Dan: Welcome to this week’s Boss To Boss Podcast, in our interviews we feature remarkable sales and marketing minds doing imaginative things in often unimaginative markets, usually from the world of B2B.
This week’s guest is B2B marketing legend Pam Didner, who is a podcaster, author and international speaker. Having advised many of the biggest brands in the world including Intel, 3M, Sunstar and Cisco, Pam is recognised as being one of the leading authorities on everything from sales enablement, ABM, sales and marketing integration and pretty much everything else involved in building a market-leading B2B brand.
Of course, everything we do in marketing is the product of people, so I’m really excited to be speaking to Pam today about building world-class teams. In particular, we’ll be exploring the most common mistakes made in how marketing teams are organised, how marketing teams should collaborate with sales and who should be in the driving seat and the three roles she believes every great marketing team needs in 2022.
Pam, thank you so much for joining us.
Dan: I’d just like to start off with a bit of a broad one, so it would be great to get a sense of what you see as the most frequently made mistake, or the most significant mistake, in terms of how marketing teams are organised and structured.
Owen: That’s actually a very good question and what I have seen is most marketing organisations tend to be divided by roles and responsibilities. For example, you do social media, you do email marketing, you do paid media and you do events. Unfortunately in the world nowadays, everything tends to be connected. We are in the digital world and the people who do events probably have to do a lot of social media posts before the event and they probably have to do quite a bit of follow up through email with the attendees. In the past, an event was an event, right? You do a physical event and you get that done. No problem whatsoever. So you do a physical event and the event’s done. Everybody moves on. But now everything is integrated, and there’s a digital component in everything we do, and what I have noticed is that the way that marketing is organised – the roles and responsibilities – is dealt with by specific job functions, which is fine. But with that being said, you need to make sure that everybody’s talking to each other and it cannot be siloed.
So the biggest mistake I have seen in terms of how marketing organisations work is there is a silo element to it. How do you make sure that everybody is aligned when they do integrated marketing campaigns? So make sure that there’s no silo, especially in the digital world.
Dan: That’s really interesting that you say that because I for a long time, being totally candid, so I’ve worked in and around marketing I guess for about 14 years now, and I think for the first at least half of that, I made this huge mistake by doing precisely what you’ve described. So for email we look for someone with email experience. For social media, we look for someone who was brilliant on you know this particular platform, that particular platform.
Don’t get me wrong, that channel expertise is valuable in its own right, but for some reason it never quite stuck together and what dawned me one day was that actually there were certain skill sets that were actually quite channel-agnostic. So take, for example, social media, or email, ultimately, if you really nail the brand and you really nail the content, then to some degree, the channel takes care of itself. That’s an oversimplification, but great content tends to do pretty well, whereas if someone’s got 7-8 years experience on a particular platform but they’re churning out really mediocre content or they don’t understand their audience, then that’s just never going to work. No matter how well they understand the mechanics of that particular platform. So we started to organise it more in terms of skill set as opposed to channel expertise.
Now I think we’re talking about maybe 2 slightly different things, because I take your point about it’s about one
Pam: One big customer experience.
Dan: Exactly. So we can’t be saying one thing here and another thing there. But I’d just love to get your perspective on that question of skill set versus channel expertise.
Pam: That’s a great question. You brought up a very good point, and the point is what kind of skill set does a marketer need. And from my perspective, there are multiple levels to this. There’s a discipline or the channel expertise that you are talking about, and then there’s another one which is the ability to think quickly and to be very scrappy, you know, and then another level is basically to connect the dots.
Many marketing organisations still think by marketing functions or the words that they use, which is channel expertise, and that’s how they organise it so it is easier for say internal stakeholders to understand who does what. And I can completely understand that. But you touched on a specific skill set, which is you need to be able to connect the dots. And if you do even marketing, you cannot just focus on physical event execution, there are other components that are associated with it and you need to know what that is, especially pre-events and the other stuff that you have to do and follow up with your sales team and that’s post-event. And you need to know what that is. You may not be the owner of it but you need to know what that is and to be able to actually pull the right players into the discussion and make things happen. So I think, another skill set in addition to the channel expertise that you are talking about is the ability to actually connect the different dots and also be scrappy.
