The New Age of Marketing-Driven Sales: Shiv Narayanan

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

At a time when conferences are not happening and salespeople can't meet with prospects, marketing has become a key revenue engine.

A growing number of B2B and SaaS leaders are realizing that marketing can effectively attract, engage, and nurture prospects.

Marketing is no longer supporting sales but driving sales.

And, in the process, marketing is getting more respects and budget.

In this episode of Marketing Spark, Shiv Narayanan gets into the different roles that marketing is playing.

We explore the growing importance of content marketing and how CMOs and CFOs need to establish close working relationships.

You're listening to marketing spark, the podcast that delivers insight, tools and tips from marketers and entrepreneurs in the trenches in twenty minutes are less. It's been well and interesting year for BDB and SASS marketing and marketers. Conferences have disappeared, content marketing, brand positioning and branding or back big time in many respects. Marketers have been forced to reload, rethink and refocus, to connect and engage with prospects and customers. To provide some perspective and, hopefully, guidance on what's ahead, I reached out to Shiv Narangan, CEO of hat assass, a management consulting firm that works with private equity firms and their portfolio companies to help them scale their marketing and growth. Welcome to marketing spark. Hey, mark, thanks for having me so one of the things that we were talking about before this interview was how busy you are and and fortunately, how busy I am. You said something that resonated and you said this is the year from marketing. What did you mean by that? Yeah, so I think what's interesting is historically, companies have been built on sales. Right. So and when? What is when I see built on sales. Most organizations, if you think about how they start, they usually start with a subject matter expert who has some in roads. They have what's called like an earnent thesis. They've learned something about a market or a pain point that people have, and then they've built some level of expertise and then they see a problem and they aside to start a company to solve that pain point or problem, and then they end up becoming the first sales reps of the organization. And so as time goes on, the way the organization grows is by the founder leading sales. It's called founder led sales. And then, as time continues to progress, the founder starts to replace themselves and hire people to grow the organization, and the first roles that they replace our sales roles. And so that's why you know, a founder's first hire might be an str and they continue to be the AE. As time goes on, then the higher and account executive and pull themself out of that and then become like the sales lead, and so they'll be managing three to four sales reps and before you know you've grown past ten, twenty, thirty even hundred million in revenue and you have a massive sales organization of fifty two hundred people, and then that time marketing is kind of looked at as a support and supporting cast member. marketings primary role inside of a lot of these sales let organizations is to do everything it needs to do to support the sales motion and give sales a support at need. So that could be in the form of sales and ableman content in terms of creating decks or one pagers or battle cards and things like that. It could be in the form of product marketing to educate existing customers and drive some up cells through content that the sales team can then close. And it could be event marketing where you're going to these strade shows and helping sales people build relationships by getting a booth and having your CEO or somebody speak on the stage and then collecting badge scans as people walk by. R B. and then, if you look at a year like this, you have no more conferences and sales has far fewer venues to build relationships outside of the digital realm, and meanwhile marketing is still in that supporting cast member role. And then you have CEOS and boards wondering, well, my pipeline is slowing down. How am I supposed to ramp up pipeline in a market place where people can't meet each other and sales was the only rainmaker inside my organization. So I think that's the big shift. It's a long winded way of getting there, but this big shift is marketing needs to be a revenue driver. CEEEO's recognize this, investors and recognize this and marketers have been trying to beat that drum for a long time, but they just haven't been taken seriously enough inside of an organization. And a big part of that is marketings fault, and we can dive deeper into that. But now that people that have power and authority over budget buying into that, more investment is going into marketing this year than ever before, and so that's why it's a great time to be a marketer. I've been thinking a lot about conferences, in fact the disappearance of conferences,...

