CMO Confessions EP. 1: Heinz Marketing’s Matt Heinz

Last week we ran a small campaign over our social media channels poking fun at brands that get a little too excited about April Fools’ Day. The point was to call out bad marketing habits and to promote the idea that — as B2B leaders — we should talking about these compulsions openly. It also, and this might be a little more honest and to the point, was to promote our new podcast, CMO Confessions*.

The aim of CMO Confessions is to explore what it really means to be a leader in today’s business world. It can be confusing and, at times, downright unpleasant. The advantage we have today is that we can share our experiences and advice with millions of people at the click of a button.

For our inaugural episode of CMO Confessions I talked to President and Founder of Heinz Marketing, Matt Heinz. We had a great talk about how marketers can build out a predictable pipeline, why we think account-based marketing is experiencing a resurgence and why, in our opinions, CMOs ought to own revenue responsibility. You can find a link to that episode right here.

Additionally, you can read our transcript of the whole episode after the jump for your own notes. Just in case you wanted to double-check something you heard.

So, without further ado, welcome to CMO Confessions. Let’s talk.

*Was that bait and switch a bad habit? Sure was. But, as I said, we all have our weaknesses — we ought to at least air them.

The Transcript:

Joe Hyland: Hello and welcome to the very first 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, Chief Marketing Officer here at ON24 and joining me on our first — our maiden voyage — is Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing out in Redmond, Washington.

Matt, welcome to the show.

Matt Heinz: Hey, Joe. Thanks very much for having me.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, this is fantastic. You have a wealth of experience. You’ve been doing this for a couple decades as a practitioner before you started your own shop. I’ve heard you speak on numerous occasions. We’re fortunate to have you coming to Webinar World in a couple weeks, and you’re going to be presenting on the main stage, but your career is essentially centered around helping organizations drive measurable results, greater sales revenue with marketing that produces results.

Matt Heinz: Yeah, I think one of our VPs has said “You can’t buy a beer with a Marketing Qualified Lead.” So, as important as MQLs are, you know, it’s not the be-all end-all. So, helping companies build revenue-centric, predictable pipelines — that’s our jam. And so that’s what we spend time doing.

Joe Hyland:  Yeah, that’s the fun side of marketing, right? And, it’s funny, you see companies get themselves in trouble, or departments get themselves in trouble, when it turns into this pissing match between marketing and sales on what’s qualified, what’s not, versus what’s actually driving results.

Matt Heinz: I think, you know — as a lifelong marketer — when it comes to that alignment between sales and marketing, I’ll be the first to say this is marketing’s fault, right? I mean, sales by definition owns a number, and so when sales is grinding it out of the end of the month and the end of the quarter,  trying to hit their number, and us marketers, we’re down at the bars celebrating that we hit our retweet goal, like, there’s something wrong with that picture. And I wish that was just a joke — that’s a real story from a client a couple years ago.

So, there’s a significant amount of misalignment. I think that if you can migrate the culture of marketing to be to act more like a profit-center, to be more revenue responsible — sometimes that means different focus areas different actions different priorities — but I think that is that clearly the future of B2B marketing.

It doesn’t mean everything you do is going to be attributable to pipeline, but it means you have to have that orientation that what you are doing has to have revenue and sales responsibilities at the end of the day.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I think sports analogies are often forced, but I think there should be one metric that determines victory — and we’ll talk about growth in a couple minutes — but, for me, I feel that it is revenue and on the sales side it’s new bookings. So, on our marketing team, our north star is our annual sales target, and then we work backwards, right? There was a lot of things that lead to that — so there were upstream indicators — but we talk revenue, we talk new bookings, and then we immediately go to pipeline.

Then we get to the social components and how much content is required, like cool things like this. I think we do them because they drive results, but does this have a pipeline target on it? And, I mean, that’s silly, but the end of the day I think you got to combine the two.

Matt Heinz: You do, and I think there is there is a separation between what I would call, sort of, your operational dashboard and your executive dashboard. You know, if you’re going up to the c-suite, if you’re going to your peers and communicating what marketing did, you don’t want that report to be full of open rates and click rates, and retweets.

I mean, … having access to an audience and having the attention of an audience are two different things. And you’re not going to build pipeline if you don’t have the attention and engagement of the people that you care about. So, there’s plenty of work that goes into building attention and building that engagement that is not a straight line to revenue, but is a required predecessor to building that pipeline.

That’s a bunch of detail that — on a weekly scorecard — your c-level peers don’t want to see. I think if you come to the table with metrics that your CFO already understands and already recognizes as valuable, I think … you can sort of work back and walk back into “Here’s how we’re leading into that.” I think you’re getting somewhere.

Since you’re calling this the CMO confessions, I will say that I’ve heard from a number of CMOs that migration to having that revenue responsibility is actually quite scary, you know? When you’ve got a marketing team that has been used to measuring nothing further in the funnel than just a marketing qualified lead and has been valuing impression and valuing things like share a voice — this is a different paradigm. This is a cultural shift, and sometimes, I’ve seen some of the biggest impediments of that being the CMO themselves. Sometimes wittingly, sometimes unwittingly. But as we as we mentioned earlier, I don’t know that you have a choice as a B2B marketer these days.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I think that’s a great point and you have to walk the walk. So, at ON24, maybe I’m a moron for signing up for this, but I own, and our marketing team owns, our pipeline. So, not marketing sourced, not what goes through SDRs, like, we think that’s bullshit. Do we model it? Yes. Like, we’re not morons. But I own the number.

We had our board meeting yesterday. I have a close partnership with Jim Blackie, our global head of sales, but I present the pipeline. And we don’t get into, at the board level, of the details of where it comes to and if there’s a there’s a pipeline problem, I own it. I’ve got my bonus tied to it. This might be where, you know, who knows if it’s smart or not. But that’s, for me, that’s walking the walk. That’s saying, marketing, when we sign up for revenue — it’s not it’s not a vanity metric. We’re tying comp to it.

Matt Heinz: So, one of the biggest objections I hear from CMOS that they don’t feel comfortable embracing that revenue responsibility will say, you know, “I just I’m not comfortable signing up for a number I don’t have control of.” I’m guessing that your counterpart in sales does not have control of those deals getting close any more than you do, you know?

Joe Hyland:  Exactly!

