Ryan Ruud, Founder, and CEO at Lake One Digital, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Ryan shares his insights on how tech broke marketing, the positives of using technology like ChatGPT, and the legwork we should do before leveraging ChatGPT.
Ryan is Founder and CEO at Lake One, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minneapolis. Ryan and his team work exclusively with B2B brands, helping them put together their growth strategies, helping them figure out what technology they need to make that scale. Lake One also provides hands-on support, acting as an embedded partner, helping them execute that plan as well. At the start of this chat, Ryan gave his take on just what technology has done to marketing.
Before we jump into our discussion, I know you have a hot take on what technology has done to marketing. Tell us!
“I feel it has broken marketing. Technology has a lot of great opportunities and potential, but we got lazy with it. I think the promises of easy leads, an easy pipeline. The best marketers are peddling technology and as a result, everybody’s doing plenty of really dumb stuff with the technology. Blasting people! Literally, that’s the thing that makes my skin crawl when I have clients use the words, I need to send an email blast. I wonder if anyone wants to get blasted? Let’s put ourselves on the other side of those words: does that feel good? That’s not nice.”
It’s not only marketing who are doing it now. Sales now has automated outreach sequencing tools. And now, if you aren’t paying attention, you’re in trouble because they’re going to destroy your domain deliverability. For goodness sake! Put them on at least one other domain and then look at their writing. It’s not always good.
“Yeah, check the personalization tokens and ensure they match with your outreach spreadsheet. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen the wrong name…”
Right or put the name here. It hasn’t evolved beyond that. Ryan agrees.
“Yes, and the threaded ones that I get where I think they have the first time, I’ll let you go once! But then, you’re clearly in a sequence where they keep sending that and it’s like nope! I can’t take it anymore! So that’s my take. I feel like it has just allowed us to turn things into autopilot to play a numbers game. Honestly, it isn’t doing anyone any favors. It’s bad for the brand. It’s bad for our pipeline. It’s bad for quotas. It’s bad for the consumer, the buyer on the other side because everybody hates it. I dread going to my LinkedIn account because I cannot make sense of who is sending me messages anymore.”
The flip side of that is it has gotten extremely difficult to engage with people since they’re tired of it. I feel that since the pandemic people are more sensitive to not being seen. It’s something that’s actually really hard to do well on the other side of it unless you’ve got a lot of intent signals. There are some good parts of technology. But cold outreach has always been a game of just randomly being able to get in front of the right person, at the right time and we should try to do a little bit better there. I also feel like there’s a set-and-forget-it mentality that’s really scary because as the market changes, sometimes, your buyer profile does too. Ryan concurs.
“I totally agree! I always say the food dehydrator metaphor doesn’t apply here. You can’t have a set-it-and-forget-it mentality and just walk away. It’s interesting that you’ve brought up the pandemic component to this since if you look at some of the reports that came out in terms of engagement metrics and how quickly some of the channels of engagement like email, ads, and social media, dropped off the cliff because everyone was using it. We’ve lost the art of connection. We’ve lost the ability to just connect with another human being and realize that’s what we’re doing at the end of the day, whether you’re selling, whether you’re marketing, or whether you’re a support individual within an organization, It’s how you drive revenue impact within the business. And yes, there are tools that make it easier and more efficient. However, you still have to think about the connection you are trying to create. Take the time to understand who it is, what that business is on the other side that you’re talking to, and what they’re trying to accomplish.”
I’d also like to point out that when you watch the decline in engagement over channels, I don’t think it was just because everybody started using them. If you overlay that with the chart of people who report feeling lonely all the time, and depressed, all of that was on the upswing. I think we’ve gotten really bad at connecting in an authentic, honest way with people because we’ve been isolated. We rely a little too heavily on social media to entertain us.
“Well, it’s easy to sit behind a keyboard, right? One of the stats I have found so fascinating during the pandemic was the channel that didn’t fail was the phone. Calling people because of that isolation, because of that loneliness. You were calling someone, doing cold outreach, and all of a sudden, there was engagement on the other side of the line since we’re all dying for it. You’re all dying to connect with another human being.”
Yeah, and I see that creepily. If somebody accidentally texts me, instead of someone else and I’m nice about it saying, It seems like you have the wrong number. They say, you seem nice, let’s try to chat. NOPE. Boundaries!
