Dialing in Your Marketing: The Levers That Impact Results – Scale + Contact Database | Episode 61

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Marketing is a challenging game to play. And figuring out the magic formula to success is not an easy feat. As marketers, we’ve got a hard job: break through the clutter of a noisy market to get the attention of prospects and win them over.

The reality is marketing is a very nuanced element of a company’s success. If just one component is not dialed in, it can throw everything off. That’s why we’ve defined 12 marketing levers to dial in. Each one plays a role in how your programs perform. In this episode, we talk about the importance of scale and the contact database in optimizing your company’s growth potential.

(01:55) – Indicators and challenges of scaling marketing efforts within an organization
(02:12) – Insufficient resources, budget constraints and time-consuming programs impact ability to scale
(07:24) – Documenting standard operating procedures to systematize processes for rapid growth
(16:21) – Considerations for building and implementing a marketing technology stack
(18:46) – The importance of your contact database the potential pitfalls of neglecting it
(21:15) – Challenges in organizing and cleaning up contact data – and what you need to consider
(27:27) – The importance of assessing and adjusting all of the 12 marketing programs to optimize for success

(00:00:01) – Hey, everybody, it’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You’re listening to Demand Gen Fix, the podcast, where our team of GrowthModers and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation, and why we believe it’s the key to long-term sustainable growth, especially in the HR tech industry.

(00:00:21) – Hello, hello. We’re back for another episode of The Demand Gen Fix, and this time we’re continuing the conversation on the levers that we started talking about in previous episodes. Today we’re going to talk about scale and contact database. We’re all marketers listening to this, or leaders that oversee marketing, and though we know marketing is a challenging game to play, figuring out the magic formula to success is not an easy feat. As marketers, we’ve got a hard job. We’ve got to break through the clutter of a noisy market to get the attention of prospects and win them over, and that seems to be getting harder and harder. I’ve talked to a lot of marketers in the HR tech space and CEOs and founders over the last few months who are saying a lot of the marketing tactics that we worked with in the past just aren’t getting the same results they used to.

(00:01:14) – So, no doubt it’s a tougher selling environment these days, and that makes it tougher to make the marketing do its job. That’s why we’re talking about these levers.

(00:01:25) – There’s the 12 levers that we’ve been talking about. The last episode, 57, was audience and positioning, and then episode 58 was strategy and budget. And then the next levers that we’ve been talking about, or going to be talking about are scale and contact database. That’s today’s episode. And then brand identity awareness, content marketing, tactics, marketing, sales and alignment, sales process and then measurement.

(00:01:55) – As Greg said, in this episode we’re digging into scale and contact database. So Greg, let’s talk about scale. What are some of the potential issues or indicators that it’s time to look at the scale lever within an organization?

(00:02:12) – There’s a couple of things to look at, right? Do you have enough resources to support the work that needs to get done? That’s obviously a big one. And then because programs are time consuming to execute when it takes resources to get that done, so do you have the people, do you have the budget? Do you have the technology so that you can scale it? Because what you’re doing today is probably not what you will be doing tomorrow if you’re planning to grow, so you need to make sure that you can adjust as that grows.

(00:02:41) – Yeah, and I think you covered a couple different points here. Let’s take a step back and dissect each of them separately. So one of the things if you’re looking to scale as an organization, to grow revenue, but you don’t have sufficient resources to support the work needs. Let’s say you have a marketing team of one. That’s pretty common in smaller organizations where they have 1 to 2 marketers. You’re expected to be able to do all the things marketing, and sometimes you don’t have a very healthy budget to work with. So, you’ve got to get really creative and you’ve got to look at it from a realistic standpoint, like, do we have the resources in place from a people perspective, or people perspective and an agency or freelance perspective to actually execute on all the programs? Because the reality is there is a lot of heavy lifting to do. And as Greg said, your second point, that programs can be very time consuming to execute. They may not be scalable, or easily replicable without a lot of people to do it, right, and that’s not always an efficient way to go about it.

(00:03:52) – So it’s not necessarily the only way to scale is to hire a whole bunch of people on marketing. There’s actually some fairly good sized organizations who have rather lean marketing teams, but they’ve found ways to build in efficiencies, so that they can scale things. So, I think let’s look at the people and be realistic. If you want to do all this content, but you have a vice president of marketing or a chief marketing officer who’s working on strategy, they may be able to do a certain amount of the tactical work. And a lot of times in smaller organizations, that marketing leader is a roll up your sleeves, hands-on marketer who determines the strategy, measures it, executes it, does all the things, right, but you’d be one heck of a unicorn if you can do everything from a marketing standpoint and do everything really well. Like, you’re a jack of all trades, master of none. You probably need content specialists, and designers, and digital specialists, and web developers, and all these people to help execute on that, right, because it’s unlikely that the small team has the resources to do it.

