In this episode, we’re talking about a dilemma that’s common to nearly every marketer: long-term brand building vs. short-term lead gen. My guest today is Andy Smith, who is the VP of Marketing at PowerReviews. And he’s sharing his team’s strategy for long-term vs. short-term, and also his insights on brand building. And I know that you’re going to enjoy this episode!
(7:00) It’s crucial to find balance between long-term brand building vs. short-term lead gen.
It’s the balance of the short-term results with the long-term. Longer-term, the results will play out. But it can take a little bit of time. You don’t build a brand overnight. It takes years, really, to build a really effective brand. But I think, if you’re doing the brand well, you’re going to hit the short-term goal as well. Just because it’s something that just builds in momentum to the point where you kind of reach a crescendo, it just keeps getting bigger and better and louder. So I think you can do both.
(14:03) The key to scaling and making progress is finding and implementing the right processes.
Process is everything. And the crazy thing about what I’ve learned from my experience is that once you find something, it just becomes quicker and more seamless. If something works, you almost don’t have to work at it. Because it will naturally become quicker, more efficient, and more effective once you find the right people to work on it, or once you find the right things to create content on, in our case. But in anything, process is everything for moving fast.
(17:20) Create content that speaks to both customers and prospects.
The way I treat it is that they’re essentially the same thing. If your customers and your prospects are basically your buyer profiles, then your objective from a content perspective is to create something that’s valuable to them. Something they find useful, something that engages them. Our strategy is to create a bunch of brand awareness, get people on our site, get them converting. At the top of the funnel, I think it’s largely the same thing. The same thing should interest them. In our case, it’s like, how do you create the best ratings and reviews program you can do? And that is something that both our customers and our prospects are interested in. I think largely, if you’re doing your job properly with your content development, you’re going to tick both boxes. And I think that’s great for a marketer.
(19:31) When creating buyer personas, focus on their business challenges and the solution you can offer them.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the whole concept of personas. I’ve seen them done to the nth degree, where you know, the person has a name, and they have a family, and you really try to get inside their head. I think that’s a bit overkill. But when I think about personas, it’s a title, really. And understanding that person’s challenge. So mapping it to their business challenges is how I think about it.
(22:43) Build your brand by creating valuable content and finding ways to get it in front of the people who need it.
How do you build a brand from scratch? I try to think of things very simply and not overcomplicate them, even though a lot goes into the concept. So to me, it’s like: create good content, one. Get it in front of people, two. Get it in front of who it needs to be in front of. You want to be seen and very visible. So that’s kind of how I look at it. Create good content. Get it in front of people.
(26:45) Challenge the idea that SEO is a must. Instead, look at where your target audience is and how you can best reach them.
We don’t really see SEO as an important tactic for us. Brand building is what I see as most important. The sorts of people we know that are searching, doing SEO, are not our buyers, really.
(31:52) Even if you focus on long-term brand building over short-term lead gen, you still need to produce some short-term results.
I think you’ve definitely got to have courage as a marketer. And you’ve got to stand up for what you know to be true. But at the same time, if you are preaching long-term patience, or long-term results, you’ve got to deliver those long term results. If it comes a year on and there’s no difference, then you’re kind of nowhere.
(34:16) With good internal communication, you can demonstrate to your company just how much revenue marketing is able to generate through content.
You know, I talked about the buying cycle and people not wanting to be sold to? Well, that’s great for marketing, because marketing provides that brand, provides the information where buyers buy on their own terms. So to me, it’s a really interesting shift in B2B SaaS and the impact of marketing. I know our CEO is looking at marketing and saying, “That’s a scalable resource in the way that my sales team is not.” Marketing has an opportunity to really, I think, be the predominant revenue generator in our industry. It’s a great time to be in marketing.
(38:29) When hiring, evaluate people on the value they can add, not on skills and systems knowledge that they can easily learn.
If you get someone who ticks every box of the skill requirement, which I think is an obsession for some people, they’re going to get bored real quickly. And I think the best example of that is systems knowledge. These tools are designed to be easy to use and easy to learn. So if someone’s smart, and they learn quick, they’re going to pick that up super quick. Don’t be restricted by ridiculous things like that. Think about the value this person can add. I want really creative and curious people. I want people questioning me. That’s what’s going to make me better. And I hope I’m doing the same to them.