So beyond not fostering a good mechanism for forming a connection, I think I have seen some other things in terms of AI specifically. I think a lot of people see budgets being cut and things getting hard, especially in marketing. We look at AI as a cheap way to augment the stuff that we are doing. Before I get into that, machine learning has been really present in attribution models and lead scoring in a few different areas. A lot of people don’t trust it. I feel the real issue is we don’t have a good understanding of the limitations of our own data and how much information we need to train a model to produce something meaningful.
Ryan went on to discuss the limits of ChatGPT.
“What I found when you added those two components, those two data points that you just brought up about how much is needed to train a model for machine learning and then also the limitations of ChatGPT. Those things are different sides of the same coin, of the same problem. I think there’s this assumption that ChatGPT or AI is going to displace everything. But we still need human input on the other side to drive it forward and there’s still a refinement process. Everything that you’re seeing, everything that’s grabbing headlines, they were just looking at a Twitter feed or thread. Someone was talking to ChatGPT to start a business and it was, you’ve got $100, what do you do to make as much money? There was still a human on the other side saying, okay, how are you engaging with it?
So it’s not like they’re sentient beings. Machine learning doesn’t just apply to a dataset and create context out of nothing. You still have to have a quality set of data that’s appropriate and relevant to your business. It comes back to the basics of a lot of the work we do with our clients.
How do you fix technology so that it doesn’t break marketing? Well, you start with the end in mind. You talk about what the metrics are. What are the data points that matter, that drive the business forward? A lot of businesses struggle with that. They can’t really answer the question of saying, everyone can say, okay we want to drive $20 million of revenue next quarter, what doesn’t mean? What does the qualified deal looks like? You’re going to ask 10 different people in an organization and you’re going to get 10 different answers.”
That’s the problem. That’s really the problem with attribution. It’s why CaliberMind exists. But at the same time, I look at different personas in the organization who are trying to do different things with the numbers. And it all rides on the one person who is responsible for setting it up to get it right. That’s why so many people hate it. You have this campaign optimization tool that the executive team is trying to use to estimate how much marketing is contributing to the business. That’s not how it’s instrumented. But the other rant was ChatGPT: I use it. I see a lot of valid use cases for it. What it’s not good at is looking at recent historical data and coming up with often very cyclical regurgitated versions of what’s already out there and it is not necessarily or even close to what people really want to consume. They want to know the cutting-edge thought leadership. They want to hear from experts in their own industry. So if you’re using ChatGPT to supplement your content strategy and your priorities, I just have to question that.
“100% yeah! We’re so far from an AI function that can create something at a level that is still cognizant of that cutting edge and taking the inputs of experiences. I had someone ask me if we were worried about it in our business. HubSpot is starting to implement AI and learning how to navigate within HubSpot. They’re asking, are you worried about that policing? The work that you guys do? I said I’m not because until AI can have a conversation with a business at a rapid-fire level to discern the processes and the business challenges and figure out how do you customize the software to solve the business need of sales, marketing, and support, you’re not going to be able to displace a human being that can take the experiences of a lifetime and apply that to a solution that you need for a business.”
What are some of the positives of using technology like ChatGPT and how can you use it to augment the best practices you’re already doing?
Ryan talked about the positives of using technology like ChatGPT and how marketers can use it to augment the best practices they’re already doing.
“I think about the ways that technology did help bring people closer and together during the pandemic. And I think about some of our clients that were really struggling since B2B, so many times, you’re focused on face-to-face sales. You go to events. Your business capacity is driven by relationships, right? All of a sudden, the world shuts down. How are you communicating? How are you building relationships? The first time we met, it was all video. We started riffling. We had a good time that way and how do you translate that type of experience into some sort of scalable sales experience? Therefore, things like a one-on-one video, being able to create video on the fly and send it in a very personalized manner with email. Those are the areas where it’s still time-consuming. You’re not creating one video at scale and sending it out. You are still creating those opportunities for those personalized touch points.”
