, was amazing to learn from all these great marketers. But I missed marketing. I was kind of moonlighting as a product marketer and an analyst. I had written some content. I was doing sales enablement. I was kind of doing like a bunch of marketing stuff.

So, I decided I want to get back into marketing. Went to Allocadia. I got this opportunity to we called IT Director of Customer Marketing Insights. So, it was kind of part marketer, part analyst, part customer-facing kind of SME, subject matter expert.

Joe Hyland:

That’s cool. That’s a nice bridge, too.

Sam Melnick:

Yeah, and then they I guess I did a good enough job and they offered me an opportunity to run the marketing team, and I said, “Yeah, let’s try that out.” And now I’ve been in that role for almost 18 months now and it’s been a lot of fun building out a team and learning something new here as well.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, you’ve given up the dream of running a baseball team one day or is that maybe act two after the B2B marketing world?

Sam Melnick:

Maybe act two. You know, the baseball team stuff was fun, but, I mean, I don’t know — as weird as it sounds the tech industry and marketing is almost as interesting to me now. I guess I’m a full-fledged marketing nerd.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, you got to be a geek to love this stuff. Well, I think it’s interesting that — and we’ll talk about that — because maybe you don’t have to be a geek to love this stuff.

I think there’s an interesting comparison and, perhaps it’s somewhat analogous, on what’s happened in — and I say past tense, but it’s still happening in in baseball and other sports — with the Money Ball movement and really looking at the right metrics. And I think for literally decades or upwards of a century the wrong analytics was being applied to the wrong areas, or   the wrong metrics.

I think that’s happened in the B2B marketing space. And I think the Geeks are coming and, maybe, the Geeks are here. But what kind of points of comparison did you see from your time on the baseball side to what’s happening in marketing with attribution and analytics and kind of you name it?

Sam Melnick:

Yeah, no, I think it’s a really good comparison. I think it started off in a niche, to a certain extent. And not just B2B Tech, in particular, but in general, in B2B, you saw that early days, with the adopters of the Eloquas or the Marketos, they knew they needed to automate, they need knew they needed in different sorts of data. That’s when you really saw these in-depth funnel and funnel metrics and then it’s just grown. I mean, there’s been an industry that’s been almost built around, you know, Salesforce, Marketo, Eloqua — to a lesser extent, the Pardots of the world and it’s created this opportunity for a bunch of cool companies. But, more importantly, technologies that help marketers’ jobs better and serve their customers better and get the data to answer those questions.

Joe Hyland:

I think it’s interesting — one, I mean a lot of these metrics, I’ll pick on MQLs for a moment, a lot of these metrics are pretty easy to manipulate, right? Like, I think, for the longest time, marketers have been measured on something that doesn’t necessarily correlate to the end goal that you should have in mind, at least if it’s a Demand Gen use-case. An MQL would be a good example of that, right? If your marketing team is solely incented upon MQLs, there are pretty easy ways to artificially jack up the number of MQLs coming in the door. And I think that’s a little bit of a poor man’s approach to having true marketing attribution driven approach.

I’d love to hear your perspective on companies focusing on the wrong thing because I think the waterfall metrics and some of the companies you just referenced helped move the ball forward, but I also think it allowed people to focus on some of the wrong areas.

Sam Melnick:

For sure, and I think it’s you know, you asked about the comparison against sabermetrics, and I think in a similar sense you saw better Baseball analytic metrics come out, but they still weren’t like…

Joe Hyland:

Let’s geek out, like you go there…

Sam Melnick:

You want me to geek out? Okay, OPS, for baseball, was a very, basically, it’s on-base percentage, plus batting average, plus slugging percentage was one of the earlier days, kind of sabermetrics, but it really didn’t answer all the questions. And then later you started seeing stuff like wins above replacement come out. Which was more all-inclusive of how strong was that player. Whereas, in B2B marketing, you start with an MQL. An MQL is a hell of a lot better than how many website visitors ya get or, even worse — how many advertisements or how many PR press releases we want out — but it still isn’t closing that loop which, is more pipeline, revenue. That’s a I think that’s a pretty great comparison there — progress but not perfection.

