Ellen Smoley joins ON24’s Josh Baez to discuss how companies can find growth without expanding their tech stack—or their budgets.
Solid marketing data lets you make smart decisions.
When you know the expected outcome of an activity, finding growth in your budget becomes simple math.
Don’t focus on KPIs that don’t match your goals.
If you’re generating a ton of leads that don’t convert, are you really succeeding? Align sales and marketing efforts to find success.
Improved follow-up means improved ROI.
Focus on acting on the data you receive from your efforts, with an eye toward being human.
I’d say the guaranteed fastest way to get efficient ROI is just to improve your follow-up skills. Simple— follow up in a humanized way and be respectful doing it.
Uzair built Iron Horse from a startup to an award-winning growth marketing agency helping global brands build scalable integrated marketing programs. Uzair is regularly featured in Wired.com, CNET, Demand Gen Report, DM News, eMarketer, MediaPost, Native Mobile and Retail Integration, and has spoken at TechWeek, Marketo Summit and other key industry events.
Cheri is a respected and results-oriented marketing and communications leader with a proven track record of moving people and programs forward. She has more than fifteen years of experience driving marketing communications, public and analyst relations and content campaigns for B2B companies. Cheri is a recognized thought leader in the field of marketing, in-person and digital events, marketing technology and agencies.
Alex Brown: [00:00:02] It is 2:00 pm on the East Coast, 1 p.m. on the West, and it's time to turn on Slack do not disturb. Put your phone away. Grab one of your favorite beverages. It's time for a coffee break. I'm Alex Jonathan Brown, senior copywriter here at Iron Horse. And I'm joined today by two fantastic guests to talk about B2B marketing, specifically in, quote and quote, this economy and what you can do to see some interesting growth. First, first guest is Cheri Hulse. She's a respected, results oriented marketing communications leader with a proven track record for moving people and programs forward. She comes to us from ON24. Cheri. Hi. Welcome to the coffee break.
Cheri Hulse: [00:00:53] Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
Alex Brown: [00:00:55] Of course. And a familiar face around these parts. He’s Iron Horse CEO Uzair Dada is there. Welcome back.
Uzair Dada: [00:01:03] Hello. Hello. Good to be back.
Alex Brown: [00:01:05] So the reason why we have gathered here today, I don't know if you all have heard, the economy. It's doing stuff. It feels like one of those things where any time anybody weighs in with questions about the economy or the market, it feels like things are moving pretty quickly. And depending on what information you're looking at, what kind of benchmarks you're judging by, things are sort of all over the place. For those of us who are invested in, and paychecks depend on growing businesses, growing companies and doing marketing effectively, it can be a really tricky time to be trying to do this. So the basic most simple question that we're asking today is what can companies do to optimize growth for the rest of this year, whatever that looks like?
Uzair Dada: [00:02:01] Yeah, I'd say, you know, kind of interesting world we live in where it's super dynamic. You know, the world is flat, so everything is connected and everything is impacted and everything sort of goes in cycles. US is ahead from a, you know, better state of economy than the rest of the world, I'd say, today. But the rest of the world has a huge impact on what happens in the US and vice versa. Um, I was at a private equity conference recently and what I heard that they are talking to their companies about is that flat is the new up for 2023, which is very interesting because a lot of people are down. So the fact that you can maintain share. If you can gain share, awesome. But if you can maintain share, that's great. And you're also seeing a dynamic change where large is getting larger and small is getting smaller. So there's a flight to quality a little bit or flight to large happening. So how do you play in that ecosystem? What do you do? How do you sort of focus? I think it requires all of us to think about what is important to us, what's working and be very data driven. Marketing generally is the first thing to get cut.
Uzair Dada: [00:03:15] Sales is right after and especially your discretionary budgets like advertising and media, are the first ones to get hit in a big way. But at the same time, in today's day and age where everyone is more digital, where 70 to 80% of your buying process is happening before anyone comes to you, if you are relying on your old tactics of inbound only someone coming and knocking on your door or doing dialing for dollars, which is almost becoming coming, becoming ridiculously hard to execute by itself, you're going to fail. So you have to invest. Marketing is sort of becoming much more responsible for the pipeline than they ever were before. Sales is now very much focused on closing. Right AE’s role has shifted. AE is no longer dialing for dollars, but they're really taking the lead, which is fairly well evolved and helping close and and push it through the process. I've actually listened to a bunch of kind of senior leaders at companies that are talking about should we have fewer AE and more sales? Because the role of the year shifted there. They're more a sales coordinator than sales closer for the entire process. So there's so much going on. Cheri, your thoughts?