Matt Heinz: And when you’re selling into large organizations, let’s not pretend that the prospect has control over when the deal closes. There’s so many variables that play. I mean, for everybody, like you just need more pipeline, bigger pipeline, to sort of make the numbers work in your favor. So, if we take control off the table and simply just say listen, “We have a number to hit, we’re in this together.” We think a lot is B2B marketers about attribution and who’s getting credit for things and where is the deal coming from. I could make an argument that between sales and marketing, maybe we should take attribution off the table.

I don’t care if this came from sales, I don’t care if this came from marketing. Now, I care if it came from this expensive marketing channel or that expensive marketing channel. I want to know which of those worked, and my waiting is, but I really don’t care about marketing-sourced versus sales-sourced. I care about hitting the number. Because we’re all gonna get fired if we don’t hit the number. So, somehow, we still got to do that. And there’s an awful lot of unproductive time spent just arguing over who gets credit.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, “unproductive,” I think, is the key word there and it just becomes two people digging their heels in arguing for what ultimately are just optics. Now, maybe I’m in a fortunate position where we’re privately held, backed by Goldman Sachs and a few other firms. We’re all shareholders and, so, for me, winning, as a company, is our company actually reaching some sort of a financial goal. So I care about the end results. For us, I care about our recurring revenue and, for me, that’s more important than getting dinged because we didn’t deliver pipeline regardless of whose problem it is, or fault. And if we’re if we don’t deliver those results there are bigger issues.

Matt Heinz: Well what I don’t want this to become is, “We move the pendulum all the way over to you know we have to account for every penny. We spend that everything we do has to have a pipeline metric around it.”

Because if, we because if we did that then all we would ever do is just buy ads. Because the ads, we can measure the ads. We can see results right away. We would never invest in content. We would never invest in podcast like this. You would never invest in making the migration over time from renting attention to owning the attention of your prospects. And we know how powerful and high-leverage owning the tension is, but you don’t buy your way into that. You have to earn that over time and that takes time and effort. But then, just like in a SaaS business, where you’ve got lifetime value increasing, you know, profitability, when you can own attention when you can get people that want to come here from you that becomes an annuity, that creates massive scale and efficiency in a marketing organization.

I mean, doing a podcast like this and doing blog and sort of doing, you know, other content elements — they don’t they don’t have to be immediately attributable to revenue today, but if you talk about it in the perspective we just did — that we’re doing this so that we can own the attention of prospects so that acquisition and retention and loyalty becomes easier and more efficient down the road — that is still a revenue-centric conversation to be having. I’m still putting that in terms of the business can understand.

Joe Hyland: Well, it’s your north star, right? It’s what the end goal is and I think it’s silly to only move one step away from that. You’re right, you would just create no content. The marketing team would just be full of demand gen marketers and, perhaps, SDRs, right? I don’t think that’s a prescription for success.

Though it’s interesting. I think we’re sliding down the slippery slope of a lot of organizations doing this. I just read comments from Marc Benioff, when he was at Davos not too long ago, that trust is more important than growth. Which I think is an interesting comment, particularly for a CEO of a publicly traded company, which has a pretty rich multiple based off of growth. His point isn’t that growth isn’t important, but it’s just what you were saying and owning, kind of having a seat at the table, and essentially earning trust. Well, that’s probably what leads to growth. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts as to how marketers are sliding down the slippery slope and moving away from great marketing.

Matt Heinz: Well, I don’t think you can. I think that if you’re moving away from what is always been great marketing, where you build trust and credibility and respect with your brand and your people and your company, if we move all the way to the other side of the first of the pendulum and just become growth hackers, where all we’re doing is optimizing Facebook pages and landing pages and digital ads — that may hit your, you may hit your demo request number tomorrow, but you’re not going to build a lasting brand, you’re not going to build a company that’s around for 100 years. You’re going to be very point-driven and transactional and you’re going to build a house on quicksand that your competitors are very quickly going to come and tear down.

And I, you know, I say that as a math marketer, as someone who starts a marketing plan with a spreadsheet, who wants things to be attributable, but I also highly value the brand and the reputation and the voice that you can create that gives you the benefit of the doubt, that makes you someone people seek out. I mean, we were talking to someone yesterday about how do you migrate your marketing from being interruptive to irresistible? How do you get to the point where you got people that want to get your marketing? [Who] want to be on your list that want to experience what you have to say?

Every company today is a media company, or can be a media company, and can build that audience. You have that opportunity, and I don’t care how like money-grubbing you are, or how conservative your CFO is, you go and tell them that you can create, your company can be a magnet for all the people in your audience and the people want to come listen to you? Everybody wants that asset, for sure.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, um yeah, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. But I think what’s happening, and as a funny story, is, uh, a friend of mine, um, works for a company where they’re tracking pipeline on almost a daily basis, and so the CEO saw a report in Salesforce and said, “We’re behind in pipeline today. What campaign can we run tomorrow to juice it?” And he didn’t have a good rapport with the CEO, so, they, the next day, they lit up they lit up their database, three million people with a click of a button, to try to drum up some clicks and short-term pipe. I think we’re seeing more and more of that.

Matt Heinz: Oh, it’s there’s no question we’re seeing more and more of that. And I think that that scorched-Earth mentality is going to have massive negative impact for companies as they try to sustain growth. You know, for folks listening to this that are anywhere near B2B marketing — I’m sure you all get the same — terrible BDR emails that we all get 800 times a day from people that have that same [email] —nowhere in that email is there any kind of value for me. All it is, is “Can I have 15 minutes of your time?” right? And the reason why we keep getting those is because they work enough to make a spreadsheet show that they work — that the VC say, “That’s the model keep doing that.” And A) they do work because there’s always three or four percent of the market that is actively buying, according to Gartner. So, someone out there has a need and wants to see that right away, but the collateral damage you are doing to the rest of the market, the damage you’re doing to your brand and reputation by going scorched-earth to hit your number tomorrow or this week or this month — if that aggressive rep leaves your company next week, or if someone comes in and finally convinces you to stop doing those kind of tactics — you’re still left that bad taste in the mouth, that bad impression with that prospect.