Joe Hyland:

Do you think do you think the war for B2B marketing is pipeline? I mean, what is the wins above replacement metric for us?

Sam Melnick:

I think that’s a tough one because people want to focus in on revenue and pipeline and you have to be there. I’d say that’s the table stakes at this point — being able to measure at the very least pipeline and B2B marketing and marketing’s contribution and influence to that — it’s table stakes. But to say that’s the end-all be-all kinda of sells ourselves, as marketers, short. Because there’s so much more that goes into marketing and, unfortunately, you can’t tie a one-to-one comparison against it. Sometimes it’s because sales reps do a mediocre — I’m being kind — job of filling out contact roles in Salesforce and other times it’s a brand campaign that you’re not able to tie directly. So…

Joe Hyland:


Sam Melnick:

…it’s a tough question to say, what is the war for B2B marketing, but it’s not pipeline and revenue.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that’s interesting. I think you raise an incredibly valid point is — I’m trying to think of a good sports analogy since around the baseball topic and one is not coming to mind — it is incredibly important metric. But, I think, an area of the business and, for us, we’re laser-focused on growth, so if my CEO, who has an office right next to me, were sitting in the room he probably would correct this statement — but yeah, it’s not just pipeline. Should marketing own customer experience? It’s very, we just we had a team meeting this morning and we were presenting out results for the quarter, and a major effort is underway to increase our brand and improve our brand. And there are ways to measure that, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of them are more qualitative, right?

So, there are important components outside of demand gen, for sure, what we did here and — for what it’s worth — is, when I got here — so I’ve been here for three years — there was a whole bunch of bullshit on marketing pointing at sales. Like, they’re not following up in the leads or not properly same thing back to marketing like, it’s not high enough quality. There were lots of excuses on both sides. And so, the head of sales and I got together, and I said, “How about I, slash marketing, we just own all just, so it will get the garbage out.” I don’t care where it’s coming from — we obviously care in terms of optimizing spend very much — but, you know, I’ll present it in the board and that way we’re aligned. I don’t know maybe that’s stupid of me, but that that’s how we do it here.

Sam Melnick:

No, I mean, we’ve had a couple of sales leaders through my time across different companies, for sure. And, right now, we’ve got probably the strongest sales and marketing alignment that I’ve seen, and it makes a difference. Because you’re focusing. We did a presentation at SiriusDecisions Summit with box and their mark one of their marketing operations leads. And what he said — Tim West is name — and what he said was for them, it was about — instead of arguing over the pieces of the pie — it was about growing the pie. And that’s where we want to get to with sales. How do you grow it? And give them credit?  Like, fine, it’s your credit, but as long as it’s growing, we’re all good, you know? Growing at the right rate.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, all boats can rise. That was the situation when I got here — we weren’t where we needed to be and instead of the discussion focused on how to solve that, I had my head of demand gen fighting with our North America head of sales on who should get credit for a deal that just came in. And it was like, “Who gives a shit? We’re not where we need to be — isn’t that the bigger challenge?” Okay, what you want to dive into —I think it’s great, there’s nothing more important than making sure we’re measuring the right things — but I would say, maybe two or three steps before that, is putting in place the proper foundation and in-fact having a rock-solid planning process. How do you how do you view that world? And how to you how do you either keep yourself or help keep other marketers out of the world of just having a whole bunch of tactics listed and they say, “Well there’s my strategy, I’m good, right?”

Sam Melnick:

I think it’s important because like they actually feed into each other. We’ve been talking at Allocadia a lot about planning. Part of it is where our product helps marketers, but it’s also that it’s that time of the year for large B2B companies — if you’re on a fiscal year calendar — you’re just coming into planning season. Because, typically, those multi-million, certainly billion-dollar companies they start their strategic planning and setting those plans in place six months in advance. And 60 to 70 percent of companies are on a fiscal year calendar or calendar fiscal.