Cheri Hulse: [00:04:36] Yeah, I think it it gets oftentimes overwhelming for people to it's like what is in my control? Because of course, as individuals, as humans, like we're not in control of the macro economy. And that's actually some research that I had commissioned recently. So we surveyed about 1300 people globally, um, B2B marketers to see what is within their control and what, what's the correlation between people who are hitting their business goals and people who are, um, you know, what are they doing differently than others? And we found that high maturity when it comes to digital marketing. So people who had evolved with the times, let's say, were two times more likely to have met or exceeded their business goals. So if we think about what's in our control. Training our people and getting processes in place that enable digital transformation. I think the other part of that is a trend that was happening even before the pandemic, which is we all like to chase logos, but retaining customers is one of the best ways to remain flat. To Uzair's point, making sure that we don't churn those logos. I mean, no one loves a down sell, but a down sell is certainly better than losing someone. So a focus, you know, whether that be through investments in your customer success, your account management or however you're structured. But how is marketing supporting that part of the journey and how do marketers, you know, take that shift away from net new logo being the prime driver to thinking about how can our marketing initiatives be used to improve both retention, but also look for opportunities for upsell and cross-sell? So I think if I can think about what we control can control, it would be those two things. Yeah.
Uzair Dada: [00:06:35] And I would say it's not just retention, it's usage. Retention is an outcome of, of usage. And I think that's the one thing along the lines that you mentioned, we are so enamored by new logos that we sort of invest 80% of our energies on new logos and SCs and the pre-sales process and 20% of our energies of post-sales onboarding and, and, and sort of usage and driving outcomes in a fast manner. I mean, I won't name it, but sort of like there's organizations I know which their customer success is a 30 minute meeting with their new customers every other week. I mean, it's a four month onboarding process, something that should take less than two weeks. Right. So we have to have that sense of urgency for our customers because our customers need that from us. Right. And so being there with them, helping them think through, okay, what is your outcome? How can I show you results? Get them to buy in, because then come, come renewal, it's a non-issue. Right? And hopefully it’s expanding by that time. If you've done a good job. Right, even in these crappy markets. So yeah, I think that's a super important part, right?
Cheri Hulse: [00:07:49] Because utilization mean should be something that it's, you know, onboarding and then like how are we actually doing with adoption? Like onboarding is one thing, but that continual utilization is so important. And, and again, if we're ignoring our customer base with our marketing, we're not even, you know, using the levers that we have in marketing to be able to impact that. And I think that's really, you know, one of the downfalls for a lot of MarTech organizations is not thinking about that. I mean, the big scary statistic from Gartner is that it's gone from 58% of MarTech utilization to 48% in a few years. So like the collective, we is not getting better. So there's certainly vendor side to that and there's an end user like a buyer side to that. I know when I put my name on the line when it comes to buying something, I want to make sure we get as much value out of it as possible. So I think it's something that everyone has to collectively come together on in order to, um, you know, look for opportunities for growth.
Uzair Dada: [00:08:54] Yeah. I was talking to a very senior digital transformation leader at an extremely large enterprise tech enterprise, and he was saying they have over 100 MarTech kind of solutions in the company. And he said at best, at best we use 30. So that's a great example of, you know, just shelfware that's there and, you know, likely ready for churn at some point in time.
Alex Brown: [00:09:21] That's one of those stats that we tend to talk about a lot in these coffee breaks because it does affect so many things. But I think this is kind of the first time that we've talked about it from the other side of the equation and really thinking like if you're working at one of those pieces of shelfware, basically like that's a very scary stat for the other reasons that we just talked about. Like you're probably one of the first ones that's that's on that chopping block. And so we know getting people like getting your customers really involved with your product, becoming an integral part of their operations and their what they do is such a big step. Um, but shifting back a little bit to either, you know, keeping people on board, fighting off that churn or managing to bring in new clients and customers, um, especially in an economy like this being predictable and like having a steady pipeline either to retain or to to add new customers is really important. What are some of the things that marketers and companies can look toward to build a pipeline that not only works but like works sustainably, sort of regardless of what the marketing or what the the market's doing.
