Using third-party channels to reach your ideal customers where they already hang out is a no-brainer, right? Yes! But, like anything in your demand generation long game, building brand awareness and credibility with 3rd-party audiences won’t happen overnight.
In this episode, Zach Jones, chief revenue officer at TechnologyAdvice joins us to share his insights into the importance of incorporating 3rd-party channels into your strategy that, over the long-term, builds bigger brand awareness, credibility – and ultimately demand for your products and services.
Listen now to find out how to make smart decisions about syndicating content with channels that are a good match to reach companies that fall into your ideal customer profile.
01:21 How 3rd-party channels can help you reach your ideal customers
02:39 Building an audience and credibility through 3rd-party channels
07:02 The challenges with 3rd-party channels
11:41 Setting expectations for the marketing investment
14:15 Converting leads and creating long-term pipeline
16:59 Nurturing leads and treating them differently based on intent
20:36 Evaluating vendors based on audience relevance
23:36 Having deeper level conversations around performance metrics
24:25 A client success story: A long-term partnership
28:02 Balancing short- and long-term strategies in demand generation
29:49 The use of intent to solve bottom-of-funnel challenges
Hey, everybody. It’s Jenny from Growth Mode 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. Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the Demand Gen Fix. With GrowthMode Marketing, one of the key areas of focus for building out a demand generation engine is tapping into relevant existing third party audiences.
This can help you reach your ideal customer profile on channels they already are hanging out on, so you can create ad and exposure for your company beyond your own marketing efforts to reach prospects and give them a reason to start following your brand so you can build up your own audience. So to help us dig into this topic, we’ve invited Zach Jones to the show today. Zach is a Chief Revenue Officer at Technology Advice, which is a B2B media company with an audience of over 100 million technology buyers and more than 20 brands, including in the HR space.
Welcome to the Demand Gen Fix, Zach.
Yeah. Thanks, Jenny. I really appreciate you guys having me on. Looking forward to the conversation.
Great. So let’s jump right in and please tell us why should third party channels be part of our Demand Generation mix?
Yeah, absolutely. I think in today’s age and the buyer journey, buyers are looking for unbiased resources and so oftentimes they’re starting their search on Google, which is the most popular third party to start on, and then finding brands and publications that have the most experience, expertise, authority, and using that as a place to start the research. So by making sure that your brand is in front of those audiences across all of the different channels that they’re researching across, whether it’s reviews or YouTube or third party content or white papers.
It’s a great way to make sure that your brand is in front of those audiences where they’re doing their research, as opposed to hoping they come to your website or see some of your marketing material.
At GrowthMode Marketing, we often talk about the importance of building out your digital footprint to become your best sales rep, because up to 80% of that purchase process and decision is being made by B2B buyers. Before they’re willing to engage with a sales rep a lot of times at GrowthMode Marketing, we are encouraging our clients to look at third party channels to be a part of the demand generation mix. And when I say a lot of time, I mean we always recommend that.
And the reason being is you want to build up an audience that follows you and wants to continually consume with your content, because they’re making up to 80% of that purchase decision before they’re willing to engage with a sales rep. And as Gartner has told us, the vast majority of people don’t actually want to talk to a sales rep at all. Right. How do you build up your own audience? While it isn’t like you build the content and they will come typically, and I think third party channels are a great way to start to build your audience and build that brand awareness as long as you’re targeting the right people.
And so you want to be sure that you’re making choices that are relevant to your ideal customer profile and where those companies are going to consume information. And I think one way that you can figure that out is to go and ask individuals at those ideal customer profile type of companies, where do you go to learn to research, to educate yourself on things in the market? These are the third party channels that you want to explore, I think, beyond building your own audience and tapping into third parties to do that. It’s also like you said, Zach, you’re building brand awareness beyond your own marketing, but you’re also building that credibility because I can go to your website and I can see all the great things you say about yourself, right, as a vendor.
But if I go to someone else’s website and I see content and reviews and different things, it feels a little less biased, even though you may have paid to play and gotten your content put in there, but they’re looking at and they’re like, oh, I’m seeing their content here on different sites. Which feels a little less intentional in the we’re awesome mindset than if they go directly to your website.