So, again, that’s a house built on quicksand that someone else can come and take over very quickly simply by offering a better experience. I mean, the challenge of sales guys at CEB have said, for the last couple years, “How you sell is more important than what you sell, especially when you’re building trust report and pipeline with your prospects.” So, I think you really have to be careful. Yes, you may be behind on your demo number today, and, yes, there may be things you can do to juice it for tomorrow — but you have to take the long view on this stuff or else you won’t have a business after this quarter.

Joe Hyland:  Yeah, I feel it every morning when I check my email I every morning there are 40 to 50 emails in the first five minutes or spent just pruning that list down to what’s real and it’s painful.

Matt Heinz: So, maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. I end up putting myself on some of those lists so I can see — I mean because there are some good examples. There’s a company — I was at  sastra conference just recently and had some follow-up in there — there was one guy that followed up, and he clearly had read some of my recent content and was commenting on things he had seen and then the last half of the email I got was probably a template — it looked a little more templatized and less personalized — but, I mean, in today’s world that stood out like a like a sore thumb.

He was selling something that I had no interest in, it would have not even qualified for us, so there wasn’t really a match there, but the approach is good. And you can’t automate that approach, but you can sure create a process around it. Even if you can’t get as many emails out the door with your spam cannon, you’re likely to get a better engagement rate with people you really care about. So, I think there’s trade-offs on all of that, but it’s, I don’t know, you got to balance the short-term activity and pipeline delivery needs with the long-term value you’re building with customers that will, eventually, be ready to buy.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I mean, that’s the thing — we actually get that question for webinars. How being a webinar provider? How long should a webinar be? And my answer is how much content do you have? Do you have … you’ve got 15 minutes of great content? There’s your answer. You’ve got two hours, and this is a super-targeted session and the attention span of your audience is there? Great, have a two-hour webinar.

There’s no magic answer. Same thing on emails, like, you’ve got something compelling to say and you think you can genuinely help someone, I think you’ll have good results. If you’re doing connect-and-sell with 23-year-olds just lighting up your market —  I don’t think it’s going to work. And you’re right, they do that because — I mean, I’ve looked we built these models ourselves — if you only need two or three percent response rate, and you send it to a couple hundred thousand people, shit, we got good pipelines. Like, is that really smart?

Matt Heinz:  You know, you got to be careful what you wish for on that. And I think that, if you’ve got, you know — whether it’s the 23-year-olds lighting up the emails—  we think about content, whether it’s content that you send out, something like this, or when you think about sort of those SDR emails, I think the lighter and earlier in the relationship you are with someone, the less content you can put in front of them. If you’ve got an hour and a half of things that are interesting to say, you have to earn my attention. I’m not going to give you an hour and a half, and then say, “Well that actually sucks.” You know? I think you start with 100 words. You start with five minutes. You start with an interesting video. You start with, you know, it might even be someone else that listens to you and says, “Boy, you got to listen to this.”

I committed to a college football podcast a year and a half ago because Craig Rosenberg, who we both know, said it was great, right? And, so I subscribed without having checked any of them out because, it’s free, there’s low-cost entry there, but [I’m] listening to them for an hour and a half talking about college football recruiting based on someone’s recommendation. That’s interesting. But if I didn’t know about it, I’d probably listen to it a lot less than that to make sure I liked it. But I think, you know, the content you put out has to be good, it has to be engaging, it has to be relevant to your audience and it has to be relevant to the stage of the buying journey they’re at to get and keep their attention.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, and there was trust, right? So, that came from a recommendation of someone you respect, or somewhat respect.

Matt Heinz:  Let’s not go respect. I know we both know of…

Joe Hyland: If Craig is listening, somewhat respect. Right, so you said, “Okay, cool. I’m not gonna scour the market and do all this research, cool, recommend it to me.” Yeah, that’s funny. What else are you seeing out there? What do you love? What do you hate and we’ve talked a lot about the pet peeve so far, but um what some great marketing you’re seeing?

Matt Heinz: Well, I mean I think we’ve we are seeing more companies invest in building what we call sort of the predictable pipeline, which is sort of getting away from random acts of sales and marketing that a lot of people do and you kinda referenced it earlier, “Oh, man. We’re light on the activity today. What can we do to light up a bunch of demos tomorrow?”

And there are times when the fire drill is necessary when you need to be agile. You need to pivot, but if you hit your number this month, or this quarter, like, what’s your confidence that you’re going to do it again next month and next quarter? And that’s not just about your campaigns. It’s, like, you know, how buyer-centric is your messaging in your content?  How well aligned? Is your sales and marketing team together? What process and tools do you have to facilitate greater efficiency in that system, and then what sort of go-to-market activities are in play that can feed the right volume of activity and leads back to you? And then what tools you have to report on that as well?

So, you know, we’ve developed, sort of, this six-stage sort of critical pipeline framework, these seven areas, that people can look at and say, “I’m strong here. I’m weak here. Here’s a place I need to focus on doing better.” I think a lot of companies in a lot of marketers are looking for the silver bullet, we’re looking for the one thing that’s gonna do it for us, right? I think four years ago — it was five years ago — it was social selling. Three years ago, it was ABM. Last year, it was AI. Like look, there’s no silver bullet. Like, I think, as we all painfully know, that have been in marketing for a while, it’s doing a lot of little things well and doing them consistently and repeatably, with scale.

And so, that’s where this idea of the predictable pipeline came. It’s just that you have to create a system that you can rely on that will deliver high-confidence results over time. So, I think the marketers that are investing in building that system — and it’s not just technology — it’s knowing what’s working, knowing your buying journey. It’s getting it’s fundamentals. That’s what we’re seeing a lot of companies really invest in and that’s helping them align with the sales organization to create that predictability and confidence.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I like that you mentioned the fundamentals because that’s not sexy to talk about so.

Matt Heinz: No.

Joe Hyland: Five years ago, I found, when I’d have conversations with marketing leaders, or people even on our own team, they would list a whole bunch of tactics and that was kind of the strategy: was a collection of tactics. And I think it was easy to course correct on that — easier at least. Now, what I’m finding, is tactics are being replaced with technology — and we’re a technology firm, so perhaps we’re adding to some of this — but the conversations I have are, “Oh, we’re going to invest in this technology this year you mentioned ABM or dabbling with AI.” And there’s nothing wrong with putting in a tech stack — obviously, you need to do that in today’s day and age — but putting in certain types of technology does not replace your strategy. And, going back to core fundamentals, [that’s] actually something that gets brought up in board meetings, and my CEO, we’ll say, “What’s working? Like, our we’re doing really well as a company our pipelines quite predictable?” And I list really boring things.

