The Growing Importance of Customer Intelligence

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The more that you know your customers, the better.

That's Marketing 101.

As marketing attribution becomes increasingly more challenging, companies will need new tools to identify and engage prospects.

Getting this type of customer intelligence will allow them to make better and faster marketing, advertising, and sales decisions.

On the Marketing Spark podcast, Clearbit CMO Kevin Tate talks about how companies can use technology to identify their ideal customer profiles (ICPs), how to gain insight into what customers and prospects are thinking and the questions being asked, and how to identify Website visitors who don't provide any contact information.

We also took a look at Clearbit's marketing activities - content marketing and free tools.

How well do you know your prospects and customers. In theory, the more that you understand the people who matter, more effective your marketing and sales aren't well. Let's marketing one on one. So it's always surprising, even shocking when companies struggle due to a lack of customer insight. As customer intelligence becomes more important, services like clear Bit are becoming a key part of the technology staff. On today's podcast, I'm talking to Kevin Tate, clear Bits chief marketing Officer. Kevin has more than twenty years of experience across the technology spectrum within sales, marketing, and product Welcome to Marketing Spark. Hey, thanks for having me, Mark glad to be here. Let's start with clear Bit one on one. Tell me at a high level, what does the platform do and how do customers use it. Clear Bit helps companies grow faster and smarter using data and broadly. There's a couple of different parts of that. First, we've got a market intelligence database that includes a hundred plus attributes about every company with a website, how many employees are they have, what sector they're in or they located, what technologies do they appear to be using, and on and on and on and so companies use that as like the foundation of of a smart and focus go to market. But the second piece is how do you put that to work at all your different customer interaction points. So we have a platform that lets you use that to target ads more precisely, or personalize your website with very specific information or something we we just launched last week. Uh, something that lets you see who's visiting your website but not filling out forms and then no, which of those companies fit your I c P and even who to contact at those companies to start a conversation. Now, from the outside looking in, I think some people see clear Bit as an email retrieval service. You can easily find someone's email based on different...

...factors. But it sounds like the platform is really expanded in recent years. Is that sort of an accurate assessment of where the company sits right now compared to six years ago when it started? Yeah, yeah, six or seven years ago. The I think a lot of people first saw a clear Bit when we had our our Gmail plug in that would let you figure out, Hey, what's what's someone's email address based on my my direction their company, And yeah, we've come a long way since then, and really the data activation platform now consists of three areas of putting that data to work, and uh, not surprisingly, I kind of map to what a go to market team might want to focus on. Some are about improving the operations and the speed to lead around your I c P customers, and there's a lot of automations and hooks and sinks to salesforce. Then there's a bunch of stuff we do with the website, specifically, how do you see who's coming but not identifying themselves, you personalize, how do you integrate with other things like chat? And then we even have an advertising piece that helps you kind of fill the funnel with more good fit customers. But a lot of it really centers on your I c P and how do you really understand your ideal customer profile with as much precise information as you can and then act on that to to focus your funnel. I do want to talk about I c P s in a couple of minutes, but one of the things I wanted to focus on with the launch of clear Capture. It's a free service that recently hit the market and I'm really interested in the strategic plan when it comes to from a marketing and sales perspective, because obviously you can see the market with a free tool like this, it provides some functionality, there's there's value in it. You get the weekly report that tells you who's hitting your website, which is awesome for a lot of people given some some good insight. When you guys were developing that that service, what were you thinking in terms of in terms of how you go to market. Was it a matter of broadening your your...