And how I like to say it, and how we’re saying it, is, “It all starts with the plan.” You know? Your metrics starts with the plan because you’re setting up your data, you’re setting up what you’re going to achieve, you’re setting up how you’re going to measure it. If you just say, “All right, if we execute, execute, execute.” And say alright, “We want to measure these things.”

There’s no guarantee that your data has been set up correctly. There’s no guarantee that you’ve been putting your resources and efforts and your plan towards it. So, everything from metrics to data to certainly strategy and where you’re putting your activities, it starts with the plan and getting that down wherever it is and getting it bought in and online up, down, across.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. I’m curious to know your thoughts on the — I haven’t heard this said this way — but the death of the brief. Are you seeing companies being as diligent in their planning process and ensuring that they’re doing proper campaign briefs at the start? And then, on the on the other side, actually going through and having a post mortem.

Sam Melnick:

No, I mean, have you ever seen companies be really diligent on that? Do you have examples of that? They all say they do.

Joe Hyland:

I know, that’s right — I feel like in this world, where so much of marketing is coming down to pipeline and results — I’m seeing a we got to get shit done mindset, which is great. But to quote-unquote “get shit done,” they’re just cutting out the planning process. So, is that really a good idea? Yeah, no — it’s a problem.

Sam Melnick:

I agree and my team — and certainly we’re not the, you know, we’re not some of these huge companies that I used to work with that IDC and all those — but, like, we’re not perfect by any means. But we have, you talked about briefed — you kind of just tweaked me — my demand gen lead has put in a great process where she actually goes through each of the programs, shows the metrics, shows what was the positive and negative — and then we as a team, at least, pull out a few of them and do kind of a verbal brief, “This is what work this is what this is what we do different.”

It’s certainly not like a formal brief — you know, in this perfect world — but we’ve been doing that for the last few quarters and it’s really helpful because it helps us optimize and adjust and that’s really what you want. It’s like, “How do I do better next time?”

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I’m a big believer that many things in life are spectrum and it’s easy to it’s easy to treat things in a binary fashion, right? Like it’s a one or a zero and so often life is lived in the in the gray not the black and white.

It’s interesting on this concept if you applied that to what it’s like for a two-person shop should they be doing a brief? Like, should they be doing a post-mortem? Do they have the luxury of doing that? Although, on the other side of the spectrum is — IBM or SAP or Microsoft, right— where literally nothing gets out the door if it doesn’t have a brief — and probably takes months and months and months.

Are there happy mediums along the way for companies of different sizes? Because when I was back East at Kronos, and we weren’t necessarily a huge company, but we had I don’t know 150, 175 people in marketing — literally nothing got out the door without going through a proper briefing process.

Our planning was rock-tight or airtight, excuse me, and we did many post-mortems after the fact. But, you’re right a multi-month brief process, I mean, that wouldn’t that wouldn’t fly here at ON24. I would be shocked if it would for you, but something’s got to be done.

Sam Melnick:

I think it does depend and I think it’s the right balance, like we. We say run it, well, we say there’s two sides of marketing: there’s running marketing and doing marking — doing is the execution and running is like the strategy and the planning behind the scenes — and there’s a certain point where you do need to put the efforts into the running of marketing. So, that’s the briefs, that’s the planning, that’s the measurement.

But the reality is that there is this kind of focus of execution and the fewer resources you have, probably the more nimble you can be and spend more of your time on the doing. Partially because of necessity and partially just because it’s easier to walk up to somebody who’s right next to you in the cube or office. Whereas, at a 150 to 200-person marketing team, you don’t want to be spending quarter million bucks, half a million dollars on a campaign without some checks and balances. And then making sure that you’ve actually put in the right, I guess, effort into the running part.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, no, you’re right. At Kronos, like at an enormous company. We were split across multiple buildings in in Chelmsford, never mind our International presence, right? So yeah, sending a slack to the dude sitting right next to you — it wasn’t that simple.