Uzair Dada: [00:10:39] Cheri.
Cheri Hulse: [00:10:41] I would say if the best thing people can do is look at the data that they have today and think, that's hard for a lot of marketers because marketers are not data driven. Marketers are insights driven. It's very rare that you have a data scientist, someone with a research background on your marketing team. And I think that's one of the downfalls, is so many companies, you know, talk about their value being data, but we need to actually show our customers how to use that data. And I think when it comes, so to tie that back to the question about how to make pipeline repeatable, scalable and predictable, one of the best things you can do is have a consistent way that you're acting on the marketing data that you're gathering so that you know you have good benchmarks. Here's the number of programs that I need to run. I know the expected output from an ebook, from a webinar, from a physical event. Like if I understand the data behind the outputs there, I'm able to track that back to my pipeline to be able to say, all right, if these are what my goals are, here's what my program mix needs to look like in order to support that level of success. So I think it's an area that we've all need to needed to grow within, but I think that's one of the best ways to do that is to make sure that we're both capturing that data and then acting on it internally.
Uzair Dada: [00:12:08] Yeah, I'll go take it up one level, I'd say the first thing is know what you want? Have a defined outcome. 90% of the time we live in the world of stupid KPIs, and they're very tactical. They're way in the weeds. They're not defined outcomes. And so I think your business outcome is the paramount thing. What are you solving for? Who are you solving for? Right. I think once you have that, that helps. You then define saying, okay, once I know what I'm solving for, who I'm solving for, what is the conversation we as an organization need to have with that persona, with that ICP Whether it's a new logo that doesn't know us or is an existing customer that knows us, what's that conversation? If I've defined the conversation arc, then I can sort of kind of imagine the engagement path that I want to lay out for them wherever they come from, whether they're coming through a webinar acquisition channel or they're touching a webinar as part of the journey or whatever else. And if I've defined the engagement path, right, and I've defined the conversation arc right, I can drive them further with purpose, right? And have alignment. I think the data part 100% agree with with Cheri. But I feel oftentimes because a lot of times we're a large organization, we are victims of organizational design that leads to looking at silos. I am the webinar person. I'm the email person. I'm the paid media person. I'm the social person. Who's the customer person? Who's the who's the end user person? Like, think that we've lost that art of having an anchor to focus on. And each one of those people have committed to these KPIs that have been rolled up to their VP's, that have been rolled up to their boards. You know, like in today's day and age, we're talking about account based marketing and focus on accounts and target accounts. Yeah, it's great. But what is the KPI? The board still asks for? How many leads did you generate? It's disjointed. So I think having alignment between sales, marketing and leadership, having clarity on outcomes is the fundamental core to sort of driving things down further. And then the decisions 100% should be data driven. I think there is a lot of amazing benefits from it and the biggest one is, especially in these markets, is efficiency, right? It allows everyone to get aligned and focus instead of spray and pray approach. I'm doing the things that matter and it's purpose built. So if you don't have that good intentions, still crappy output.
Alex Brown: [00:14:48] I think and this is I'm as I think the person who probably does the most like day to day content generation. I'll add this just real quickly if if your organization isn't using, data for their marketing stuff, you were missing one of the best opportunities to kill. The idea that everybody knows is a bad idea. But somebody just saying very loudly, if you can go back to the data and be like, Here are X, Y, and Z reasons why we shouldn't do this, not that it's a bad idea, but we're just in this other direction and the numbers back us in this direction. Like you can lean on data to kill so many things that gut check as a bad idea, but you just need to back up as proof Data is amazing for that. So if you're if you're in that marketing writing emails role and watching this, it's my tip for you.
Uzair Dada: [00:15:38] I would also say one more thing along what Cheri said, that marketers love insights, but marketing is a very broad function. And so when you talk about insights, most of those insights are live within the demand gen world in marketing. They rarely ever, if ever, shared with content and creative. And web engineering and folks. I mean, it's shocking. It's so Captain obvious, but we don't do it on a regular basis. Right? So make sure the insights that you have and the data you have is not just for you, but is broadly shared because it's very important for someone like an Alex who's writing content for a persona. Icp to say, Did it work? Did it not work? How did it work? Same thing goes for creative. Same thing goes for your team. And it's just a shame that we hoard that data. Probably not purposely, but we do. And we need to just be more aware of sharing that data and the power of the data that could be impactful for other colleagues in your team within marketing and of course, sales.