(00:05:07) – So, I think when you’re looking to scale, you’ve got to evaluate is our team and the resources that we have in place; is this realistic to meet the growth goals of the company if we can’t scale marketing to keep up with that pace? The other point that you brought up, Greg, about programs being very time consuming to execute, I think the thing to think about there is if something is not scalable and easily replicable, then you have to think about how do we take a step back and look at that? And I think a great example is as a smaller organization, maybe you’re doing this amazing ABM campaign that’s very 1 to 1 marketing and it’s getting good results. The question becomes, if that’s your main marketing driver as you grow, can you scale that 1 to 1, or do you need to look at adding additional elements of marketing into the mix to be able to reach a bigger audience? And I think what we see a lot of times with smaller organizations is they don’t even have the marketing technology stack in place to help with some of those efficiencies.

(00:06:17) – So, for example, they might be doing email campaigns, but they’re doing them pretty manually, or they’re using a pretty unsophisticated tool to do it, which works fine when they’re doing things at a small scale, but when they’re ready to ramp up some marketing, it’s time to look at the technology and the different things that are possible to be able to create more efficiencies.

(00:06:42) – Absolutely, and that kind of goes into the next point, right? You need to have some standard procedures of how you do things. So, it’s like the technology, but it’s more than that, right? You don’t want things to be templated, but you need to have some sort of here’s how we approach this type of project, or this type of how are we going to develop strategy, like there’s some certain things that you need to do. We’re talking about these 12 levers. There’s steps to do all of these other parts of the actual tactical part of it, or setting up your strategy. If you can have some sort of systems around how you do your marketing and your sales, then it helps when you’re growing because you already have that sort of roadmap to help you get there.

(00:07:24) – Yeah, I would think of it as documenting standard operating procedures for marketing. I think a lot of organizations overlook that piece. And then what happens when you have somebody on your team that has critical knowledge and was the brain holder of this information, and they knew how to do it, and they could just whip it out. The next person that comes in has to figure it out all over again. And I think when you have those documented standard operating procedures for your marketing, you’re really systematizing your marketing and sales for rapid growth because you’re saying, okay, email campaigns, let’s map out all the ways that we set up email campaigns and the type of email campaigns that we set up and what that workflow looks like, so that your team is not reinventing the wheel each time, especially if new people come on to the team. It’s just good to have those things documented, to be able to do it. And to Greg’s point, it doesn’t mean you don’t have flexibility and you don’t bring creativity to the table of your marketing programs.

(00:08:27) – I use email as an example, but really anything, so map out the types of content that you’re going to create and who’s the best audience for it; what stage of the funnel they’re in. Like, document all of those things, so you have that blueprint, but then of course revise them as you go to say, okay, you know what, our digital advertising; this is the model we’ve been running. We’re learning these things from the metrics that we’re tracking on it. We probably need to make some adjustments. So, then you go in and you adjust that standard operating procedure for that because then, as an organization grows and scales, in theory, your marketing team is going to grow in scale too. So, you are going to have those new people come in, and you want them to be able to hit the ground running. You don’t want your team to lose in efficiencies because they’re trying to figure out how things were done in the past, when everyone’s on the same page on how to look at things and how to get things done.

(00:09:23) – I think it’ll help too, as you build your tech stack out more because if you already have, we use an email again as an example, if you already have their basic email and this is the process that we use, then when you get into a bigger system, you already at least have a process. It’s not like you’re starting from scratch, even with that nasty two letter word, again, they say everything with AI, if you can put it in a template, you can make AI do it for you, right? Like so, we’re going to get to that point. So, if you start documenting things now you already are a step ahead later when you start to bring in these other new different tools.

(00:09:57) – Yes, and I think you bring up a good point. That is certainly a topic for another episode, but when you’re looking at scale in the marketing department and how to build efficiency, there comes a point where you probably need to take a step back and say, how can AI help our team? And I know I’ve talked to a lot of marketers in the HR tech space who are currently dabbling in it, looking at it, trying to figure it out.

