Dan Frawley, Managing Director of Falmouth Ventures, joins our host, Camela Thompson, Go-To-Market Thought Leader and B2B Insights Expert, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Repor. Dan flexes his statistics recall and shares some stats that should wake any marketer to the reality that data-driven decision-making is a requirement for CMOs. Dan shares his vision of the future of marketing and why understanding your customers is more important than ever.
Today we’re talking about which skills your marketing team is missing. I want clarity first that we may not be talking about full-time marketers, we may be talking about fractional marketers. Would love to hear your insights at different stages. Which skill sets do you see missing?
“One of the biggest problems I see in early stage companies is there’s a mismatch between what they need and what they hire. In fairness to the marketer and to the company, sometimes they may overshoot. Most of the time they undershoot, where the CEO is left in the Chief Marketing Officer role and maybe he’s hiring people that are less experienced, more junior and they’re in execution roles. And, it’s difficult as you’re doing this, trying to hire into that is very tricky. I’d rather have some overshoot it and be clear with the person hiring that they could help lift us to that growth that they’re used to, maybe a bigger size company. It’s just a very tricky balancing act. I find very few companies get that right.
“I find the use of consultants and independent contractors sometimes can be very valuable that way because they’re very clear. The expectations are just much clearer than bringing somebody into a fuzzy situation. Like you just brought in someone with two years of marketing experience and you want them to be your CMO. You didn’t say that but that’s really what you want. I talked to the CEO, the founder and said that’s not going to work. Somebody is going to be disappointed, probably both of you. So I think getting the right fit at the right stage is what you need to do. Obviously the number of tools is increasing. I don’t want to overdo talk of AI as it relates to marketing skills. What we will be talking about will be very powerful and presents plenty of possibilities.
“We’ve invested in a number of these tools. One I mentioned earlier and just sold did nothing but improve the demo. One of the things that Gartner said, and CEB mentioned it later, is that technology is getting increasingly complicated to the point where the sales and marketing teams don’t understand or don’t fully understand it and therefore can’t clearly communicate it to the buyers. That defines a marketing problem right there. One of the smartest guys I know said, when you’re selling, I want you to talk to the salespeople and to the marketers. I want you to market and sell as if the people receiving your communications, verbally or otherwise, have their CEO on their shoulder.
“And that forces you to have to articulate what another smart guy said to me: Listen when you sell to a company, the only three things the CEO of the company cares about is growing sales, reducing expenses or efficiency. That’s the language of a CEO so if you’re going to sell to them, then you need to speak that language in a way that is translated appropriately for the person you’re marketing to. However, remember never forget that the CEO of the company you’re selling to is sitting right on the shoulder or at the table with the person you’re selling to. And I thought that was a wonderful tool to help me understand how to think about marketing in the present age, probably always.
“But certainly in the present age with AI and the ability to predict massive amounts of data and we all know, it’s not there yet. You go to your typical large company, whether it’s electric, phone, or whatever and you say you’ve got a problem and everyone’s trained to get to the agent really quick since AI never works. That tells you the state of AI.”
I suspect that’s a good segue into what you do or don’t see in the boardroom with early stage companies with marketers. And you mentioned the three things the CEO and board care about. But, wondering about your perspective there?
“13% of buyers agree the seller is relevant. Let’s start with that one. 25% of sellers understand my role as the buyer. This is the buyer’s language. There’s some really awesome books written on this topic. I had the good fortune to be at CB with a guy named Matt Dixon and Ted McKenna, two smart guys in the area of B2B sales and marketing. And they wrote a couple of books. You probably know of them, one was the Effortless Experience, the Challenger Sale. The Jolt Effect is I think the most recent one they wrote. Matt and Ted are great folks, really smart guys, very committed. Matt ran the sales and marketing practice, at CEB. So they had talked to thousands of B2B customers all the time about this stuff.
“It’s a pretty sad state specifically in terms of the buyer’s perceptions of the seller. A 1% open rate on email. That’s gross. And by the way along with that let’s add in 30% of the purchasing teams are growing. Therefore, the size of the team you’re talking to is growing. And, one thing I always love to hear from a marketer that walks in my door is, he doesn’t talk about buyers in a one-dimensional unit. It’s a multiple of people. And one of the companies without naming it, that we invested in was fascinating to me on this topic. And they, by the way, just had a phenomenal exit after just killing it for five years. They went after that problem. And I see a bunch of companies attacking that problem about the buyer.