We’re very disciplined with our message right now. We’re doing a great job in the last two or three quarters in that we have a consistent webinar program, like a consistent demo process, we try to tell a story that is about the market — not about ON24, and trust me, we screw up more than we get right — but it’s the fundamentals that, for us, are driving the results versus these shiny toys or objects.

Matt Heinz: Yeah, I completely agree. I had two companies not too long ago, this is late last year, you know, we were talking about their marketing program and got a call back from the head of marketing said, “Yeah, you know, the CEO took a look at your business and took a look at your website, and he’s decided you represent the more traditional marketers, and we really just want to hire a growth hacker that can come in and make some moves really quickly.” And I think we just got, we just disqualified each other, pretty much for this conversation.

Yeah, I mean, there’s some really interesting flashy things you can do — and even through channels like this. I mean, we’re a ON24 user, I think you can do some really exciting things on this platform multiple formats multiple channels. We record episodes of sales pipeline radio through ON24. It’s been an enabler of our strategy, right? The technology is not your strategy. You find tools that can help you get the things done that are going to build your pipeline that are going to build your business and we do some things on a pretty consistent basis. Like, we do sales pipeline radio every Thursday. We do certain types of content every certain days of the week. I’ve got a daily cadence of prospecting and networking that I do. It’s not flashy, but it works. So I think if you’re looking for “How do we stand out? How do we do something different? How do we break paradigms?” Like, paradigm-shifting is not the goal — having something that is different than everyone else is not the goal. Pipeline is the goal and I think that you got to put your focus in right place. Honestly, once you find something that is working — the growth hackers pivot to something else, what I want to do is build a process around that.

Maybe that processes is buying a system that can automate it. Maybe that process is simply having a checklist that we follow every day. When we do sales pipeline radio for ourselves we have a detailed checklist of how that gets executed, right? And even though we’ve done over a hundred episodes now, like, we all still use that checklist as a safeguard. Yeah, the book, if you haven’t read, “The Checklist Manifesto,” written by a surgeon — these super-smart people that still have a checklist for the mundane details. I mean, I have a daily to-do list for my networking and prospecting — it’s stuff I’ve done for years and I still use that checklist because it’s something I don’t have to remember, you know? It just becomes sort of muscle memory.

I’m the last person that is going to apologize for the mundane. If it’s stuff that can repeatedly scale-ably deliver results.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, there’s nothing overly exciting about repeatable — and it takes that kind of discipline to bring repeatable results.

So another thing that, for me, is kind of silly and funny, but I think marketers get caught up in the craze, which is something that is a core fundamental of great marketing and then becomes the next latest craze. You mention account-based marketing being that three years ago, and, by the way, out here in San Francisco, it’s it still is.

We just went to, I won’t say the vendor’s name, we will probably end up working with them, but we went to an ABM-specific event over at LinkedIn the other day. So, it’s in partnership with LinkedIn and this will solve all of our problems and, again, I, for targeted marketing, I think will look to add in some technology to help us scale what we’re doing, but account-based marketing is just great personalized marketing. And when I remember 15 years ago our CMO said we’re gonna hire someone to do this new thing it’s called account-based marketing and it was a little more manual 15 years ago, but, talk for a few moments about what is what is old becoming new and what is what is all becoming a craze.

Matt Heinz: Well, I think going back to some fundamentals, right? I think, if you, the better you understand your customer, the more effective you’re going to be as a seller. Whether you are in sales or are in marketing. And I think that, to me, that viewpoint in that perspective provides for the two really clear distinctions in my mind between the ABM we should be doing and what we traditionally been doing is marketing.

ABM is not, like, “Well, let’s get a list and start marking them.” ABM is not, “Well, let’s do direct mail.” To me, once we move past sort of the frothiness of hashtag ABM into sort of what residually [will] be part of our marketing. I think there’s two things. One is having better alignment between sales and marketing. I think if you’re going after enterprise deals, no longer is the divide in the pipeline horizontal in the middle where marketing owns the leads and sales owns the conversion. I think the divide is now vertical. You’ve got sales and marketing that own each stage together. And, so, to be coordinated in and how you manage the pipeline, but also coordinating the story that you’re telling to your prospect throughout the pipeline, I think, is important.

The other piece that is incredibly important — and I think most people miss in ABM — is the complexity of the internal buying committee. You know, CEB tells us that now, on average, six members of the buying committee exists. You’ve got almost seven people. And many talk to and enterprise sales are like, “Oh, it’s way more than seven!” You know, all these people that are inside the organization that have a vested interest what you’re selling or what you are enabling.

So, I think your job as a marketer, as a salesperson, as an organization, is to help those six-point-eight people build consensus amongst each other so that they can make a decision faster. So, it’s not just having six personas. It’s understanding the connective tissue between those people, some of it positive some of it negative some of it political. There’s all kinds of stuff that exists, but unless you can help navigate that map, unless you can help navigate that consensus building, you’re going to have a hard time getting deals done. And, so I think, and that is not necessarily a marketing activity, it’s not necessarily a campaign some of that is just good account mapping that’s enabling — in many cases, your sales organization to have the right conversations in maybe a non-scalable way, like the way you do that, for one account, may not work for another account. But if it helps get both of those deals closed, I will take the time to do that, right? Put another way, I think good account-based marketing in some organizations is a lot more sales enablement and a lot less demand gen. It’s getting into the deals and coming up with bespoke strategies from your organization that may include marketing, but may just be inviting people to dinner. Arming your sales team with the right conversations to have when you’ve got three key members of that buying committee on the phone to help them build that consensus.

If you can provide the messaging and the connective tissue to get that deal move forward, I don’t care if it’s a direct mail piece or a friggin tweet, or a set of bullet points you give your sales team — get the deal done. And so, I think that mentality, back to our whole comment about like who gets credit who did what? Like, you know, get in the war room together and figure out what’s going to take to make that customer successful and get them on board with you.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, you’re going back to fundamentals, right? I think what people are confusing in the sexy side of ABM is “Think about it, we’ll be able to deliver this targeted message to thousands of people.” Oh, guess what, that’s transparent. Like, that, in my opinion, that’s not going to work great. Account-based marketing, by definition, shouldn’t scale to several hundred or thousand people.