Yeah, absolutely. I think the other way to think about finding the right audience and a lot of times the way that we position some of our brands to the different customers is web keywords. Are your potential customers typing into Google when they’re looking to solve the problem that your company solves? So if I’m looking for HRS, I might be looking best HRS solution for small business. What brands are ranking very highly for that? Because that tells you that Google thinks that that brand has the most experience, the most expertise, authority, and trust.
Eeat is something that we’re really focused on as a company over the last couple of quarters and really building that expertise across our publications. But when you are able to Google that and you see the different brands that come up, those are what your buyers are searching for and where they’re starting their search. And so being included on those pages and in those brands and in those publications is helping that marketer become on the shortlist. One of the other things that has come up recently, I think it was a Harvard Business Review study, was about 80% of all purchases are made with a vendor that was in the top one, two, or three research process began.
And so by the time someone has decided they need this HRS solution, in this example, if you’re not on the shortlist, you’re not going to be included in the decision. Or at least you have an 80% less likely chance of being included.
Right, If you make the shortlist, you’ve got one chance out of two or three, right? If you don’t make the short list, it’s probably one in 100 chance that they’re going to add you to the shortlist at that point.
I also think that there’s another benefit if I’m a smaller company or I’m newer to the space. When I think about being included on those pages, I’m now associated with bigger brands. There are so many different HR vendors coming out and available today, it’s hard to keep up with all the choices that are out there. And so if I’m startup X, Y and Z and I’m trying to compete with the paycoms and the paylocities and the different bigger providers ADP, for example, having my brand next to those three and being the threat on the list because they’re tied in from some editorial coverage now gives me name recognition and says maybe I can compete with those players. Whereas,if you’re not included there, maybe you’re not on the short list or even in the running.
So all this just makes so much sense. Why would any kind of marketer sometimes be hesitant to go the route of third party?
I often hear people kind of say, content syndication is garbage. You can call it different terms, right? Some call it content syndication. We talk about placing content on third party channels. It’s all kind of one and the same, right? And what I hear in the market when people are like, don’t do content syndication, I think a lot of companies they’re looking at and they’re like, we want leads, we want them now.
I can think about prospects I’ve had conversations with where they’re like, the economy has hit us hard because the solution we do is very much tied to employees getting loans out in the market. And so when there’s less loans happening, their business naturally went way down and they were panicked. So they’re like, we’re going to do some content syndication. We’re guaranteed 50 leads, we’re going to run with it. It’s like, let’s talk about why you think those 50 leads are going to move the needle for you. What are you going to do with them? Because in their mind, they’re like, we’re going to hand them to sales, we’re going to run with them. We’re going to convert all of these 50 leads. And that’s not realistic. A lot of times what happens is they then run with it. They don’t get sales out of it because they didn’t nurture them properly. They didn’t have the right expectations behind what those leads actually were when they came in the door.
And so they’re like, yes, content syndication is garbage. Not going to invest in it again. The other thing that I see are these channels aren’t always easily measurable. We’ve seen this with clients where we will help them place content, get involved with webinars, podcasts, and they’re like, okay, we’ve got to be able to tie this back to ROI. It’s got to be measurable. How many leads turned into sales?
And it’s like, hold on. Just because we’re putting articles out there doesn’t mean that this is going to tie back to an immediate sale. This is a touch point. People don’t typically buy with one touch point. Like, let’s be realistic here and let’s look at the big picture. You have to create the brand awareness in order to ultimately get them interested in buying your products. And that takes time. And at least 95% of those companies you’re targeting are not actually in market right now.
Sometimes it’s the expectations around it are unrealistic, and they don’t understand how to take the leads that they get from these programs or how to use the programs without being able to measure the exact ROI that comes from it.