There’s a huge mindset shift that I think a lot of people are resisting that needs to happen. I’ve grown up in B2B and the way to scale was always to come up with your number, hire that many salespeople and they’re just going to brute force it. How people buy and research and want to interact with things before they ever talk to anybody has totally changed marketing’s role in B2B. It was always like that in B2C. But I think we’re seeing a big shift and a lot of business leaders who have seen success in the old way. They have got a very volume-driven, at-bats, quality, quantity over quality approach. I have salespeople telling me that they need to get in front of all 4,000 of my accounts so they know who we are and my first question is if you can see in the system who is researching similar products right now, why would you not focus on them? And it’s like hitting your head against a brick wall sometimes. Ryan discussed what he has seen work when it comes to so much of marketing’s trying to convince other business leaders and the sales team to really challenge the way they’re approaching things.
“We’ve got the same type of scenario where it’s like we’ve always done it this way. Why would I change it? Finding the helpers, to borrow from Mr. Rogers, finding the helpers. Finding the person that’s interested. There’s always going to be somebody in an organization that is pushing the line, that is interested in trying to be that innovator. Someone that wants a competitive advantage over their peers. That’s how we found it. For example, when we were trying to introduce video to a manufacturing account that was really struggling. And they had to show the product, but they couldn’t. We had one person that picked it up and did it. And he told the story, not us. He became the champion inside saying, I’ve been trying to get this Director of Engineering at this firm to pick up a phone call for a year and a half. I sent him a video showing the product and he wrote back asking can you call me back in five minutes?”
And that’s better than gold, salespeople gossip.
“That is what we try to find is those types of things. Similarly, in another account, we have been talking about account-based marketing and they get the concept and they don’t. They’re skeptical at scale. So during the supply chain crisis, there was a competitor unable to supply this need. We have a product that’s very similar. Therefore, we said, hey, let’s run an account-based marketing campaign specifically against that and it blew open the revenue opportunity. All of a sudden, everyone’s talking about it within the organization, saying, well, could we do it here? Can we do it here? So that’s the way we find success is like little pilots where we can get somebody internally that is like a cheerleader and says, look, this is actually working because change is hard. It’s going to be hard. I feel especially in the last five years given the macro effects of things that have been happening in the world between COVID-19, between what’s going on with the economy right now, where everyone’s holding their breath. Trying to do any sort of change at a grand scale without having some small successes is going to be hard.”
It’s interesting because this requires a degree of data literacy or at least working with somebody who can translate things into the next steps. However, the bigger part here is learning how to tell a story that resonates and part of that is exactly what Ryan described as finding someone who gets excited and there’s this visceral thing that gets passed and is so viral.
“And you cannot manufacture that kind of enthusiasm when you get someone internally doing it and talking about it when you’re not always around.”
I think part of that too is something we as marketers forget to do is internal marketing and just socializing. Hey salesperson, you’re having a really good time with this. Can we set up a brown bag session where you tell other people how you use this?
“How do you make that virality call faster within the organization? That internal piece is huge.”
I think pivoting to a few more ways technology can help and specifically ChatGPT since I disparage it all the time, but still use it. What I’ve found is if you can get really specific about your audience and you want to retain the voice that’s in the original copy and you would get some suggestions for some catchy compelling social snippets and give it how many, it can actually spit out some decent stuff.
What are some of the legwork we should do before leveraging something like ChatGPT?
Ryan talked about some of the legwork marketers should do before leveraging ChatGPT.
“This is a perfect example of why there is still a human element to it because the robots aren’t going to know who your buyers are or the buyer roles, are they a blocker? Decision-maker? What kind of tone and pain points? If you’ve got a financial blocker and you’re trying to create content for themt, is ChatGPT going to know that specifically without you telling it that and to be able to highlight the concerns about compliance, concerns about cost savings? That is where the distinction comes in between the human element and the AI piece of it. Some of the things that become really key is understanding what does that buying committee look like? Understanding how large is that committee? What are the pain points for each different role at a minimum?
“Going back to that goal question and getting everybody on the same page, what does qualified look like? If we’re going to align around a revenue goal and we expect our sales and marketing teams to work together. They need to speak the same language of what qualified means so that we can understand these other criteria for what a qualified opportunity looks like. These are the roles it was the company size. This is the type of information we need. All of that has to be table stakes.”
I couldn’t agree more because most exaggerated arguments I have seen, not in the boardroom, but still among C-Suite are around who the ICP really is since everyone is biased. A lot of the time, we don’t know what data we have and don’t have to actually validate that. Then, what is the lead? You ask each person and they’re going to come up with a different definition and it’s like you’ve failed before you even started.
For more expert interviews and advice, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.