How do you create a sales and marketing culture of Demand gen but still create quality leads? In this episode, Jason Myers, CRO at Austin Lawrence Group, discusses how to build genuine demand for your product through content marketing and lays out a scalable content-based sales and marketing growth strategy.
How do you create a sales and marketing culture of Demand gen? In this episode, Jason Myers, CRO at Austin Lawrence Group, discusses how to build genuine demand for your product through content marketing and lays out a scalable content-based sales and marketing growth strategy – all without ignoring the crucial need to continuously feed the sales team with likely buyers for your product. They cover:
- The importance of building a demand gen culture within your sales and marketing teams, while still effectively finding people in the right time of the buying cycle to effectively create leads for your outbound sales team
- The “Hub and Spoke” content distribution model, and how that can lead to content distribution-centered sales and marketing scaling model
- How outbound sales is still a crucial part of b2b enterprise sales, and why that isn’t going to change anytime soon
This episode is perfect for any early-stage sales and marketing leaders who have bought into the demand gen hype but are unsure how to balance modern demand gen practices with classic lead gen strategies.
Nick: Hello everybody. Welcome to Mind the Gap, a podcast seeking sales and marketing alignment by Enablix. I am Nick Ziech-Lopez the host, and today we have Jason Myers from the Austin Lawrence Group. Jason, how’s it going?
Jason: It’s going well, can’t complain.
Nick: No, well I’m sure you could, but I like the fact that you choose not to. So Jason, can you tell me what’s your background?
You’re at Austin Lawrence. Can you tell the listeners a little bit about where you are and how you got there?
Jason: Sure. I’ll try not to make it a long story, but, I started out in public relations and marketing in the high-tech world. I think it’s appropriate, I know one of your questions there was how long have I been in revenue producing operations?
I think that there is a distinction because I worked as a marketing director in the nineties, and I wouldn’t really call marketing at that time a revenue operation, even though I reported to sales or to a VP of sales. But, it was much different than, and really went into more revenue operations when I decided to start a magazine in the mid two thousands in Austin, Texas.
Nick: We should mention that was the golden era for magazines, right?
Jason: Yeah, it was kind of on the tail end. It still worked, but I bootstrapped a city business magazine from nothing and found out real fast that as a marketer, I had to learn how to sell.
So that’s when I entered into sales training, and got some good coaching in that direction, went through Sandler and some other things. I think that’s important because I got out of the publishing business and really into content marketing. They’re very similar, by the way, like operating content like you’re a media operation, I would say is the same thing, but learning how to sell was probably the most valuable thing and learning how to create content that develops leads. Right, or how to develop content that’s going to match a sales process, and I think that was a real advantage for a while.
Nick: And you know, we have an outline of things to talk about. We could scrap all of that right now if you could just tell our listeners how to sell. If you could just be right there and you, and we all walk away knowing how to make a ton of money, that would be.
Jason: Well, and there’s, you know, I think there’s two distinctions there too. Right? It’s how to sell. And in terms of consultative sales processes and how to close deals. And how to prospect, which is really more of a marketing function, even when you’re doing the cold calling and cold emailing. It’s really a function of marketing.
Nick: Well, and let’s talk about that. I know from talking with you in the past, you’re very pro demand gen marketing, as part of the sales cycle.
Tell us a little bit about your world, prospecting demand generation. Can you define that for us, and why is it so important to sales?
Jason: Right. So, and I make the distinction here too, that I’m pro demand gen because I think it gets lost. But not to say that lead gen isn’t important. So, the distinction I make between the two is that demand gen is how we create customers and bring them to us, making sales a lot easier.
As opposed to sales, which is going after deals that are currently in-market. So when you’re cold calling, cold emailing, you’re trying to identify those that are entering the buying window to take advantage of it and that’s important. And we tell people to get that in order first, because that’s your low hanging fruit opportunity. How do we identify those companies that are in-market for your solution right now and to get them into the buying process.
But, it won’t help you much with your longer-term opportunities where we really want to create the customers and bypass that whole competition thing from the get-go.
Nick: Yeah, and you certainly have two different time horizons. I imagine for those two different issues. Because the one who’s in the market right now, and can we get them to buy us? I imagine it is pretty fairly short, regardless of your sales cycle, probably pretty short, probably pretty immediate. But, can we go out and create customers, that I can take a while? Right.
How do you measure that? I’m imagining that could take a year, year and a half, but how do you know if that’s successful? What does that look like?
Jason: Well, like you said, it does take a long time, but the process of getting there is the same.
So if I’m looking at my buyers and really understanding why they’re buying from me, what motivates them to take action? Against either you are a competitor or against the status quo. What are those things that we can try to identify that they’re ready to make a move as more of a lead gen content.
Then over, especially for companies that have a solution that requires a lot of education before somebody even realizes they have a problem or solving, that’s definitely a demand gen thing.