(00:10:22) – We’re all trying to figure it out together, right? Like, how do we use AI to enhance and help marketing, not to replace important things and creativity and all those things, but to create more efficiency? For example, we’re going to talk about contact databases next. That’s a very tedious thing to have to sort through a spreadsheet and clean it up. When you purchase the list, or you pull it out of Salesforce, or whatever your sales CRM is, maybe AI can be used there as one of the ways to scale your team’s efforts without adding more resources to it. And speaking of skill sets, I think another thing when you’re scaling marketing is looking at your current team and the skill sets that they have, and whether you need to augment your team with more skill sets, a wider variety. Because the reality is there are a lot of marketers out there who are somewhat of generalist. I have been in that role myself, where I’ve come in, I’ve been the leader of marketing, who started the team from scratch, so I had to do everything from the beginning.

(00:11:33) – But there were certain things that it was like, okay, my limited design skills are never going to match the skills of a professional graphic designer, right? I can do some basic stuff, but I’m not going to go design a whole brochure while I’m copyrighting it, and then I’m putting it out on the web and developing it. And believe me, I’ve done all of those things, so I speak from experience. I know enough to be dangerous, but I’m certainly not an expert in every one of these components. You want to look at that from a skill standpoint and think about, okay, if we’re going to grow as an organization, which means our marketing needs to incrementally grow as the revenue grows, because most likely the volume of marketing you’re doing and the type of marketing you’re doing in the beginning is not going to be the exact model you have to use as you get further along, right? Like, you’re going to have to continue to expand your marketing, and build more programs, and get more sophisticated as you go to help with the momentum of building more revenue.

(00:12:42) – So, you have to figure out, do we have those skill sets? And if we don’t, how do we go about finding those skill sets? And sometimes I think the answer is not always go hire someone and build out a team. Like, I’ve worked at organizations that were private equity backed, where I was the marketing leader, and one of the things they looked at is because we want to eventually get sold we want to keep our fixed costs for the organization in check, which means we don’t always want to hire employees, which are considered fixed costs. So, we had a model where we would work with freelancers and agencies for a lot of things to build out that skill set because one, we looked at it as this is a short term need, probably 1 to 2 years and then the company would hopefully be acquired and we didn’t want those fixed costs. And two, we wanted the versatility or the flexibility in the budget and the resources to be able to ramp up and ramp down based on how the company was doing.

(00:13:46) – And that’s a lot harder to do when you have fixed employees on there because you don’t want to constantly be impacting people’s lives by laying them off shortly after you hire them, or within a year or two of hiring them, but you need that flexibility to say, okay, we have a peak in work. Let’s pull in our agency; let’s pull in freelancers to help get this done, but okay, we need to cut back on budgets right now; let’s just trim back our outside spend versus having to look internally. So, some of the solutions to these issues are red flags. I think, one of them is looking at, if you’re a smaller team or a smaller organization that doesn’t have marketing built out yet, I think, one of the solutions you can look at is an outsourced marketing department that is working with an agency like GrowthMode Marketing, where we come in and work your team. So, you get that variety of different skill sets that may be needed. And the reality is what you might pay for one person or two people to have specific skill sets on your team. You bring in an agency, you have a much broader level of skill sets, so you get all the things you need from marketing without having to build out a ten person team.

(00:15:03) – That’s one way to look at it. The outsource marketing department typically isn’t going to be a permanent solution for companies. What we see with organizations that we work with is often they’ll bring us in to be their outsourced marketing department for, I would say, 1 to 3 years. And as the organization grows and they get more mature, we’ve built out the foundational marketing things for them. We’ve tried to dial in all the levers as much as we can so that when that first person or second or third person comes into marketing, they’re not starting from ground zero. They’re picking up, and they’re starting to build marketing programs even further and start to bring roles internally, because now they know we can support a full time graphic designer. Whereas, two years ago, at the size of organization we were, it wouldn’t have made sense to hire that role, or some other role on the marketing team.

(00:16:00) – I think one of the other things that goes hand in hand with that is building out the martech stack. As far as getting ready to scale, you need to start getting ready to automate things. And how do you start to get that implemented? And the next topic, contact database. How do you get your information in there? How do you make sure that it’s clean and useful?

