Josh Dreller is Vice President of Product Marketing at 4C Insights, a Chicago based advertising platform that uses data science and media technology to provide insight for companies. Read on for a transcript of his presentation from our June 27, 2017 Here’s How Startup Marketing Conference where he describes how to get startup marketing a seat at the big kid’s table.
My name is Josh Dreller. I am a marketer. I started in 2001 with search, then moved to web analytics, then programmatic display, then mobile and now I’m in social. I started on the agency side for a decade and moved over to the tech side in ad tech. I was the primary buyer of this technology for 10 years, and now I’m helping people sell this stuff at various companies.
I work for one of the best CMOs in the business, Aaron Goldman. This is the second stint that I’ve had with him, and he’s got a really strong method for building the team, building the practice, building the marketing practice, definitely in the agile marketing vein. You look at agile development, well, we believe in agile marketing.
So instead of sitting at the beginning of the year and saying, “Okay, what are we going to do?” and creating a big calendar and the waterfall method, we believe in moving fast, iterating quickly, sprints, scrums, everything that you hear with agile development.
For startups, which you’re trying to nail that message, that’s the key thing.
The one thing I always find at startups is that everyone at the startup tells the story a little differently. And that kind of impedes marketing because the salespeople like to talk about it this way, the CEO likes to talk about it that way, the CRO talks about this and that and the other, etc.
So getting a seat at the marketing table, at the big kid’s table, is a really important part because generally marketing is brought in secondarily. You’ve got the founders, the people that are grinding at the beginning of the whole thing, putting it together, building products and selling the products, heart, sweat, blood, tears, all sorts of fluids.There are a lot of martini lunches, pulling every favor, mortgaging the house, etc.
And then marketing, we get to come in with something that’s already got some traction and try to take it to the next level. To do that you really have to instill within the team, the startup, this is their baby, that you know what you’re doing and that you can build what you’re doing. And by putting a process into place, they can start to see the benefits of marketing.
Not see as, “Oh, I guess we have to do marketing now,” we want people to say, “This is fantastic, we can bring this team in. They can take us from zero to 60 in no time at all.”
So we walked into this situation at 4C. We’re a data science company that builds activation solutions for marketers. We have one of the largest social advertising self-service platforms in the world. Almost a billion dollars in social ad spend went through our platform last year. We’re probably going to double that this year. We also work in television ad tech, the new advanced TV space. So there’s a lot of things going on and we walked into a pretty much a bare bones marketing.
We had a couple of folks just staying on top of things, maybe writing some press releases, interfacing with the PR, the outsource PR team, but really very little brand awareness for our company. Almost zero budget before we got there, and certainly zero accountability.
The people that were doing marketing before then were basically just junior folks doing what they could. Putting up a website, adding pages, etc. No one was really watching them. But when you start to sink dollars in, that’s when all the accountability comes. So at a point in your start-up you’re going to make that push and when you make that push, you need the marketing team behind you.
The first hire was Aaron Goldman, our CMO, and then he started to put together his team. And like I said, this is the second company where I’ve worked for him. So I’ve seen how he does it.
Here’s the thing: When you think about what you need, and I would urge you guys to really put a real team together not just cobble some things, but you need a design person and when I say design it also means with brand in mind. Someone who’s thinking about the brand, who’s making sure that the brand’s manifesting itself in the cards, the business cards, the website, the collateral, more so than just typeface and colors. Who we’re trying to portray ourselves as a company.
Will talked about going through a name change, I’m sure that was part of a branding effort. So someone who really gets design and also some design graphic shops to keep you going until you can hire some junior design folks that can support that person.
We have a PR and publisher outreach person, someone that deals with our PR team globally because we are global, as well as just doing constant publisher outreach. The ad tech trade circuit is a really important channel for us because there’s just about a dozen or two dozen really important trade pubs in ad tech that almost everyone buying ad tech reads in order to get the skinny, so we’re trying to always be part of those programs.
And for every industry you’re in, there are trade groups and trade publications, blogs, “influencers” and you should really have your finger on the pulse. Our team knows the editors at all of these different things. They know what they’re looking for. They know the kinds of articles they’ll take. They know the kinds of articles they won’t take. And they have really good relationships so that if we have something going on, a big piece of content which we can push, they can think about their Rolodex and say, “You know what? These two or three editors might be interested. Let me go pitch this to them.”
Demand gen is super important. I’m the product marketing guy but I also run demand gen. How you spend your money when you buy your advertising is very important. We don’t have a huge budget but it’s actually the way we track and measure that makes it super powerful.
Your community manner, your social lead, for us being in the social space is super important because that’s the expectation – that we’re managing it. But also the social team or the social community leader, she supports all these efforts. Every white paper, every webinar, every blog post, every event we’re at, she’s constantly trying to get that out there, spread the word, and also get others to spread the word for us and connect with potential clients.
We ended up hiring a regional lead in the UK because we have a media business. We also have an office out of Singapore, so there’s a lead there. I lead product marketing, I could do another session on product marketing, but for those that you’ll know I interface with sales and I interface with product, and I bring all those insights back to marketing so that we can amplify what they’re doing. I also help with the sales enablement, I build collateral decks, one-sheets, etc. for sales.