(Laura 0:51) I’m really looking forward to sharing today’s episode with you because we’re talking about a dilemma that’s common to nearly every marketer: long-term brand building vs. short-term lead gen. And my guest today is Andy Smith, who is the VP of Marketing at PowerReviews. And he’s sharing his team’s strategy for long-term vs. short-term, and also sharing some insights on brand building. And I know that you’re going to enjoy this episode!
Just a note, my microphone was not working properly. So you’ll notice that the voice quality is not quite as good as normal. But I know that you’ll find the episode worth it. Andy has a lot of good things to share. So let’s dive in.
All right, Andy, I am so excited for our conversation today! And I just want to say thanks so much for coming on the show.
(Andy 1:48) Well, thank you very much for having me! I’m excited to be here.
(Laura) Awesome. So to start, could you share just a little bit about PowerReviews and your role there?
(Andy 2:00) Sure. So PowerReviews is a user-generated content company. And you know, user-generated content can mean a lot of things to different people. But in our world, we do ratings and reviews, we do the technology, and we do the support. And services enables companies to generate more of that content, and then display that content, like maximum impact, and then analyze that content to ensure they’re constantly optimizing and iterating on what they’re doing. So they’re always ensuring that UGC has as much impact on conversion as possible. And as well, in terms of the analytics piece, we also help with benchmarking the review content. Which is actually a really big deal, because if you think about it, like in the past, companies have done surveys from a CX kind of customer intelligence perspective. And people are really getting bored of surveys, fed up of doing surveys and then nothing being done about what they put in the survey. So we think it’s a really underutilized source of data for benchmarking product intelligence, benchmarking customer experience intelligence, and yeah, making improvements based on that information.
And so there’s ratings and reviews, but that’s not the only component of UGC that we do. There’s also questions and answers, which is something else we do. That’s when you go on to any commerce page, and there’s, it’s almost crowdsourced questions and then crowdsourced answers, or sometimes brand-submitted answers. And then imagery as well. So there’s a whole kind of component of bringing imagery in from social media. The idea that the consumers prefer to see images submitted by consumers like themselves rather than from the brands, which are much more kind of curated and much more made to look like the best-case scenario. Whereas you know, images from a customer are a lot more real, and kind of exactly what that product is like out in the wild.
And in terms of my role, I’m the VP of Marketing, so I head up the marketing team. PowerReviews is like a 150-person, give or take, business. So our marketing team is a five-person operation as of today. So we’re kind of like a small and mighty team that tries to get a lot done, really scrappy, and I head up — in terms of our responsibilities, the marketing team — very simple: it’s like, drive pipeline, drive revenue, and help with retention and upsell and adoption of our product.
I’m not sure I mentioned, when I said we’re a UGC company, we use the technology platform and also provide services around it. So what we help companies do is collect more and better content, like I say, display it and analyze it. So there’s various elements to that that you can kind of pick apart. But you wouldn’t believe it, because when I first got into this I was like, “It’s not that it’s not that complicated. It’s just ratings and reviews.” But there’s an awful lot of elements to it that does make it more complex, and stuff that our customers want. So that’s me and our company in a kind of, I guess, three-minute blurb! Sorry I went on so long about that.
(Laura 5:19) No, that was great! And I love what you guys are doing, too, because ecommerce especially is so competitive now. And everybody is looking for that thing that they can do to compete more effectively. And I feel like you guys really offer that.
(Andy 5:35) Yeah, I mean, it’s like leveraging the voice of the customer, but in a different way. The way I think about it is like buyer confidence. So particularly now, when people are shopping online and possibly looking at products they haven’t looked at before — or where they used to go into the store, and they’d be able to kind of touch, feel, whatever the product and really kind of get a sense of first performance just in the store — now they need some kind of validation before they actually click that Buy button. So the way I like to think about it is it provides the buyer confidence that means the customers are going to put that item in their basket and then click Buy. So yeah, I mean, it’s becoming almost like a table stake on our website now, like you really can’t live without it, just in terms of the impact it has on conversion and sales.