...because the companies that I've worked for and worked with have allocated BEDB companies allocate a lot of money to conferences. The last company I was at, the probably spent seventy five percent of their marketing budget going to, attending, sponsoring speaking at conferences. But when conferences disappeared, a lot of marketers lost their go to channel. The ability to engage and and connect and meet with prospects suddenly disappeared and I think my thinking is that a lot left, a lot of marketing marketers and organizations exposed. The marketing, the other marketing that they were doing maybe wasn't that effective or they weren't doing enough of it. Do you think that that is sort of the lay the land these days? Is that without conferences, without that ability to easily connect with prospects and customers, that that organizations now realize that there's other types of marketing the need to happen and then and that and intern has raised the profile and value of marketing. Well, I think a big contribution to the to the problem being described, is generated by marketing. If you really dig under the hood of of Bab companies and you look at these conferences that they're going to, you begin to notice some patterns around where marketing spend is going, especially those trade shows that you alluded to, and in most of those organizations sales is, excuse me, marketing is going to these conferences and eighty percent of those conferences are not delivering any revenue or or barely any revenue at all, and meanwhile marketing gets to an all hands meeting and talks about the three hundred badges they scan at a particular conference, right, and so it loses a lot of credibility as it starts to do things like that in front of the sales team. And so if twenty, let's say fifteen to twenty percent of sales of trade shows inside most companies drive eighty to ninety percent of the actual pipeline that comes from that channel, that means eighty percent of your trade show spend is actually being wasted, and not only your trade show spend, but the time you spend to organize that thing, the people you had to fly down, the dinners, the meetings that you have with potential clients, the all this money is going into this specific channel. Meanwhile, different channels that can generate pipeline just as effectively, if not better, things like content marketing, Seo, something as simple as Google ads or paid social ads or organic content on social, all of these things are completely ignored. And so I think when you it's almost like you purposely become you you lose. You lose an arm right and you're like, well, what do I do? And so you kind of have to use your left hand and and and that's kind of where you're looking at all the other marketing tools in your tool box. And finally people are starting to notice that, hey, content marketing can be a big lover for us. We're not out there producing enough thought leadership content. We're not producing enough webinars or video or leveraging content for our sales conversations. Our sales seem only sends up messages to book Demos. They don't send any pieces of thought leadership to prospects with they're engaging with, and those prospects of the same problems that we would encounter at a trade ship. But we speak at that trade show and we have brochures and we're actually handing out content that probably generates that pipeline. But on the content side, or sales enablement side, or or Seo or paid social or all these other channels, we're not putting the same amount of effort and we're giving them the marketing team of a small marketing budget in order to be able to generate the pipeline that they're ultimately accountable for. Yeah, for lack of better analogy, conferences have been the drug that many marketers have been addicted to for a long time. Conferences are easy. Their high profile. If you can get your senior executives on stage, they feel good. You can you can pay to win an award and then those awards, those logos, can go on your website. It's it's an easy game to play. So what I'm wondering about is going forward. Now the companies haven't been able to go to conferences and they've been. They've been forced to explore different channels and opportunities. What does that say about the future of...

...conferences? Do you think that a lot of BDBING SASS companies will snap back to their old habits, or do you think they'll be more selective? Maybe they'll go to fewer conferences, maybe they'll maybe evolve into virtual events? What's your take of what could happen nine months to a year from now? You have to be more selective. In fact, people should have been selective before they were forced to not go to these conferences in the first place. That's not to say all conferences aren't worth doing, because in every industry there might be two or three landmark events that a company has to be a part of, and that makes sense, but in most cases you do not need to go to most trade shows. And on the flip side of the question is what, where else could that budget be going? That's a question that this opportunity const question that is been and omitted for more than a decade now, as be to be has been building into this massive category of companies, is where else can you deploy five, six, seven, eight, hundred thousand dollars of your budget that you're investing into these trade shows that aren't really that good at driving pipeline in the first place? Where else can that go, and how much value is being lost if you're not investing into those channels? Like that's one of the biggest questions we've been asked by investors in CEOS this year. Is Like we had, we were investing, you know, one point two million in the trade shows. Now we have that marketing budget at our disposal. What can we do with it on Linkedin? What? What can we do with it on facebook? What can we do with it on on in terms of content and and that's one of the questions we've been answering for them that previously they never stopped to ask themselves and they gave up that opportunity cost to other companies who did notice that. And if you look at every software category or be tob category there is, there are usually one or two, three, eight hundred pound gorillas in the room that have dominated that market, not just because they're going to the conference, but they're also investing justice heavily in these other channels and being present across all of them with the right content, with the right offer, with the right nurturing path and the right strategy and the right message to be able to get those people to convert right. So now, now is the time, better than ever, to just refocus and restart and rethink how you're going to allocate your budget more effectively to capture that opportunity cost. I agree. I think that was one of the most interesting things that happened in in March, April and May, when conferences evaporated. A lot of markers didn't know what to do and what I saw was a lot of panic because this tool that they had been using, this channel, was no longer available than their tool kids. So they had to rethink and they had to reload and some of them have reloaded quite successfully in others are still scrambling to figure out how they move marketing forward, which is a nice seguey into content marketing, and you talk a lot about content on Linkedin, where you have a really great presence. I'm trying to maybe get your thoughts on what is the right approach that Sass company should take to content marking. I know it's a load of question because it's all about education and thought leadership and really trying to engage prospects and customers. What are the sum of the funt fundamentals that companies should be thinking about if they want to allocate some of those conference dollars to things like content marketing? Yeah, so we beat companies all the time that are in the process of getting a digital marketing motion going and when they think about content marketing, the usually have one or two content writers on staff that start to produce these random blog posts as a form of thought leadership. Right, so something that their audience might have some sort of a pain around, they'll write a five hundred word post around that and that's that's helpful. That's better than not putting on content at all. But one of the things that that miss is about content marketing is truly understanding what are all the different roles that content marketing has to play inside and organization that is trying to scale its marketing efforts. So when you think about...