That’s another thing that I feel that a lot of B2B marketers tend to know their lane very, very well. But sometimes you have to cross different lines. You have to cross lines and you need to somehow find that balance that you don’t want to step on someone else’s toes, well a lot of time you probably do, but understand what that is and how to get other people to actually help you.
Dan: Yeah, and I totally agree with everything you said there. This might be taking it a step too far, this might be a slightly controversial thing to say but in my experience, someone who’s just a phenomenal marketer, really understands the voice of the brand, really understands how to create a great narrative and great messaging for the audience, I’d probably rather have that person almost irrespective of channel than somebody who was 6/ 10 at that stuff but had 8 years of experience in the channel. Now of course, ideally you want both. I’d love to get your take on that.
Well, you know I hate saying this and I’ve tried to think outside of the box, but can I have both? The reason I’m trying to say is of course you know you always have to look at the hiring in terms of not just your in-house team. You always have an agency that actually supports you or you have freelancers that you use.
Let’s assume you do actually have some budget. Of course you can hire the best talent. From my perspective, I would hire the best talent. Should that be channel expertise or should that be somebody who has a well-rounded skill set? That depends on what I need at that time. But what I’m trying to say is, hire the best talent based on what you need and based on what your business planned for that year or maybe for your long term goal. You also can hire the best players but they don’t have to be your full-time employees. You can hire them to work on certain jobs and they are the best in their field but you can hire them and they’re using your budget.
The way I look at it in terms of the organisational structure is not just the internal team that you have and the full-time teams. But why don’t you expand that and look at that in terms of not just your full-time team but also your agencies and your freelancers that can actually support you.
That’s why I was thinking you know, Dan, that’s a great question but I want both. And I will make it happen with both.
Dan: Yeah, too right. Too right.
So a slightly different topic then, how should – and I think this is particularly pertinent around channels like events – how would you see the marketing function collaborating with the sales function? Who should be in the driving seat? And how do you ensure the activity of these 2 teams is really aligned?
Pam: That’s a great question and I have a very strong opinion that the marketing team should be in the driver’s seat because this is the event and ultimately, who owns the event? It is probably going to be the marketing team. Who is going to take the success metrics? Probably going to be marketing.
So marketing needs to take that initiative and drive it and gather the feedback from the sales team. Proactively align with the sales team. Salespeople are very busy. Most of the customers I work with, the sales teams are not necessarily proactively talking to the marketing people. It is up to the marketing team to take the initiative to talk to salespeople, get the information out of them and proactively align with them.
Dan: When the sales function and marketing function are collaborating together, how should the success of the marketing team be measured?
There seemed to be a lot of attention on marketing qualified leads a few years ago and that felt like a bit of a safe space for the marketing team because you find something that works, you scale it up and you hand it over to sales and how can they possibly go wrong. You know they’ve got the address and a telephone number of someone within the target audience. How can they possibly not turn that into a sales qualified lead? But of course it can be way more complicated than that and then the sales function can understandably get a little bit frustrated with that dynamic.
So I just wonder what your take is on how these 2 functions work together, how they align and how they ultimately define success?
Pam: You know, the thing is, there are fundamental differences between sales and marketing. Fundamental differences. And I want to explain that first and make sure everybody is on the same page with me.
In general, the marketing tends to focus on the top-of-funnel and the sales focus on the bottom-of-funnel. And another thing is marketing tends to think about long term, you know the brand equity, brand awareness, and the sales actually have monthly quota, quarterly quota. They are a lot more short term. I need to close the deal. Short term versus long term, top-of-funnel versus bottom-funnel. And then another thing is, marketing tends to focus on customers, most likely end-users, and the salespeople tend to focus on decision-makers, who can actually close this deal for me. And they are not necessarily the same by the way. And also depending on the business model of a company, I always use Toyota as an example, right? The salespeople probably focus on dealers because the car dealers are selling the cars on behalf of Toyota. But the corporate marketing team in Toyota focuses on consumers. So all of a sudden they have 2 different customers they go after. I just briefly mentioned in less than 2 minutes the four things that are completely different between sales and marketing.