(Laura 6:26) Right. Awesome. So I am really excited about our topic, because I feel like every marketer is facing this dilemma. Which is identifying the level of time and resources to dedicate to long-term brand building vs. short-term lead gen. So, I’d just like to hear from you, on your perspective, why is it so challenging for companies to figure this out?
(Andy 7:00) I would say the challenge really comes from leadership, right? Like, when you have a CEO, he or she looks at marketing as a kind of revenue-generating function. So they need to be able to show that to the board or whoever they’re reporting to. So you know, I’m a big believer in empathy. So you’ve got to put yourself in your CEO’s shoes and be like, well, you and I know as marketers that the power of the brand is everything. But as a CEO, you probably understand that, but you’re also under pressure for short-term results. So that kind of just cascades down.
In terms of why is it challenging to figure out? I mean, it just is, right? That’s the whole point. It’s the balance of the short-term results with the long-term. You know longer term the results will play out. But it’s just, it can take a little bit of time. You don’t build a brand overnight. It takes years, really, to build a really effective brand. If you see the biggest brands in the world, you know, the Nikes, the Apples, etc. They built something over like 20, 30, 40 years. So I totally get it.
And I guess that’s the world we live in, in B2B SaaS. It’s a little different. But yeah, you still need — especially in our space, ecommerce, there’s so many platforms. So standing out is tricky. So yeah, I think we’re gonna dig into a little bit about the power of brand and why I think it’s so important. But I think, if you’re doing the brand well, you’re going to hit the short-term goal as well. Just because it’s something that just builds in momentum to the point where you kind of reach a crescendo, it just keeps getting bigger and better and louder. So yeah, I think you can kind of do both. And I think it’s really thinking about how you can tick both boxes your existing activities, you know, with single activities.
(Laura 9:05)Yeah. So talk a little bit more about, like you said, why is it so important to get that balance? Especially for SaaS companies?
(Andy 9:14) Yeah, I think its results. So, you know, if you think about brand, it’s gonna drive everything. Like you’re under pressure, if you’re like me, under pressure to meet a certain sales qualified meetings number, and then a revenue number, a source revenue number. It drives that. That’s one thing. So if that’s your own goal, that’s a number you own. But it also provides air cover to your sales team, air cover to your CFMs. It will make your campaigns more effective.
But I think the critical thing is, people knowing about you just means they’ll seek you out when it’s really their time to buy. So like for us, if I think about it, our strategy is basically to make people aware of us, and then build a website that’s absolutely built and ripe for conversion. So that when they do come to us, it’s very easy for them to want to engage with us. I think that’s the other thing about the importance of marketing now: buyers like to buy on their terms. I don’t think — it is a bit of an interesting time, in terms of the B2B buying cycle, but buyers don’t necessarily want to be sold to. They want to go out and research for themselves and then come to you when they’re ready. So I think it’s definitely an interesting time. But with that buying cycle in mind, that’s why brand is important to me.
(Laura 10:49) Yeah, that’s great. So I know that you guys have really done a good job with balancing the long-term and short-term, especially with the brand building. And we’ll get into a little bit more about the brand building in a bit. But I’d love to hear from you how you landed on your ratio, and what that journey looked like.
(Andy 11:11) Yeah, so I sort of talked about how long-term brand building and short-term lead gen can kind of coexist, right? And they can kind of tick the same box. And I think that’s kind of where we succeeded, really. I think we’re sort of fortunate in that our brand building enabled us to deliver on our short-term goals. So when I came in — and this is like, it’s different for everyone, and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but I can just talk from my own experience — I had little or no expectations. I was not VP of marketing or leader of marketing before I had these roles, so I was more of an individual contributor. So I had little or no expectations. And, you know, my boss saw something in me and just gave me a shot.
And with that as well, we didn’t have much of a brand. So anything we did early on to create it — I think as well, wherever you are in your journey, though, that if you can maintain the status quo of the short-term while building the brand, I think that that’s probably a good way to start. But for me, like, I didn’t really need to, it wasn’t something I massively needed to worry about. Just because, even our short-term brand building helped with our initial lead flow. So it kind of was one and the same, if that makes sense.
(Laura 12:39) Yeah, no, that’s really interesting. Because, I mean, usually the immediate need is, you know, the short-term lead gen. So getting started with that, and then using that as your baseline, and then building the brand from there, focusing on more longer term.