Sam Melnick:

Yeah, it’s also like you’re talking about multiple regions, product lines, and it’s like, there has to be some way — whether it’s a brief there’s technology — like that’s kind of, you know, an Allocadia or different marketing performance management software systems. Or, you know, EPM-type solutions that are coming out — I think was an Adaptive Insights that just got bought by workday?

Joe Hyland:

Yeah,1.5 billion-dollar price tag.

Sam Melnick:

Yeah, not bad. So obviously there’s some sort of interest in planning at the enterprise level. You know, there’s got to be ways to make sure an organization documents, and is making decisions, in a smart way. So, I don’t know I don’t have the perfect answer for it for sure.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, no, I don’t think there is a perfect answer — what I find what I find interesting is — I think it’s particularly worse out here in the Bay Area. So, I think five or 10 years ago, a slippery slope for marketers would be confusing tactics with strategy — or doing with running as you would say, right? So, you’d say just ask them about their marketing strategy and they would list off “Like, I’m going to this event, I’m going to this conference we’re doing this, email drop.” You name it.

And it was a whole bunch of tactics and lacked like a clear cohesive strategy. What I’m seeing now more of — and I will admit this as a technologist —is marketers just listing a whole bunch of technology. So, it’s like if one more person tells me that their strategy is account-based marketing, because they’ve turned on — you name it — DemandBase or one of the host of other ABM platforms, which is great, that’s not a strategy.

And I would say the same thing for webinars. Your strategy shouldn’t be webinars — it’s like, well, how are you planning on segmenting your database? What’s the real goal in mind? You know, what’s the best form to communicate with folks? Like how are you measuring it? I think it’s a problem for marketers.

Sam Melnick:

I totally agree. There’s someone I know in a marketing team and they said, “We’re gonna buy XYZ technology that’s ABM — it’s gonna change the way our business runs.” No, that’s not — I mean, it could help — but the technology… And you know, again, we’re a marketing technology company. I’ve worked for a couple of them and I’m a huge believer. I want MarTech and Technology can do for marketing organizations— but if the right foundation and thought process and kind of surround — the people, process, technology. If you can’t just do it with technology have to do it with process.

Joe Hyland:


Sam Melnick:

…People as well.

Joe Hyland:

Yes. That’s right. And we are believers in personalization here at ON24 — which, for me, ABM is just a subset of that. But yeah, that requires a commitment. That requires a lot of content, for example. It requires a pretty sophisticated view on segmentation. Buying any technology and just assuming it will it will solve your woes — that’s a Fool’s errand, right? Like, it’s not going to go well, which is why I think you go back to having a fantastic foundation a real process and strategy in place. And then, from there, I think that you plug in the tactics and the appropriate technologies and you can be off to the Races.

But yeah, having this get-shit-done mindset with just tactics and a plug-in a whole bunch of tech solutions — I think just leads marketers to be more and more frustrated.

Sam Melnick:

Great, yeah. No, I agree.

Joe Hyland: Great. Yeah, exactly. I think we beat that that horse dead.

I actually just had a conversation with a CMO that I’m friends with down and Sydney, Sara Gonzales, at Simple.

Sam Melnick:


Joe Hyland:

I don’t know if you know Sarah and Simple, but an interesting discussion happened when I was down in Sydney. All these marketers kept asking me — we had a conference down there about a month ago, “I know we’re not as sophisticated, Down Under, and I know we’re not using technology and advanced ways,” which I found really interesting because I didn’t think it was true. I think, for the longest time, U.S. marketers have kind of assumed that APAC is very much behind the United States in terms of marketing maturity. I do that long setup because I think the same thing happens — it’s not just for marketers, it’s technology in general — with the West Coast to East Coast. Like, there’s a lot of East Coast bias with media and kind of a host of other things where the East Coast is the center of gravity. But for tech companies you would be amazed at how snobby we are.