Matt Heinz: We if we’re doing that, we’re back to the marketing of more, right? And we’re back to the marketing group that just wants more leads more traffic more retweets — like more is not necessarily better. You know, you talk to the sales team, that says, “You gave me more leads, but this guy I got yesterday’s a dentist in South Carolina. How am I supposed to sell an Enterprise IT solution to the dentist that downloaded your content marketing white paper? I mean, that’s just not helpful. And now you’re upset that I didn’t follow up with them 16 times?”

Again, I wish that was a joke! These are real stories that exist in the field, and so that just doesn’t pass the sniff test and I think we are seeing in real time the changing of how, of what, B2B marketing is. It’s not about activity. It’s not about volume. It’s not about how big your budget is. It’s about doing what it takes creatively in your business in your industry, but with a level of predictability and scale that can give you that predictable pipeline that can give you the confidence that you’re going to be able to do it again next month next quarter next year.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I mean that brought us full circle. That gets back to what you said at the start about MQLs and getting in battles, right? If in the database that’s an MQL, it’s like, “Hey, you know, good luck selling to that dentist with two cats and a dog there —  we qualify them as an MQL.” How’s that relationship going to be? So, it’s about shared ownership on a singular goal.

So, Matt, listen, this is fantastic. You’ve got a pretty kick-ass book, which we have a couple of copies of here in the office, “Full Funnel Marketing.” Anyone listening, you can pick that up at in the resources section. I’m sure it’s pretty easy to grab.

And Matt, listen, and this was this was fantastic. Thanks for doing the first-ever episode of this with me.

Matt Heinz: The maiden voyage. This was fun, see, it’s conversational. It goes quickly. Hopefully, this gives people some value, and I’m really looking forward to hearing what’s coming up. I know you guys have a bunch of great guests and some great CMOS coming up in future episodes, so, uh, I will be listening.

Joe Hyland: Okay, that’s awesome listen. Thanks Matt, thanks everyone.

Matt Heinz: Thank you.

Driving B2B Empathy in Marketing: A Q&A with Forrester’s Laura Ramos

Empathy is a three syllable word carrying a lot of weight. Children are told to express it, parents are told to teach and well-rounded adults are expected be it. But what about in marketing? Is there a way for businesses to express B2B empathy and mean it?

Well, yes — and that’s the question Laura Ramos, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, is answering as she goes through her keynote presentation at Webinar World 2018. The subject is a great match for the event. After all, marketers, especially B2B marketers, depend on creating and nurturing trust. The key to unlocking trust? Empathy.

I had the good fortune to ask Laura a few questions following her presentation. What follows is a brief Q&A, edited for clarity, brevity and context.

Q: So, you were talking earlier about how B2B buyers are approaching purchases like consumers, and you many singled out Caterpillar as an example of how business-to-business markers can approach that. Do You have any other examples along those lines?

LR: Oh, my goodness, let me see. Caterpillar — who else would we think about? I’m trying to remember my IoT examples. You know, it’s a lot of different areas.  One is, in particular, kind of similar to Caterpillar, is the big — and this is very B2B — jet engine companies. So, if you’re looking at what Rolls Royce, for example, [who is] is selling to Boeing and Airbus, the equipment now is so instrumented and has so much data coming off of it.  And they collect that data and help the airlines, or the fleet managers, understand exactly what’s happening with the airplanes. They’re moving in the direction of going from selling engines to selling airtime, or transportation miles or things like that, where they guarantee that the engines will be running or that they’ll be able to detect the issues with it that would require preventive maintenance or something like that.

And that’s similar to the capital or example in that, that’s kind of the same thing. They’re watching the equipment — or the data, not them — watches the equipment and says, “Hey, this looks like it’s going to be needing an oil change sooner or new need new built sooner,” or something like that than you expected.

Q: Is there any particular reason for this shift? [Well], maybe it’s been under the surface all along, but the shift from B2B to B2B but more consumer?

LR: It’s a combination of learned and native behaviors that are really driven by our consumer experiences. If you can decide in a moment that, you know, you want to pick up your phone go on to Amazon buy something — the ability to get information, to compare products, to understand what’s going on with this company, who should I be talking to there, all of those expectations are now carrying over to the business world.

The expectation of “Well, I should be able to get that information.” In many cases, they can, and they don’t need to talk to a salesperson or even go to your website to figure that out anymore.

Q: You mentioned that customer experience is becoming a bigger part of B2B marketing picture…

LR: Huge.

Q: Huge. Are there central tenants that we can point at and say “This is what … you need to build your customer experience on?

LR: Yeah, the central tenant is the customer life-cycle. In marketing, marketing and sales, we kind of built our processes, our thinking our campaigns, our go-to-market, around the idea of the funnel or the waterfall. The funnel and the waterfall aren’t dead, they’re just good like reference points for how you might run your internal processes.

If you’re really thinking about customers though, you’ve got to think about the life cycle, which starts when they’re discovering a problem, exploring different options, then they make their purchase decision. But then, from there, is kind of where they spend a majority of their lifetime — in using your products or services, making sure that they’re getting the maximum value out of that. You want that to happen, too. And then they engage — this is where they become loyal and advocates and start the whole process over again.

Q: Okay. What are the biggest hurdles B2B marketers should keep in mind when they’re approaching making a shift towards customer-centricity?

LR: Well, data is a big hurdle. So many of our internal systems are not connected and don’t use data properly. I mean, we’ve done studies where up to 60, 70 percent of internal data just sits — it’s not touched. So, getting a handle on that, and really connecting not only what you know about customers in marketing, but what’s in the sales systems? What’s in the service systems? What’s happening in your warranties — all of those areas that touch customers is essential. And then blending that with so much data that is available, on the outside, where do customers go? How do they “shop.” What are the signals that they’re putting out that says that they are in the market for solving a certain kind of problem? Most marketers really need some serious help getting all of that together. Because without that data, you don’t create the insight and the understanding and, ultimately, the empathy to better address the customers’ needs.

Q: Okay, you mentioned um the power of habits on stage. What sort of habits should organizations try to practice? And what sort of pitfalls in terms of adopting a more powerful like customer-centric habit should they be aware of?