You have to write content that you may not know the answers to. Right. You pose a question and you may not have the solution. You’re just kinda throwing some thought leadership out there asking the question so that you’re getting people to think that hey, I may have something here that may be worth solving. That takes a lot longer timeframe to do that, and it takes a lot more, the content is written differently.
Nick: Yeah. Well, let’s talk about content and its role there. How do you know? So, let’s say I’m going to write 10 pieces of content. I’m throwing this out there. How do you know what you should be writing? Like even between the two kinds of what you said, the ones that kind of pose questions, talk about things versus the hey, this is a piece of content selling what I have.
Just high level, how do you know what’s supposed to do what?
Jason: That’s a great question. The answer I give is that you need to get focused. First of all, on the sales process and the low hanging fruit opportunity. Then become efficient over time, as you learn about where your customers really want, so that you can develop the big idea around it. That becomes thought leadership.
So in the short term, what I do is try to identify two or three overarching pain points or triggers that I can develop content around. So maybe it’s a webinar, maybe it’s a white paper, but it’s something that doesn’t change, it’s an obvious problem that customers have in the marketplace. And then through developing that one asset, however you want to put it on a platform, you know, whether it’s podcasts like this or in a webinar or a white paper, I can then multiple pieces of content as facets to continuously push people to that asset.
So I’ve got one white paper that’s not going to change. For example, in our industry, we have a white paper on your first 100 day plan as a new CMO. And everything that you need to do it’s like a big checklist of things to think about, getting alignment with the CEO, assessing skill sets, all those kinds of things.
It’s a helpful piece of content. The lead intelligence for us is that somebody downloads that, and we can assume that there’s new leadership in that company. And that’s the time when many companies will make changes around the resources that they’re going to bring in, including agencies or hiring staff and that kind of stuff. So it’s a definite trigger for us.
I don’t have to change that white paper. You know, I may update it from time to time as we get new information in or new input. But for the most part, I don’t ever have to change that white paper. So, I can then write multiple blog posts, LinkedIn posts, develop videos, develop interviews, and continuously push people to that asset.
So for example, we just did a podcast with a CMO that we’ve worked with on and off for a long time. Like over 10 years. And she referenced that document in her podcast. She was one of them that helped co-create it with us. And so it just becomes an opportunity to continuously push those things.
But, if you can identify two or three major assets like that, that continuously identify buying triggers, it becomes much easier to develop bite-sized content and blogs to continuously push people and feed those lead magnets. It’s a much easier proposition than coming up with a white paper every month or a webinar a month.
Nick: And listen, I’ve been on that hamster wheel of like every month we got to have something new to say, every month we got it right, every quarter we have to have it.
And it, you know, it’s fun in a way, if you’d like to create content, like that’s fun. But, I think you’re describing more of what I think about as a hub and spoke model. Right?
You’ve got your hubs of content that you just try to get back to. Right? All United flights, go through Chicago, all Delta flights go through Atlanta, you set up your Chicago and Atlanta, and San Francisco and LA, and then you work from there. So that begs the question, how do you know? I think this is the topic, and we’ve talked about it other times on this podcast.
Then do you, do you gate your hubs? So, you know when someone gets to it or you do not? How do you know when there’s intent there? What do you do?
Jason: So that’s a great question, and we still have it gated on our website with full disclosure. Although in the future models, we’re going to take it off.
I’ve been sending it out without the gates, so I don’t really want people to have to fill out a form to get that document anymore. So that’s changed in the last year and a half, my thinking on that. It’s just, you know, we want the education. If I have their email address, I know they’re clicking on it, so that’s lead intelligence enough.
But, I often just use that in our general marketing or outreach as one of our sales plays for new CMOs. I’ll send them that document, and if they read it without downloading the form and really like it, usually they respond and tell me how great the document is. It’s kind of an open door for it.
But, at that stage it’s too early.
Nick: So, I guess step one would be to actually write good content?
Jason: I mean, it’s the lead intelligence that I need to do outbound, right? Like, so the lead intelligence is the, you’re a new CMO. Now, the next question is how do I get you engaged in a conversation around what services are you changing and what’s your new strategy and how can we help you fill in some skill gaps. You know there’s endless ways to have the conversation.
Nick: I’m seeing a content based sales motion thereof even today, like anybody could do this today. Just find your big pieces of content. Like, do you have a piece or two pieces of content you can get behind? And you almost have your…
We recently had Will Devil on the podcast, and he talked about what to do if you have a marketing team and a sales team of one. How to tighten the gap between marketing and sales there? Because he was the marketer and there was a salesperson. And now they have dozens of people in marketing and sales. And we talked back and forth, but you’ve almost just laid out the playbook for the marketing team of one, sales team of one marketer.
