Marketing technology isn’t a new concept, but few would argue that the last few years have seen explosive growth in every category. ChiefMartech’s famous “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic” featured a hefty 947 companies in 2014, and now struggles to contain 3,500 companies in its 2016 iteration. To discover how companies are using marketing tech — especially marketing automation — we turned to the experts at Heinz Marketing. And nobody has more experience working hand-in-hand with customers than Brian Hansford, Director of Client Services for Demand Generation and Marketing Technology.
Hansford has been with Heinz Marketing for over four years, and came to the agency world from over 15 years of customer-facing roles at tech companies big and small. Eventually, the turn-around got to him. “In the technology industry, which is where I was working, it’s very common for people to work one, two, three years and then they’re out. So I actually started my career as an inside sales rep at a startup in the early 90s when Windows 3.1 was a thing.”
After working his way up to running global programs for huge companies like Citrix and OpenText, Hansford decided to give consulting a shot. It was his decision to venture off solo that would bring him to the team he’s on now.
“Shortly after, in 2010, I decided to do some independent consulting and I kept running into this guy named Matt Heinz. Everyone kept on talking about Matt Heinz, and I got tired of competing against him. He let me come work with him and it’s been a great ride ever since.”
Life in the agency world has been good for Hansford, and with his short attention span, it’s a match made in heaven. “We have a few client engagements that run for months and months and we’ve had some that run over a year — but it’s always something new. Something different. We don’t have to worry about having the Heinz Marketing sales kickoff and sales training events every year, and a big strategy planning initiative that puts everyone in a standstill and neutral for a quarter.”
Since Hansford has over two decades of experience in the marketing technology world, we were eager to hear his thoughts on how martech has changed, what businesses are missing out on, and (selfishly) how video is playing into the marketing campaigns of today. Let’s dive in:
How have you seen the marketing automation landscape evolve since you started working in Client Services?
The changes have been dramatic to say the least — I think we’re all familiar with Scott Brinker’s marketing technology landscape and how, when he releases a new version of that each year, the categories change. You see how different companies morph and evolve, disappear, and get acquired. There are new categories that emerge and maybe weren’t thought of the prior year, and now they’re a hot buzzword and a hot area of focus.
When I first started working with marketing automation in particular, Eloqua was the 800-pound gorilla, there were a few other platforms out there like Apprimo, this little company called Marketo, and HubSpot was certainly doing some great things. But marketing automation was emerging and people were trying to wrap their heads around what was going on and how they could actually start developing effective marketing campaigns.
Since then, one of the biggest areas of evolution has been marketers becoming more strategic in how they’re thinking and executing. It’s not just about activity-based marketing like it used to be with campaigns, emails, webinars, and whitepapers. It’s about looking strategically at who my customer is, how I engage with them, who the different people are within my accounts that I need to engage with, and what different types of content assets I need to show that we understand their story and their situation. Then it’s about building that into the funnel and eventually measure the results.
What’s one aspect of marketing automation that companies are missing out on?
There are a number of areas that companies struggle with, and I think a huge piece of this is that there’s the ‘ideal’ situation where you have an ‘ideal’ setup and everything is perfect, but the reality is: you are building the airplane as you’re flying it, and sometimes things fall off.
“You are building the airplane as you’re flying it, and sometimes things fall off.”
First and foremost is data. Data management is probably the biggest area that I see companies struggle with, whether it’s keeping data up to date or making sure that they’re appending and using that information to really target who they want to work with. Most importantly, using the data to measure what’s happening.
I think one of the reasons B2B marketers struggle with that is they’re overwhelmed, they don’t know where to start, and it’s easy to let that set in.
The second area — which I think which ties nicely into Vidyard — is content. Content is always an area that marketers struggle with. I like to describe content as the fuel that drives marketing automation platforms. Data and content both drive and help fuel how marketing automation works, and I think it’s usually underestimated how important content is. People get overwhelmed and make content too complicated. Customers want content that is interesting, engaging, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the thought of producing content that has to be the length of an academic whitepaper.
That’s just not the case, though.
Lastly, workflow and marketing automation. Marketing is using a platform to engage customers, identify leads, hopefully nurture those leads, accelerate sales cycles, impact revenue, and impact opportunity value, etc. But you also have to work with sales and realize that really good opportunities arise when marketing and sales work together.
Times have changed from when I first got into sales. At that time, you’d get the direct mail cards, call a prospect up, and enter them into some contact record database or spreadsheet. Now, marketers have to be able to work with the sales department, and sales needs to work with marketing.