We look at the East Coast, and in particular, Boston, as if there’s HubSpot and maybe two other tech companies. And I know you guys are, in fact, headquartered on the West Coast, but you started MarTech in The Hub, right? I’d love to get your take on what it’s like being a technologist in Boston.

Sam Melnick:

Yeah, MarTech in the Hub kind of started off the marketing, MarTech conference that Scott Brinker ran. A few of us, we get a bunch of marketing and marketing technology folks together about once a quarter. So, you know, I’ve worked for companies in the valley and it’s certainly a bigger ecosystem. But Boston, I’d say Boston has a very strong — like it’s there. Talent-wise and maturity-wise, would I put The Valley leaps and bounds ahead of Boston? Probably not. There’s just a lot more people and that kind of gets the flywheel rolling. I’d say Boston, what it has, is it’s kind of got a longer — I mean — it’s almost got a longer role for things. Like, people are not — they’re more conservative — they go back to their Puritan roots, you know? A little bit more conservative. But like really strong, community — particularly in B2B tech. Particularly, deep tech. Like, you think about like an EMC or think about what it was like 30-40 years ago. You’ve got digital equipment. You’ve got —

Joe Hyland:

You name it, like Stratus Technologies. There’s a there’s a lot a lot of good tech companies in Boston.

Sam Melnick:

And to a fault, there’s probably also a bit too much of Academia. Because you’ve got Harvard and MIT and you got, you know, Babson has Olin College down there — which is engineering only. And Boston’s a small city, you go up to the valley: you’ve got San Francisco and then you’ve got San Jose and then there’s everything in between — and it’s just a lot more spread out. Whereas in Boston it’s all in one place and everybody’s around there and it’s — yeah.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, I think your comments on. I think it’s full of shit, a lot of it is — not your comments, but [laughter] you’re full of shit —

Sam Melnick:

It’s alright, you can call me out.

Joe Hyland:

I think there’s a notion that there’s more talent out here — and maybe I’m showing my six-one-seven area code bias here — I don’t know, it’s silly. When I got out here, some of my peers were like, “I don’t know any of the stuff you’re doing.” This was at Talia, my last company. “It’s really bold, it’s really loud. Like, I think, maybe, it’s too much.” And I was like, “I don’t know, I mean just where I’m from, the East Coast, we’re a little louder.” I don’t know there’s more people out here — I mean, San Francisco, people think it’s bigger than it is, there’s only six or seven hundred thousand people — San Jose three million, right? So, I mean there’s yeah there’s a lot of people in between you know.

Sam Melnick:

I think that it’s there’s a lot of people in Tech. There’s just so many — like, you drive up the one-oh-one and you’re just like, “Oh, tech company, tech company. Boston has a lot of tech, but like, there’s biotech there’s pharma there’s — I think Harvard is the largest employer in Cambridge, which is the biggest city next to Boston.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, you’re right. There’re literally thousands of tech companies. It’d be interesting — you were referencing Scott Brinkner before — MarTech 5,000, which I think is now over 6,000. I don’t know he’s not doing it anymore, right? I don’t know it’d be interesting to see how many of those companies are out here. And a lot of those companies will fail. A lot. I mean, the market isn’t large enough to support five to six thousand companies for B2B marketing. I don’t know what the right number is. Actually, that’s a good point. I’m curious to — after I shit on the area that I live in now — I’m curious to get your take as to who this “Survivors” will be — not by company name, of course. Are there certain qualities or characteristics that will determine who will survive in this kind of Darwinian ecosystem that we live in?

Sam Melnick:

Well, the two companies that come to mind that’ll survive are ON24 and Allocadia, so I’ll start there.

Joe Hyland:

Obviously, that’s tip of the pyramid.