Absolutely. I would agree with all that sentiments. And sort of going back to your question, Jenny, why would you be hesitant to work with a third party? It comes into lack of control, I believe, in a number of different ways. One, lack of control of messaging, lack of control of outreach. I think there’s a lot of hesitancy around data quality from a third party and how that feeds into your systems and how it impacts your first party data. We’ve had customers be hesitant before, or mention this as one reason they might have been hesitant to move forward, is, well, if I ingest your leads and it’s bad quality data, now I’m bringing it to my salesforce or my CRM and I’m updating records. How do I control that process?
And those are all things that you should consider. But the third party and even us, like quality assurance processes, need to be vetted. So ask those questions. How do you ensure the email addresses are correct? How do you enrich the data before it comes over? How often do you clones your audience or your subscribers? Those are all things that can help overcome some of that concern and that control.
But Deanna, to your point too, the expectation of conversion is really important to understand which third party you work with. And your outcome that you’re looking for really depends on who you should invest with. There are companies that play further down the funnel that have smaller volumes of leads at a higher cost that convert at 40% of the time. And so one of the things you want to consider is, am I ready as a company and as a marketing department, an organization to implement the tactics that this third party is very good at? I think we see a misalignment in that sometimes with companies who are looking for very bottom funnel leads, but then go out and buy content syndication expecting to get 20, 30, 40 percent conversion. So just understanding the outcomes you’re looking for are hugely important to making sure you have confidence and can that third party deliver that outcome for you?
So what expectations should a company have when you’re jumping into third party?
I think it’s know the purpose going into it. Right? And Zach, when we previously talked about this topic, it was like, okay, are you doing this for brand awareness or are you doing it for buying intent? And I think a lot of times companies come in and they’re doing it for buying intent, but maybe they’re not asking the right questions and understanding what they’re purchasing because what they’re purchasing actually fits into brand awareness. Right? And when we have clients, we try to educate them on it as they’re going into these relationships.
So that the expectations, at the end of the day, they’re not like, wait a minute, you gave me 50 email addresses. We haven’t gotten a single sales appointment out of this. We haven’t gotten any revenue out of it. They know before they make the investment that, hey, not all leads are created equal. Not all activities result in I’m ready to buy. There’s a difference between brand awareness and buying intent. And if your intent is, I need buying intent ready leads, then you need to have that conversation with the vendor, or us, as the agency needs to have that conversation with the vendor to make it very clear, like, here’s what we’re trying to accomplish so that these media partners can say, that’s not going to accomplish that.
If you’re looking for brand awareness, here are the type of things to do. If you’re looking for buying intent, we need to look at these type of activities or we don’t offer that type of service.
Yeah, absolutely. The number one thing that we are always working with our customers on is understanding how they’re judging success of any program that we put together. And one easy way to do that, and maybe this is something that the marketers who are listening to this today could ask themselves is, okay, if I receive 100 leads from this vendor, what is the expected outcome or what would I need to see in order to renew?
And that is a very important thing to articulate to your third party because they should be able to say this program will or will not hit that. The other thing to keep in mind is you’ve literally got to balance the short term and a long term mindset that you have. I mean, by all means, go out and buy as many bottom of funnel demos, contact us, request that you can get to your form. But the reality is there’s only so many companies who are actively in market at any given time and you have to be able to also build a long term nurture strategy.
So when I think about getting a bottom of funnel lead, like a demo or a bind, it on a click from a high intent page. You really want to see somewhere around 20% to 30% conversion in the paying customer. But you also think in the volume of that could be single digits print on the book later depending on the category and or the size of the deal. So then, now how do I go and create that long term pipeline?
Through a syndication or through awareness. And it really should all play together. So when you think about content syndication or driving topper funnel leads to someone who is just starting their research process, we typically say somewhere between two to five percent of downloads will convert over the first 30 to 90 days. And so if I’ve got 100 leads, I should see somewhere between two to five opportunities from that. And when I say opportunity, I’m thinking someone who has agreed to speak to the sales rep, the outer active project, they’re further along in the sales process.