...content, it plays so many different different roles for an for an organization. One, it helps you get discovered, if gets customers discovered and helps them find your platform or solution. Number two, it helps nurture prospects and existing customers. Three, and it enables the sales team, for it helps customers get on board and under the onto the platform. Five, it helps increase the usage of your product. Six, it helps cross sell and upset other products to existing customers. Seven, it helps you increase your prices and so that you have more expansion revenue from existing customers. Aided provides education to your customers to build loyalty and retention and advocacy. And Nine, it positions your brand as a publisher in a thought leader in the space. So it content has all these different roles to play. The problem is inside most companies you have one, two, maybe three content marketers who are responsible for doing all of this. So now, if I were to create a content road map and product teams are really good at creating road maps because their entire function is about road maps. And the function and content is very close as a function to product, but it doesn't operate like that. So if I look at all these priorities, they kind of conflict with each other because they all require resources. And so content has to look at all these priorities and say what goes on my road map first, because I don't have infinite resources and I think that's the first path to success. And so, based on that, then you say where are the biggest opportunities, because that's where I would like to focus my efforts. Inside most companies, usually the answer is it in finding people who are ready to buy or are in a buying window and getting them through to that closed one state, whether it's an existing customer or whether it's a new customer. And if it's a new customer, do you have enough collateral out there to support buyers across their buyer journey? If there are major gaps, for example, if you're selling membership management software and you don't have a guide on membership management software for your prospects, well that's a mistake. You better have that type of a guide, because if you don't provide them with that guide, somebody else will. If you're selling ECOMMERCE software and you don't have a place where people can look at online store software reviews like shopify does and a big commerce does in some of these other ECOMMERCE pontforms do, you're going to be left behind. So I just start to work down that road map. Thought leadership content should almost come a lot later in your content road map, but that's kind of where people start right they go, I want to do the cool thing and I want to write fun articles that make people look at me as this big resource that they can rely on. The key is, as you start to go, work backwards from highest opportunity down to lowest opportunity and buy our journey people that are ready to buy back towards people who are almost unaware. Over time you slowly build that whole engine out and it's about doing it in the right order, because once you start doing that and working down that priority list over time you do emerge as a great content marketing organization, because the unique thing about content is once you create an asset, it pays dividends forever. So if you do create that customer guide or pricing comparison page or late funnel solution asset or a Webinar, a podcast at whatever that is. It lives in perpetuity and it can be leverage in perpetuity for a nurture stream or whatever else you're trying to use that content for, whereas other things like one off marketing programs, as soon as you finish the program you got to start the next one and then once that one is finished, you got to start the next one. Building those evergreen assets that can live and support your entire customer journey from when they are becoming aware of you all the way through to advocacy and everywhere in between. And my opinion, that's mean. If you go about in that order, you're going to have success. When you look at the assass and PDV landscape, are there companies that jump out that do content well, not just in terms of the type of content it that's created, but how they play in different stages of the funnel and, as important, how they distribet content? Yeah,...

