May 11, 2021
21. B2B Marketing: Don’t Be Afraid to Break Sh…stuff w/ Justin Keller
by Liz Pope
On this very…unfiltered…episode of Marketing Behind the Curtain, we sit down with our friend Justin Keller, VP of Marketing at Terminus. After three years of calling them our partner, we’re pretty familiar with the clever and attention-grabbing marketing from Terminus. Their event, Break Sh!t, is no exception. Hear from Justin about why he refuses the idea that B2B marketing has to be boring.
We’ll touch on:
-Justin’s transition from working at Sigstr, to being acquired by (already friendly) Terminus
-Why passion for what you’re marketing needs to come before everything else
-Brand marketing’s value, despite less qualitative results
-Marrying your product to something that the public already loves, like dynamic email signatures x Schitt’s Creek)
-Mistakes make us human, and they can be more attention-grabbing than any campaign
Check out the Terminus event: Break Sh!t on May 19, 2021. Register here!
Transcript of the Episode
[00:00:03] There’s absolutely no reason the B2B marketing has to be boring, and I know boring to boring is like this old cliche adage at this point, everyone knows it and still everyone ignores it. And that’s where I think the magic gets sucked out of marketing because the enthusiasm is not there. People can view it, you know, and we are super enthused. And that that’s something I told my team all the time. Like, I would rather you guys were enthusiastic about it than perfect.
[00:00:28] You’re listening to the Marketing Behind the Curtain podcast where we pull back the curtain on the people, processes and technologies leading marketers are using to fuel growth within their organizations. Let’s get into the show.
[00:00:43] Welcome the Marketing Behind the Curtain where we take a look at all the hard work that happens by marketers to put a shiny outward face on all different types of organizations, unrehearsed Devin Kelley with Method Savvy, a consultancy that helps ambitious leaders find a better way to grow their business. Today, I’m joined by Justin Keller. He is the Marketing Director [edit: VP of Marketing] at Terminus, which is one of our partners and a long-time, I guess, collaborator of ours. Justin, welcome to, I guess, pandemic podcast interviews here. Not in person, not even having visited your team in a while. But, you know, we’re all here via video, I guess.
[00:01:23] I am thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me, Devin. I’m excited about this conversation.
[00:01:28] Yeah. And just full transparency. We are a partner of yours and certainly appreciate the Terminus product. But I really want to kind of focus our conversation today on Terminus and their marketing and not make this too much about Method Savvy and the work that we sometimes do together. But you guys have been doing some really fun, really creative stuff here lately and want to kind of dig into that. But maybe, you know, let’s start with your background a little bit and maybe touch on how you ended up a part of Terminus, because I think you went through an experience that seems to happen more and more often where, you know, you are running marketing for an organization that was ultimately acquired by Terminus. And it’s odd sometimes as a marker to put your time and effort into creating one brand only for it to be kind of followed by another.
[00:02:21] Yeah, that’s I think we’ll have a lot of really interesting offramps to talk about when we get into that. But yeah, like really, really quick background. Kind of always have been in marketing. I was fortunate to be the first non-founding employee of a tech startup in Indianapolis called ChaCha in the early 2000s. And we went from nothing to being one of the top 50 websites on the Internet. And it was such an awesome ride that I’m like, OK, this is what I’m doing tech. And so I ended up moving to San Francisco, as one does when they want to get into tech and lived out there running marketing teams for about seven years before coming back to Indianapolis to run marketing for Sigstr, who, as you mentioned, was eventually acquired by Terminus. And yeah, it’s one of those things like the of all of the companies and brands I’ve been a part of. Sigstr was definitely one of the best. And I think that’s just because the people the product is kind of it was a perfect mix of all these things that ended up having just a brand that I personally loved. But I know a lot of people really liked as well. And then we got subsumed by Terminus and all of a sudden it’s a much bigger brand, much bigger team, a lot more stakeholders, a lot more people to say you have an opinion on one thing or another. And it’s been it was you know, it’s like anything there was a transition period where we kind of had to learn how to drive a new car. But after a while and we got the hang of it, it’s like, man, this thing know, when we really open her up, she goes. And so we’ve been doing a lot of really, really cool, fun stuff that I’m really proud of. It’s having a really great reception in the marketplace over the last six or eight months or so.