(Andy 12:56) Yes, I think, how you can probably think about it, I guess, is that with us, it’s like — I think we’ll get into this — like we build a brand with content, right? So, to me, a piece of content can be used as a lead generation piece of collateral, lead generation mechanism, or lead generation method, if you like. But at the same time, that’s also brand building, right? Because to me, you know, as you build out like a good content library and a good content flow and get a good reputation providing content that is valuable, it kind of ticks both boxes.
(Laura 13:32) Yeah. Great point. So before we talk about the content, specifically, I’d love to hear about any hurdles that you ran into during that process of, you know, thinking about brand building alongside the short-term lead gen, whether it was advocating for more resources or selling leadership on a new approach you wanted to take. Anything like that? And if so, how did you overcome those hurdles?
(Andy 14:03) I think building processes was probably the biggest challenge. I wouldn’t say it was a hurdle or a roadblock. But like, getting into the flow, I think a lot of… It’s like with anything, you build a process, and then you sharpen that process and increase the velocity of that process. So the fact when I came in there were no processes, that was kind of my biggest challenge. And so, that involved finding people I trusted, freelance writers that we could work with that I trusted and were doing a good job, and ramping them. So I’d just say that’s the biggest impediment to quick progress is things like that.
In terms of resources, I mean, we had enough resources to do what we needed to do. I would say as well, we were kind of fortunate in that we were kind of always meeting our short-term goals. So it wasn’t like that was ever a critical problem. You know, when I took the job, my CEO said to me, “Just go.” That was his thing. “Just go get a ton of stuff done. Do what you want to do.” You know, “I trust you, go do it.” I didn’t really need any sort of second invitation. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. So I just went out and did it. And now what I’ve realized was that was a tactic, and what he wanted me to do was create a baseline that he could then ask me to improve on. And that’s obviously the challenge with like, initial success. You have to kind of scale that. But yeah, I would say the biggest barriers to kind of building a brand from scratch is developing the processes behind everything that goes into it. And we can dig into like my content vetting process if you like, but for me, it was kind of finding the right people to do the content, like I say, ramping them. And I don’t know what to say. That’s kind of it, really.
(Laura 15:58) Yeah. No, that’s great. It’s really interesting to think about processes, even just in my business. You know, once I started really building out those processes, streamlining them and making them repeatable, that’s really where the traction started happening. And especially as you scale and, you know, for a SaaS company that’s growing, those are critical.
(Andy 16:21) Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. Process is everything. And the crazy thing about what I’ve learned from my experience is that once you find something, it just becomes quicker and more seamless, and quicker, more seamless, and quicker, more seamless. And, yeah, that’s obviously key to scaling. But it almost is like you don’t — if something works, you almost don’t have to work at it. Because it will just naturally become quicker, more efficient, and more effective once you find the right people to work on it, once you find the right things to create content on in our case. But in anything, yeah, process is everything, I think, to moving fast, for sure.
(Laura 17:06) So yeah, let’s talk about content. Can you share a little bit about how you think about the requirements of customer content vs. prospect communications and your thoughts there?
(Andy 17:20) I think as you get deeper, certainly there are some differences. But the way I treat it is that they’re essentially the same thing, right? Like, if your customers and your prospects are basically your buyer profiles, and that your objective from a content perspective is to create something that’s valuable to them. Something they find useful, something that engages them.
So yeah, I think at the top of the funnel, which is where we’re kind of mainly focused, frankly. Because our strategy, like I said, is create a bunch of brand awareness, get people on our site, get them converting. At the top of the funnel, I think it’s largely the same thing. Like, the same thing should interest them. In our case, it’s like, how do you create the best ratings and reviews program you can do? And that is an issue or a challenge or a problem, or it’s something that both our customers and our prospects are interested in. And then it’s like market intel on the market as well. So like data that informs their strategies, essentially. So stuff like surveys, stuff like conversion data around the specific elements of a UGC display, for example. So, to me, it’s kind of the same.
And then as you get deeper in the funnel, like I said, there are kind of some differences in terms of, you know, the goals on our custom marketing. It’s typically adoption and renewal, and potentially a little bit of upsell. So there’s different things lower in the funnel around like the product marketing and the product content to buy from a customer. But I think largely, if you’re doing your job properly with your content development, you’re going to tick both boxes. And I think that’s great for a marketer, because again, it’s some of that scale. Right?