And then finally, you need some coordinators. You need people who can just do whether they’re interns or seasoned employees, but they have to be skilled. They can’t just be anybody who can fog a mirror and has a heartbeat. It has to be someone that can actually do, even if they’re right out of college, they have some sort of skill. We have an intern now, she’s a great writer. Not only can she help coordinate and do some of the things that we need, but she can also take on some of the writing as it goes.
The way that you really prove to the startup team that you’re the right marketing team, I think they’re already sold. They knew my boss’s reputation, and there was actually a personal connection there but really you have to go in and prove it. Here’s how:
- We tracked every dollar, created KPIs and measured outcomes
We track every single dollar that we spend, and there’s a way to track and measure that. You have to create your KPIs, your key performance indicators. In some cases it’s clicks, in some cases it’s visits, engagement, etc. But obviously lead generation is what we’re all about. Everything has to lead back to that. If we’re doing something, whether it’s a paid or an organic marketing effort, if it’s not driving leads then we rethink it and we divert the budget elsewhere. You have to be laser-focused on doing the leads.
- We mapped out the purchase journey and created an attribution model
Now, mapping out the purchase journey and attribution model comes after you do all the tracking so you know where all the sources are coming from.
We think through the customer journey from when people don’t know about us all the way up until they’ve been customers for two years. We think of every step that they’re going to need to take in order to become customers and then become loyalist.
And so we’re building content, we’re building marketing strategies in order to build awareness. I know it’s the basic funnel, right? But get people to understand who we are, that we exist.
Then as they start looking for more information, we’re trying to do content so when people are searching or however they’re discovering this technology, that they’re thinking through it. Through the sales funnel, once somebody becomes a lead in salesforce, we have a different way that we treat them. We want to stay out of the sales people’s way.
If it’s a hot lead and we’re talking to them, we actually want to pull back on our marketing. Really where you want to put the most of your marketing is in the cold leads. People have signed up for something, downloaded something, who have shown an interest in your company and then they go dark.
The sales team can handle the hot leads. We need to handle the stuff and warm those leads and nurture those leads.
And then comes the attribution model. So every touch point that we can measure gets a point system, so that we can do the marketing attribution model. Your SQLs, MQLs, I don’t know if you guys know about that but qualified leads are just a standard kind of system where you qualify the lead, it’s a good opportunity.
Sales accepts the lead if they feel it’s a good opportunity and so forth and so on. If you look it up online you can find it. I definitely say you should go with that. And then, like I said, for every touch, we do a points system. So if they visit the site and we can tag them, it’s one point for every page they view. If they sign up for a webinar, maybe it’s 10 points. If they actually attend that webinar it’s 25, etc.
- We determined ROMI and reported regularly
And then based on that particular opportunity score, when they do convert, marketing takes a percentage of that revenue. We don’t actually take it, I wish we could take it, but we just say that we attribute that revenue to us. So we can say, “Last year we touched X percent of the opportunities with an average of a 29, 100% influence, etc.,” so that we can show where the money’s going. And you have to determine the marketing metrics, and you report on those monthly like clockwork.
The whole team, the executive team, you get in front of them and show them where the money’s going, you show them what you’re doing. That’s how they nod their head and they realize that things are happening. Hopefully they know things are happening because they’re seeing things happen and leads go up, but also get in front of them to show everything that you’re doing. And that’s optics and instilling confidence in what you’re doing.
- We tested and iterated
The mantra of our industry is just test and iterate. Just keep going, keep learning. “That’s not working, this is working, this could be working, let’s try it,” just keep going. When your team sees that you’re being accountable, that you’re following a process, that you’re following a method, that you’re pouring your heart out, that you’re working your ass off, then they say, “Okay, this team can really get us to the next level, we need to bring them on bigger decisions.”
And that’s what happened. It’s helping to get good relationships with your head of sales, your CRO, your head of product, etc. My CMO has a weekly meeting with the CPO and the CRO where they get aligned. I’ve never worked for a company where the CMO, the CRO, the CPO are right on the same page at all times. That’s super important.
And then, the results. Since we’ve started, about two years ago, the marketing budget has tripled and the website visits have quadrupled, and we haven’t even focused on website visits. We focused on good marketing awareness at this stage of the startup. We just want people to know who we are, we don’t want to walk into a buyer’s office without them having heard of us or touching one of our pieces of content, attending a webinar, seeing us at an event, etc.
And then the key here is that Marketing is a revenue driver, not a cost center. That’s how you know you’ve made it as a marketer, when people look at you and say, “We have to make decisions together, we have to go to market together.” Instead of chasing them where the product just wants to release whenever the code is done, they’re working with you for a real go-to-market strategy.
When you’re launching and you spend all this money and time and effort and sweat and tears building something, you really want it to land well when you market it. So build your team, a real team, put in a measurement layer to track everything, put in an attribution system so you really understand what marketing’s bringing to the table and how it’s driving things, and eventually you will gain the confidence and the whole company will flip around and say,
“This whole thing that we did because we had to is really working for us and we love it.”