Alex Brown: [00:16:45] Yeah, if that if that loop doesn't get closed, it's really hard for the people who are putting that content out to get better because we kind of just send it off and then don't know what happens to it. But while we're talking about really good data, can we talk about like. The golden ticket of data. The the Glengarry Glen Ross. Good leads of data. Can we talk about intent for a little bit? Because I know everybody loves to talk about intent data, but it is such a thing where if you get good intent data, it can mean so much for your organization. So how are people getting good intent data? Like what's what's the best practices surrounding getting a hold of that and then using it.
Cheri Hulse: [00:17:28] I think one of the best places to go is your own programs. I mean, I know intent data and intent data providers have certainly certainly have a role in how we view the world and run our marketing programs. But it can often be overlooked that first party data that that we can gather from the marketing that's happened with it within our own programs to understand more about someone's actual intent when they're showing up for your marketing programs. And I think it's so important because the level of customization and personalization that buyers now expect from us is so high. But most personalization efforts fail because they're being fed by bad data. And sometimes that's because we're using only one source of data. It usually needs to be a blend. But oftentimes, again, back to the points that we started at with our marketing, focusing on our customers. We actually have so much more like we don't need to rely on third party data. We need to be relying on their product utilization data and their activities actually with us to think about how we segment and communicate with them, because that's the richest source of information that we actually have.
Uzair Dada: [00:18:43] Yeah, I think we're Living in the world where intent is everything. First party intent is naturally gold and first party intent unfortunately fails because things are not connected. That's the biggest gap, right? It's connections and bringing it together so that you have signal from the noise. You've heard me say that before a lot. It's how do we drive more signal from noise? First party data usually have less noise because it's more direct and it's better directional. But we're living in a world where, again, we don't know everybody and everyone. So first party data only addresses this much today because unless they've engaged with you, then it's awesome. But if they're not engaged with you, all the data sits outside. So you need to sort of the layered intent is becoming a real thing, right? And so how do you bring those two things together is where I think awesome magic happens and nothing is perfect. It's all directional. So you need to take that with a grain of salt because there's the number of conversations I've had where I'm in a sales or marketing conversation and they're like, well, I got this, but you know, it didn't work. And their intention don't you didn't respond to my email. I reached out to them because they downloaded something at somewhere. Guys. It's a signal. The way I'd say it is like it's like we've now got a pretty we are sort of the invisible kind of bug on the wall where we can see what people are doing. And now it's up to us as intelligent humans and not robots to use that information to our advantage to follow up in a humanized manner.
Uzair Dada: [00:20:17] Right. A stat I heard the other day was it takes over 200 dials to get a single appointment. Mm. That's insane. Right. That means that outbound calling is just almost dead. You can't do it anymore, like as a scalable engine. That's crazy. So you have to be smarter. That doesn't mean it doesn't work, but you have to be smarter. So you need to see who is in market? What are you doing? You know, Cheri, you guys are ON24 webinars and digital experiences to me are one of my favorite, favorite strategies, which have, if you orchestrate it right, amazing insight, right. And be able to do stuff and the ability to sort of extend. But yet we spend 90% of our energy in creating that lovely 40 page webinar presentation, right? We spent all our time driving registration, and then we're disappointed that people who registered didn't attend the live session or only 20% did or 30% did. But we're just missing the forest from the trees. Like there's so much more you can do and maybe that's a good place for you to talk about it. But I think that's a great example of we are not utilizing what we have well to our advantage. And as a result, we keep pointing fingers that things don't work. They work. They're only not working because we're using a learner's permit to drive a Ferrari.