Because our goals tend to be very different, then how we approach the business and grow the business will be different as well. But that doesn’t mean we cannot be aligned. We can still be aligned. You need to be very selective and determine what other things we are going to align about. We all have revenue goals we have to drive, and you mentioned a very good example: MQL. Every single company I talk to, the salespeople always complain about the quality of MQL. This is not a good lead! And maybe it is not a good lead. Maybe it is, right. So then it’s up to the sales and marketing to define what MQL is. You have to define it so clearly that there’s no confusion between the 2. You cannot say that it’s a lead score above 85. That’s not gonna work, right? There are so many grey areas. But why if you define the MQL as the people who come to a website and click on request for demo. You just defined. That’s it. There’s only 2 ways that we’re gonna define MQL – request for demo, contact sales. Anything other than that doesn’t count as MQL.
It’s so clear. But with that, then the salespeople need to understand the quality versus quantity. You cannot ask for 500 leads when you change the MQL definition to the point that is request for demo, does that make sense? It’s very hard to get 500 requests for a demo per day, right? So you need to think about it in terms of what is the balance of quality versus quantity. The definition of MQL – can you make that so clear and so actionable, there’s no confusion between the 2.
Then another way we can make sure that sales and marketing can align is can you find a joint initiative to work together? And Dan, you bought a very good point in terms of okay, how do you measure the success of the marketing team when they support sales? Well it depends on if the backend is integrated.
So marketing tends to use a marketing automation tool, salespeople tend to use CRM. I mean, that’s a general rule. But what if the marketing automation tool is integrated to the CRM? Then you probably can track a specific prospect, how they move from one database to another. If the backend is integrated, trust me, we can track it. If it’s not, that’s a different story.
Dan: Yeah, that’s really interesting. And from your experience, are companies getting better at that backend integration? Is that something that you’re seeing a lot of work going into?
Pam: Actually, no. You know, technology is such an interesting monster for all of us in every single company. Because you know you do have a lot of platforms that come and say they can solve this problem or use this tool to solve all your problems. This one stop shop.
There’s no one stop shop platform. Period. I’ve tried and many of my clients have tried and no. So the thing is, an average company uses literally 50 to 60 different kinds of tools to get our jobs done. And you have to think about it in terms of all those tool, how do they integrate to the point that actually makes it easy for people to track? So now the technology is there but integration is not, and I have to say that for many many companies.
Dan: So I appreciate this next question is quite business and sector dependent, but if you were building a marketing function from scratch for a B2B organisation, what are the first 3 roles you would look to hire?
Okay, so you are totally right. This is more business and the sector dependent and also depending on where the company is at that time. If it’s a SaaS-based platform and the company is growing the first 3 roles would be video content editor, writer and then designer. That’s what I would do first.
The reason is, nowadays, just like you said, the people who can write very well and the content you create through writing or the content you create through video creation – the writing part of it and also the video creation part of it, the creative element of creating a video, if you will – how you go about it does determine how the audience will make that first call – if they want to watch your video or if they want to read your blog. I would focus on getting good writers.
If the sales team is actually talking to potential clients, they need customised content. The writers and also the video person can actually quickly create and customise content for the sales team. I would use all my budget to actually hire in-house writers and the video creators because content is King, then the next thing is find a way to promote it. Those channel experts.
Dan: Absolutely. You want people to engage with the content, you gotta go where those people are and in 2022 that’s almost certainly going to be a social platform or another.
I just wonder, looking forward to the future, is there anything else that you look at and you think you know what, there’s this new role that I can see on the horizon and in 3-5 years there’s going to be some other role coming into the mix that really progressive, exciting B2B organisations are going to be looking to get in-house. Is there anything that springs to mind?
Pam: Yeah, so there are a couple of roles I’ve been thinking about. I think this is something that may not be 3 to 5 years. I think it’s about 10 – 15 years, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is really pushing for the metaverse and that virtual environment. And I’m not saying that people are gonna wear goggles all the time, I’m just saying that during the pandemic we were virtual all the time, right? So kind of shifted us from that 100% face-to-face to we have to deal with virtual and now we will see a hybrid, right? The physical and in-person with virtual. And with that same kind of analogy I’m looking ahead 10 years from now and I see virtual space that you actually can immerse yourself into, A very 360 degree virtual environment and I see that will be part of our world.
