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Podcast: Software has eaten marketing.... now what? ft. Chris Powell

NetWise Jun 3, 2021 5:38:35 PM

Show Notes:

Welcome back for another hang in the data lab!

This week we've got NetWise VP of Sales Engineering, Chris Powell on as our first guest. What is a sales engineer? Well, it's a lot like a marketing engineer. That is, it's a position that has emerged where sales meets data, and so ultimately it's part of the data-driven demand gen stack in the same way that data-driven marketing is.

We have a great chat about the evolution of the space, about the evolution of demand generation, and how it means a totally different way of thinking about data-driven growth. In the end, the point is that software has eaten marketing, and now we think it's coming for sales. This is a chat about what the means for the future of growth for any SaaS company.

After the mics were off we kept chatting and ended up with this week's chart, the Data-Driven Bowtie. We were so excited about it that we'll probably cover it in next week's episode. In the meantime, here it is, a chart about how the data-driven model turns what would traditionally be a funnel in to a bowtie.

Data-Driven Bowtie

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Men

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand_generation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sales_process_engineering

Transcript:

Brian Jones:

That sounds so fun.

Adam Kerpelman:

Back when you were anti children, I should have said, "Hey, all this stuff you do on a Friday night when you're drinking, you get to do it again, just without drinking, but it'll be just as much fun, because kids."

Brian Jones:

Totally, and you still get to feel hung over because they wake you up really early and you don't get much sleep.

Adam Kerpelman:

I feel like I kind of made that argument at the time though. I was like, think of all the Legos you're going to be able to do in a socially acceptable way. Little did we know Legos would just to be socially acceptable because nerds took over the world.


Hey, this is The Data-Driven Marketer. I'm Adam.

Brian Jones:

I'm Brian.

Chris Powell:

And I'm Powell.

Adam Kerpelman:

Welcome back for another hang in the data lab, and for our first guest episode, which are very excited for. Thanks for joining us, Powell.

Chris Powell:

Great to be here, guys.

Adam Kerpelman:

You pulled a curve ball on me, I almost called you Chris, but you said Powell in the intro, so that's what we'll go with.

Chris Powell:

Yeah. This is my first podcast ever, so excited to join and hopefully share some knowledge, and learn from you guys as well.

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah. Powell is our VP of sales engineering over here. So Powell, you basically spend all day on calls with perspective customers trying to explain how they can use our software to do cool stuff that they kind of don't necessarily know that they can do, I think, because the space is so new. Is that fairly accurate in terms of what you actually do?

Chris Powell:

Yeah. Recently, one of the sales guys called me our Swiss army knife. So depending upon the situation that a marketer finds themselves in, what technologies they currently are utilizing, and what their budget is and their goals, I align how our data can solve their problems, and bring them to the next level.

Adam Kerpelman:

Your degree is actually in electrical engineering, right?

Chris Powell:

Mechanical. [crosstalk 00:01:59].

Adam Kerpelman:

Is that accurate? Mechanical engineering, okay.

Chris Powell:

So I'm taking a weird path of loving race cars and going fast, and then switched into sales after college, and then as a tech entrepreneur, learned to code, help build our data set with Brian. And over the last few years have been very much focused on extracting... Helping our customers to extract as much value as possible from our dataset. So I don't just work with our prospects, a lot of our customers get a lot of handholding as they are looking to roll out new capabilities, leveraging our data.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, the reason we were excited to get you on here so soon is because I really... I think you really live all day right at the edge of the stuff that we've talked about already in our previous couple of episodes, which is that this is new. The data-driven... What we're calling data-driven marketing is really this new sort of frontier. And so, even for me in the sort of comms director space, trying to figure out like an SEO play, is a strange thing, because people aren't just searching for data-driven marketing, they're not searching for the stuff that we offer yet because they don't know that they can do the things that we can let them do.

Chris Powell:

Right.

Adam Kerpelman:

And so you kind of spend all day on calls with people who are saying, "Well, you know, we want to do maybe this or maybe that." And they kind of use what they think are the right terms, and then your job is to go, "Oh no, actually what you want to do is, is called this." And then you write out the diagram and it's like that experience of, "Oh yeah, well, yeah, that's okay. The thing that you're describing to me is, well, actually it's actually a bread box." You know?

Chris Powell:

I noticed I was on a phone call the other week with a prospect who said, "Stop trying to sell me data. I don't need data. I've got plenty of data." And what they don't realize is that the data isn't the deliverable, it's the solution powered by the data that is the deliverable that we provide. And you may have an awesome CRM, with tons of prospects, you spent a ton of money a year ago on data from some place like ZoomInfo, and you feel that you're super covered in data. But, you as a marketer need to reach your clients across all channels, your prospects across all channels.