(Laura 19:10) Right, right. Yeah. The more you can do with less, the better.
(Andy) Right, exactly.
(Laura) And I love that you brought up the personas, because I feel like those are so important. Talk to me a little bit about, do you guys map your content to the personas? What role do the personas play in the content creation process for you?
(Andy 19:31) Yeah, so I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the whole concept of personas. I’ve seen them done to the nth degree, where you know, the person has a name, and they have like, they have a family, and whatever, right? And you really try to get inside their head. I think that’s a bit overkill. But when I think about personas, our buyer’s a pretty narrow — it’s a title, really. And understanding that person’s challenge. So yeah, mapping it to their business challenges is how I think about it. So yeah, I think — what’s the question again?
(Laura 20:15) No, no, you answered it. I was just asking how you mapped the content to the personas. So it sounds like you’re really focused on, you know, their business challenges, their particular job title, and then doing the content that way.
(Andy 20:31) Yeah. For us. Yeah, and it’s a fair point, because, you know, we are expanding our products there. And our more expanded product set does target a slightly different persona. So I would say that’s a challenge we’re kind of going through right now, which is getting away from our core buyer and trying to understand how to position our company, who has been very focused and targeted in message to a certain buyer, out to a slightly different but adjacent buyer profile.
So yeah, I would say we haven’t nailed that by any means. We’re kind of working on figuring out how to do that, like the enablement that goes into it from the sales side, the content development that goes into it from us, from Marketing, at the top of the funnel.But where I think, when I said about brand awareness, I think typically, your brand awareness can speak to both. But as you get deeper, and you’re kind of trying to really more appropriately map what you do to that persona, that’s where it gets a little more challenging. And that’s where we’re kind of, I guess is our next phase in our journey, if you like.
So yeah, it’s exciting. But not easy. Because, you know, I’ve done this before, with another company I was at, and it took two years. And there’s all sorts of reasons for that. But like, the business isn’t necessarily equipped to sell into that persona, but we have an offering that’s valuable to them. So it’s a challenge. I don’t have an answer. So if anyone’s watching this who’s got some tips, let me know. I think it’s just hard and you just have to figure it out as you go. And hold people accountable for their own learning internally. And you need to kind of provoke curiosity as well, internally. And then just try and get everyone on the same page. Yeah, so we’ll see how it goes. But yeah, for the most part, our content is developed for this one persona, who has, you know, been our primary buyer for years and years.
(Laura 22:43) Nice. Okay. So, I feel like you guys have done a really good job with establishing your brand as that trusted advisor, but you’re still a pretty new player in the space, comparatively. So I would love to hear your strategy for accomplishing that. Like, how did you do that?
(Andy 23:06) Well, so we’re not a really new player. We’ve been around since 2005. But it may kind of seem that way, just in the sense that we’re a pretty small company, and we’ve gone through a few iterations of who’s owned us. Our marketing organization has gone through a few step changes and iterations.
But in terms of like, how do you build a brand from scratch? Which is kind of what the question is here. To me, you know, I try to think of things very simply and not overcomplicate them, even though a lot goes into the concept. So to me, it’s like: create good content, one. Get it in front of people, two. Get it in front of who it needs to be in front of. And to me, when I think about the content creation, it requires a good strategy that’s very in tune with your buyer, like I’ve talked about.
Then the getting it in front of people part is really sort of demand generation, I guess. Demand-generation-type tactics, you know, traditional demand-generation-type tactics. So for us, that’s email, that’s a bit of paid advertising, some SEM, and various other things that we do, but ultimately, great, useful stuff. And then leverage as many sort of distribution channels as possible. So yeah, and obviously, it’s not like one piece of content. It’s like scaling it. And you know, like I said, those processes, they become really important. Because you want to be seen and very visible. So yeah, that’s kind of how I look at it. Create good content. Get it in front of people.
(Laura 24:44) Yeah. It is really interesting, you know, the role that content does play in brand building. Because at the end of the day, it does come down to establishing yourself as that trusted company, and content is the perfect way to do that.