[00:04:01] Yeah. And talk a little bit about, you know, just the Sigstr to Terminus, I guess, not just transition, but also like, you know, it’s not like Terminus came in and acquired the Sigstr team as like nameless, faceless corporate entity. You guys were part of the same ecosystem. I know. I know. Been to events where both Sigstr and Terminus were, you know, speakers, presenters, you know, very much collaborating in some ways. So talk a little bit about just that transition. But also, you know what? If any kind of relationship existed between six and Terminus, as you guys kind of grew that relationship to the point that everybody was in the Terminus family.
[00:04:45] It’s a really interesting topic because Sigstr, you know, if you don’t know if you’re listening to this, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Sigstr, which is is still part of Terminus, puts targeted ads in the bottom of all your Gmail or Outlook emails. So your team kind of every time they send in emails promoting whatever the marketing team wants, lots and lots of really great data which we can get into later. But that was actually kind of the secret reason that Terminus really acquired Sigstr. And so because we were this unique point solution, we got to be friends with every single piece of marketing technology. We integrated with a lot of them. We didn’t have any direct competitors. So we’re kind of able to be friends with a lot of a lot of different marketing technology companies. And that was really core to our marketing strategy, was we were a little tech startup in the Midwest. The team was, you know, including myself, five people, I mean, the marketing team, not the whole company. And so in a very modest budget. So our strategy was, let’s just team up with everybody else. Let’s tell what. Let’s do all the work on behalf of our partners, get their names out there and let them give ourselves the permission to be part of their audience. And so in the process of doing so, made really, really good friends with Terminus, we also made really, really good friends with Terminus competitors.
[00:05:59] And so there was always this weird tension, because to be honest, if you ask me, Terminus was always Sigstr best friend. We were always like, you know, they were our number one person we’d want to go to the dance with. But we also running a business. So we had to work with their competitors. We had to work across the entire ecosystem. And when we did finally get acquired by Terminus, we by virtue of working so close with them for some years, we knew everyone in the company. And it was one of those things where as we were kind of like the teams were coming together, it was almost kind of like, it’s almost like it was official, like we’d been engaged or been dating forever. And then it was finally official and we’re getting married. The in-laws were all meeting. Everyone was so glad to finally be part of the same family. And so that really helped a lot. I think, you know, acquisitions can be messy business and kind of re learning or establishing, you know, individuals roles and their place in the greater scheme of things can be tricky. But because we already had such tight knit relationships, it was it was like kind of all of a sudden peanut butter and jelly.
[00:07:09] So talk to me a little bit about the–and this can bleed into Terminus experience as well because I know there’s very much an ecosystem that you guys are managing today–but talk to me about just the idea of partner marketing, because I feel like this is a thing, especially in technology, that more and more companies are having to grapple with. And, you know, you said a couple of interesting things there that we’ve helped companies through and kind of developing partner marketing one, which was that you do the work on behalf of of some of your partners. And it’s a little easier for everybody to go ahead and be partners because you’re doing some of their work for them. Right. And I think that’s an important kind of way to add value, especially as, you know, maybe the small guy in the ecosystem. You can go out of your way to be helpful there. And then you also said something interesting around the idea that, you know, you kind of have to be friends with everybody, but you can’t necessarily tell them in what order you value their friendship. So talk to me just a little bit about partners, and that can be at Sigstr or moving into kind of the experience at the attorneys.
[00:08:16] Yeah, it’s interesting because it’s wildly different from Sigstr to Terminus and, you know, unpack why, but at Sigstr it was it was all about just trying to get get in front of everyone’s audiences. We made integrations with everyone. Everyone was happy with us because we were non-competitive. Terminus does not have that same luxury. So it does come down to who are we able to generate the most pipeline with, whose audiences are most germane to our own. And so it does mean having to not make as strong a relationship with some companies. And some of that kind of boils down to product integration. And we do say a lot here that integration is the new innovation. And there’s so many smart companies that are generating great technology that being able to play well with others I think is a huge competitive advantage for companies like ourselves. And so I guess to compare and contrast it, at Sigstr. It was about building the brand awareness at the Terminus. It’s more about building pipeline and meaningful technology partnerships that that will last a lot longer since there was never the kind of company that was going to go IPO. But Terminus is not necessarily an IPO, but is a much sturdier, healthier company that’s kind of hit escape velocity in terms of our revenue generation. Terminus, it’s not going anywhere. So we have to be thinking a lot more long term about the relationships where we’re forging.