And then from there you should really see another two to three percent convert for the next 120 to even a full year from now. Because now they’re moving into cycle. I almost look at it as like a parabola, right? So they’re starting down here at the bottom of the sales cycle. They’re moving in market as I’m nurturing them. And then eventually those companies are going to make a decision and I can’t do it on the screen. Maybe we could put a graphic up or something, but they’re going to make a decision at the top here if you think of that arc and they’re either going to make a purchase or they’re not, and then some of your leads are going to fall out of market. And so you’ve got to consistently be putting top of center leads into the nurture so that they are at the top of the road every single month. And that’s how you create long term pipeline and backfill with your short term bottom of funnel solutions. And so to go in and think I’m going to get 40 opportunities from 100 top of the funnel leads is really not the way that you should be thinking about approaching that. So that is the biggest reason why people fail with syndication is a mismatch of expectations and also knowing what to do with the leads once they’re in funnel.
It’s like, well if you’re just taking the leads and handing them to sales and not doing anything with them, you’re really missing the point. You’ve got to take an omnichannel approach. You’ve got to continue to nurture those individuals and not just put them in an email drip, but look at your demand generation engine as a whole. The whole point of it is to continually put great content out in front of your ideal customer profile with your unique point of view to reiterate over and over to bring them along because you don’t know when you get their name, are they someone who is going to buy in two months or two years.
Regardless of that, you want them to continue to consume your content. I think it is a mistake when organizations get these leads from content syndication or a third party partner and they immediately toss them to sales, or what I’ve seen happen is they’ll be like, okay, we’re going to put them in a drip campaign. But if they download any of our content, they click on anything that’s a worm lead, it goes to sales.
Is the action that you saw this prospect take, does this represent buying intent? Because if it doesn’t, you’re passing it to sales too soon. If the question is, well, what is buying intent? I don’t know. How do you buy things? If you read an article, does that mean you’re going to go buy it? Maybe not. It’s got to be more definitive, like they signed up for a demo request. That is a clear indicator that there is some level of interest in your product, and maybe they’re still not going to buy for six months, but it’s more appropriate to reach out to that individual than it is the individual that just downloaded your white paper.
If someone’s reading case studies or they’re going to your website and looking at pricing pages, those are lower funnel type of activities. I’m not going to do that if I have no interest right now in looking at product. Right. So you just have to evaluate and figure out and continue to nurture all of the leads you get, but don’t treat them all the same.
Yeah, I completely agree with that sentiment, and I was going to go the same route you did. Understanding what they’re reading can also help you understand the next step. One of our philosophies when we’re building audiences and building engagements with our audience is how do I give them the next most relevant piece of content based on where they’re at in the buyer journey? Right? So somebody who types in to Google and lands on technologyadvice.com and like, what is HRIS needs to be treated completely different than somebody that types in. I have to implement HRIS into my small business.
Those are two people who are at really different parts of the cycle. And so if I’m a sales rep and I call the first example of what is HRIS? And I say, how much budget do you have for this? They’re like, I don’t even know what it is. And so when you think about that as a marketer, it’s, how do you provide the next most relevant piece of information to take them from one place to the next? And I’ve actually started thinking about it less like a funnel and more like two boxes. Now, with a new buyer journey, they’re either ready to talk to you or they’re not.
And my job as a marketer is to move them from I’m not ready to talk to this sales rep to, I am ready to talk to this sales rep. And I think one of the mistakes that we see our customers make oftentimes is they’ll assume every single person that comes into a condensed syndication lead or doing one of these middle funnel activities even webinars, for example, are ready to talk to a sales rep, and they’re not.
And so using all the information that you have about that account or that contact to educate them to the point where they see you as an expert and make them ready to talk to you, right? So think about what is the next most logical piece of information I can provide this person to get them closer to being in the box that I’m ready to talk to a sales rep.
That’s a really good point. And I like the two box system and the ready to talk is a much smaller box than the other box. Going back to expectations, there’s got to be just so many different third party vendors out there you can only just imagine, especially with the Internet and just everything that goes on these days. So how do you make sure that a third party vendor you want to work with is a good fit for you?