(00:16:20) – Yep, and when it comes to a marketing technology stack, when you look at how you scale your market, there are literally thousands of marketing technology options out there today to choose from. Some companies go with a very simplistic tech stack. Like, they may have one thing. It may be we have HubSpot and that plugs into Salesforce, or we have the full suite of HubSpot, and we use that as our sales CRM and our customer CRM as well, or some organizations choose to really build it out, and they might have Marketo; they might have 6sense; they have five different things that they plug in. The advice that I would give for any organization that’s looking at how do we scale, when you look at the tools, know what your strategy is before you put the tools in place because we, every once in a while, run into a company that has several components to their marketing technology stack, and they don’t really know how to use it, and they’re spending a lot of money for these tools and not getting good ROI from it because they were sold on how this content data, for example, how this tool can really help make a difference. But they weren’t sure how to implement it, and they didn’t have the resources in place to manage it internally to build out the programs; they didn’t know what to do with it; they didn’t have a strategy, and I hate seeing companies throw money away because there’s never enough marketing dollars. So, if you’re going to spend the money on a marketing technology stack, make sure you know how to use it, and if you don’t pull in outside help to help you get there.

(00:17:57) – And that also goes hand in hand with what we were talking about before as far as building out your processes and templates. I’ll use air quotes because it just makes it sound too; like it’s too easy, but you can’t really set up your marketing automation or automation for sales if you don’t know what your sales process is, or you don’t know your marketing processes. We’ve seen that also with clients where, oh, we’re going to get HubSpot or whatever, and it’s going to solve all of our problems, but in fact, it doesn’t solve any problem. It just costs the money and makes things more complicated because nobody really set it up right, or had a plan in the beginning that they didn’t know where they wanted to go. They just got the technology to solve the problem, but they never really identified the problem or the goal. So, it didn’t really work out very well. And then they’re spending money on something that’s not really giving them any benefit.

(00:18:46) – Right, and it shouldn’t by now because I’ve seen it a hundred times, but it always shocks me when companies will make an investment in something like HubSpot with good intentions. And then six months, eight months, 12 months later, they’ve barely done anything with the tool. And at that point, it’s like you shouldn’t have spent the money on it because it’s not creating the efficiencies and the scale in your marketing that you had intended it to do. And what’s the point of having it, right, if you’re not using it?

(00:19:16) – So, the other lever that we’re going to talk about briefly today is contact database. And this one, I feel like, it’s such a simple concept, but one that we see the majority of organizations have an opportunity to dial this in. And I say that with love to all our clients that come to them when we talk about the database, like a lot of times they don’t have much of a database, or it’s the opposite. They have a big database, but they’ve never thought about how do we keep it clean? How do we make sure the data is good? How do we make sure that the names we have are actually the names we should have for it? This plays a bit in the scale, if you had a database of 5000 companies, and there’s actually 20,000 companies that are in your ideal customer profile that you can market to, how are you going to scale? How are they going to learn about you? Missing an opportunity, and obviously, not every marketing component or program that you do requires you to have a database. Certainly you can go out and do stuff without ever having a database, but I feel like this is a fundamental piece for your company because one of the most affordable things to do is email marketing, for example, and you need that database to be able to do email marketing.

(00:20:44) – If you have an SDR team that’s doing outreach, they need a database of people to reach out. If your sales team is taking the lead on outreach, they need that database. There are other things that you can do with that database as well. So, this is an important part of the puzzle. And I think there are a lot of issues. Greg, I’ll let you talk about some of the issues that we commonly see when we’re working with companies to help them dig into their contact database, and how we have to help them with it.

(00:21:15) – Yeah, absolutely. I mean, a lot of times it sounds ridiculous to say, but nobody even really knows where it is or who owns it, or it’s mixed up into a bunch of different buckets. So, the first thing is getting everything all together. And then because usually, or often comes from a bunch of different places, it’s making that into something consistent. It’s as simple as, the way to think about it, of an Excel sheet. Everybody’s columns are named differently, and they’re all in a different order.

(00:21:41) – So, you’re trying to get all this data together and get it organized just to store, but then after that, some of it’s going to be old; some of it’s going to be outdated. Like, people move and people change jobs, and so, that, the data cleaning up part, is huge. Even your comment before about, let’s say, you have a database of 5000, probably 25% of that at least is already garbage before you even pulled it out of your system to start cleaning it out. People are moving around, and unfortunately, people are getting laid off, or people retire, etc., so a lot of that data that you have is no good anymore. And that’s a consistently rolling basis, right? People are always moving, and so your data is always going to need to be updated and cleaned. And so, I don’t know, I rambled on, but I covered the main; one of the biggest things we see.

(00:22:27) – Yeah, I saw a statistic once, you said the 25%, Greg, that 25% of your contact database data dies annually.