[00:09:39] Yeah. And don’t want to put you on the spot around Partnerships and Terminus today. But I think that that the word diplomacy is a good one when you think about partners in the way you kind of become the hub to many spokes in in that space, and I think that’s a that’s probably a good word to use as anyone is thinking about kind of how you think about partners and partner marketing. Marketing is how do you think about or manage those relationships? How do you create value for everyone? So appreciate you sharing a bit on that. Let’s let’s jump in the Terminus stuff, because I think, you know, interested in kind of the team that you guys have over there, particularly with some of the creative work you guys have been producing recently and kind of have some of this comes out. But maybe just give us an overview of kind of what the team at Terminus looks like these days on the marketing side, and then want to jump a little bit into, you know, some of the cool creative work that you guys have done lately and maybe where some of those ideas came from.
[00:10:41] Yeah, absolutely. And I love this topic. I love talking about team structure because I think it just ripples into so many different avenues of how kind of a brand or market team shows up. So the tremendous marketing team is twenty five people because we have an awesome CMO, Daniel Incandela, who came on board, gosh, maybe four months ago. So he’s pretty new to the party. But then myself and my my colleague Auseh are kind of the functional leaders. So Auseh runs our growth team, which comprises all of our ABM strategies, our demand generation, team events, field stuff like that. And then I oversee our our brand marketing team, which is a lot of the I would say it’s the fluffier stuff, but I don’t use that in a bad way because I think it’s super important and it sounds like we’re going to get into it a little bit. But that’s content. That’s design. That’s communications kind of, you know, less numbers oriented marketing, which was a weird transition for me because I’ve been a demand gen marketer my whole career. I’ve been in spreadsheets and Salesforce my entire career and as part of coming over to Terminus. That was not in the remit, I’m no longer kind of a numbers oriented marketer. It’s a lot more about the creativity and the brand story that we’re trying to to establish.
[00:11:56] And so I guess we we should dedicate some time since we are talking with Terminus about account-based strategies, but I’m kind of interested in some of the more and fluffy stuff is not probably the way to talk about the investment in some of that marketing, especially with your CFO, but some of the creative stuff that you guys have done that especially aligns to the product lately. And I know one of the things that was a big hit with our team was you guys demonstrated some of the, I guess, formerly Sigstr now Terminus technology with some demonstrations of different use cases for email signatures and really had them inspired by popular TV and really had some fun with that. So talk us through, I guess, where did that idea came from, how it came together and and ultimately the the output there. And maybe there’s a way to spin that into how it wasn’t just a fluffy piece of content, but either generate a conversation or kind of added value downstream to maybe some of those demands. And folks on the other side of the fence.
[00:13:04] Yeah, you your I will dig into it. And I think you’re absolutely right. Like, fluffy stuff is not the right way to talk to it with your CFO. But at the same time, it’s also, in my opinion, the most important part of marketing. You can kind of optimize the performance marketing team. All you want doesn’t mean it’s going to make a meaningful impact in the market. And so the way we think about it is: there’s absolutely no reason the B2B marketing has to be boring, and I know boring to boring is like this old cliche adage at this point, everyone knows it and still everyone ignores it. And I don’t understand why everyone feels like they need to be safe or they can’t be creative. So what you’re talking about was we’ve we’ve had a series that I mean, this was even this even predated me. It’s Sigstr where it was. If blank characters had enough signatures and we would just dip into pop culture and say, what if the characters from Game of Thrones had email signatures? We did retire that after the eighth season because it was so bad. We didn’t want to pretend it never existed, but we recently did. What if Schitt’s Creek characters had email signatures? Goofy thing. It does, to your point, demonstrate product value, but it was absolute wildfire like it got 2,600 views in a month on a blog post. a B2B marketing blog post. And so I think tieing. Wonky technology stuff into not even pop culture stuff people care about, whether it’s pop culture, it’s philanthropy, is current social issues, ties it in and whether people actually give a sh*t. So if I was to tell you, hey, here’s great ways to use email signatures. No, I don’t care if it’s hey, look at Moira Rose’s. Super goofy email signature. People will care a little more. And, you know, it’s kind of sneaky, but it’s it’s a creative story-telling at the same time.