LR:  Yeah, I talked on stage — and the research — talked a lot about the three habits, being human, helpful and handy. It’s surprising how much lack of humanity there is in B2B marketing and content. Last year, we did a study where we looked at 60 B2B websites and we looked at how engaging is the content. This isn’t about the experience on the website — it’s “If I’m a customer, am I going to be interested in what this company has to offer me in their web content?” And we look at websites because we can, and it’s representative of what the overall content strategy is — it’s not everything, I get that. But, in the 60 that we looked, at — we rated them on 15 different criteria, and passing score was 30 points and an excellent score was 45 — we didn’t find one that passed. In fact, we had to change the scoring — drop it down to 25 — in order to find six that passed. So, the biggest problem with that, with what we found, is just lack of human understanding of what those customers are about. Besides talk all about them — it doesn’t talk about the people or the problems that they’re trying to sell to

Q: Do you think there’s a fundamental reason why that is the case? Is there a top-down reason why there’s a lack of humanity or not communicating on a human level?

LR: I think that the lack of humanity stems from three things. One, it’s the idea that B2B buyers make rational decisions, and they don’t. And so, we need to not only talk to them about the facts, we need to talk to them about the outcomes, right? How is this going to make their lives better? It is, I think, a lot — particularly in technology — in the second point, driven by just enamourment of our products and services. You know, “We invented them. They’re our babies. They’re lovely. We want everybody to know about them.” And we lose track of the of the fact that people want to solve problems — they just don’t care what our technology features do. And I think the third area is just that marketers have been using a whole lot of technology recently that stands between them and the customers. They can go and do things to the website, do things to the demand generation campaigns and work at that interface level and lose track of, and not really see, the people that are behind it. You know, the people that that are the real customers.

Q: Is there a way for companies to do a self-assessment — of pulling back … and say “Okay, we have an issue here. Here’s how to identify that narrow down and fix it?”

LR: Yeah, in fact, … we have several assessments in the Forrester research that looks at it at the company level — what does it take to be customer obsessed — and also at the B2B marketing level. And, what are the things to know about customer experience? When it comes to customer experience, what we found in all of our research is there’re three things that really matter. It’s not only “is the customer experience easy?” Can I do what I need to do? But is it also effective? “Can I get the right things done that I’m trying to do?”  Do I have to go around circuitous route to get where I need to go? And then the last one is emotion. Does it really stand out? Does it delight me? And I think those are the kinds of things we have — you know, as simple as that as complicated as 21 questions or whatever that you have to answer to be able to help you do those kinds of self-assessment.

Q: What books you’re reading?

LR:  What am I reading? I’ve been reading a lot of Michael Connelly right now, believe it or not. I don’t know it’s an escapism thing. I just I think he’s a fabulous writer, too.

Q: Okay, cool. Anything else you’d like to add?

LR: Hmm. Let me think. Yeah, you know. I think it’s really easy for marketers to think, “Oh, we know our customers.” And so, we really do believe there’s a big difference between being customer aware and centered and being “obsessed.” So, obsessed is you’ve got to make the commitment to put resources and strategy and budget and effort behind creating that customer relationship, that empathy. And you’ve got to do that at the expense of other things that you’ve done previously. That’s, what we think, really separates the great marketers from those who will, you know, will do okay — or maybe even struggle —in the next 5-10 years.

Q&A with Alex Blumberg, CEO of Gimlet Media

I’m sitting backstage at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, California, and it is dark and cramped and quiet as our annual conference, Webinar World, officially kicks off. I’m in this area to try and quietly type out social media posts for our virtual audience, but I’m mostly trying to pay attention to the keynote speaker onstage. His name is Alex Blumberg and he is the CEO and Co-Founder of Gimlet Media, a major podcasting startup which recently raised $15 million in a Series B round.

Blumberg is not here to discuss funds, startups or anything approximating common Silicon Valley discourse. Here’s here to discuss something far more fundamental: storytelling. In particular, Blumberg is explaining how good stories are crafted over his preferred medium, audio, and how the crowd — mostly B2B marketers — can leverage these same elemental tools to capture the attention and trust of their preferred audiences.

I had the good fortune to steal Blumberg for a few questions after his speech. What follows is a brief Q&A, edited for clarity, brevity and context.

Q) [The American Broadcasting Company is producing a television series loosely based around StartUp, a podcast Blumberg produced.] ABC, that whole thing, I was curious — how is that going on? What is your mindset with them doing kind of an autobiography sitcom?

AB: Haha. Well, I think calling it an autobiography is way, way out there. So, they optioned season one of StartUp, but, like, when anybody options, especially when it’s a television show, they kinda fictionalize a ton of stuff. So, it’s loosely based on, sort of, the events inside of StartUp. So, there’s, like, a family and the guy is starting a podcasting company but not many of the details are the same. But it’s cool. It’s really, really crazy to think it’s going to be on ABC and Zach Braff is staring…

Q) Gotcha. In your opinion, are there any particular habits that a successful storyteller practices and nurtures?

AB: Yeah, I think curiosity is really important and just trying to stay true to a feeling that somebody has. Like, what are the feelings that are going on? If you can pay attention to the feelings people have and why, [and] how that applies to them, and [what] they may be feeling about whatever they’re going through — I think that’s important. I think curiosity and sort of, like, emotional availability are key.

Q) You mentioned identifying key points and emotion. How would you go about identifying key points within a story?

AB: So I think it all depends on the story you’re telling. Often, there’s a beginning. What I try to do is I try to think “Okay, so where does the story begin? What’s the middle — what happens in the middle and what’s the end?”

And, generally, over a story, something has to evolve, right? Something has to take place. You want to end up in a place that’s different than the beginning. And there’s all sorts of formulas for this. There’s a very famous Disney formula. It’s like, “Here’s this character and this is the way it was for many days. And then one day… and this is what it was like after that.”

And you see that. If you start watching you’ll see that. There’s a sort of “Here’s the everyday” and “And then one day” and then “The things change after that.” Some period of transformation has to happen. Every story is in some way, probably, about transformation — something changes in the end than in the beginning. And I think that’s where to look.