...footprint, adding utility? What was the thinking behind that. It's a it's a great question and kudos to our growth team who UM for uh some time now has been investing in free tools, like really useful tools for companies who are trying to use data to to understand their market better. And when when they created the weekly visitor report, the idea was how do we help companies gain insight into UM into signals that were previously hidden. So one of the funny one of the original ways we talked about this and one of our books was this idea of overt intent signals. You know, people filling out a lead form, raising their hands, signing up for the webinar, downloading the book, all overt But if you're lucky, only two percent of your web traffic is showing those types of overt intent signals, and so the other are showing you might call covert intent signals. They're visiting the pay is, they're checking out the pricing page, they're going to very specific documentation, great signals, first party intent signals that tell you a lot about what they're trying to do, but there's no way to act on those unless with something like the Weekly Visitor Report, you have some insight into which companies are coming and experiencing your your content and interested in what you have, but haven't explicitly, you know, filled out a lead form. So with the Weekly Visitor Report, we wanted to provide companies with some of that insight and in a somewhat you know, p LG style motion of our own, let's give people a real taste of the potential here. And then you mentioned Capture, which we we just launched last week. It's really a compliment to the Weekly Visitor Report. If you are a clear bit customer, then you can actually take those companies that are visiting your website that are a good fit based on very specific I c P criteria and add them directly to Salesforce as a new lead or as a new account, and we'll even put in key contacts based on roles and...

...titles that you tell us you want to start a conversation with. And so that's the kind of end to end connection from Wow, I didn't even know they were here. Now I have a way to try to start a conversation with what appears to be a really good fit prospect. And when I look at the technology landscape, the idea of identifying companies that hit your website, there's lots of different companies out there that are doing it. As a very competitive marketplace. There's a lot of companies that are point solution and obviously what clear Bit is doing is becoming a platform, a multifaceted platform. And I do wonder from your perspective, and obviously you're going to be biased here the way that a customer will look at point solutions versus platforms, because if you're if you're using points solutions, you're you're cobbling together your own technology stack. There are advantages best to breed, you pick what you want, you're not tied into put your platform. But the con is that you're not everything is seamlessly tied together. And that sounds like the clear l loosophy. Let's get this unified platform for marketers and salespeople for that matter. So that's one stop shopping in terms of customer intelligence. It's a great point. And and as you and as you say, there's there's often both in the market. Um. Part of our non so secret plan, as you point out, is to provide this foundation but also be flexible enough that innovative marketers can choose those best of breed solutions for other parts of their stack. So a good example is we work very closely with and in fact power a lot of the chat providers and email marketing providers, and personalization platform providers, lead scoring and routing providers, those are all partners of ours, and we find that our customers want to be able to mix and match. They want to be able to architect to go to market stack that is that is truly strategic, like it's truly thoughtfully created for their go to market, and they also want to be...

...able to power lots of different motions with that stack. Most of our customers there's an inbound component, there's an outbound component. There might be a p l G or a free trial component. There's a high volume website and you add driven component and that's okay. We can power lots of those, and to your point, I think the advantages of some of them more and all in one or or single solution can be tighter workflow and you get you know, you kind of have end to end reporting because you're doing one thing with it. But often you're just doing one thing with it. And so while there might be solutions that are better at say I don't know an enterprise sales motion or how do you how do you focus b DRS time in a specific way, we believe ultimately that the flexibility to use those those solutions but not be hemmed in to U to a single motion UH is really important, especially during these times as a lot of marketers are are looking for new strategies and avenue. You know, I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn, like a lot of people these days, and it is pretty amazing when you hear marketers talk about the fact that companies truly don't know their customers because a lot of marketing and sales aren't a factive or fail because of a lack of customer insight, and I see this as a sort of marketing one on one or sales one on one. The more you know about your customer, like I said, off the top, the more effective you're going to be. Yet, a lot of companies struggle with visibility. They just don't have a clear picture about who matters to them. Why do you think that is? Why do you think that marketers, for example, aren't spending hours and hours on the phone every week talking to customers, looking at social media, reading research reports. In some ways, you could argue a lot of them are making educated guesses and that's not a good place to be. Yeah, it's uh, and I think educated guests accounts for a lot of it. It's interesting because maybe the differences between making assumptions about your customer versus forming hypotheses and then...