Cheri Hulse: [00:21:49] Exactly. I mean, I often joke it's like someone who has spent too much time researching webinars at this point in her life. You know, other marketing tactics should be jealous, like 55 minutes, the average view time on webinars. Like it's gone up even through the pandemic and more webinars occurring. So it exists for sure. And that's why, you know, my job is really to work with customers to make sure that they're thinking about your slides are great. I don't get involved in their slide where, but where we need to be thinking about it is to your point, it's like what data do we actually want to get out of this webinar, this experience, and how is sales going to act on it? Because that's the biggest gap we have to close now is if someone's spending 55 minutes with you, chances are they're doing something. And what signals should we look for? What would a response to a poll question tell us about that person that we wouldn't otherwise know? That should change the way that the the whoever it is, how should we treat them differently following that event? If we learn something about them and think that's that's the opportunity, then making sure that sales actually follows through on it. We can't be just creating, you know, marketing programs for our own sake. We need to be doing it so that there's alignment and people are acting on that data. And you know, the research I was mentioning earlier, that's one of the biggest gaps is especially in APAC, actually. Um. You know, only 5% are satisfied in Asia with the engagement data that they're collecting. They don't think they're collecting enough of it, and so therefore they're not passing it to sales. So I think that's an opportunity that doesn't cost any extra money, right, to just think about how do I want sales to act? On this event like the slides sales isn't going to act on them, but they're going to act on either poll data, survey questions, engagement in group chat, whatever that might be. That's what sales can actually act on. And I think, you know, being less of a slide wizards and more about engagement engineers would be a great opportunity for people.
Uzair Dada: [00:24:04] I'd say. The guaranteed fastest way to get efficient ROI is just improve your follow up skills. Simple. Forget everything. Forget it. Throw it all away. Literally just follow up in a humanized, personalized manner. And be respectful doing it. That's the you know, the webinar is the biggest culprit. This thing comes in and it just becomes shelfware in a database somewhere and it gets nurtured and it's lost, right? It's just such a classic example or in some other organizations, every lead, every person who registered is getting a sales call. Both are wrong, right? So like how do we just become better at following up and how do we remove dead ends for our prospects and customers if we can literally just do that? It's ridiculously hard to do because it's such a pervasive problem in organizations. You'd have a much higher yield and a better performance. So if I'd say if there's, you know, less is more focus on those two things.
Alex Brown: [00:25:16] Well, we are we are coming up on the end of our coffee break time. But Uzair, you got to nail a great out. Do you have any parting shots, last bits of wisdom about all of this.
Cheri Hulse: [00:25:30] I guess just to pull on the thread I was just talking about, which is work with sales as you're actually developing the programs that. We're not. If we have sales partner, like we don't need them to come up with the slides, come up with the poll questions, whatever it is. But if we can learn from them, what what information could I get from an audience member that would change the way you interact with them moving forward, whether it's about their maturity, their timeline, their, you know. Whether or not they've already implemented strategies for this service or your offering in the past. Just what what like, what contextual information would you like to learn? And then we can engineer the, the way to get that information from someone, whether it be through poll questions, other types of engagement. And then we can pass that information to them. So I think having them involved in the process is pretty critical though. Um, you know, the silver platter is wonderful, but if the silver platter doesn't have what I ordered on it, it doesn't really matter to me. And that needs to be the approach and working with sales.
Alex Brown: [00:26:41] I think there are some people watching this who whose mind you have entirely blown just with the idea that poll questions can be useful data and not a thing we do to make the webinar just feel more interactive and like that shift and bringing that shift to all of the different parts of these processes is such a huge thing. So I'm so glad we got to talk about that because it really, you know, we're not doing this for fun. Like if we get, if we get good info out of it, that's always amazing. But like I said, we are up on time. Thank you both so much for joining us and giving us this kind of overview of where things are and hopefully how we can get people to use more of the products that we offer and we can get more information and do better with fighting churn and bringing in new clients. Uzair, your stuff's at ironhorse.io. I know that because my stuff's there too. But Cheri, if people want to learn more about you and ON24 and everything you're doing over there, including, I think, a recently released report that you talked a little bit about, go ahead and plug all that stuff if you want to.
Cheri Hulse: [00:27:51] Oh yeah, You can find ON24 at ON24.com. We'll have the report available for everyone who joined today. That's welcome for you to interact with and you can find me online mainly on LinkedIn at this point.
Alex Brown: [00:28:08] Cheri Hulse It's one of my favorite parts about doing this coffee break. We do the podcast plugs at the end and nobody everybody scrambles a little bit. You did fantastically. Um, everybody else watching this, I guess it's time to scramble and get back to get back to your work. Thanks for joining us. We'll do this again next month. And until then, break's over. Let's get back to work. Bye, everybody. Bye bye.
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