Sam Melnick:

Actually, that’s a really good question and I’ve got this blog post that I need to write about it.  My comment is just two kinds of — when I think about particularly data in MarTech — there are two kinds of marketing SaaS companies. There are those that are creating data — basically a new data source that can be utilized whether you know different ways that you can’t elsewhere — then there’s those that are kind of manipulating data and using data from external sources, and you talked about attribution, building models or predictive, you know. And those companies are not — I don’t think — are going to ever live as stand-alone because, essentially, they’re a part of an ecosystem. They’re using data from elsewhere. They’re tying into other Technologies. But if you didn’t have those other touch-points, they don’t exist, you know?

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that’s a good point.

Sam Melnick:

So, if you have a technology that can sit on its own, create its own data — it might be much less valuable without the connections — but it still can provide value. So, that’s something that I look for in terms of that ability of what’s going to come out.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah, that’s a very interesting point. I’d add to it that I think — and it’s like great marketing, you need to know your audience inside and out and understand how you solve their problems and if you’re doing anything but that you’re probably missing the mark — great marketing is about finding ways to help marketers engage. I mean, it is all about engagement. And I think in this new world order that we that we live and play in, it’s about providing insights into what works and how you can be smarter, and smarter, and smarter, and smarter.

So, my sense is, and all jokes aside, companies that focus on those two areas when — let’s say something happens in the economy and dollars are squeezed — if you’re helping marketers be more engaging and you’re helping provide insights, I think you’ll stay in the market Tech stack. So, that’s my perspective. So yeah, maybe Allocadia and ON24 will be okay.

Sam Melnick:

Okay. There you go. Let’s hope so. Knock on wood, at least.

Joe Hyland:

Okay, with that, I think our half hour is up. Sam, I want to thank you so much. This was fantastic, and I will talk to everyone on our next episode of CMO confessions. Thanks so much, man.

Sam Melnick:

Awesome. Well, thanks for having me it was a blast.

Summer Reading: How Webinars Help Drive Pipeline

For today’s marketers, generating leads is the name of the game. Make more leads, get more money. Sadly, identifying quality prospects — those sales can turn into revenue — isn’t easy. As marketers, we need to look beyond measuring the potential for pipeline and move towards measuring results for pipeline.

So, how does this work? Well, we Mark Bornstein lays it out on track three of our Summer Playlist, but we can also summarize the main points here.

Conceptually, it’s straightforward. Take a look at all of your marketing tactics and analyze conversions by percentage of market-qualified leads. Then, focus your efforts and exploit the tactics that work.

Microsoft, for example, analyzed its methods and found webinars converted leads — attendees to buyers — at a high rate (7.2 percent). It doubled-down on its webinar efforts, going from 200 to more than 4,000 webinars per year — and netted SiruisDecisions’ 2016 ROI Award in the process.

So what are the basics of using webinars to drive pipeline?

First, webinars need to drive movement across the entire buying cycle — not just top. That means you’ll need to develop thought leadership webinars, company and product positioning webinars, case studies, validation and, of course, demonstration webinars to offer your prospects a full picture of what your organization has to offer.

Keep in mind the tone needed for each stage. Top-of-funnel events, like thought leadership webinars, should remain high-level and avoid being too “pitchy.” Similarly, bottom-of-funnel events should address specific pain points attendees are experiencing and demonstrate what your solution can accomplish for them.

The second step in getting webinars to drive pipeline is to increase the number of content touches in each webinar event. Creating these opportunities is advantageous in and of itself — it makes your webinars more interactive (by having your presenter point out where visitors can go for more information), and it gives you the opportunity to audit your content.

Still, you’ll want to make your content available in a webinar for one key reason: to let your audience members choose their own buyer’s journey experience. By enabling attendees to decide which steps they want to take, whether be it downloading content, registering for a demo, contacting a salesperson, or simply looking up the presenter’s biography, you provide your prospects with the subtle tools to indicate where they are on the buyer’s map, what stage and how likely they are to convert.

Just remember: more content means more opportunity for engagement and potentially more qualified leads.