So we, when we’re telling stories, we’re looking for pivotal moments. We’re looking for not just, like, “We’re a solution to the blah-blah-blah.” Rather, we’re looking for something like “You know how this thing happened? Like, here’s a moment we’ve all had, right? You’re on the phone, or whatever, and ‘X’ happens and that’s frustrating and we’ve all felt that frustration. I’ve felt that one and then one day I learned this thing and now I want to tell you about the thing I learned.” And think that’s an arc that people will much more organically pay attention to.

Q) A lot of B2B Marketers like to talk about knowing their audience. To get this understanding, we generally use lot of data. How did you come to know your audience?

AB: This is something that we don’t know very well. I think you guys [B2B marketers] know this way better than we do. At This American Life we had most of my instincts that I’ve learned about storytelling I learned while there, and we didn’t know much, really, about our audience at all.

We knew, basically, that they were a public radio audience but we didn’t have very good data on who those people were and what they were coming to the show for. All we knew was that, um, genuinely, if we liked it, they would like it. You know? Generally. And I think we started to try and become a proxy for the audience in some way, which was some sort of on very, very deep human level.

We just assumed, “Okay, it [the audience] is basically a curious person with some level of curiosity about the world. But that is also a human being with human boredom.” And so we’d try to pay attention to our own boredom as much as possible… in journalism, you’re trying to get across information, but you don’t want it to be, like, “Eat your broccoli.” You wanna feel like “Oh, this is an important story, but I’m not listening to it because it’s an important story. I’m listening to it because it’s an interesting story. It’s going to make me feel something. I’m going to learn something or whatever.”

So just really keenly developing your own sense of, “I’m bored by this.” And, also, just trying playing it for people, “Do you care? Do you care what I’m saying right now?” And that’s a question we ask all the time: “Do I care about what you’re saying?”

Q) So, in hindsight, how did you identify what people did care about? How did you pick up on what resonated with your audience?

AB: We get feedback from the show. At Gimlet, our most basic metric is, “How many people listened? How many people engaged with us? How many people give us feedback? How many people tweeted us? How many people listened to all the way through?” You get listener data — you can see listening curves — and that’s getting better and better and more sophisticated as more analytics tools are rolling out, so you can sort of see [where] you could have problems in stories. Like you don’t set it up properly, and it’s actually a great story, but you haven’t set it up properly and it sounds like a boring story. And you see people drop off really quickly. And then sometimes you see [that] you set it up pretty good and then it starts to drizzle out and you can see people drop off there. So that’s a pretty good tool for us — you know, what does our listen-through curve look like? Most people listen all the way through — we have pretty high engagement.

Q) You posed the question onstage “What is audio good at?” And you walked us through what it is good at. How did you come to identify what that medium — or how do you identify what a medium — is good at?

AB: Well, a couple things, I got hired to teach a class — a radio journalism class — in the early 2000s at Columbia University and I was like “Ugh, I have to come up with a curriculum.” I had been doing radio for a while but I hadn’t really thought about what it was good at. So, I started thinking about it and I realized that the stories I really liked, the stories that really resonate with me, had these elements.

We did this TV show — it was a This American Life TV show on Showtime — where we tried to do a version of This American Life on TV and out of all of this stuff we’d do the interviews. And they would be these killer audio interviews and they just wouldn’t work. You’d watch the dailies and they’d just be boring. I was like, “This is so weird because, as audio, this is going to kill. I know it’s going to kill because I had been doing it for a long time and I know that it’s going to be riveting audio.”

But watching it? Sometimes just watching the person say it just was boring, you know? And they’d [other TV shows] do some dumb thing where they’d have some weird accent or say something vaguely rude to somebody and you’d be, “Oh, I want to watch that.” And then you’d realize “Oh, these mediums are really good at different things.” And it started to make me understand that the same sequence of actions that makes a really good audio story happens just visually. If you were just watching somebody engaged in a process, you’re hooked. “What is that person doing?” And they’re walking down the hall looking at the doors and they’re trying the keys. And you’re like, “Wait, what is going on here?” And so the same thing happens, but it’s just a different vocabulary.

And audio is different. In audio, conflict can be internal — you can hear people wrestling with their own feelings. In video, it’s harder to see so that conflict has to be a little more external. That’s why people really like fighting. That’s … that’s why reality [TV shows] exists and why reality always needs a person who’s, sort of, got poor impulse control to stir things up. It made me understand, “Oh, this is why, this is why TV is the way it is.” Because, it’s just, that’s what it needs — that’s what we, as human beings, want to watch.

Q) How familiar are you with webinars?

AB: A little. I’ve done one or two.

Q) Okay, so webinars combine a few different mediums — so it can do audio, it can do video, it can do both at the same time — do you that’s an asset, like, being able to do multiple [mediums] or would you think it’d be better to just focus on one particular medium?

AB: I don’t know. I think it depends on how you’re reaching people and where you’re reaching people. We did a story, when I was at Planet Money, we did this big thing where we followed a T-shirt around the world — so, we documented it as it got made. So, it was this really great project and we talked to the people in Bangladesh who sewed the T-shirts together and we talked to the yarn-spinners in Indonesia, who made the yarn that went into our t-shirt, and we just followed it all the way around — the ship rows, everything.

And it was really great. We did videos of it and we did radio stories of it. The videos and the radio stories were completely different. And they focused on completely different things. They [TV and radio stories] had two different teams doing it and the way we constructed the stories — they were about the same thing, but the way we constructed the stories were completely different…

A really big thing that’s happening in Bangladesh was people — especially women — were just leaving the countryside where there’s just, like, extreme, extreme poverty. People not having enough to eat kind of poverty. And then moving to the cities, where they’re working for incredibly low wages and yet, slightly higher standard of living. They have calories to eat now and they have a little bit of excess cash. And so, they’re horrible jobs from a Western perspective, but compared to what they had available in the rural countryside, they’re better. And that’s why everybody was leaving. And so what we were able to do in the video, [show] what’s happening on a massive scale.

That’s like a societal revolution in Bangladesh, right? There’s millions and millions of people. And, in the video, we were able to show this shot of all these women walking down the street just to get to the garment district — just to give you this sense of scale. We could never do that in audio. What we were able to do on audio was to give you the feeling of what it is like to grow up in this incredible rural poverty and what it feels like to finally get to the city. And those are complicated feelings. And we were able to represent that in the audio way better than what we were able to represent in the video.

So it was interesting, right? We were able to show these different facets of the story.

