Samantha Stone is one of the greatest marketers in Boston. And that’s saying something as there’s a lot of great marketers in Boston.
We were able to catch up with Samantha on Facebook Live talking all about how she got started as a marketer, the metrics she uses with ABM to show success, and of course how to align sales and marketing using ice cream sundaes.
Nikki: All right I am live with Samantha Stone. Samantha is the founder and CMO of Marketing Advisory Network. Did I say that right?
Samantha: You did.
Nikki: She is also the author of a really awesome book called, Unleash Possible. We’re gonna be talking about her book today and hopefully get some great insights for our community. What I really loved about this book, if you haven’t read it, is that Samantha gives a lot of really practical insights. You can get some practical insights out of this that you can actually take back to your company and do something with and be a better marketer and a better seller.
That’s the other thing that I loved about this book as well is that it wasn’t just for marketers, it was also for sales as well and you included a lot of great sales tactics to really help kind of bring those two groups together because we all know that one can’t exist without the other.
Samantha: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here and there’s no excuse not to come to the #FlipMyFunnel conference. I hope everybody that’s listening is gonna be there, say hello in person.
How to Become a Great Marketer
Nikki: So Samantha, you kick off your book with a statement that just really kind of struck me from the first time I read it. It was that “I never meant to be a marketer.” So tell us about that. How did you get into marketing and where did you start before when you thought you weren’t ever gonna be a marketer?
Samantha: Isn’t that crazy where we end up in life? I mean, not in my wildest dreams had I ever said, I’m going to be in marketing in any way, shape or form. Or in anything even close to it so I went to college to study economics. I have a degree in economics. I have a minor in formal organizations. Which doesn’t really mean very much but I got to take some really fun sort of sociology of groups classes and that was really the purpose of it. I thought that I was going to get a job in public policy research and I was gonna spend my career making the world a better place from a government research perspective. I learned something really quickly. Unfortunately, four years of college later that I really am not well suited for public policy research. I actually loved the idea of researching. The economics background I think has actually served me well in marketing and sales but, public policies are slow. It takes years to do the research and then years to get anybody to act on the research that you’ve done. I don’t know whatever made me believe that I was that patient of a person. I have never been. I did a couple of internships and I thought, oh gosh, I’m not sure I can do this but I’m gonna try. But I really wanted to move to Boston. So I moved to Boston and got a job doing door to door sales.
Samantha: I did everything the wrong way but that’s how I got into marketing because what happens is I actually decided I need to get my master’s in order to pursue the public policy. I knew it wasn’t a great match for me but I wasn’t yet ready to let go the idea of doing it. I got accepted into a master’s program and I called up daddy, and I said, “Dad, this is where you send the tuition bill.” I swear the whole house shook with his laughter. Like, you’re kidding, right? I just paid for four years at a very nice school in Connecticut and you want me to pay for grad school for this thing that you’re not sure you really wanna do? So I ended up getting a job temping. To figure my life out. I didn’t know what I was gonna do with it but I was temping and the very first temp job I got was a company called Power Soft and it’s a software company.
It was this amazing environment that was fast moving. They offered me a job right away. Probably within a month, I said no. I said no again. I said no a third time and the fourth time. They said to me, we’re gonna offer you a job and pay for your master’s in public administration. I thought, why are they doing this? But it was good. I had a wonderful mentor. He was wonderful.
Samantha: I ended up taking classes. I didn’t finish my master’s. I fell in love with technology and channel sales at the time. I did sales for a number of years and then eventually I started complaining about what marketing was doing to support me and started doing my own marketing. Everybody was wanting the stuff that our team was creating and I had some peers in the marketing team that were really good, they just weren’t focused on the partner part of the business. I was bold enough and loud enough and hopefully constructive enough. Great, here Samantha, you can do better, watch. Here you get the next product and go run with it. I fell in love and from there on out, marketing really was what I was meant to do. I just took a really odd path to get there. But I think that odd path is really why marketing felt so impactful to me so I had a background in economics and research. So I knew how to do analysis and reporting and research and understand buyers. I’d sold for a number of years. I had a commission. I knew how salespeople thought. I sold through a channel, not directly but I was still involved with enough that I understood how all those things worked and the challenges there.