(Andy 25:03) Yeah, I really believe that, actually. You know, no one thinks they’re the expert at what they do. And everyone’s always looking for help. Well, you shouldn’t think you’re the expert. Maybe some people do. But the best way to get better is to be constantly curious, right? In anything in life. So to me, if that’s your mindset, you’re going to be looking for guidance. And if we can be known as a company that provides valuable guidance, that is everything in terms of our brand.
Now, you know, in B2B SaaS, it’s interesting, because I’ve seen some good examples of people doing slightly outside-the-box stuff, which I think does work well. And we kind of dabble a little bit in that, and I’m excited to kind of maybe experiment with that a bit more. You know, like videos, and I think, you know, with COVID, I think you can get away with really low-end video production. Well, really low-end is probably pushing it, but like, you know, you don’t need an on — you can just do a speaking to a screen, and people accept that as normal. So that provides opportunities to get creative. And that’s something that, that’s a kind of tactic we’ve leveraged at very low cost. So yeah, I would say, you know, create valuable content. But also, the way you package that you can get kind of creative with and try and stand out a bit that way as well.
(Laura 26:27) Yeah. I love that you emphasize standing out. Because, especially now, any Google term, any Google search, results in this massive list of competitors’ content. And so often, you know, it all looks the same.
(Andy 26:45) Well, what do you think of Search? Because to me, it’s a mess now. I don’t really see it as like… We don’t really — maybe I shouldn’t give this away — we don’t really see SEO as an important tactic for us, just because it’s not an important… I look at brand. Brand building is what I see as most important. I just don’t, you know, I just don’t think people look for — well, maybe they do. But like, I just think SEO is — the sorts of people we know that are searching, doing SEO, are not our buyers, really.
(Laura 27:17) Oh yeah, that’s interesting.
(Andy) So like, for me, I’m just curious, because SEO has been a tactic in marketing for like five to 10 years. And it’s been constantly changing. It’s been like you’re chasing the tail of a dog, like trying to figure it out. And we just don’t focus on it, because we just don’t see the value in it. And we had our website assessed. We’ve done the research and just think that it’s not useful. We’re a lean mean team; it’s just not a useful way to, you know, use our resource. I’m curious, what do you think about SEO?
(Laura 27:52) Well, it’s, I love that contrarian opinion. Because, you know, everybody is like, “We have to do SEO.” And if your prospects are searching…
(Andy 28:03) Yeah, that’s the critical part, right?
(Laura 28:05) Yeah. I think, in order to do SEO right, from my perspective, the people that I have seen actually converting people down to the funnel from their blog posts, it’s, yeah, they’re doing the things that require ranking, of course. But the critical stuff, I feel like, is that thought-leadership component, where you’re not just saying the same thing everybody else is saying. You’re taking a unique perspective that ties back to your unique value proposition. And it’s amazing how few companies are actually doing that. Most people are just creating, you know, “me too” content. And so it’s an easy way to stand out, just because very few people are doing it well.
But again, I love your point that it doesn’t make sense to focus on that if your buyers are not searching. And it’s definitely true: not every industry, or even every type of buyer, type of persona, is on Google. They might be asking their friends, they could see an ad, etc, etc.
(Andy 29:21) Yeah, because I know, we’ve got some articles and blogs that rank really well on certain things in SEO. They are not related to anything we really do, right? So they perform well from an SEO perspective, but I look at the goal and — you know, those blogs exist from before my time, and you know, they were written for that purpose. I just think that, when you think about SEO — and I don’t know how other marketing people think about it — but to me, it’s like, just challenge the viewpoint that it’s important. Don’t just go hire an SEO person because like every marketing team supposedly has an SEO person or whatever. I don’t want to put any SEO people out of business. I think it’s big in certain industries and companies and verticals. But just for us, we rank well on ratings and reviews, and that’s kind of all I care about. And then we looked at the volume on that, and it’s just not that big. Because people, if they’re searching for ratings and review, then I think they’re gonna go other places than go to Google and type it in, you know?
(Laura 30:34) Well, and that’s a great point for any type of marketing, really. Any tactic. Because I feel like there’s always something new, always something someone else is doing. And it’s very tempting to, you know, try to go after all of that. But, like you said, it really comes down to the persona. How are they buying? What does their journey look like? And where can we plug into that? Is it videos? If they love videos, and that’s what they are looking at, then we need to do videos. You know, if it is SEO blog posts, then yeah, go after that. But whatever it is, knowing the persona, like you mentioned, is super important.