[00:14:54] Yes. Talk to me about the process for that a little bit, because I like the, you know, the original concept, which are just insert pop culture reference here and think about how it applies to the product. And I think there are definitely times where marketers do stuff that as either a pop culture angle or a creative angle just for the sake of creativity. But I think there’s a really good tie there to product and like the product value, but also like there’s creative thinking that goes into that from the designs that you guys actually created to the copy that came together on that to making sure it actually ladder’s back up to the product at the end of the day. So with a team of twenty five different folks and I don’t know, maybe they’re not all Schitt’s Creek viewers, how did that piece like actually come together in terms of nuts and bolts?
[00:15:45] That’s a good question. So you’re like just tying something into a pop culture references lazy and boring. Anyone can do that, right? The fact that the reason it works so well is because the person behind it whose name is Otavio. I remember when he told me he started watching Schitt’s Creek and then two weeks later he was just like obsessed with it. And because it was something he was so passionate about, he just went out of his way to do it. He was new. The marketing team used to be one of the stories that Sigstr came to the marketing team after the acquisition and really was just passionate about the idea. And that is why it was successful, not because it was a culture pop culture tie-in. It’s because he gave he gave such a big sh*t about Schitt’s Creek that it was funny. It was had deep references. And that, I think, is exactly why a lot of the other goofy stuff we do works and not because it’s goofy, but because we care and we’re so enthusiastic about the stuff we’re doing. And to me, that’s what’s missing. And I think this is unfortunate about a lot of B2B marketing is because luckily, like at Terminus, we’re marketers marketing to marketers. So there’s a lot of reasons to be excited about it. Not everyone is so fortunate. A lot of people work at boring manufacturing companies or the like, and they can’t get as inspired about what they’re doing. And that’s where I think the magic gets sucked out of marketing is because if the enthusiasm is not there, people can feel it, you know, and we are super enthused. And something I told my team all the time, like I would rather you guys were enthusiastic about it than perfect about it. And so that’s that’s a sentiment we really try to make. Take hold across our entire marketing team is just like be passionate about it, have fun with it and it’ll show up. People will hear it.
[00:17:32] Yeah. One of my favorite conversations that we’ve done on on the podcast is actually with a woman who ran a content team for a packaging company that actually the company that makes like bubble wrap and like even they are saying like, hey, this would be easy, they think there are cool content opportunities around something like that, but like they have a blast with it, like there’s cool content everywhere. And like the the death of the marketing team is when you just assume you don’t have anything interesting to say from the start. And there’s certainly a luxury and marketers marketing to marketers. But I think that’s true kind of across the board, regardless of industry.
[00:18:17] You’re absolutely right. And if you’re not enthusiastic or you’re not passionate about it, you might have the wrong job. You might be there on company marketing’s job is to get people excited and to like want to pay attention. And if you’re not doing that, you’re doing it wrong.
[00:18:31] Yeah, I think that’s a it’s a good gut check on on marketing in general. Like, you can pull whatever numbers you want out of Google Analytics at the end of the day. But if no one’s getting excited about this, you know, that’s a reasonable gut check, I think.
[00:18:45] Yeah. One hundred percent.
[00:18:47] Well, let’s let’s talk a little bit about just how you guys interface with the demand gen folks, because I think that’s that’s kind of interesting, whether it’s the about team or just like know the more numbers folks in general. But I think there’s kind of always questions around the value of marketing. You guys are obviously bought into account-based as an idea, given your organization and the product, but particularly to you, what’s the process look like of of just kind of working with those folks and certainly going from kind of a more demanding role to I’ve certainly heard CFOs call some marketing stuff fluffy, like how do you guys think about value prioritization, just working together as a team?