Find your content or create it if you don’t have it yet. And the marketer, you’re going to spend time creating small pieces of content that lead back. I’m imagining almost a stepping step, right? You’ve got medium pieces, maybe blogs that lead back to this white paper, whatever it is. And sales person, go identify people who would find this content helpful, and that’s a playbook.
Jason: That’s right. And I think I would add to that, even though I have just laid out the sales and marketing person of one, right. It’s the same process when you scale it.
Nick: Do you see? And, well, that’s actually an interesting idea I’ve never thought of before. Maybe other people have, maybe this is what everybody’s doing they just don’t know. Do you scale out?
What if you looked at scaling your teams, not by regions or accounts or customers, but literal content, right? You assign a marketer and a sales person per quarter to one or two pieces of content, and that’s what they’re doing. The salesperson finds people that’s responsible for the content. As you grow, you just create more content and then assign more people to different content.
Is that a silly idea? Why or why not?
Jason: No, I think that’s what you’re talking about is what this should look like with a true sales marketing alignment, right? Like marketing and sales are working together to figure out how to get conversations with customers. So that’s really what we all want.
Like what do I want more than anything? I want somebody to come into our website, say, I’ve read your content. I want to talk to a salesperson and see if this fits.
Nick: And so the question then to me goes hey, well, so everybody’s trying to distribute their content, right?
Content we see, especially past 2020 super important. Any ideas, like how do you stand out?
Like if everybody’s trying to plug and send content, I get so many emails a day of people. They say, you should make deposits and not asks. Yeah. Well, what happens when I get 12 deposits a day. People are sending me helpful content. I don’t have that much time to read all these helpful blogs.
What do you, is there a way around that, or is that a new sales game?
Jason: I think a lot that’s the new sales game. If I was looking at it in a scaled operation, if marketing is working with the salespeople on their process, like we know this is a trigger. Can you go develop some content around this and we’ll help you, we know it’s a trigger, we want to use it in our outreach. Then marketing’s going to develop that content, and then sales can take that content and use it however appropriately they want to get into sales conversations.
So that might look like, taking the piece of content.
Maybe, as a marketer, I’m putting it up on our company page on LinkedIn, and then a sales person that wants the personal branding of that is going to take that piece of content. They’re going to put their own spin on it and put their content out to their audience.
And then of course, if sales is constantly researching target customers and accounts that need to be in our database, that should get included at some point into drip marketing campaigns and other opportunities to send out that content.
But it’s all based around the trigger that sales likes to work on. So in other words, if my playbook, back to our scenario, if one of my sales plays is new CMO and I’m constantly out there researching, who’s a new CMO in our target audience and how can I get that content in front of them?
I’m working my relationships to see if I can get an introduction. Whatever that looks like commenting on their posts or doing some social selling, but it’s all around that sales play. As like, how do I get a conversation with this new CMO that I know is going to need some help?
Nick: And one last thought too, so this is a great sales and marketing playbook.
I’m also conflicted on gated or not gated. Because you know, someone, obviously you have, this is an ungated asset when sales sends it to someone or sees if they want to read it, right. You give them access, right. It’s there.
But, you know, I think it’s very popular to talk about, oh all contents going to be ungated, but I don’t know. I think there’s plenty of utility in getting someone to do a sales motion. I mean, HubSpot still gates all their content. Right. Not all of it, but like they’re keeping it right.
So it’s, I don’t know. I think a lot of people are going to say all contents going to be ungated. But with the death, like you said, if you have their email address now, you know, but if you don’t, I see a lot of benefit to it still as well.
Is there a happy medium, do you think or are businesses just going to take a side? We are ungated, we are gated.
Jason: Well, I think some of them that are taking the standpoint that we’re not going to gate anything, have a lot of leads coming in already that are just kinda crappy and it just doesn’t make sense to continue to pass crappy leads over to salespeople.
But they’re like, just as an aside, if you’re saying that an MQL is a link click or a download, and we talked about this in one of our webinars, right? That’s not a definition of a lead. That’s the suspect. It can tell salespeople where to look.
So if you have a BDR that can take some of those link clicks, check them against ICP, do some research on the account, it’s perfectly valid. So, I think you just have to think about whether or not it’s appropriate to gate all these assets.
I certainly wouldn’t gate everything like we used to, but pick and choose. What’s your most important things are? You know, a demo is always going to be gated. Webinar registrations are going to be gated. You may want to gate really high profile pieces that give you extreme lead intelligence. Maybe you’ve got an ROI calculator where they can plug numbers in or some kind of demo.
Nick: But by the way, and this is just me being contrary.
I think for it per Enablex, I think demos are going to go ungated next year. I think we’re going to put our complete product walkthrough ungated and then say everything. Because I think for me, that’s what I want people to see. I want as many people to see the product. I don’t care who you are.