(Andy 31:17) Right. Yeah, it’s just interesting. SEO is just one we’ve been playing with lately. And what we just discovered was it was just going to take an awful lot of investment to have any kind of impact. And then we looked at what the impact would be if we did that. We had an SEO agency come to talk to us, and they said, “Yeah, we can get you top one in that term in four years.” And I was like, “Okay, well, how do you know what’s gonna happen in four years?” And we were just like, “Yeah, okay.” So it just, you know, it’s just not not right for us. It might work for other people, but it’s just funny because it’s top of mind for me right now.
(Laura 31:52) Yeah, that’s a great point. So I would love to hear your advice to other SaaS marketing teams, specifically, who are struggling with brand building or balancing long-term / short-term? What would your advice be for those companies?
(Andy 32:11) I would say — and I’m, you know, I don’t know if I’m the expert to kind of preach to anyone else here. But you know, I think it gets back to my kind of overall philosophy, which is, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I think you can tick both boxes with specific activities, and how you do that is through content. So I think you’ve definitely got to have courage as a marketer. And you’ve got to like stand up for what you know to be true. But at the same time, if you are preaching long-term patience, or long-term results, you’ve got to deliver those long term results. If it comes a year on and there’s no difference, then you’re kind of nowhere.
So I think if you can explain your reasoning behind favoring long-term if you do have to sacrifice short-term, then I think you can probably — if somebody can explain it well, and your internal communication is pretty good, and people kind of believe in what you’re doing. I think a lot of it is internal, right? Like internal perception, internal belief in what you’re doing. So if you can do some quick wins internally. And build some kind of momentum, build some belief in what you’re doing. And people are. They actually kind of have some good ideas over there. Have some faith in them. I think that’s a big part of it. So I think that’s one thing you can definitely do. And the other thing is you’ve got to show some progress over time, even if you’re not able to deliver like the short-term stuff. So yeah, I’m not sure that was all that useful, but yeah.
(Laura 33:56) No, that was great! So, something you said was interesting, though, about selling your plan internally. And I would love to hear you talk a little bit more about that. Because that can be a challenge. So what would your advice be to help with that area?
(Andy 34:16) So this is like my thing, right? I am — my internal communication is probably what I would categorize as one of my strengths. Like, if internal selling was a thing, and was a skill that they gave out prizes for, I think I’d be… But yeah, to me, it’s like having — so, part of it is just being very clear and explaining everything you do and highlighting all the work you do.
So that’s part of it. One part of it is having the courage to stand up and say no. And say, no, the reason I’m saying no to your like — I don’t know, like they have crazy asks, people internally. Like sales people and stuff. Like, “You know, if I just get this PDF done, I’m going to close all these deals.” And that’s kind of the sort of thing you have to deal with. And you say, “Well, are you though? Like, how much difference is this going to make to revenue? But actually, I think what I’m doing over here is going to have way more impact. So, if you don’t mind, I’m not going to spend time on your PDF that you say is really important. I’m actually going to go do this other piece of content that’s going to help us build our brand,” or whatever it is. And after a while of that, they just start to trust you. And it just becomes, you know, everyone starts looking to you.
I think from our perspective, I’m pretty proud of where we’re at internally, just in the sense that I think we’ve come from a sort of follower of the organization to kind of leading it strategically. Which I think is a great place for marketing to be and where marketing should always aspire to be, and where marketing needs to be, honestly. And I think, you know, I see a lot of stuff online. I think there is a lot of great marketing thought leadership out there. And I think it’s happening in B2B SaaS.
You know, I talked about the buying cycle, and like, people not wanting to be sold to? Well, that’s great for marketing, because marketing provides that brand, provides the information where buyers buy on their own terms. So to me, it’s a really interesting shift in B2B SaaS and the impact of marketing. I know our CEO is looking at marketing and saying, “That’s a scalable resource in the way that my sales team is not.” So that’s an example.