...being able to actually test those. And I and um, you know, I say that with love because I said, my whole career and and B two B go to market and you have to do both, and you have to you have to have conviction. But the reality is that today there's so many great sources of data and signal that you can start to treat those more as hypotheses and things are going to change, right. So one of the things that we've been particularly working with customers on since we've seen a market shift UH, and since we've seen UH, customers take a new look at their customers around things like if and how their i c P has changed, especially the cost of customer acquisition for different segments of that i c P across different channels. And then to get more specific, maybe their buyer personas haven't changed, right, Maybe they're still being bought ultimately by the same types of roles, but maybe the jobs to be done of those personas have changed a little, right. A common one during these times is something that would be far too manual for anyone to, you know, not throw technology at when budgets get tighter and things are a little different out there, Yeah, maybe you can live with manual for a little while, right, So you may find that what was a compelling reason to buy your product has become a little less so or doesn't stand up to the CFOs, you know, do we have to have this right now? Helping companies form those hypotheses and then really look at the data and and look across their systems to find signal and see patterns is I think part of what you know keeps marketing interesting and exciting, but it does require that that mindset not from from assumptions, moving to more to testable hypotheses. Let's talk a little bit more about ideal customer profiles and buyer personas. Question number one would be how do companies identify their I c P...

...s? And number two would be the value of buyer personas. Buyer personas are a really great marketing exercise. We like to create them. They combine creativity and some objective activity and research, but we never use them, I mean at best. Sometimes they they have posters on the wall, like the male chimp example, but they usually collect us or talk about both and talk about sort of how you develop and then then how you actually extract value from on a on a regular basis. So I'll say, and here speaking more as the head of marketing for clear Bit and how we think about it. I c P can be super powerful, and I think there's almost a top down and bottom up way of looking at the top down is whiteboard level market segmentation and how do I think about who I'm going to go after and what my beachhead and all those things are. But then there's also a bottom up piece where you can look into your CRM. You can look into your customer history and events and say who is it that ends up buying or who is it that ends up falling out at certain stages? And I think marrying those two perhaps one is more strategy and one is more rev ops. How do you put those together into a view of what do you want your i c P to be and what is it really and how do you and how do you find your way through that? I tend to believe and our customers tell us that some of the most actionable i CP criteria is also some of the simplest. How many employees do they have, what market, our country are they in, what technology are they using? All right? Can be an often an eye opening one. And using that criteria to then tailor your message to those buyers. So even starting a conversation knowing, well, you appear to use Stripe for payment processing and you use you know this for risk management, I know a lot more to start that conversation with you as a marketer or a salesperson. Now, then if I'm just addressing you as a financial services company, peel back the on in a little bit and terms of the...

...clear Bit operating system and how you extract that insight into what customers and prospects are thinking. Because in theory, we're all supposed to talk to our customers, but in practice, at a company as big as clear Bit, how do you actually do it? Like, what are the different ways that you do it? You know, is it regular conversations with new customers? Are you holding focus groups? Walk me through some of the sort of the tactical tools that you're using for us it. It plays on both the I c P and the buyer persona side, so I kind of talk about both. On the I c P side the highest level, we break it into customer size. We have what we call growth, commercial, and enterprise customers, and we know that a lot of the themes and the value propositions and the use cases are similar. But what's interesting and different about those segments is often the role that clear Bit plays in their stack. A very early stage company, maybe they just got their Series A funding. A lot of those companies will buy clear Bit as the first or one of the first things in their march tech stack because they'll say, I want to start with a strong data foundation, and this is going to be the thing that literally kind of holds my TAM and my I c P and the intelligence around it as I get going. And that's very different from say a company that has two or fifty or five people in it. They've got a number of things in their stack. They might have five or six big rocks in their Martek stack, and they've got they've certainly got a CRM, they may or may not have a data warehouse, they've got several technologies on the website. So we're often one of five or six key pieces. And as I mentioned before, we work with a lot of those companies as partners, So engaging with them is often about why how do we fit into their stack to make the whole thing better and smarter, And it depends a lot on the recipes that go with the technology they have. And then that gets even more complicated when you're talking about a company with fifty thousand employees or a hundred thousand employees, where it's almost hard to talk about the company at that point because it's happening inside of a department. Are very specific go to market motion understanding that ends up being a...