So with that being said, I think that B2B marketers, or any marketers, need to look ahead in that universe and think: how do we position our brands and also our products. And the certain skill set I think is very important is how to create that three-dimensional experience. You know that customer experience is important. I don’t know how to do that because I’m a two-dimensional type of B2B marketer.
The second is in that universe because you create a kind of virtual space so there is a journey you want your customer to follow or the things you want the customer to do. There are storytelling components as well. So it’s that 3D design experience, not just creating, not just writing, not just creating video. It is a 3 dimensional kind of design coupled with storytelling. I think that is something that’s very critical. It’s almost similar to filmmaking.
Probably not in my generation, but the next generation after they’ll have to look into how they can enhance that skill set. The next two generations, they’ll probably grow up with it and it becomes so natural to them. It’s not a skill set they have to intentionally develop. It’s more or less this skill set that they have. It’s part of their lives.
Dan: Really interesting stuff. Yeah, I guess it’ll become an extension of what you’re expected to do, and as you say, probably as people evolve, it will just be like an app on your phone or whatever.
Pam: Exactly. Like TikTok. I mean I grew up with YouTube so a lot of my skill set is in terms of creating a YouTube video. It fits into a long form format and it makes sense for the YouTube environment. But the younger generation, the next generation, grew up with TikTok. So the way they edit the videos and the short form content and how they make it so, so fun and they know what elements to add with editing and how to cut it, I was completely amazed.
But they grew up with it and they learn from just other people doing it. It’s a part of their lives. It is not a skill set they have to intentionally learn. It’s something that is part of their life and they kind of just, you know, emerge in themselves and they kind of pick that up. So I’m very jealous.
Dan: Yeah, you and me both.
So in terms of developing a team, developing a culture, aside from some of the specific skills that we’ve discussed, are there any other particular attributes that you look for when you’re developing a team?
Pam: Yeah I think even though this has been said multiple times in the past, but I think communication skills, and I think that never fails. And I will be looking for a person that can actually communicate and articulate ideas. Well, that’s 1 thing especially moving forward, a lot of ideas are probably very vague and abstract, and if you want to explain to a sales team or if you want to sell your idea to management to get a budget, you need to be able to articulate and quantify the results. So for me the communication skill is one.
The other line is analytics. And if you asked me ten years ago whether marketers need to really understand data, I would be like “What are you talking about? No”. But now you have to know how to interpret it and you need to actually be able to look at the data and try to have a sense of what the data is trying to tell you and what kind of insights you can get from that. So those are the 2 things, from my perspective, that are super critical.
It’s the communication skill and the ability to analyse the data because once you can analyse the data and know what to say, then the communication will come naturally. Does that make sense now?
Dan: Absolutely. And do you see that ability to interpret data and then presumably to create kind of narratives around that data as something that everybody needs or is it enough to say if you had like an awesome content creator, a great copywriter or designer, does everyone need to have that kind of data-centric mindset? Or is it enough to have someone in the team who can do that job for them?
Pam: That’s a great question. I Want to take a very strong stand on this one. Most of the time I’m the type of person who says, “Oh it depends”, you know for this one, I actually will encourage you all to listen to this podcast if you are marketer and say you need to have analytics capability. It doesn’t matter if you are counting on the data scientists to do it. It doesn’t matter if you have analysts on your team to do it. The thing is the data scientists and also analysts can pull the data for you, they will not be able to interpret the data for you. You are the expert.
Because you are the expert in your marketing, you are the one that needs to give them a direction in terms of what type of questions you want to answer, what kind of graph you want to see, but before you can even do that, you need to know data first then they can pull that. you have to It’s kind of like you want an agency to create a creative concept for you. Yes, you definitely need to understand analytics.
Dan: And again feel free to challenge me on this. I feel sometimes it’s more of an imagined obstacle than a real obstacle. So just the idea of a graph or a piece of data is just terrifying to them. In reality, when you are the person responsible for that channel activity you know what good looks like, right? I mean there’s a world of difference between that and a heavy kind of data analysis.