[00:19:30] The thing I love about ABM is it’s not about volume. It’s about telling the right story to the right audience at the right time. Right? You’re not trying to cram a lead funnel full of leads and let the sales team sort the bodies out. You’re trying to define exactly the right segment you want to go after and give them a relevant message. And to me, that is how marketing started back in the day. It was about telling a really compelling story. And so how that shows up at Terminus and how my fluffy brand team interacts with the the hard nosed, numbers oriented demand team is pretty fluid, like we all agree conceptually that. Marketing needs to be kind of the soul of the company and get people excited. And so the way it works is kind of bidirectional this literally before I have done this podcast with you. And we were doing some campaign planning for Q3 for all of our you know, our Q3 accounts will be coming up. And it’s one of these things where we are very collaborative, like, you know, my team definitely skews a little more creative, but that doesn’t mean the demand team is not creative as well and comes to the table with a lot of creative ideas. And so we’ll throw everything on the table. We will, you know, no ideas bad, but we’ll always kind of pick one or two or three and really start to sharpen them up and really tighten the messaging up, really try to kind of identify who not just the segment, but the pressure on us within the segment.
[00:20:54] Ah. And line up all the different things that are on the table. What’s the message, what’s the creative, what’s kind of the post-click experience going to be like. How does that marry up to this segment has moved to the people that will be clicking. What’s the story that the sales team will be telling even after the marketing campaign is kind of out of the picture? And so we think about it very holistically in terms of the experience we want to create for our prospects for our future customers. And that said, sometimes we’ll just come out of left field with a crazy idea and say, hey, demand team, you’ve got to push this for us now. And and so it’s you know, it once it’s collaborative the other time, like, we’re running a huge event right now called Break Sh!t, which is kind of a provocative title and kind of provocative event. And wasn’t wasn’t a lot of agreement seeking on that. It was just one day, hey, we’re doing a huge event. I promise it’s going to be a huge registration driver. Can you help us, please, mark this?
[00:21:56] I was going to ask you what your opinion is on on vulgarity in event titles at some point during this this conversation. And I believe this will be on the web before before the event. I figure that was an opportunity for a kind of shameless plug that I would talk to us about that, because, you know, if we sometimes break down, you know, marketing or pieces of marketing into, like, you know, if you’re building a banner ad, all you’re really doing is vying for a click. Right. Like, never mind what’s going to happen after that click. Like, if no one clicks on it, like we’re what are we doing next? Right. So I think you can you can make an argument that in a you know, a microcosm like that of a campaign like it, more people are more likely to have their eye and click out of curiosity on something like Break Sh!t, then, you know, maybe a stock photo of like someone in an office typing on a computer, trying to improve their or any of their marketing.
[00:22:54] Yes, there’s so for us, this is not into your question, but when I came over Terminus, like the first thing I did was no more stock photos ever, ever again. If I see you like cool multicultural people shaking hands over conference room table, I’m going to lose my, I’m going to lose my cool. And second, I do apologize for saying the s word so much on this podcast so far.
[00:23:14] I think I generally swear on here some. So I think I think we’re fine. No, I think there’s there’s a valid way to think about an event titled Break Sh!t, because it’s just more compelling from like a like I don’t know what this is. I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Like, you certainly didn’t highlight, like a key speaker and say, oh, look at the keynote by this guy in this event. You know, it’s provocative in a different way. So talk about that event. Feel free to get a plug in here, because I think the timing will be correct, that this will be out before that event actually rolls out. But talk to us about how that came together. Maybe there was some hesitancy within the organization to title something called break sh*t and then go put a whole bunch of dollars behind it. You know, just how how’d that work?
[00:24:08] Yeah, I think the event, by the way, go to Terminus.com You should be able to see the invite for the event because it’s going to be a hoot. The event was born out of two things. One is that we was like all of our OCD developed during Covid like we did not want to put on an event that required a lot of attention from people, because at this point in quarantine, everyone I think is just shot. And if you’re going to run event, make it highly digestible. So the format is exactly about 10 speakers, 14 minutes each, clocks in at a total of three hours and all of it’s for charity. So each of the speakers is competing to allow the audience enough. Whoever gets the highest average vote donates ten thousand dollars, will donate ten thousand dollars on their behalf to a charity of their choice. The other thing it was born of and the reason it is landed on this title is because of what we were just saying. Like, I do not understand and I’m endlessly frustrated by the need to be marketing. Like, why does it have to be so boring? There’s no reason that it needs to be that, except for the people that are doing the marketing can’t get out of their own way. And so that’s why we called it breaks it because it’s like, you know what? Like I’m sick of it. We need to put out a pretty strong message saying it is OK if you do things differently, if you get into an argument with your CFO because you can’t quantify the bureau on a campaign you’re running, that you can use a bad word in an event title and not get in trouble for it.