So the time I got to marketing, I had all these other skill sets that I was able to apply and no formal marketing training so I could do whatever I wanted. I have since taken some graduate classes for marketing just ’cause I thought I should build up the fundamentals, and make sure I was not missing any obvious things but that was a very long path to get there but I adore it and I’m really glad that I ended up in this place.
Nikki: That is so cool. One thing, there was a chapter in your book where you talked about the most important sales metrics that marketing needs to own and I think this is a key piece in alignment and I’ve even heard that internally here at is that you can tell when a team is aligned when they show up to the meeting reporting on the same metrics. This section really stood out to me.
What would you say are the most important ones? If you had to pick like two or three?
Samantha: I think if you have to pick three and I do think you should pick three by the way, right? Because if we try and focus on 50 things. We will do none of them well. I’m all for that and I think the three most important things for us to focus on are, well, we all have to care about revenue, that’s a given. I don’t even need to talk about it. Marketing should own that number just as much as sales should own that number.
But underneath that there are some things that marketing should co-own with sales. We should own the win rate. We should be responsible for how competitive we are because we help define what products and service we build in marketing, right? That’s what product marketing and product management’s functions are. We create content to help message and position against competitors.
We also should own conversion from response to first meeting. For some companies that’s a demo, for some companies, it’s a physical meeting. Sometimes it’s a phone call that happens. Whatever your definition of first, next big steps in sales is, because marketing can’t just focus on volume. We have to address quality. The only way we address quality is by looking deeply at how much of what we’re producing actually turns into the next step. Those are the two most important, and then I think the third most important is to look at the length of time individuals are spending in each stage of the buying process and being responsible and accountable for shortening that as much as we realistically can.
All About Metrics
Nikki: Yeah those are some really great metrics. One of the ones that I’m especially curious about is the conversion from response to first meeting. We’ve been working a lot over the past quarter in talking with people in the space and obviously from serving the community. It’s really important that we stay close to marketers and sellers and understanding what their pain points and challenges are and the common theme across especially the enterprise marketers that we were talking to is, they were saying, for one, they’re doing customer marketing, so they’re not doing demand. Once you get up to the enterprise, they’re doing their customer marketing. But also they were saying that one of the most important metrics that they’re measuring is the amount of time that that account is spending with them. I think what’s intriguing is how you were talking about response to first meeting.
I think my question here is, what is one or two practical ways that, you can increase the amount of time that the account is spending with you? Whether that’s face time or time on site or anything like that.
Samantha: It’s a really good question. I’m gonna start by probably saying something that it’s gonna be surprising. I actually don’t think the time somebody spends with us is the metric we should be going after.
Samantha: And let me tell you why I think that. There are people and learners who want to spend a tremendous amount of time with you as an organization, as a vendor and they will watch every web seminar and every video. They come back to the site over and over and over and over and over again.
There are also people who don’t want to do that, who have a much more hands-off process, who consume information in their way, in their own time. They are more selective about what they watch and read. That doesn’t tell us who is the best candidate or prospect for us, or most likely to buy it.
Samantha: I used to believe the more you consumed, therefore, the more interested you were, but then I was finding these patterns when I was going back and watching and saying, “No, what’s the trigger is the trigger of what types of content are being consumed.” That tells me much more about their readiness to engage with my sales team than how much time they’re spending.
Someone could spend three hours watching trend web seminars. That’s valuable. There’s goodness in doing that, but somebody could spend two minutes downloading an RFP template and guess what, that RFP template person who spent two minutes with me is far more ready in signaling a buy signal than the person who watched a bunch of trend web seminars.
Both important. Both should be done. So for me, I like to trigger off of the type of content. Now, I will tell you that there is a volume metric. It’s not about the amount of time; it’s about a number of interactions. If I start to see a spike, if I have someone in my database for three, two years let’s call it, and once a quarter, they’ve done something. If all of a sudden I start to see three, four, five things this month, something’s going on. Or, maybe I see I’m looking at an account and all of a sudden I see the account has five people doing something where all along it’s been one or two people.
There is a metric of time but it’s not the volume of minutes they’re spending, it’s a change in pattern that I think is the best thing for us to respond to.
Nikki: That’s a great point. Our product team here at Terminus, they actually did a study on that a while back where they were quietly observing the sales teams accounts to notice what were their actions on the website before they actually closed the deal. They started paying attention to your point; they saw that there was this spike in activity right before the deal closed.