Now you got to go out and do it. That’s the hard part. It’s not easy, right? It’s like challenges, bumps, ups and downs as you go. But like, that’s an exciting place to be in marketing. You know, marketing has an opportunity to really, I think, be the predominant revenue generator in our industry. And like, I mean, great time to be in marketing. Maybe not a great time to be in SEO, but a good time to be in marketing. I’m kidding. Had to get that in. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
(Laura 37:16) No, but I love that point. Because I think you’re right. Top leadership is starting to realize the value of marketing, especially as, you mentioned, that the buyer’s journey starts to lean more toward doing their own research and their own exploration. So yeah, that’s inspiring.
(Andy 37:36) Yeah, well I hope so! I don’t know, I just think about how I see it in my company, and I don’t have a crystal ball. But I mean, I’m excited about the opportunity it presents. I get competitive, frankly, about who’s going to source how much revenue in our company. More than I should probably, but like, I think we kind of need that attitude as marketers and to be proud of what we’re doing and be proud of ourselves.
(Laura 38:07) I love it. That’s great.
(Andy) So yeah, you can see I’m a good seller!
(Laura) You are! That’s awesome.
(Andy) A good internal seller, at least.
(Laura 38:15) Yes. Okay, awesome. So this conversation has been amazing. Only last question is, is there anything else that you would like to share that I haven’t yet asked about?
(Andy 38:29) The thing I’ve kind of found, I wouldn’t say challenging, but just realized the importance of, is hiring. Hiring in COVID. You know, I had two people leave last year. Which I was, you know, really happy for them. They went on to bigger and better things. And that’s exactly what I want from the people who work on our team, that they’re hungry, and the hunger and passion for what they do leads them to constantly be searching for something better. So that’s what happened with two people, and that just meant I had to go out and find two new people, right? In COVID. And we just hired a third, actually, in our team. So I just think that it’s not that different to hiring in person, one.
And two, I just think what I’ve learned is the sort of skills — and I say this as someone who’s very new to marketing leadership. I’m not someone who has years and years of experience. So maybe this is like a point that isn’t going to be particularly insightful for anyone. But to me, I look at attitude and ability to learn. And what I found is, when I’ve hired on that basis, the results are outstanding. They’re the best possible results you can get.
I just think if you get someone who ticks every box of the skill requirement, which I think is an obsession for some people, they’re going to get bored real quickly. And I think the best example of that is like systems knowledge. Like, oh, you know, you’ve used a particular marketing automation system Marketo, HubSpot, whatever. Like, no, these tools are designed to be easy to use and easy to learn. So if someone’s smart, and they learn quick, I mean, they’re going to pick that up, like, super quick.
And that’s what I’ve found. Don’t be restricted by ridiculous things like that. Think about, like, what is the value this perfect can add rather than things like that, that might cause you to hold back. So yeah, that’s just something that I’ve learned over the last year, being kind of new to this marketing leadership gig.
(Laura 40:50) Yeah. Well, that’s a great point. Because, you know, as we were talking about, really, now, especially, marketing comes down to ideas. And yeah, you know, you have to be interested and curious and willing to experiment and all of those things. And you can always teach skills, you know. You can teach someone how to use HubSpot, or whatever it is. So, yeah, I think that’s a really, really good point. Because so often you see job descriptions that are like, “We want 10 years experience in SEO” or whatever.
(Andy 41:27) You know what? You can save some money as well, by not getting it from a different — but seriously, the curiosity point is so important. Like, I want really creative and curious people. I want people questioning me. That’s what’s going to make me better. Like, I want my people to make me better. And I don’t want — yeah. I don’t think I know everything. I definitely don’t know everything. That’s 100% the case! I’ve got people on the team who know a lot more about various things than me. But like, that’s the key. Right? That’s important to me. That makes me better. That challenges me every day to get better, and I hope I’m doing the same to them. And collectively, we’re just, you know, hopefully we end up doing some pretty special.
(Laura 42:12) Yeah, awesome. Well, thank you so much! This has been really good, really inspiring. So I know people are going to enjoy listening.
(Andy 42:20) I hope so. Yeah, it’s been fun! Second time doing something like this. Yeah, I’m surprised anyone really cares what I want to say, but I appreciate being asked, for sure!
(Laura 42:33) Haha! Well, it was awesome, and thanks again!
(Andy) All right. Thank you. Appreciate it.