And there is always going to be a hole in which your data is incomplete. And NetWise doesn't plug all the holes. I feel like we plug a lot, but anyone who comes in and tells you that they have enough data, just either isn't in the know, or they're lying to you if they're a salesperson, I would never say that we should be your end-all be-all solution. It's... You got to have a multi-pronged approach, and a multifaceted three legged plus stool to really stand your marketing team up on, and maximize its return.

Adam Kerpelman:

So the broader thing we kind of thought we'd talk about today is really... And we've mentioned it a bit in previous episodes. I think there's that idea that software's eating the world, right? The famous Marc Andreessen post, and what we're right at the edge of, and you're really in the weeds on, Powell, is the idea that along with that happening in our space, is this emergence of a bunch of new jobs, and a bunch of new skillsets, and a bunch of new ways of thinking about the world, that all the old versions of those things aren't necessarily prepared for. And it's kind of the goal with this podcast is ultimately to take a look at that and kind of people evolve in between those things. And I think the ship has sailed on software eating marketing, that's Facebook, Google, Amazon, that's 90% of the marketing that happens in the world now. I mean, yeah, you still have your mailers and your whatever's right?

But most of marketing has been eaten by software. It's digital. And the associated strategies, that's kind of what we were talking about when we say data-driven marketer, but the other interesting piece where you live for sure, Powell, is that marketing is starting to eat sales. And so, that's really the interesting piece, is a lot of the sales skillsets. Like increasingly sales is having to talk to marketing a lot more, and marketing's having to think more like sales and there's this kind of mess in the middle. And that creates the opportunity where you stand in the middle there and talk to our customers and say, "Well, actually, what do you want to be doing is this and this and this, and incidentally, our product can facilitate that. But, what's actually interesting is this thing that you could do." And they go, "Whoa."

Chris Powell:

Yeah. We're really in the middle of a major shakeup here too, because a lot of the software that was starting to eat away at that sales efforts, and streamline marketing efforts was dependent upon cookies, and IP addresses. And everyone wants to target individuals now, especially in the B2B world. And NetWise is in a fortunate place because we've been individual... Personally identifiable information based ID graph since our founding in 2011. And so, it's kind of like the publishers who went to the bid stream, and they've tried to maximize all their other value for... Via the bid stream. And now it's coming full circle where they need to be owning as much data as possible, and less reliant on third parties to take away the lion's share of the revenue and the whole ad tech ecosystem's in for a major shakedown.

And we're... NetWise is in a really fortunate place to power marketers who want to understand what could possibly happen, and make sure that they're future-proof for whatever does happen as the ad tech ecosystem evolves in 2022. Yeah, Jones, I would be curious to know what your thoughts are seeing some of these, I guess, technologies coming in, and grabbing sales processes, and driving more inbound leads, as opposed to sales picking up the phone and dialing, or technologies that salespeople are using to send more emails, but make those emails feel like they're coming from an individual, even though they're being mass produced.

Brian Jones:

Yeah, I... There's so much interesting stuff going on here. And I think I would miss an opportunity if I don't tell everyone what I say about you all the time, Powell, that if we... I say this in the business all the time to everybody, if we can reproduce you as our brand, and as our media, our marketing material, we will be extremely successful as a company. Because you have figured out all of the things that make our products valuable, that make our services valuable. You sit at this interesting space, it's... As you were describing your career progress earlier, I was thinking again, how well placed you are in the company again, because you sit in between technology, and real people, and real conversations. And that's a cliche joke to be like, "Oh, the engineer can talk to a person." Stupid cliche joke that's not a thing anymore.

Engineers are able to speak with other humans now, we've progressed past that, but you're exceptionally good at talking with people and exceptionally smart as an engineer. So you've just put this story together, and you've put these technologies together in a way that feels normal to me and kind of feels normal, I think, inside our business right now, but it's not, you're really at the cutting edge of creativity with technology and marketing. And what's... We're a pretty small company, right? We're 25 people. And yet you are regularly on calls with some of the marketers who've been in their job for decades, and who run some of the largest marketing budgets on the world. And you're educating them on technological innovations that almost no one else has ever even heard of. Sometimes that you invented, I was just on a call with you last week, where you were describing something that you invented and introduced to a bunch of other public companies and their teams were like, "Oh, that's a great idea, what a neat use of all of our technologies."