...big part of how we think about our I c P. And then how we think about the buyer personas in there and again I've you're absolutely right. Too often those things end up on a slide or a poster or somewhere, never to be used. We find it useful to think about our operations persona, which is often focused on data and integration and UM lead in Richmond and intelligence, our marketing persona who's often focused on the website. How do I get more leads to the website, how to get more higher quality, how do I make everything create more funnel from that, including advertising? And then we have the stack visionary, right, the person who is taking a broad look at this and saying we want to start by understanding our I c P and then roll that intelligence through a whole strategic go to market motion that includes both those things. And those are different conversations, right, and they lead different places in different starting points. I returning to the idea of jobs to be done, I find that to be one of the more actionable parts of the persona. You know, once you get past I don't know you know, uh, you know Ali the operator, and you can actually say, Okay, what's he trying to do? Oh, he's trying to figure out how to score leads instantly and route them based on Okay, got it, Let's talk about how we can make that job better versus kind of this abstract idea. So we think a lot about jobs to be done, how we enable them, and why we're able to do it in a way that's more value. Take me into the weeds, let's go. Let's go further in terms of Ali the operator. Do you talk to Ali the operator, call him out of the balloon and gay, hey, I want to find out how you do your on a discovery call or a sales called. How do you find out what they're saying? Ali? Ali is not is not one of our personas by the way we have we do have we do have an optimizer, but it's saying I'll like the operators. It sounds like a children's...

...book. It's a children's book for marketers. Yeah. So a couple of things that end up mattering a lot. I will say. One of them is we use gong for all of our you know, um sales and see us interactions. Being able to use that for customer research is so so powerful and and you know, as as both the marketing team and executive team we'll share snippets and say, you know, listen to this eight minutes where they talk about how they're moving from this platform to this more integrated way of going to market, or how they're thinking about using our data in this way. And I mean, there's just no substitute for that customer voice. And then more recently, we have all hands meetings every week, you know, we're all on Zoom all over the world, and we started bringing in customers who will do ten fifteen minute interview with our head of services and just focused on what problems are you trying to solve, what role is clear, bit play, what you would be thinking about, and again, no substitute for for hearing from those personas. And I think for us, what it has done is clarify those two personas in particular that operations rev ops it's about systems and data and integration and speed to market and visibility, and that that marketing or demand team, who is just about how do I make sure I'm creating and capturing the very best leads and I'm helping my sales team make the most of them. Let's shift gears a little bit, and this goes back to your days on the revenue side. There's a lot of talk these days about marketing marketers being revenue leaders, and this is particularly relevant because the focus these days as leads leads leads, brand awareness, thought leadership, that kind of thing is important, but leads seems to be the thing that a lot of companies are focused on. It becomes the priority and tougher times. Can you break down what marketers as revenue leaders actually means and why it's important? And how...

...prevalent is this idea that a marketer has to be both? And I guess the other question would be how does a marketer transform themselves into a revenue leader? Loaded question, lots of lots of lots of great questions in there. Well, so, uh, first sort of personal story, UM, I had I had been on the sales side and BIZESV side for a few years and then actually when I when I first moved to Portland, I worked with this company un crew that human capital management, and I hadn't I hadn't officially worked in marketing until then. What really drew me to it was the way marketing was organized, aside from like corporate NPR, was by industry and so as the industry marketing lead I took on our retail segment, which was our our biggest segment, and as a marketer, to your question, my my measure, my goal was not was not leads, it was revenue. It was to grow the a r R of our our largest retail segment quarter over quarter year every year. And I think that ultimately is the starting point, right if you if you want to position yourself as more of a revenue leader as a marketer, then make sure revenue is your target and make sure that's the thing that you're gold on and planning for and creating a contract with sales around. Not only because it you know, kind of gets a seat at that table, but it also just really widens the aperture, right, The field of view gets much broader for why and how you're organizing your go to market if you're taking a quarter or years view of revenue as opposed to what can to your point, easily become up months or weeks or even days of view of leads leads leads, And I think a lot of marketers are feeling coming out of this market shift and a little bit different landscape. The leads leads leads paint you in a corner after a while when we're all competing. When you're doing that, we're all competing for the same demand gen dollars.