[00:25:33] So I was scared to death when we pressed the launch button on this campaign that had a bad word in the title. I did gut check it. My CMO’s cool with it. My CEO was cool with it. Still was worried though, because in the back of my head I’m like, no, are people not going to take us seriously? Are people that work at Enterprises is not going to be turned on by this and, you know, endless kind of like, you know, I mean, every marketer listening is that’s insults constantly. So far, the reception has been unbelievable. We just crossed 1500 registrations in two weeks and we’ve sent one email about it. It’s been like just it’s kind of caught fire. And not only that, like this was a very heartening moment for me because it validated the hypothesis I’ve always had. A lot of people will get nervous about marketing to the enterprise, because if you go to an enterprise company’s website, it’s gone through committee after committee. It’s pixel perfect. And so as a result, I think marketers feel like they’re marketing needs to feel exactly the same. Otherwise it won’t resonate with an enterprise marketer. Totally false enterprise. Marketers are regular people that like to have fun. They like to wear cool jeans. They’re just like you and me. And going through the list of registrations for this, like every third or fourth one is a senior marketer at a large company. And so just dispelled this myth entirely that enterprise marketing is different than any other kind of marketing. It’s the exact same thing.
[00:26:55] Yeah, I think that that that’s such an important point, like all marketing is to people. And back to your point around excitement, like I don’t care if they register with their Gmail address because they don’t want that running through like whatever filter they’ve got in the enterprise. They’re still there, right? Exactly. Are there any, like, anecdotal pieces of feedback? I think to your point, there’s there are a lot of marketers out there who are probably kind of envious out there that you guys have rolled something out called Break Sh!t And you kind of had the balls to push go live on that. But, you know, is there are there are people complaining in the comments of your social post or are you getting emails from anyone saying, that’s all I’m like? What’s the anecdotal response to to that? Because I think they’re probably a good number of people who are envious, slash jealous.
[00:27:43] I’ll tell you what, I was I’ve been hyper vigilant looking for it, and I’ve not seen a single negative comment. I actually I’ve seen one negative comment and I’ll get to that in a minute. The reception’s been like overwhelmingly positive, like it’s kind of caught fire on its own. And people are just excited. I mean, because because I think maybe and I don’t want this to sound too full of ourselves, but maybe because it is kind of that we are trying to show that, look, B2B marketing can be interesting and a little left of center. The one negative comment we did get and this is because, you know, if putting together an event called Break Sh!t, it wasn’t risky enough, we went a step further and we have a chat bot that we programmed on the page. We named it Karen Bot, and it was programmed to be the where people go. If they were upset about the name, that’s where they’d go to complain. And Karen Bot would only reply. Yeah, sorry. Not right now. I’m talking to the manager. I’ll let you know when I’m done. And it was very tongue in cheek. We did have someone complain about that and we’re like, you know what, sorry Karens of the world. People will pull this one down and we just replaced it with a general FAQ bot.
[00:28:53] But that’s that’s awesome. You know, I would sort of expect there to be at least one complaint like I do. You know, I think I share your world view on this. But like, if there if there wasn’t one complaint, like, what is everyone so worried about?
[00:29:12] And that’s kind of like the meta lesson. And I’ve taken from this whole thing because I was very nervous about it. If you’re into every single marketer has had this moment where they’re about to press send on a huge email. And whether it’s because they’re afraid of a typo or because they’ve got a bad word in the email, they’re very hesitant about it. Yeah, screw it. Unless you’re literally your company’s curing cancer. Don’t worry about it. You’re fine. People are people are people. You all go even further. I’m a little upset that we haven’t gotten more complaints about Break Sh!t, because I feel pretty strongly if you’re not upsetting like 10% of the population at any given time, you’re not you’re not going far enough.
[00:29:49] Right. Right. Well, the the point of reference I always bring up with kind of risky stuff like that. And this is part of the idea behind this podcast is we’re taking a look behind the curtain, like tell us when you did press send to soon or publish the draft version of your blog post or, you know, whatever, like one of the top performing. Email subject lines out there, and this is all from ecommerce stuff years ago is leading with a subject line that starts with “oops”. It drive excitement.