So there's this crazy shift in what's going on with marketing, where the world has just caught up to the idea that we should be using data, and everyone's like, "Oh, I need to analyze data and make data-driven decisions." But the actual technology jumped again. It leaped again to, "No, no, no. You... Just analyzing your data stream on Facebook is not going to get it done anymore. You need this meta technology where it's all the platforms working together, feeding information, data expansion, based on things that are happening over in this channel." It's really wild technological capabilities. And it all kind of comes back to getting the right message to the right person at the right time, right? This is the silly old marketing ad, but like really specific now, like the capabilities are astonishingly specific.

Adam Kerpelman:

You're telling me the answer to that leap isn't Excel?

Brian Jones:

Unfortunately it's always still a little bit Excel, right?

Chris Powell:

Yeah. I was talking with another customer last week, and they were like, "You know what? I really want to find titles and companies that use Kubernetes." I didn't know what Kubernetes was, I had to look it up. But I was able to go into our behind the scenes data exhaust and pull up a whole bunch of people who have Kubernetes on their resume, and then be able to mine out all their previous titles, and be able to show a title progression of when someone starts using Kubernetes, and then what their job titles will be afterwards, and then use those titles as an input to our dataset, to be able to find look-a-like people who should also be in their prospect list. So really cool title, I don't know, exploration capabilities, and that's kind of like consulting... Consultative approach that we give to our customers at no charge. So I love solving problems like that.

Brian Jones:

So also, if we turn you into our product, we're also... So if you are a marketing, and our marketing media, and our product, then we've won.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, I mean, that the...

Chris Powell:

Our engineering team is top-notch [crosstalk 00:13:16] and man, can they do some awesome shit.

Brian Jones:

We've started using Kubernetes since you last really wrote code with us, so. [crosstalk 00:13:24] That's why you don't know what it is.

Adam Kerpelman:

But I mean that kind of, I think, gets to what we're chasing here, which is what is the skill stack of the modern marketer? Right? Because part of it is understanding stuff like that, right? I mean, it used to... I mean, I've worked in marketing departments where the idea that you would know, or ever feel like you needed to even go research what Kubernetes was would just be laughed at. But I'm a marketer, man. I come up with slogans. I look at pictures and I go, "That'll sell, get out of here. Give me another whiskey." [crosstalk 00:14:06]

Chris Powell:

Yeah. The mad men style doesn't work anymore.

Adam Kerpelman:

Admin shit, yeah.

Brian Jones:

Sure looked fun when it was going on, though.

Adam Kerpelman:

And that's not the future of... That's not the modern marketer, right? So what's your thought on what that is, because every... you know, it sounds like every company needs their own Powell, which we can give you some percentage of that, if you come to use NetWise, but you still need somebody that understands how to use it well enough.

Chris Powell:

I think that you hit on something interesting there, which is the mad men are the agencies. And I think that what you've seen over the last, I don't know, five years, is that more agencies can't just be brand awareness agencies. They can't come up with your product slogan, and then just blast a shitload of banner ads out in front of people. You just can't do that anymore, and provide the value that your customers want as an agency. So agencies are leading the way in terms of creating demandgen and demandgen being a hot new title that encompasses the sales and marketing effort. And that if someone's effectively doing marketing, I believe that they're doing demandgen, and they're bringing inbound leads across as many channels as possible. And also striking that brand awareness to the people, the decision committee, at your companies that fall in your total addressable market.

So you're tam. So it... There is a slew of different coordinated positions within a business that really need to understand and come to the belief that at the core of what they want to do is data. And they're going to let the data speak for itself for their marketing efforts. And your sales team should be intricately involved with how you select your decision committee, and how you select the companies that you want to target. Then Kerp, we were talking about this earlier. You as a communications person, I always thought communications was kind of bullshit, and then I've seen all the amazing stuff that you've come in in coordinating marketing sales, and then all of our social outreach, and coming up with the best practices for getting this information out in front of people. I... It's an extremely needed position that becomes... Is becoming more and more technical.

So I think the people who are entering the marketing world can come at it from a technical standpoint, they can come at it from a communication standpoint, they can come at it from a brand awareness standpoint, but they need to have open eyes, and open ears to everyone else in the business who is a decision maker, and leading the charge, and effectively selling for their business and gaining new customers. Jones, do you see that happening [crosstalk 00:17:12] at NetWise? Because you know, we've been growing pretty quickly this year and it's really hard to keep everyone, even internally at a data company, on board with our positioning and our... How we use data in our own marketing practices.