We're all spending B two B add promotion on the same three or four platforms, and all the prices go up and all the yields go down, and a little, a little tire kicking in the funnel suddenly means that some of these things don't pencil anymore. And so what we're seeing is we're seeing marketers, I guess, swing that pendulum back a bit more to Okay, that was crazy. Now we need to make sure we're thinking about long term awareness and interest in capturing those intent signals and building a more robust pipeline that we think about in terms of quarters, not what was my lead count today. I'm having to pushback on that. Okay, bring it, bring it. Although you know you're in the seat and you're seeing this in the weeds and strategically as well, I see a lot of desperation out there. I see a lot of companies that B two B SaaS companies that we're fat happy for two solid years as we went through this digital transformation revolution or revolution, I think a lot of marketers thought that the pickings were were easy. You did your marketing thing, and the leads were generated, and you got the m quels and the s QLs and life was good. And maybe marketers got a little complacent. They relied on the same platforms doing the same things. So a couple of questions for you, how has the economic landscape, the changes in the economic landscape over the six months, What kind of impact have you seen in terms of the overall marketing landscape, And then how has that impacted the way that clear Bit is going to market and the kind of marketing that it's doing now versus what it did last year. I'll speak about clear Bit and then kind of what we see in our customers from a from a clear Bit standpoint, we are actually doing more what I talked about in terms of that pendulum swing. So we were leaning further and further towards the end of last year into call it direct ad spend, trying to get people who were...

...quote ready to buy, to raise that hand and fill out that form and let's let's get him in the pipe, get him in the pipe. And uh, we still do some of that, but our focus now is more on Okay, look, our customers are very smart. Prospects are very smart people. They know how to get ahold of us when they want to. Let's focus more on things like the weekly visit report, like the intent based outreach playbook, which we just published today. Let's assume that with content and with tools and with a real empathy and educational bend to what we're what we're doing, they'll raise their hand when they're ready, and I don't I don't need a team to chase them saying, hey, you're ready to raise your hand. You're ready to raise your hand, and in the same way that maybe you know things things are feeling for a while. So we're swinging in that direction and it is a longer term bet. Now we're we're somewhat fortunate in that um clear bits role in company's stack of really helping you get more out of the stack you have and ring more pipeline out of your existing investments. Those things fit pretty well with a kind of tighter budget atmosphere, right, So we're we're benefiting from some of that as as companies look to get more out of what they have. From a customer standpoint, I think your spot on companies are kind of going one of two ways. Maybe they're swinging that pendulum back to Okay, got it, I can't just keep cranking up my you know, social or display ad spend. But then we also see companies who are saying, yeah, you know what, get on the phones BDRs, like we just we gotta pack the pipeline I need. It was ten calls a day, now it's fifteen calls a day and that's not wrong. Or fifty now it's a hundred, that's not wrong. But for those customers, were trying to do everything we can to help them make sure they optimize that motion that got as much intelligence, as much relevance, as much in hints signal to work from as they do that more aggressive outreach. And...