I think that’s important. In terms of a practical step for that, would you recommend if I’m a marketer and I see that these are my top five pieces of content that lead to either getting prospects to the next stage or lead to closed deals, would your recommendation be to really just double down on those and make sure that you’re producing more types of content like that or making it more available? How do we optimize that so that it serves us better?
Samantha: It’s a great question. I think, yes. If you find content that’s creating you maybe want to create more content like that and make it available, but I also want to do different things. If I start to see a set of things that trigger, that signal to me, this is a person getting close. I also want to do a better job of feeding the salesperson. Here are the right time and the right talk track to do something about that.
Maybe I want to increase my retargeting advertising now on that account because I know this is hot. And I know the timing’s right if they’re showing interest and now you are going to see me everywhere.
Nikki: Follow them all around the internet?
Samantha: We joke, but there’s tons of data that show the value in doing that. It’s not always more content that needs to be created; it’s often putting it in front of other people in the same company.
For example, if there are only two people on the account where I have 12 contacts I know are on the buying committee, I might send an email to the other ten, maybe not all ten of them because they may not all care, but the six that are likely to care, and say, “Hey, Bob, at your New York office downloaded this, I thought you might also be interested.” That’s the kind of like, if we’re really getting at the heart of it, that’s the magic that happens.
So, we do that, we surround them in all the other places they’re going to be, and we respond to that. And then sure, we should create more content that’s compelling, that has that kind of movement, but sometimes it’s the timing not the content itself that’s actually affecting. So, we want to tackle both.
How Marketing and Sales can Collaborate through Ice Cream Sundaes
Nikki: Got it. Since it’s officially summertime, I want to talk about ice cream sundaes, and you had a very neat analogy in your book around ice cream sundaes and how you turn this into a workshop. I feel like this is one of those practical things that it’s something that I think a lot of companies are still struggling with. We’re in the process of running the 2018 FlipMyFunnel survey, and there are questions around alignment on there, and it’s too early to tell what it’ going to be but we do compare it year every year so it’ll be interesting to see the trend if it continues to grow and that sort of thing.
I felt like this is one of those things that people watching could take back to their organization and implement. Tell us more about ice cream sundaes and how they help marketing and sales to be friends.
Samantha: Ice cream makes everybody friends.
Samantha: I first started the ice cream sundae workshop about four years ago at a particular client, and I’ve since used it many places, so it absolutely applies in many ways. The first time I used it, sales and marketing were really butting heads. They had a good relationship for a couple of years, the company had started to plateau, nobody was agreeing on what was a lead and following up and everything marketing did was junk. Marketing thought sales never follows up on anything.
All the very common, typical things. I really ran this workshop in three of their key locations, and the purpose was to bring people together, and it was literally an ice cream sundae workshop. We talked about ice cream flavors being the different kinds of leads.
So, right now they were getting everything the same. They were getting all vanilla leads. Everything looked the same to them. They couldn’t distinguish. There was a lot of junk in there.
They kept saying, “Marketing, you need more,” so marketing kept putting more vanilla in. Then we talked about the different types of segments of the market they were going after, where our focus was and why.
To earn their toppings for their sundaes, they had to help us brainstorm ideas on some campaign work that we were doing. And it sounds silly, but the purpose, and look, they didn’t come up with ideas marketing couldn’t have thought of or didn’t think of, but they came up with ideas with marketing, and that was the point with that.
We sat together, and they felt just as accountable for our campaigns as we did. We were able to use that analogy, and in the book, it goes into a little bit more detail about how to structure a meeting like that, but it was a great opportunity.
Now, there are companies that are health food nuts, and you can use yogurt and fruit, you don’t have to use ice cream. I had somebody say that. “We want to do this, but we can’t eat ice cream,” and I’m like, “Well, we can switch it up. It’s not about the ice cream”. I mean, it’s about the ice cream for me, but… you know.
Samantha: The point is to create this collaborative environment. We created an analogy for very specific sets of things that were in data that we wanted to share with them. We were really upfront about what we were good at and what we were bad at. Together we had some fun and brainstormed and ate some yummy treats at the end.
We had to work for it together.
It was a great exercise. I’ve since used that same structure at probably ten different companies. It alone isn’t solving all sales and marketing collaborations, but it was a great first step towards getting people headed in the right direction.
Nikki: Well, that’s awesome.