Brian Jones:

What's been interesting for us is that realistically, a year ago, we didn't really do any marketing as a company existing in the marketing space who is helping marketers, all our customers are marketers, our products are built for marketers, our data, we refer to as marketing data all the time, right? We didn't really do any marketing. And part of that was strategic. We didn't have a product line at the time that lent itself to it, exactly. I mean, we would have got a lot of benefit from some of those non-traditional stuff that I don't think jumps to mind when people say marketing. More of the comms, or the communication. But I think the... I love a quote that Adam said to me awhile ago, I feel like you say it all the time, but I think I say it all the time now, I quote you all the time.

Every company is becoming a media company and that's the summation of this concept. The people want to educate themselves now, but that's in every brand study you go look at, every marketing study is people want to learn about things without having to call and talk to you, without having to go to your store, they want to know about products. They actually want to be educated consumers, which is a core principle in the foundational pillars of economics, which have never... Has never really been real, right? Businesses isn't always manipulated everything, and marketing messages always tricked people. And nobody wants that anymore. Everyone wants to just, "Hey, I need a thing. I've got this problem. I need to go see what the solutions are. Let me read about the solutions, let me know the price, let me know what the contracts look like."

And so businesses need to get good at sharing, and communicating, and turning all of this stuff that's traditionally been in people's heads that we've used people for, like you at our business, and our whole sales team. You just start extracting that information, and you turn it into useful, educational content. We can keep calling it marketing, but all it really is, is helping people understand the thing that they need, and then being there to sell it to them. I'm seeing that happen, which is great. Because it... What happens when... What happens when that's...

What you see in a business when that's happening, is Adam coordinating a piece of content, a piece of information, like an answer to a question. And all of a sudden, he... Maybe it came in as a question that sales always hears, and he writes it up and every department in the company is like, "Oh, this is so helpful." And they all have different reasons why it's helpful. It's like it's helping a customer, or it's helping a prospect, or they were just talking with someone about it the other day, but they didn't have all the answers, and they want to share it. It's... All this information is reusable and reuseful. And even without tweaking it, it's just... If it's educational, it's the right stuff.

Chris Powell:

Yeah. And I think that at the core of that, you need to have a product and/or solution that actually performs. And The Data-Driven Marketer is hyper-focused on analytics and measurement. And historically that was click through rates, and just getting someone to click on something. But we all know that you can put bogus information out there, and get someone to click on it. And then I think that The Data-Driven Marketer is now hyper-focused on, "What happens after that click? How much time do they spend on the page? Where do they go? Do they convert to a lead and actually enter their information? What happens after that phone call with them?" And really getting extremely granular at an individual level on how well specific efforts are performing for you. And we love that because we always win [crosstalk 00:21:21].

Adam Kerpelman:

But I love the idea that people aren't focusing on... I've spent a career saying, "Yeah, that's nice, but that's a vanity metric." I can get you more impressions, I can get you more likes, but it doesn't matter if none of them turn into conversions. And they're like, "Yeah, well..." People come to my agency all the time when I used to do that work, and they would say, "We need more... We need more impressions." And I go, "Well, do you need more impressions, or you need more customers?" And they'd be like, "What?"

Brian Jones:

It's really interesting phenomenon you see in marketing. And as a data-driven marketer, you start to see how powerful the human bias towards wanting to see the result that you want to achieve in your data. As in a scientific space, and I think we have an episode, or an article coming up, that's the scientific method applied to marketing, but in a scientific space, you have to be really careful that you're not introducing bias into a research paper or project. And then it gets peer reviewed, and gets retested, and... But in marketing, it's really easy to be like, "Ooh, that... I'm being data-driven, but that metric fields, right? That one's what I expected [crosstalk 00:22:33]."

Adam Kerpelman:

Look at our follower growth on Twitter. It's... That doesn't... It doesn't matter if you have 40,000 followers on Twitter if none of them have paid for your product.

Brian Jones:

And this is exactly why marketing, and marketing media, and marketing software is consuming the sales funnel, and consuming sales. Because as a marketer, 10 years ago, all you had access to were click-through rates, because all this software was new. Running ads on Facebook was new to most people. And so you had a click through rate to the website, and then nothing else was being tracked. There was no way to be data-driven. And now, it's sales leaders literally locking the sales people up for a day a week, and saying, "You need to clean up the data in your CRM so that marketing can now tell us how effective all of our processes are." It's really interesting.