...it kind of depends on what market you're in and what kind of emotions will work for you. But I think you're absolutely right, there's a lot of pressure out there right now in terms of the kind of marketing that clear Bit does. Content is obviously something that the company leans hard into understand. Webinars is also a very interesting vehicle marketing vehicle for clear Bit. Are those the two main levers. One of the things that you know, E books have been really big for us very fortunate to have a big wake of the boat there and like I said, we just we just published another one today. We find that that the e books and the ability to use those, you know it end up using a lot of that content on the blog or in your are in your broader content promotion. It's a nice way to sort of give people a path which which may or may not lead to clear bit but it certainly leads to a more data driven marketing approach. And that's kind of the shepherding that that we that we try to do. We're also big on the tools right talked about the Weekly Business Report. We also have the TAM calculator, So actually creating meaningful and valuable tools, not just hey, if you you know, try this, you can get a taste of what you're missing, but actually use this every week to figure out who's coming to your website and what you could be doing about it. I think those are big, and we're gonna be leaning more and more into the free tools as well and linking those to the paid products. The other way that I wanted to talk to you about, and I mentioned all the time that I tend to spend on LinkedIn, which is I guess good and bad is clear Bits approach to LinkedIn. There are some companies that have fantastic LinkedIn pages. Gong is a as an example that people raise on a regular basis. As LinkedIn has become more of a content platforms as opposed to HR, how is clear Bit using it? Have you figured out how to leverage it in terms of from a marketing and sales perspective or is it still work in progress? Say it's...

...well, it's certainly still a work in progress, but I think you're absolutely right. Has become a um, it's funny. I remember this word the platt asher from ten years ago in content publishing and platforms, and I think in a way, LinkedIn is becoming as much that as as it's HR focused from before. And I think we use that. We use LinkedIn as the primary channel for our content and announcements and discussion. And then to your point, it's interesting when I think about the voice of the customer that gets shared around and people can see how how the market is reacting, it's very often screenshots of LinkedIn threats, right, you know, and and which is funny, right, But that's where the conversation is happening. And for us, it's often about recipes. I'm using clear Bit plus, this chat partner plus, this personalization partners here, how here's how I'm putting together And you can see people having deep best practice dialogue in these LinkedIn We're starting to look at it more and more like a community. So and then how do we participate and support the community of data driven marketers who are sharing ideas and meeting one another and ultimately trying to further their their companies and their career on link One final question, and you mentioned the work community, and there's a lot of buzz in the marketing world about community. What are your thoughts on community? People talk to talk about community, but walking the walk is a lot more difficult. Is that something that clear But is looking at is embracing like how do you equate or bringing community into the into the ecosystem. It's a great question and it's something we want to do more of. I'll say this fall we participated in some events. We participated in HubSpot Inbound and Assaster and the Dreams Force and up Stars with Lean Data, and that was some of the first in person events we've done a long time, and to me, it reminded me that community was for us as much about the partners and how we...

...fit into their journeys and the way we are sort of better together and our customers stacks as it is the customers, and then hearing from the customers and hearing what, you know, what they're really working on, how excited they are about what they're doing. There's a there's a big opportunity I think, a clear bit that I would like to figure out how to tap into. Which is that I think because we work with a lot of innovative, data driven marketers and growth teams, they talk about and they tell us things about clear bit almost almost like it's their tradecraft, you know, almost like a like a designer would talk about the Adobe tool set. You know, well, this is how I do what I do, which I which isn't always the case, right, And so I'm trying to figure out as a marketer, how do I harness and support that and you know, how do I help them do what they do and also advance their their companies in their careers as a part of this this community. And so I think there's a lot of opportunity there that we're just starting to tap into. If a company or a person is interested in getting started with clear bit, where do they start? I think the easiest and best place to start is with that weekly visitor report I mentioned. Um, you know, you can go to clear bit and you can sign up for a demo, and you can look all around our data activation platform and see the pieces. But I think the weekly visitor report is one of the one of the most fun ways to just start discovering pipeline and opportunity that you might otherwise have missed. Great and if people want to learn more about you, I guess LinkedIn is the best place to I'm on LinkedIn, maybe not as much as you are, but close. That sounds good. Well, thanks for the great insight into what clear bits doing and the customer intelligence landscape. It's it's good to talk to people who are who are in the weeds and and seeing how the market is evolving and shifting amid very very challenging times. Well, thanks so much, I have any...

Mark. Thanks for listening to another episode of Marketing Spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review, subscribe via Apple podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app, and share via social media. To learn more about how I worked with B two B sas companies, as a fractional CMO and street supervisor, and as position and messaging consultant. Email Mark at Mark Evans dot c A or connect with me on LinkedIn. We'll talk to.

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