One of the stories that I read was that you worked with a client where the number of leads was cut in half, but you increased revenue, or the company increased revenue by 50%. I know when I was reading that I was thinking back on my conversations with the committee and how by and large, there’s a lot of companies that are very lead driven regarding metrics and KPIs. I even had a minor heart attack when I saw it because I just was like picturing myself in that organization and being like, “You’re going to cut my leads by 50%? Oh, my goodness, how are we going to survive?”
Samantha: And it was as painful as you expect. This company hired me to increase their leads. That was their mission. Get more leads. So I come in, and I had signed up for this mission, and I did my work.
I talk to customers, I talked to buyers, I listened on calls, I look at the database. I do all the things that we do in marketing to assess what’s going on. Then I sat down with the head of sales and the CEO who had hired me, and I was saying, “Okay, here’s the plan. I’ve been here for two weeks, three weeks, now we’re off to the races. This is what we’re gonna do; we’re gonna cut leads in half”. I just stopped because jaws dropped. One of them kind of almost fell out of his chair, like literally almost fell out of his chair.
They looked stunned and said, “You remember we hired you to increase leads?” And I said, “Yes,” but to their credit, they let me finish.
Samantha: And I went through, and I showed them of all the leads, they had thousands of leads coming into the system, here’s what converts. Here’s what’s not. Here’s the quality. Here’s what we can sell. Here’s where we can’t.
We’re so focused on volume, we’re making bad decisions about what we’re doing from a campaign perspective, so we’re actually gonna do half as much and try and grow revenue ’cause of focus and quality.
We were able to make a dramatic improvement in that. We did cut leads in half, but the quality went up, the sales relationship went up because they were getting stuff that was better, and we did some other things to help nurture those leads once they came in as well.
We didn’t just do less.
Samantha: We just worked differently. It was shocking and difficult and painful. And I got to give this company credit; it’s scary to say, “I’m gonna cut your number in half at a time when we think we need to triple what we’re doing.” But it was very clearly the right thing to do and it not only drove revenue but it also really repaired what had been a broken relationship between sales and marketing.
Nikki: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s a great side benefit.
One of the things I’m curious about, with you coming in as a consultant was probably a little bit different than if you were a marketing-
Nikki: It was probably a little bit different than if you were a marketing manager in the organization and you were like, I’ve heard all this buzz about ABM, and I think we should just stop measuring leads, and I think you can imagine how that conversation would go in most organizations. But that is the reality that we’re finding, is that ABM is being sold internally as a solution. Or, not as a solution, but as an approach from the bottom up. It’s not as much coming from the top down as we used to think, it’s coming from the more progressive, next-gen marketers that really want to, for lack of a better word, be heroes in their organizations. They want to make a difference, and they want to make an impact, and they know that ABM is the best way to do it, but they’re having a hard time convincing their CMO who might’ve been around for 20 or 30 years, and is used to measuring leads. What advice would you give to that person, of kind of doing what you did in that organization?
Samantha: By the way, up until 16 years I was in marketing, running marketing teams in-house. I 100% have done similar things there. I didn’t call it ABM at the time, because it wasn’t a term, but we effectively were doing that same thing. I wish I had coined the term, I would’ve been even more brilliant, but it didn’t work out that way. But here’s how I solved it when I’ve been in that organization. I used pilots, pilot programs. I design an opportunity, said great, we’re going to go experiment here, we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing regular course of business, and we’re going to create a very fair control environment, and an experiment environment, a pilot, we’re going to run it and we’re going to see the difference.
Even those people who are really entrenched in sort of the old way of doing something and how they do something, can’t turn away when you have actual data. This is no longer theory; this is no longer a trend that I want to get on, this is our business, applied to our specific products or services, this is what happens when we do this type of an approach. Then we can take that pilot and roll it out more effectively. If the pilot doesn’t demonstrate a difference, then we know that too, and that’s an important thing for us to learn. I’ve yet to see a focus not deliver significantly more revenue and opportunity in complex sales environments. I have seen it where in environments where they really had much more of an impulsive purchase, and I wanted to try it, and it wasn’t a value add, they sort of was even-keeled.
In those complex environments, running a pilot is a great way to change the minds. We can create all the research we want, we could put best business case proposals together, we can document all the great things that are going to happen, but the business often needs to see it in their own environment. Fight for a pilot is my advice.