I think it all starts with audience first. Audience is everything today. The barriers to intro for a lead gen provider are relatively low. You can go scrape some names off LinkedIn or via Zoom info contacts, and you can browse emails out and browse calls. But if I’m a marketer, I want to know that my vendor I’m working with has a highly engaged, relevant audience who is looking at that provider as a trusted resource to make business decisions.
And so I would ask questions like what is the audience makeup? What is the audience reading? How what are your open rates on your email subscribers? How many email subscribers do you have? And showcase to me that you understand and can speak the language that my ideal customers can speak. And I think you’ll find very easily which of the third party providers can live up to that expectation versus can’t, because owned audiences, especially as Google starts to figure out what they’re doing with cookies, are going to become much, much more relevant than just having a database of cold contacts that you can reach out to. And so in my mind, that’s how marketers in any vertical really should be evaluating third parties is starting with the audience. And then from there, it comes down to what are the programs? What are the expectations?
How easy are they to work with? Can they work within my systems and workflow? And then how do they make my life easier and how do they make my sales team’s life easier, but providing the most meaningful and personalized information that I can use when following up with the leads? And I would do it in that order.
I would add to that when you’re looking at third party options to get a feel for what kind of recommendations and support that that vendor will provide to help optimize results. Because as we’re working with different third party media vendors and resources, what we’ve seen are there’s the ones who they’ll say whatever to sell you, and they’re like, yes, this is a great fit for you. It absolutely will deliver.
And then there’s the others who are more consultative about it and take the approach of, well, let’s look at how to optimize the results for you. Typically, we get 400 registrants to a webinar. Here’s the factors that play into that. What is your topic? Is the audience the right mix that we’re targeting here? How are we helping advertise this and support it? What are you doing to advertise it and support it?
And at the end of the day, being willing to say, I don’t think that this particular tactic or program is the right fit for what you’re trying to accomplish here, or who the audience is you’re trying to reach, but what about this one over here? And let’s get creative and think about it. And I find that the vendors who are much more consultative and focused on it’s about getting results for our clients because quite frankly, they’re not going to renew with us and continue to spend money with us if we don’t deliver results.
Those are the ones that are really the great partners to work with versus the ones who are agreeable and are like, yup, we can get that for you. Let’s make it happen. This is exactly the audience you’re looking for.
I think also being able to have deeper level conversations around performance metrics and walking through the funnel of cost of opportunity, cost of acquisition, what is your lock time value, and understanding that entire workflow will separate a good vendor from the other vendor. Because I can tell you just by talking for a few minutes with the vendor, like, if your average deal size is not X, Y, or Z, this program is not going to perform. Like, you’re just not going to get the ROI. And so having that next level conversation around, how do we make sure we hit your benchmarks and perspectives? Or, hey, I can’t do that, but I can accomplish the same goal in a different way.
Is really where we’ve seen a lot more success in having really long term, deep partnerships with the marketers that we work with, is making sure we can actually not just say we can be successful, but here’s how they’re going to be successful, and here’s how the numbers should play out within your marketing funnel that you’re measuring. One of the customers that we’ve been working with specifically in the HR space is Paycore. I’m happy to send you guys a case study that we did with them, but I think what makes PayCore really successful is, one, they have a great product, and I think we have a great understanding of how to work the leads as they come in.
One of the interesting things that we’re doing for them is we’re really giving them the ability to understand who’s it more in market that they can follow up with more quickly, but also building that long term pipeline. So I know we talked about that a little earlier. It’s really about balancing short term, long term. So what they’ve had success with is we’re running a common syndication program with them targeting an HR audience.
We’re asking where they’re at in the buyer’s journey while we have them on a landing page or on the phone, or while they’re engaging with content on our site. And so we’re just simply asking like, are you looking to evaluate this solution over the next twelve months? We allow that user to answer however they’d like, but what Paycore’s able to do is they’re able to then take the ones who’ve answered out of projects in the next twelve months, send those to an SCR team, and then also take the rest and nurture them. So knowing exactly what they’ve engaged with. So based on the content that they’ve read, where they’re at in the buying cycle, it’s been a significant lift in ROI, because now they’re saying, how can I get the people who are ready to buy for me now immediately into the funnel and see short term opportunities and gain?