...there are a bunch of companies that do a really good job here. Fresh books comes to mind, drop ify comes to mind, whild Apricai, the company I was the see I'm comes to mind, like there are people that have figured out how to do content really well across all the different stages of the journey, right, and it's understanding all the pain points of your customers and truly trying to help them. I think that's the other thing. It's more of us a subjective lens to think about it as if you're just creating self serving sales enablement content. That'll only get you so far, but true content is about helping resolve those pain points right, and I mean if you look at I mean shopifies the gold standard, if you look at all the content shopify creates, it's truly about helping entrepreneur succeed. And then that finds its way through into content where they hold a build a business competition, which is more for PR purposes, through to how to optimize your online store for Seo and which is a piece of content they might have right and it's very tactical and specifically helpful to an online store owners trying to figure out that specific problem. So I think looking at it from that type of a lens can go along way, especially for be tob companies who aren't used to thinking about content from the perspective of their client and what they need help with. Today. In a recent linkedin post you talked about the alignment between the CMO and the CFO, and this is something that was very interesting to me because I talked a lot this year about alignment between the CMO and the CEO and why they need, in many respects to be partners, because if they don't see the world in the same way, they don't have the same priorities, they don't have the same vision moving forward, marking is not going to succeed. You're going to have two different perspectives, two different sets of priorities. If you're not sinked, it's not going to work. So maybe a little perspective on your thoughts about CEO Cmo and then talk a little bit about that CFO CMO alignment, because that's something I'd hadn't hadn't thought about before. I think the key to really understand there is that all executives are aligned around two things, I would say primarily. The first thing is vision and strategy, which is we have this vision for this business and we get a figure out the right strategy in order to get there, and you need to have alignment across not just the executive team but the entire organization in order to be on the same page to build the right product, the right sales motion, the right marketing materials, the right customers success experience, all of that stuff needs to kind of go hand in hand. A good example is Ikea. There's a reason the furniture there is super cheap, but at the same time they have self assembly, right, so those two things go hand in hand and somebody at a higher level somewhere decided we're going to have a self serve furniture store where all the furnitures on hand and you have to self transport. It. Also that the price is lower and it's more accessible worldwide, right, and I think I kea consumes like one percent of the world's lumber as a result. So that's business strategy and the executive team needs to be aligned on that. The second part is resourcing, and resourcing comes from everything to from funding to profitability, two assets on hand to cash flow. All of these things are are interconnected and everything else flows from those two things. So if you think about sales, sales is a subset of business strategy. How you go to market is a subset of where or where what the strategy is where you want to penetrate the market in the first place, and marketing is no different than that, right, because it's the same question. Really, we have this ideal set of customers, this is their profile, that this is the vertical persona industry, use case whatever, that our product or solution is a great fit for. And then the flip side of it, which I think for some reason people seem to understand that sales and marketing obviously correspond to overall strategy, but the part that they missed, it miss is that the the...