Marketing Automation enables that. It’s still a challenge because you’re dealing with people in the workflow, but it definitely helps.
Any tips for marketers just getting started with martech? What’s step one?
The first thing most of the people that we talk to do is sign an agreement with a marketing automation vendor.
They don’t know what they’re doing, and the problem with that is they could buy an overpowered system for what they are ready for and capable of working with, and it may offer some capabilities that their customers just won’t engage with.
I think step one should be basic marketing planning. There’s nothing sexy about this, but it’s just common sense. Start with a plan. Really identify and come to an organizational agreement on who your customers are, where they engage, and where some of the gaps in engagement are.
Look at what sort of data you have and what sort of CRM system you have. Are you channel driven? Do you have channel partners? What sort of content assets do you have that you can use within a 6-12 month marketing program for demand generation?
All of these things come into play and it’s important to do this before jumping into an agreement. Do your situational assessment, define your objectives, and then map the tactics to empower the strategy. Only then is it time to start executing.
I think a number of us think “marketing automation” is a terrible name that just stuck. It’s part of that category in marketing technology, but marketing automation does not automate marketing. It can help drive the workflow processes and make engagement with customers more efficient. It can also give you data to measure that. But the truth is, you can have a well planned process that you can implement in marketing automation or you can have a terrible process (or no process) in marketing automation … the system doesn’t care. It will drive either one.
“You can have a well planned process that you can implement in marketing automation or you can have a terrible process (or no process) in marketing automation … the system doesn’t care. It will drive either one.”
When you look at a platform, or marketing technology, there’s an expectation — rightly or wrongly — that all of a sudden results are just going to start coming in. Leads will start flowing, the quality is going to be so much better, and the sales are just going to go through the roof.
Bottom line is it just takes time, and this stuff is hard. It’s not easy, and we have to continuously test, innovate, experiment, execute, and measure. And that’s the fun part, but it’s also the challenging part. Just because we’re using technology doesn’t mean it’s always going to be easier.
“Just because we’re using technology doesn’t mean it’s always going to be easier.”
Do you see video taking a bigger role in content strategy?
We’re seeing companies use video more. I think that for the longest time, people and marketers have had this impression that if you talk about video that means it has to be a Hollywood production-style video. If you go to a Microsoft partner event or Dreamforce, you’re at this big show, and these beautifully produced videos are up on these massive drive-in style screens, and the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t have to be like that. You can certainly produce these wonderful assets, and we do some of those ourselves, but we’ve also done simple clips that are very effective.
What I see is marketers are becoming less intimidated by video and they’re experimenting more.
We have a regular customer who has developed little video snippets that they have recorded with their own personal camera. They put them up on customized landing pages for specific accounts that they’re targeting. It’s well produced, the budget was very manageable, and it’s a customized message that they put a lot of effort into, but they’re getting the returns. I think that’s incredibly valuable. Organizations should be looking at video more and more. Don’t just focus on white papers and webinars — use video to engage your customers.
“Don’t just focus on white papers and webinars — use video to engage your customers.”
Final thoughts: if you could offer one piece of advice to today’s marketers, what would it be?
Definitely have a passion for technology. And that’s not just for the sake of technology, it’s just part of how B2B marketer’s operate now. Technology is going to help you engage with customers, understand your customers, help you measure the results and tell you what’s going on, and also give you a view of where you might be heading.
Ten years ago we didn’t have those tools. Things have changed and it’s so important to have that curiosity. That’s not to say that there’s nothing you can do in marketing without getting super immersed in technology, but it’s hugely important. Especially at the executive level for CMOs.
The other thing is I think that is very important is to be confident in who you are as a marketer.
“Be confident in who you are as a marketer.”
Marketing is strategic. We are not a cost center, we are strategic to the success of the organization, we engage with customers, we do more to help drive revenue for an organization than any other department, including sales.
We can measure more of what’s going on throughout the entire organization and have visibility into what’s coming up. We promote messages and have a brand and we manage all of these things. It’s the most complex and interesting and dynamic part of the organization and my advice is be confident and be strategic. Don’t let anyone look down on you as just the marketing coordinator, or just the marketing manager, or just the marketing communications person. Marketing people are strategic people to the organization and that’s just the way it is!
“Don’t let anyone look down on you as just the marketing coordinator, or just the marketing manager, or just the marketing communications person. Marketing people are strategic people to the organization and that’s just the way it is!”