What I would say is that you’d want to do — just make sure — don’t try and do everything, just use the medium. Video can do things that audio just cannot do, right? And audio can do things that video is not very good at. So I think just choose. That’s why I’m saying, audio is really good at narrative and it’s really good at feeling. You can convey feeling — you can do that way better on audio than you can on video.

Q) Well, speaking of feeling, you mentioned the importance of emotional honesty and all that good fun stuff. How do you think, as marketers, we can approach and identify emotional honesty?

AB: I think you embrace it. When we [Gimlet] started out it was a business story — like, people have told the startup story and it’s always like, “we’re killing it!” And never, “This is scary and I feel like I’m going to fail all the time, right?” And we told the honest story of what it’s like to start a startup — and that was incredibly valuable for us. Because, I think, it humanized us, it made people, like, connect to our story. It made that story accessible to people.

So, I think if you can, meet people where they are. And the best people at this — I don’t care who you’re talking about — Howard Stern, Tony Robbin — I’ve been to a Tony Robbins seminar-like, he does this. He zeros in on an emotion — he’s a master at it. He will zero in on the thing that you’re actually feeling and, instantaneously, people will start crying…

I think if you just connect with emotion — I’m not saying you have to be like, “This whole thing is a lie” and, “This business is a sham!” Or you’re like “I hate my job.” You don’t have to get into that, but somebody has a feeling about, like, “it is hard to cold-call a customer,” or “it is hard, or sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and I…whatever.” We can be a lot more honest than what we let ourselves be most of the time.

Q) Where do you get your best feedback from?

AB: This is something that we don’t do well. We’re in the dark ages in podcasting. We have a very dumb delivery mechanism which is the MP3 and we just don’t get a lot of it.

Q) What books are you reading?

AB: I have been on a fiction tear because my kids have finally gotten to the age where I have free time again. I haven’t read in forever, and now that my kids are five and seven and they can just, sort of, entertain themselves for a couple hours in an afternoon so I can read now. So I read — just finished The Underground Railroad by Coslon Whitehead. I’m a huge Jennifer Egan fan, so I just finished her most recent one, Manhattan Beach, and then I read The Goon Squad. I’ve read on a tear. And now I’m on the Michael Lewis book, The Undoing Project, which is about these two Nobel winning economists, or they’re psychologists, but they went on to work in economics. It’s super interesting.

Webinar World 2018: Plotting Out a Superior B2B Buyer’s Journey with Cheri Keith

How can you get more engagement from your webinars? Learn tips, tricks and tactics that make webinars work at Webinar World 2019.

Marketers talk a good game about customer-centricity, but can they actually live up to it in a digital era? Of course, they can. All they have to do is know what makes their personas tick.

Easy, right? Well, the digital world has a way of making things difficult.

To help you to refine your personas and map out your buyer’s journey, Cheri Keith, Senior Research Analyst at SiriusDecisions, is going to deliver her General Session discussion, Engaging Modern B-to-B Buyers: Creating a Marketing Mix that Resonates, at Webinar World 2018 on Tuesday, March 6.

With more than a decade of marketing experience at her fingertips, Cheri Keith knows how to pin down the elements of an effective marketing campaign. She’ll share what the critical drivers are for business-to-business purchase decisions, how you can refine buyer’s journey maps and how you can identify and verify the factors that impact these decisions.

So how can you attend? Simple. Register for Webinar World 2018 today and make your way to the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, California, from March 5-7. Not registered? All you have to do is click here.

Webinar Strategy: What Marketing Personalization Can Do

What are you more likely to respond to? A marketing webinar invitation with a title like “How to Accelerate Your Pipeline,” or an invite that speaks to your segment and your particular problems, like “How to Cure Pipeline Bottlenecks in Tech Marketing” or “Lead Maturation Secrets For Financial Marketers?”

Most of us respond to marketing personalization, but as marketers, it’s hard for us to deliver. The problem isn’t lack of data — we’re swimming in data. We can record everything from what lists your leads signed up for to how long they spent looking at a particular page. We can test different messages, designs, webinar formats and content down to the word and get hard data about who our customers are and what they want. The problem is, most of us are focusing on content without taking the time to target our content and webinar strategy.

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions (LMS) faced a more daunting marketing personalization challenge than most. We’re the marketing and advertising side of LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional platform. Our job is to help LinkedIn marketers connect with their customers.

The benefits of our product are obvious, but our customers are difficult to target because they come from so many industries with so many different targets. There are higher education companies targeting aspirational professionals, B2B tech providers, and nonprofits looking to sway key influencers and decision-makers. Figuring out who’s a webinar marketing prospect, who might be interested in our ebook, and who’s just there for connections itself requires some sophisticated modeling. Segmenting and targeting all those different groups is even harder.

How do you target so many different segments? Throwing a lot of content at them is part of the answer. We have an always-on marketing strategy across every channel available to us — sponsored content and dynamic ads, InMail and email, social feeds and blogging, live webinars and other webcasts. But throwing content was pretty much all of it. We’d get suggestions, run a webinar and see how well it worked. We were running a decent webinar cadence, with 4–6 per month, but we didn’t have a cohesive strategy behind our content and webinar marketing. No matter how good our content was, it wasn’t connecting quite like we wanted it to.

Marketing personalization starts with analytics

Our first task was getting our content on target — defining our audience so we could deliver the right content in the right form. The first thing was to figure out who was reading white papers, downloading ebooks or signing up and attending our marketing webinars. We brought in our business analytics team to work with us to score members for propensity, so we could see where our members were in the marketing funnel.

That helped us group the targets, but we still needed to know who they were. Fortunately, as a professional network, we had plenty of data to figure that out, including job titles, skills and previous experience as clients. Not only did that help us identify the hot leads, but it also gave us a sustainable model for lead maturation. But the breakthrough was the other information we learned about our targets. That let us do what we couldn’t do with good ideas alone: personalize the marketing content.

The personalization imperative

Our webinar marketing strategy got pretty intricate later on, but basic personalization was very simple. The content was already good, even where it was just targeted towards marketers in general. The key was tweaking the messaging. Just by making simple changes to address it to the industry of the member, we received a 184 percent boost in clickthrough. That’s a change anyone can make — you just have to take the time to learn who you’re talking to. And once you get the basics of marketing personalization down, there’s no limits to what you can accomplish.