The third step in using webinars to drive pipeline is to take a closer look at lead scoring. By examining how an attendee engages with a webinar — by asking questions, downloading content, answering polls and surveys and more — you can get a clearer understanding of where the attendee is on the buying cycle as well as the likelihood of future engagement and if they’re a good fit for a potential buyer.

Engagement scoring through webinars is a great way to break out leads across different tiers as well. For example, the most engaged leads can be matched with an account executive while the least engaged leads can be given nature material — saving your sales team time and effort. The point is, by measuring webinar engagement, you can better break out leads by quality and give them the appropriate amount of care and attention.

The final step for driving pipeline is handing off to sales. With right marketing systems in place, complete with engagement analysis, webinars can provide your sales teams with the critical contextual information they need to make a quality call with a lead. For example, if the lead asked a question during a webinar, a sales rep could provide them with additional content or offer a direct answer to their problem. They could also reference the content of the webinar to continue the conversation with a lead and, hopefully, bring in a close.

Webinars make it easy to drive pipeline. All you have to do create, provide, articulate and follow up on the content you’ve already created.

Speaking of which, we have some more material for you to peruse. It’s our Summer Reading list inspired by track three of our Summer Playlist. Take a look:

  1. Using Big Marketing Event Ideas to Drive Pipeline
  2. It’s Time for Marketing to take on Revenue Responsibility
  3. How Genesys scaled its global webinar program with ON24
  4. Lead Intelligence: A Better Model for Lead Gen
  5. How Microsoft creates world-class, ROI-driven webinar programs

Summer Reading: 5 Tips for generating must-see webinars

The Summer Playlist series is smoldering hot and well underway. To accompany today’s best webinar tracks, we’ve put together a summer reading list for you to peruse at your pleasure.

So, go ahead and brush up on program planning basics, browse demand-gen tactics, consume some engagement-focused content. Our summer reading list is produced for your leisure.

Our first summer reading list, based on today’s event, “Creating Must-See Webinars: How to Attract, Engage and Retain your Audience,” covers, well, how to attract, engage and retain audience members.

It’s not as easy as it sounds! As Jeremy Collins, BrightEdge’s Director of Digital Marketing can attest, building and maintaining an audience is a full-time job. But there are a few tricks and tips to you can deploy for great effect.

Build out your personas

It’s no secret personas are critical marketing tools, but using them as a master resource for a webinar program is essential. Design events and programs catering to the needs of your profiles for a structured approach to your events. But don’t forget to do your persona research as well.

Promote where your audience is

Some audiences prefer different digital locales — whether that’s social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn or forums like Reddit or SpiceWorks. Research where your personas go — even if it’s only as far as Google — and cater your event’s titles, SEO and ads to appeal to that environment.

Get buy-in from your experts

Talk with your resident experts — whether they’re on the product, sales or executive teams — and get their feedback on your program and buy-in. The more you help your audience with your experts, the more your trust your brand builds — and repeat viewers.

Email isn’t dead

Good email is never dead, but bad email always is. One of the best sources for pulling in webinar attendees is in the inbox — so long as you cater your message to match the recipient’s persona. When you announce an event relevant to a well-defined persona, audiences respond.

Play the long game

On-demand webinars are in demand. One of BrightEdge’s key tactics is to use on-demand webinars to continue generating leads long after a live event is over. In fact, Steve Winchester, CMO of Rego Consulting, found his team’s live and on-demand webinars perform on near-peer levels — roughly 1,500 live attendees to 1,200 on-demand attendees.

Right. So you have your webinar tips and your Summer Playlist track. Now, it’s time for the reading list. Take a gander at your first webinar reading assignment for the summer:

    1. How to Build a Killer Webinar Presentation
    2. See How Twilio Boosts Webinar Attendance with Facebook and an On-Demand Strategy
    3. How to improve audience participation in your webinar
    4. Three Things Your Audience Wants from Your Webinar