(00:22:39) – So you think about it, let’s say for simple math sake, you have a thousand contacts in one year, 250 of those contacts become obsolete. So, you now have 750 contacts. We, a lot of times, see organizations, they might have a big database. We’ve had ones where, you know, like a client will go in and they’ve got 400,000 contacts in their database. That’s phenomenal. Do you feel good about this data? They’re like, we don’t know. We really don’t know what state or data’s in. What have you guys done to intentionally clean the data on a ongoing basis, like, perhaps a quarterly basis? They’re like, oh, we don’t do that, and we’ve been building this database for seven years. Okay, stop and think about that. If 25% of that data per year dies, seven years in, the majority of that database is obsolete data. And this is a very common challenge. I think a lot of organizations struggle with how to keep the data clean. Then you throw in the issue that Greg talked about, which is we don’t know how big our database is; we don’t know who all our contacts is.

(00:23:46) – And you can sit back and say, how does that happen? Come on. You don’t know who your clients are, and who your prospects are. And it’s called disparate data because there are multiple systems, right, and there’s no system of record. This is actually very common, especially as organizations grow and add technology. Like, I worked at an organization, once upon a time, as the marketing leader, where we were trying to figure out how many clients do we have? And how big is our prospect database? Those seem like two very basic questions that we should easily answer, right? But we had three different systems tech platforms where data was stored and none of it was connected. So, we had a really hard time matching this all up. And that’s pretty common for organizations. The other things that we see with contact databases is, you may have contacts, but the records are incomplete or missing data. For example, those 400,000 contacts you have, if only 20% of them have email addresses, okay, you don’t have 400,000 contacts that you can put into your marketing automation to email. You now have 20% of that. And that’s before the data is obsolete, right? So, now you’ve got this really small percentage of your total database you can actually work with.

(00:25:03) – You know, the other thing, from a database perspective, that I think sometimes gets overlooked is, companies will be like, you know what, we’re going to go after a new audience. So, for example, you may have built out the prospect database in the past with manufacturing companies and health care systems, and now you’ve decided that you’re going to go after a new vertical. Let’s say it’s retail, but your database doesn’t have anyone in retail in it, right? So, then you’ve also got a look at, from a contact database standpoint, okay, how do I build out a database for this audience now? And the simple answer is go out and buy this data. I think this is also a whole ‘nother topic, for a different episode, on debating, do you buy data? Do you build up your list? Everybody knows if you can go and build up an opt-in list that it’s going to perform better.

(00:25:57) – That’s not a realistic option to start moving quickly for a lot of organizations. It takes a lot of time, and really good content to build up an opt-in list, and I think everyone should absolutely try to do that, but you’re probably going to have to buy some lists, and then there’s a whole lot of stuff you have to do around list to clean it up; to get it ready to use; to warm up those contacts before you put them in the marketing automation. There’s all these strategies around that, but I think if any of this is resonating, you’re like, okay, our database probably is a lever that we need to dial in. What you may need to work on, I think, it’s about doing a database audit and a clean up to make sure that your data is the best shape that you can get it in, so when it is in your marketing automation, it’s performing. Because quite frankly, if you have a bad list, you’re going to get dinged, and your email deliverability rates are going to dive.

(00:26:54) – And so, even your good contact information is not going to perform for you. And then I think also you may need to work on list augmentation and purchases to fill in the blanks and to make sure that you have this database that reaches the total addressable market of your ideal customer profile, so that you’re not limiting your world, but you’re hopefully getting in front of everybody that are trying to sell to. So, these are two of the 12 levers. Greg, I’ll let you wrap this up.

(00:27:27) – Obviously, the wrap up. It’s the same thing we’ve been saying in the beginning, right? So, when your marketing programs aren’t delivering results, take a step back; look at these levers. See which ones need to be adjusted; how you need to make changes, so that everything is working better. So, we’ve been talking about the 12 levers that we’ve identified here at GrowthMode, and each one has a different level of impact on how much the marketing programs can perform. So, how you assess them and make educated decisions, you need to really have some time to think about it and go back to what it always takes for a right strategy and things like that.

(00:27:59) – You have to have the time to actually think about it, so take the time to do that, but if you need help identifying any of these things, or adjusting any of these things, GrowthMode is here. Our team is here to help you if you need us. So, that’s six of the levers we’ve covered so far in this podcast, and tune in again to future episodes to hear some more about the other six levers. Next up is brand identity and awareness and content.

(00:28:25) – All right, we’ll see you next time.

(00:28:29) – Thanks for joining us on The Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech workers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. I sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe for more perspectives on demand generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus, give us a like, tell your friends. We’ll see you next time.

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