But then over the course of the last six to twelve months, they’re seeing even more opportunities. And when you really think about the cost per opportunity or the cost of acquisition, it’s more effective, I won’t say cheaper, but gives more value to them to actually have somebody enter their funnel twelve months before they’re ready to buy. Because if you think about what it costs to buy a demo, a demo might cost you anywhere between $500 to $1500 to $2,000 to produce from a third party, or maybe even through your website.
And I could pay 50, $60 for that lead just twelve months in the future, right? So if you’re willing to be patient and nurture your cost of acquisition is actually much more efficient from a syndication program where you’re identifying those opportunities and then building your pipeline long term.
I think long term is the key here, right? When you’re thinking about demand generation, we talk about it with our audience and our prospects and clients all the time. It’s not an overnight, hey, I did this marketing program, all these leads came in, they’re ready to buy today. That rarely happens, especially if you’re selling enterprise level, expensive HR technology or any other product out there that has a bit of a price tag to it.
So really thinking about it and saying, okay, how do we procure more names to build our audience and to be able to push content out to them and hopefully hook them on your content where they want to continue to read your content, listen to your content, watch your content and engage with it so that when they are ready to buy, you do make that short list. Because again, it’s a long term strategy. And if you’re only playing the short game, I think that’s where third parties and content syndication often get a bad rap, is because you are playing the short game and you’re operating from a bit of a sense of panic at times where it’s like, we need leads, we need them yesterday.
We’re not going to hit our revenue targets this quarter; this year. How do we fix that immediately and realistically? If your sales cycles are long, the leads you get today are not going to impact this quarter anyway, even if they were in market. Right. So you’ve got to have realistic expectations, but you’ve also got to be realistic about am I playing just the short game or am I balancing the short game in the long game? Because the long game matters.
It absolutely does matter. I think you can find yourself the gut reaction, especially when you mentioned earlier, like the macroeconomic conditions where the funding becomes less, everyone’s reaction is, let me go get links who are going to convert more quickly. And what you find yourself doing is you’re actually hurting yourself from a efficiency and from a profitability standpoint because you’re spending more and you’re consistently having to take this short term approach. And if you ever stop or you’re short one month or one quarter, now you’re behind. So your ability to predict or create opportunities in the future is really a leading indicator of how healthy your pipeline is. And so we see companies make that like, we’re not doing any more conduct syndication, we’re only focused on back of the funnel.
And then they come back and six months later they’re like, well this worked, but then I have nothing future looking because I’ve already hit all the easy opportunities that are there. So I think that’s definitely a really good point. I think the other thing that’s really interesting in our space around this, like short term, long term is the use of intent. I don’t know if we want to spend a few minutes there, but I think companies tend to try to solve the bottom of the funnel with intent as well and that can also get them in trouble from time to time too. I don’t know if you guys have had experience with your customers in intent, but that could be an interesting topic for us to spend a few minutes on.
Let’s dig in that topic because they feel like we could go deep in that one as well. And we absolutely do see that with our clients and prospects out there where they’re trying to do that. And we have to course correct at time.
Cool. You guys tell me where you want to go.
Actually, I think this has been a really great conversation about third party channels, and I think it’s a great idea to get back together and do some more topics. I mean, intent would be one. I’m sure we have a lot of different things that we could talk about together. What we’ve covered today is that third party channels are a key component to building out your demand generation engine. You both hit it pretty well. You have to be smart about it. The right avenues can create great brand awareness and credibility with your ideal customer profile that you can continue to build on, turn into your own audience, and that’s super important in today’s HR tech buying environment that is so crowded.
Thanks, Zach, for joining us today. It’s been a great conversation and like I said, I hope we can have you back and talk some more.
Glad, Jenni, Deanna, it was wonderful to be a part of the conversation. Thanks for having me. Truly, I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you guys and everyone in the audience and looking forward to doing it again soon.
Great. Thanks so much.
All right, see you later.
Thanks for joining us on the Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech workers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. We 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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