But, I think that’s a discussion we’re having back and forth. It depends on how product led your sale is.
Jason: Yeah. I don’t think that’s contrary at all. You know, that’s probably a really smart move.
It’s all about, are you creating resistance or not? Like if somebody is going to hesitate to download something then I wouldn’t gate it. I would just put it out there for consumption.
You might get an SEO bump out of it anyway, but…
Nick: Yeah. Who knows how that works. No, I’m joking.
Jason: The reality is that you don’t want to give up all of your lead gen in the short term because it does take a long time to generate. You know, or create customers in the demand gen fashion. So you may not want to give up any leads.
Although I will say this, like, you know, we generate a fair amount of MQLs. Old definition MQL is from downloads and link clicks. I have yet to sign a customer from any of those. They’ve either come from outbound, from relationships.
Nick: It’s so much of a Venn diagram, for what I’ve, I’ve seen you know, small to medium sized businesses.
It’s like maybe you do, but they weren’t even those MQLs anyway because you had them through like you said. Maybe they were also outbound. They fall into that funnel. Sure, yeah they went through the gate, but you were gonna get them anyway. That wasn’t the only interaction they had with the brand, but I think people will fight over that till the cows come home and they should, we should.
I think we should all be fighting a lot more than we are.
Jason: We’ll realize that ultimately it is a vanity metric, right, for marketing. It’s trying to show our input into sales. And really, we should just be tracking from start to finish. Every client, like how they found us. That gives you all the information that you need to know.
Nick: That’s the word of mouth thing that so many are just to ask them, like the ask them method of attribution.
Nick: Well, and speaking of that, as we wrap up, what are your thoughts? You know, we talked about attribution there. What do you think?
Do you see any major shifts in the B2B SAS cycle?
I think the last three years have been huge. I think content is more important. Right.
I don’t know if you’ve heard the novel Coronavirus changed a lot of things. But you know, do you see any other big shifts in the next three to five years that you think will happen? Things like all content will be ungated stuff like that.
When you look at your crystal ball, what do you see?
Jason: I think the biggest thing that I see is that I can’t imagine that the pure outbound beating people over the head to take meetings is a sustainable sales go to market strategy. I know companies are going to continue to do it, maybe some industries where they’re just never going to be able to get away from that.
But I think if you’re in SAS, definitely customers just don’t want to buy that way. I think it’s a movement because of so much content out there.
And let’s face it, most of the content out there is mediocre at best. I don’t think people start their searches on Google anymore. So that’s the biggest trend.
You know, that’s been a trend for a while. I looked at a client that I was working with in 2019, and I did an analysis of win-losses from MQLs and nurtures and everything else. I took out the hand-raisers, the ones that said, you know I’m interested I want to talk to sales. Because we were getting some of those.
But, I measured the people that are downloading our eBooks, downloading white papers that I was doing nurture campaigns on and found that I closed exactly zero of those. I was like, what is going on? Because we’re still making sales.
Nick: Yeah, yeah.
Jason: And all of these sales are not coming from personal referrals out of our network. They’re finding us somehow. But we’re not doing advertising. It was all, you know, content and white papers.
And so at that point, well, first of all, I kind of had a breakdown cause I’m like, what am I doing here? I couldn’t figure out what it was.
What was working is that we were continuously putting thought leadership out there. And you know, this is when people will come to you when they’re ready to buy. And like, you can keep doing the phone calls and outbound emails and all that kind of stuff. And it’ll still work, but it’s so inefficient.
If you don’t start thinking about the long-term, how do we create customers and bring them to us? You’re always going to be stuck in that outbound beat them over the head motion.
Personally, I don’t want that to be the rest of my career. It’s just not worth it.
Nick: It’s not a job worth doing if you don’t have several existential crises a week, and it sounds like that’s where you are.
Okay, wrapping up, have anything to plug?
Anything you’d like to give a shout out to before we wrap up?
Jason: Just want to give a shout out to our company, the Austin Lawerence group, if I can put a little plug in.
Nick: You can.
Jason: We really do work hard to figure out not what we can sell you, but what makes sense in your go to market strategy?
As you mentioned, what do I see changing? I think you’re going to see at least the innovators change their go to market motion because a lot of them are copying the predictable sales revenue model that I just don’t think works anymore. They’re struggling to figure out well, what is going to work?
So, we want to find that out with you. Not for you, with you.
Nick: With you. Yes. Awesome, and that’s alg.com. Is that right? Or is it Austin Lawrence?
Jason: Austinlawerence.com. Yeah.
Nick: Austinlawrence.com. All right, ladies and gentlemen, Jason Myers, a CRO at the Austin Lawrence group. Thank you for coming on.
Jason: Thank you very much.
Nick: This has been Mind the Gap, a podcast about sales and marketing alignment put on by Enablix. My name is Nick Lopez. Thanks for listening.