...other side of this is there are limitations in every business in terms of how much cash you have on hand and what profitability targets you have and how much funding you have access to and how many people you can hire. These are financial decisions and the more executives are connected to understanding the financial landscape of their specific organization, the more success they are likely to have, because you're more likely to understand what you're dealing with. Right. So if something is simple as your personal finance as well, you wouldn't go buy a five million dollar house if you only have twenty dollars in your bank account. Well, similarly, if you only have a marketing budget of one hundred thousand dollars, you wouldn't try to run a super bowl commercial. And and so that alignment with the CFO, and I'm obviously using extreme examples here, but that alignment with the CFO becomes critical. The alignment with the CFO is the path to finding alignment with the CEO, because the CEO is constantly having meetings with the CFO or his or her investors to constantly say hey, these were our targets, here's how we're trending, here's how much off where where we are based on our projections. Here's how profitable we are. We might need more funding, we might need more investors. I think you know, we might run out of money. Here's our burn rate. These are the conversations constantly happening between the CEO, CFO and the investor. And if you're not plugged into that conversation, if you're just plugged into the strategy, you're almost like trying to balance on one leg. You don't understand the other side of what what is happening inside the organization. So the more the the CMO or the marketing leaders working with the CFO on the different financial statements, understanding what's on the balance sheet, understanding what's in the income statement and, from a profitability standpoint, understanding what's happening with cash flow and how that impacts the funding realities of the company, the more likely that CMOS to succeed. And your CMO should really be your best friend, if you're a CMO, right, because that's the person that's telling you how much money you have to work with and and the more you can communicate to them, Hey, you gave me a hundred thousand dollars for this thing and I brought brought us back a hundred and fifty K, and here's a data to show you that, the more that person becomes your best ally in explaining that to the board, explaining it to the CEO and convincing them to give you even more budget. The Path to marketing making more of an impact is whatever budget you have, show how it's impacting revenue, use that to communicate it upwards to the CEO and the board and, based on that, lobby for where you would deploy additional budget and what the potential Roi expectation from that can be, and then repeat the cycle all over again, and there's no way to do that without being truly connected with the CFO. One other question in terms of marketing budgets. What if you're an early stage company that doesn't have much of a budget? How do you determine where to spend limited resources? How do you figure out what your priorities are and, I guess, how do you generate enough empirical evidence that you can go back to the CEO and say, okay, I want a little more money, not not a lot, but a little more money. What is that overall approach when you've when you're working with very limited resources? I think the answer is the same. Whether you're marketing budget is five thousand dollars or five million dollars. Is Whatever budget you have that you have to work with. Use that to run initiatives that are most likely to find you revenue first. And so if you have only five thousand budgets, five dollars in budget to work with, your best bet to deployed that budget is at in a place where sales cycles will be shortened, you can validate the spend as quickly as possible and you can generate a return and as you go through that full cycle and you can showcase the value to your board or your CFO or your CEO. Then you can ask for seven thousand, then nine thousand, then twelve thousand, then Fiftyzero. You slowly scale that up and that it happens a lot faster than you would think, because most boards actually there's not a board on this planet that will say no to a channel or an area and of an investment that's not that's generating a return. The more you communicate that,...

...the faster those loops can go and the marketing organization keeps getting more funding as a result. The same thing happens with sales. The only thing is, because you start a sales organizations, we end up getting more budget faster, but until one sales rep delivers, you don't have enough money to hire a second sales rep or a third one or a fifth one. And so marketing us to think of it the exact same way. Five Thou dos a month is pretty good budget to validate something with marketing, and that's enough to get you ten and then twenty. It's just doing the same process over and over and over again until that budget is making enough of an impact on the organization to have a much bigger seat at the table. Let'll shift. This has been amazing insight. The question I would end want to ask you, and I think you know the answer, is if people want to know about more about you other than going to Linkedin, where else should they go? Just check us out on our website, www dot sasscom. We usually work with companies that are doing north of five million to up words of a hundred million. We work with several companies in this ass or bb space and we help them figure out their strategy for marketing and how much is the right budget for specific business. And one final question. You have developed quite a reputation for these little creative cartoons on Linkedin. What's your secret? How do you do that? Is that something you do yourself or if you have like some minions in the background that created for you? No, I do them myself. Thank you for saying that. I think it I think it was somebody who said that this that just you know, if you have it takes a lot more effort to create something that's simple than something that's long winded, and and so that's what I try to do with those drawings, is take really complicated marketing or strategy or growth concepts and boil them down to the one single diagram that is easy to consume, easy to understand and hopefully can change the conversation. So I appreciate you saying that. If you're on Linkedin and you haven't checked out ships drawings, you should really do that. He really does it. It does say quite accurately, it does take the complex and make it amazingly simple. Thanks for the Chev and thanks everyone for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes or your favorite podcast APP. If you like what you'R heard, please rate it. For show notes of today's conversation, information about ship visit marketing spark. DOC cost last blog. If you have questions, feedback, would like to suggest a guest or want to learn more about how I health companies, it's a fractional CMO consultant advisor. Send an email to mark marketing sparkcom. I'll talk to you next time. I.

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