Call Blitzes: Why You Should Do Them
Nikki: I know we’re running short on time, but I did want to talk to our sales audience for a minute. We’re going to have a lot at #FlipMyFunnel; I’m really excited about our sales track at #FlipMyFunnel, I think it’s stronger than it’s ever been. You do a whole chapter on call blitzes in the book. I’m curious as to your take on this and how it can help kind of move the needle regarding engagement, and target accounts, and getting those meetings, and that sort of thing. What best practices do you have for that?
Samantha: Yeah, you know, it’s hard for a marketer this day and age to stand up and say calling is okay. It’s like this tactic we love to hate. Marketers like to beat up on calling, but it’s a really important piece of what we do, and how we engage people, and when done well can be really effective. Call blitzes are these super intense days of calling, unlike your normal cadence. This isn’t like you do this every day, you do this very rarely, and they have to be around a specific offer, and a very specific list that you’re going to, people you have a relationship of some kind. You’re trying to do something, so the best way to do this is you get somebody to run it who’s not the leader of the call team normally. You bring in lunch. You get people to dress up; you decorate, you have loud music coming. You literally transform the environment that you’re in to be all focused on instant gratification.
Nikki: Just dialing.
Samantha: Right. The reason you do these, by the way, is it’s just about building momentum. This is like getting out of a slump. Just to break that. You want to drive registrations for that conference, is a great example of this. I’m not asking somebody to buy a product that requires multiple people to be involved in the purchase decision. I’m getting people to register for something, or I’m getting people to take a meeting, or take a demo, things that are very light. But its instant gratification for the person I want to do the action, and also instant gratification for the person making the calls. You run fun contests, and you give out prizes, and you have numbers on the board, and you ring bells. These are some of the things that you do at a level of intensity in a call blitz day that you wouldn’t see in normal day-to-day operation.
They’ve been really wonderful for new product launches, as another great example. You’ve got a new capability that you want your current customer base to be upselling to, or be aware of; they’re like perfect for this. I can go in; you already have a relationship with them. You’re trying to get them to see a new thing, they already know who you are, and you want this intense energy, and all of a sudden you want 50 people seeing this new capability in the next two weeks. Call blitzes are a great way to do that. You go in there, and you go high energy, lots of fun, lots of silliness, but it serious. You have very specific goals, and you’ve pulled the lists appropriately and carefully so that they’re making calls to people that are appropriate to make calls to. You prep that list ahead of time with maybe an email communication, or an advertising program, or something that warms them up for that call and you just use it as a chance to get a whole ton of energy out and spread the word.
Samantha: They are so fun. I had one client, who I loved them, they were the best. They team up people together that don’t normally work together, and they make them dress up as twins so that everybody would come in with a buddy.
Samantha: Break your norm. The whole purpose was for this day to be unlike the days for the last 30 that we went. Go do it, go have fun.
Nikki: Awesome. Thanks for the tips on that, I think that will be really helpful. The last question, I know we’re over time, but I want to make sure we get this one in. #FlipMyFunnel is in your backyard this year. We actually have a lot of Boston natives. We have you, and Trish Bertuzzi, and John Barrows, and I’m sure that they would agree with everything you just said on-call blitzes as well, because I think they’re a pretty big fan of those too. I wanted to ask, tell us why you’re most excited about having it in your own backyard, and what you’re most looking forward to at the event.
Samantha: So, I love when events are in my backyard because I think Boston actually, all joking aside, is a great community. There’s so many academic institutions, and history, and great food, and all kinds of things. It’s a little bit more traveler friendly than some of the other cities that host events, so it’s small enough that you kind of get to know the area. I think the marketing and sales community is super close and very giving in Boston. Not to say that it isn’t in other cities, but I find our local community very giving in ideas, and sharing, and just sitting down to a table at lunch, you’re going to have no trouble just picking up and chatting with whoever happens to be there. I like that feel in Boston. There’s not a lot of big egos, it’s a lot of lets all rise together, and so I think that is an extra spirit of it.
And this is a great conference. It’s one I’ve been to for a couple of years now, and you guys do a great job of being practical. Yes, we want to inspire. Yes, we want to have fun, but at the end of the day, people need to walk away with like I’m going to do something different in my job tomorrow than before I came here, and you structured the event very much to encourage that. The sort of nature of Boston will support that effort by having all these people who are pretty practical New Englander’s who want to share and get better and tend to be collaborative.