“It’s just too complicated for the buyer to understand. And when you add to that, you have the finance part of the buyer, you have the marketing part of the buyer, you have seven different people in the buying process on all levels. And you’re trying to communicate to each of them based on, this guy only cares about how much it’s going to cost. And the other person cares about what it’s going to do for him, how it’s going to make his job easier. And I think they said in the Jolt Effect really clearly that it isn’t about succeeding in the areas that most buyers are worried about. They’re most concerned about not failing. Just don’t fail if I buy this from you.
“So having a very good perspective is being well read and knowledgeable about the macro helps you with the micro marketing. And there are some wonderful works out there and things that have been written and podcasts like your own that are helping people trying to understand that marketing is changing. Marketing and sales is changing. In many ways the basic process is not, but the tools and techniques and methods are. That’s the part you have to be on top of. And when I interview, and I know when board members interview, they want to make sure these marketers that are interviewing are on top of things, both from a macro and micro level as well as some of the processes and tools that are changing.
Dan, your stats are spot on. I think our buyers are up to 14 people on the buyer committee now. The Forrester study that last came out with that makes sense to me. It’s so interesting to me as you know as well as I do that marketers are typically invested in later on. A lot of priority is put on sales. However, as you mentioned that 1% open rate is tied to cold prospecting around email. I’ve even seen it lower than that. I guess my question here is do you think who is getting involved with the buyer at which point is changing? Is marketing involved at a pretty good pace before sales even talks to anybody? We’ve seen data that support that.
“I think that’s a really good question and I think that’s a really important point which is what I see is it’s changing. This is where I told you, my millennial son works in the business for me. And he has friends who have started businesses and it’s shifting. When I was a young CEO, I didn’t hire a marketer until there were like 20 people in the company. I hired salespeople and I did everything I could. There’s a whole other conversation for a podcast on de-risking sales hiring. However, I did everything I could as I learned to de-risk those people that I brought in. I learned there were different people that were good at early stage selling vs. later stage. Like any profession there’s a lot of elements to it.
“But what’s shifting is, I see a day now where I don’t think you’ll need salespeople. That’s a long way off. Nevertheless, I see the growth and strength in the role and the rise of the marketer because of some of those techniques and the promise of those techniques. So what that means for me is I see companies hiring marketers sooner in the process. Often they are hiring right out of the gate. I often used to rely on the salespeople. They did marketing as well as selling. They typically spent 25% to 35% of the time prospecting, at least. And there are some salespeople that are excellent marketers. You may not call them that. By that I mean they have tremendous customer and product understanding.
“Remember I said, they speak to the buyer and the buyer says this person gets me. Buyers want to buy from people they trust and they like. And the best salespeople have that ability to earn that trust and earning that trust didn’t come from cranking up 5 million email campaigns, entering stuff into Salesforce all day. They worked at understanding the buyer. Let’s call it the buying unit. As you and I just agreed it’s no longer one person. The buying unit, all the various roles, concerns, problems, challenges, competitive dynamics. So that they understood that buyer really well, not unlike dating to get married. You understand that person. Does that person believe you? Do they trust you? Do you work at it? So that hasn’t changed. But I do see this shift from marketing starting to rise in B2B SaaS that used to be very sales centric and now I see it shifting.”
I think it’s going to require a change in behavior and skill sets on the marketing side as well as the way buyers want to buy. So what I’m hearing from you is some good advice to marketers would be to prioritize spending time with your buyer. You can’t be in a silo anymore. You can’t just crank out emails and not understand the buyer committee. You need to get more familiar with that any way you can.
“Absolutely and I think the marketers are going to be challenged to continue to develop the left side of the brain as well, as many of them historically have had such a tremendous right side of the brain. The creativity and the passion and the emotional quotient, but how the amount of data and the amount of quantitative tools available. It’s going to be a challenge for both sides of the marketers’ brain.”
There are people out there who are happy to do both and I think there are some who have been told they’re creative and not good at math for too long and need to start challenging themselves in that perception. I think repetition is the key to success there.
For more content on B2B marketing trends, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.