So yeah, I just wonder if this is maybe more of an imagined obstacle because it’s something that I’ve encountered so many times and actually I find that once you get these people facing the issue, a few weeks later they’ve forgotten what the obstacle was in the first place.
Pam: I hear you and honestly I’m gonna use myself as an experience as an example. I was a traditional marketer and when I started I didn’t really have to look at data very much and I ran campaigns and I would have the agency pull the report readily available for me and I’d just review it. And by doing that, that doesn’t mean that I don’t know data, I still know and I kind of know where the campaigns I do should fall. So I know that this is a good campaign. Oh or this campaign is a failure. So I would say the data I’m talking about is not necessary like oh my God you have to create this complex virtual graph.
In terms of when you look at the data can you kind of determine what is the data trying to tell you, most of the channel experts or even the content marketers somehow have some basic knowledge. So telling all the B2B marketers when I’m so passionate and saying you have to understand data that means I’m not telling you to become a data scientist. I think if you’ve been working for a long period of time, you’ll have a basic data set in your mind in terms of what is good. What is not good. Great. So Keep that. But using additional data to enhance that knowledge, right? So Yeah, we are on the same wavelength I think.
Dan: No, I think we’re in agreement there.
Final question then, so slightly different question here, more sort of culture focused. So of course culture plays a massive role in any team, and I think in marketing it can present quite an interesting challenge. On the one hand we need to give people space in order to be able to think strategically and think creatively, but at the same time there can be a bit of an absence of accountability. So that’s something that we need to achieve. We need to strike that balance.
I Just wonder are there any sort of particular values or sort of collective habits that you think Define the healthiest and most productive marketing teams in your experience?
Pam: I’ve worked with several marketing teams and I’ve found a lot apply agile, you know like software development approach, agile marketing. You have something called Sprint which is they meet every 2 or 3 days and for fifteen to twenty minutes and they talk about either the campaigns or the issues and when they start doing this the meetings tends to be pretty long, but once you get the communication down and everybody knows who is doing what, the meetings tend to be short.
Good marketing organisations that I have worked with tend to have very good communication that means all the players have regular team meetings, but those meetings tend to be short. They make sure things get done. The marketing teams that I work with that tend to work incredibly well are those with very close communication, and I think that’s very, very important. And that doesn’t mean that you schedule meetings all the time. That’s not my point. My point is that the communication comes in multiple different forms and it can be an email or it can be something that is just one on one with your manager that provides a very specific direction in terms of what you need to do. So to me, that communication is super critical in terms of determining the success of the marketing organisation.
Dan: Absolutely, and how’s that been affected with the pandemic? I mean presumably it is even more important now because I think maybe if people are working remotely it’s very easy to be very productive on your own but communication can be sacrificed as a consequence. So do people need to be even more proactive around some of these communication issues?
Pam: Yes, so communication, like I said, comes in multiple different forms and in the virtual part of it, everybody is texting a lot, Slack is actually a good example. What I have noticed is that Slack usage has gone up significantly during the pandemic because there’s no face to face. So if you actually have a question you want to ask, it’s not like okay you can get out of your office and walk like 3 steps and go to the cube and say, “Hey, you know what, Dan, I have this question, can you explain that to me?” So that tends to be substituted by slacking or texting.
I think that enhanced communication is another thing from my perspective in terms of the management providing very good direction and leadership, and I think at the beginning of the pandemic, nobody knew what to expect and a lot of worker bees were suffering and struggling that’s because of the direction coming from management was not very clear. Management says well do whatever you have to do, well, I don’t have only information. Tell me what to do. So I personally think that leadership, providing direction, is also very critical in terms of success.
Dan: Yeah, again couldn’t agree more.
Thank you so much, Pam. I really really enjoyed this and I’m really looking forward to listening back to it because there’s a few things that you’ve said that have really got me thinking – particularly that last point. We used to do sprints and we stopped them and I don’t know why we stopped them and now you’ve really kind of got me thinking about that.
Thank you so much, Pam.
Pam: Yeah, it’s my pleasure to be here. Thank you so much, Dan.