Chris Powell:

Yeah. I think as you see the marketing continue to eat away at sales, the major benefit there, for a business, is you gain more data, and more analytics the further you drive them down the funnel to closing. And this is where SAS is just so beautiful. If someone can come to your website, learn everything there is about your business, and sign up without ever having to talk a salesperson, you know exactly how that happened, or you can, if you have the right tools employed. And then for the businesses that aren't as sophisticated, you do rely on your salespeople to have that proper information entered into their CRM, or whatever tool they're using to gain that measurement and analytics. So the data-driven marketer is absolutely eating away at sales, and especially at SAS businesses.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, I want to say though that the... And maybe this is a good sort of point to close on, what is, in part exciting to me in this space, and this is very sort of kumbaya point to make or whatever is, it's eating sales in that it's doing things... It's scooping up repetitive tasks that used to be handled by sales, because the only opportunity to answer that question was when you got somebody on the phone, but then sales, traditionally, would look it up in a knowledge base, and then deliver the answer that was in the knowledge base.

And then, it's not necessarily... We're not trying to take the relationship piece out. One of the things that I learned early on in marketing, and I think somebody literally sat me down and said this at some point, which was, "If you want to be good at your job as a marketer, go hang out with sales at lunch. Don't sit with the marketers, and continue to brainstorm the same goofy stuff that you spend all day brainstorming, go sit with sales and listen to the questions that the customers are asking and the experiences that they're having with the customers." And that traditionally was not like a way of thinking about the world.

Marketing sales used to kind of compete for attribution over who was doing what, and they weren't necessarily friends. And I think as all this stuff gets closer together, with data at the core, it's really forcing everyone to sort of be friends. And everybody has to actually really work together within a company toward the same common goal that everyone should have anyway, instead of having this dumb internal tension between what used to be these things that are now all under the demandgen umbrella. I love the idea that that umbrella exists, because it creates a situation where I can go build a team of people that are all cooperating to do the same thing. [crosstalk 00:26:10] Because sales has the answers that the data can't provide, and what the marketing is... What marketing is trying to do is make it so that that's all they have to deal with. And instead of repetitively delivering the same answers to the same questions that they've answered a thousand times just as part of the process, it's... That doesn't have to be anymore. They should be stoked about that.

Chris Powell:

The other group that I think is intricately involved, and should be more intricately involved, is the evolution of account management into client success, and how you can gain nuggets and wisdom from your existing clients that you can upsell because every good sales person knows that the best way to make more money is from your existing client base, and sell them more things until they're buying everything that you offer. And that type of feedback should also be integrated into the marketer's approach. The data-driven marketers approach.

Brian Jones:

Yeah. You touch on an interesting space that you see, especially at companies that are following a SAS based business model, or a recurring revenue business model. And we have a weirdness right now, right, where marketing is consuming down funnel things that sales used to be responsible for, and sales often still wants to hold onto those things, they want control of it. But in reality, sales is being pushed more towards the client success. Or I guess a traditional term would be customer support, right? Is kind of customer success, customer success.

It was rebranded for a modern business model, but it's that support, like you said, it's making sure customers stay with you because it's so expensive to get a customer. And then it's making sure that they're happy, making sure that they buy more things, learning from them. So it's really... It's taking... Marketing's consuming, like Kerp said, the... Some of the more repetitive stuff, things that can be automated, stuff that can go into software or be turned into media. And then it's putting salespeople who are extraordinarily good with talking to other humans, right, and helping them understand things, and pushing them into a space where they get to do more of that. You really get to capitalize on their value.

Chris Powell:

Yeah. I would love to leave our listeners with a challenge, which is reach out to NetWise. If you're a marketer, or a salesperson, client success, demandgen, anyone in that world with focusing on B2B audiences, come to NetWise, and run a free test with our data and you'll see an ROI.

Brian Jones:

I love it. Can they talk directly to you?

Chris Powell:

100%.

Brian Jones:

Can they call you?

Chris Powell:

Yes. [crosstalk 00:28:58] I'll make sure my calendar links up available.

Brian Jones:

Nice. Oh yeah. We'll put your calendar link up there.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, yeah, I can't think of a better way to wrap up than that. Yeah. Thanks for... Thanks everybody for listening. If you enjoyed this, subscribe, we'll have more stuff like this coming at you every week. If you're on Apple, any platform, really, give us a review, give us a rating. That stuff really helps us find more data-driven marketers so we can try to build a community here of people trying to work toward all the stuff that we just talked about. Otherwise, thanks for hanging out. This has been The Data-Driven Marketer. I'm Adam.

Brian Jones:

I'm Brian.

Adam Kerpelman:

I'm Powell. Thanks for your time, guys.