On August 11, my colleagues and I enjoyed the #FlipMyFunnel Conference at the W Hotel in Atlanta. It was well worth the $300 pass. Conferences are hit or miss. Mostly miss. But I thought all the speakers were stellar and this conference was a hit. Kudos to Sangram Vajre and Terminus for putting it together. We attended for three reasons:
- 90% of the people at Launch* are not experts in sales or marketing. And we certainly don’t practice it.
- We want to change #1.
- We have clients like Pardot who are Marketing Automation and other clients that heavily use these alien “demand-gen” techniques.
The background of co-founder Javier Santana and of myself is deeply rooted in delivery. We’ve managed to grow our company thus far by just delivering really well and relying on former colleagues, or referrals, to call on us.
With this article, I’m hoping my delivery background can help give sales insiders an outsider’s perspective.
“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” EINSTEIN
Enough exposition. On to the observations:
1) The quest to merge Sales and Marketing
The silo is a common feature of organizations. Sales gets annoyed with Marketing for not sending enough quality leads. At the end of the day they have to work more as a team. The elixir is building the right “MarTech” stack and getting aligned on a strategy. All parties have to agree on which accounts are the priority. The primary criteria of priority: which accounts will best drive growth?
While the importance of sales strategy was clearly emphasized, I think there is also a different kind of strategy in play for digital agencies like ours. That is “long-term UX strategy and planning as a service” for our customers. Yes, we desperately need a coherent sales strategy for both our clients and ourselves. But we also need to offer and sell strategy to our clients. We do this because we want to be involved in the formation of budgets and the assignment of resources and because we strongly believe the client can achieve far more success this way, and when clients trust a strategy we helped create then they will naturally trust us to execute some of it. Everyone wins.
In that sense, Sales Strategy, UX Strategy and Marketing all need to combine seamlessly and work together.
2) Social Selling
Jill Rowley had a strong presence on stage. She owned it. Her memorable line was “Coffee is for connectors”. She is irked by the term “Social Media”. She prefers “Social Networks”. Sales folk should not be using it as a megaphone, like one does with media, rather as a means to create relationships. A.B.C. now stands for “Always Be Connecting”. I think that is clever, though I’m now looking for a turn on “sign on the line which is dotted.”
Jill also says thou shalt not socially stalk people which is “#SocialSlutty”; rather, one must engage in thoughtful ways. Get to know people. Remember that we are still humans behind that computer screen.
All of this ties nicely into the theory and techniques of Account Based Marketing.
3) Account Based Marketing
What the heck is that? Clearly it is a B2B-only strategy. And everything in this article ties to the concept in some way. At its heart, ABM states a premise that one expects to be common sense: it is easier to win more business from your current clients than new ones. Spend more time and money building relationships with clients and avoid overspending on new leads.
I suppose ABM is the scientific term behind the layman tag “Flip The Funnel”. Joseph Jaffe is credited with codifying the idea and he spoke dynamically about it at the conference. Rather than starting from a wide field of faceless prospects, the marketing and sales teams join forces to place emphasis on their advocates within targeted accounts. They build relationships, focus on service, and hope that advocates expand their influence to others, thus increasing your company’s profile within the account.
The idea can work with new accounts too. One gets away from selling their project or product and instead simply tries to help others. In any case, the concept is important because there is no longer a singular buyer within an organization – multiple departments are making multiple buying decisions and doing so by committee. Sellers must build relationships with all the influencers and decision makers in a plural account-based way.
If any experts in the field think I’m off base, please leave your comments.
4) Content as fodder.
Content marketing was a bright shiny toy for a while. Folks realize that it isn’t living up to its potential. More volume does not mean better quality; instead it means more noise in the system which audiences are likely to tune out. Several speakers casually mentioned the use of content as if it were just a commodity for use as ammunition. As a delivery guy, I was surprised that quality of content was not emphasized more. But that’s someone else’s job from the vantage point of this sphere of business, so that’s understandable.
This point is kind of “meta”. I hope I am offering quality content in this article, and I also hope to use it as fodder. I just got chills.
5) The battle between art and science.
There is an interesting paradox within the industry right now. Technology has been so infused into Sales and Marketing that it is lauded as a savior, one which powerfully leverages data to target audiences more efficiently. Audiences can in fact be bought with NSA-like precision.
“Well, technology is a... glittering lure. But there’s the rare occasion where the public can be engaged at a level beyond flash; if they have a sentimental bond with the product”. DON DRAPER
Jeffrey Rohrs eloquently rebuffed our newfound ability to rely on automation as a crutch. And how could I not agree with him? He showed several powerful examples of highly creative promotional outcomes that are transcendental: The underwater dog photographer and the Guatemalan trendy shoe retailer app: "Hijack" by Meat Pack are two of them.
His point is to not forget our humanity – and the humanity which is within our audience. We can buy an audience. But only by engaging on an emotional, creative level can we really own one. And the sort of audience we earn is far more powerful than the one we can buy.
Not that the tech tools aren’t powerful. They are. And the allure of them is multi-level. These glittering tools give us eyes where we could not see. They streamline our process by removing unwanted grunt-work. They allow junior sales-folk to be more tightly managed, machine bureaucracy style. Conference speaker C-levels like Kyle Porter and Meagen Eisenberg have both delivered and received tremendous results by using the seemingly mystical powers of these MarTech stacks. And it still baffles my mind how dizzyingly they can be combined, as a very large suite, to deliver sales and to replace anything ERP. My inference is that ERP is dead. What survives is a much cheaper and exceptionally nimble alternative in the form of SaaS offerings across all organizational departments.
The other pitfall (besides being lured into forgetting to be creative) is having a staff that actually knows how to use the tools correctly...or at all. Roughly half of marketing staffs are under-trained.
In summary: why we went to #FlipMyFunnel
As mentioned at the start, we don’t currently practice Sales & Marketing at Launch. Not consciously anyway. We don’t develop leads, we don’t really market. Well, we kinda market and sell, but it really is wherever we can squeeze in the time to write a blog post or do a few facebook posts, or have lunch with someone, or respond to inbound leads.
Almost all the work we get is through word of mouth, or friends of ours, or via random Google search. Believe me, we are super stoked to have work “fall in our lap”. But I cannot escape the gnawing feeling that we aren’t fully in control of our company’s destiny. If I had to draw our funnel, as several audience members did on stage, it would look like a Venus Fly Trap. If a lead happens to fly into our sticky maw, it clumsily and blindly slaps shut. Sometimes the fly gets away, sometimes not.
I think I just equated our clients to flies so I sincerely apologize for that. Actually worse: by definition they are flies being digested in our plant-like belly.
Anyway, as an exercise in controlling and growing our destiny, we took this first step. Some of us even made an attempt to speak with strangers. It was kind of amazing.
Here are the Launch folks that attended:
- David Preiss, UX Director and Co-Founder (me)
- Javier Santana, Creative Director and Co-Founder
- Crystal Rast, Content Lead (She is the 10% that knows about Sales. Over a decade of experience in the biz before becoming our content queen for the past 2 years).
Engage users. Drive conversion. The journey is fun. We’re a digital agency that provides UX, design, content, and development for great companies. Most of our team members have worked together previously, and we became friends. We recruited each other to join forces. And together we are on a mission to change the agency world.