[00:30:25] I am so glad you said that I fully agree any time you don’t want to screw up an email. You try never to do it, but when you do do it, it’s like you just found you found a gold nugget because that’s your chance to have fun and be human and be vulnerable and say, look, we’re humans that are marketing. We *** up, let’s have fun with it. Let’s kind of and that’s you’re exactly right. People care about that. Like the highest open I ever got. An email was coming back from a trade show in Vegas, and it was like a 98 percent open rate. And this was like a mass. Like we got we got the list of the attendees. And the subject line is, was “We are so sorry about what happened in Las Vegas” and things like that. People were like, wake people up, guys, you know, like you can you can have fun with your brand.
[00:31:10] Yeah. And it’s back to that idea of, you know, if you’re breaking marketing up to its individual pieces, when you send an email, you have a subject line in the name on the email to get somebody to open it or break this down to pieces like what are you going to do with that little bit of real estate to get somebody to take the next step? And sometimes it is just like like break it down. That’s simply like never mind the landing page experience. If they don’t open the email, they’re not getting there. Right. Like one step at.
[00:31:39] Yeah, you’re exactly right, and it’s like it goes back to what you said earlier about like, you know, what is the purpose of a banner ad, right? It’s it’s about a click. Yeah. But it’s also about like getting something to even pay attention first. Right. If they don’t even see it, they’re not going to click. Same thing with like an email subject line like. That’s your first chance to impress them. You know, Neal, that first and then everything beyond that, you know, you want to do as well, but that’s where you start, is just getting disrupting someone’s pattern and getting them to pay attention for a second.
[00:32:09] One hundred percent. Well, we’ve talked about people who have thought about process one to give you guys space to talk a little bit about technology. And I’m sure that leads us back to Terminus, the product. But talk a little bit here about Tech Stack, how you guys kind of eat your own dog food here on the ABM side. And, you know, I’m I’m sure this is somewhat self promotional on the Terminus front, but it probably should be in some ways. I think know, as you said, you want to show people kind of what this technology can do, what the platform can do and what good thinking on top of that technology can do.
[00:32:46] Yeah, absolutely. So obviously, the core of our tech stack Terminus and if you don’t know and this is the first time you’ve heard of Terminus, we’re kind of, I think, the next evolution of a marketing automation platform. And a lot of ways think we’re marketing. I mean, and we use marketing automation to be clear for emails, for forms, etc.. But. In this day and age, inbound marketing value is waning, I think, and being able to have a lot more thoughtful and intentional marketing program is completely aligned with your sales team is the way things are going. And so that’s what Terminus allows you to do. So within Terminus, we’ve got what we call the data studio, which is basically a repository of every business on Earth with the demographics and then a lot of other data about them. So you can be like, look, I want to start marketing to financial services companies that are located in New York City that have between, you know, a thousand and three thousand employees and make this many millions of dollars a year. You can get extremely tight with with your your market segment. And then once you’ve defined that segment, you can run coordinated multi-channel campaigns with it. So email display advertising, social advertising, you can do personalized chat, you can do website personalization so that as you’re going after that segment, they get relevant content at every every step of the way.
[00:34:08] But all the way through the customer journey, we then allow your sales team to kind of pick up the baton. So once you’re doing a good job of telling a story that gets, you know, financial service for services companies in New York to start clicking around and looking at what’s interesting, what you do, the sales team hears that they know when to email, who to call and what to say. And then we have an attribution platform on the back end that allows you to measure not just the Terminus marketing program, but your entire marketing program. So shameless plug over. Thank you for giving me that space, Devin. And beyond that, it’s one of those funny things. Like I, I feel a little gluttonous about our tech text because like what we were talking about earlier, we’re in this ecosystem where we want to play well with everyone. So we have a lot of technology that looks similar but isn’t quite similar. So we have two content platforms. We use PathFactory. It’s a great company and has lots of amazing data and analytics. We use that for our one to one account journey. So we will target single accounts and do personalized messaging just for them.
[00:35:15] When people at that company click through, they go to a PathFactory track that has content that we curated just for them, that we’ve personalized by putting the account name all over the place and then for kind of mass consumption. Our resources section on our website is powered by UberFlip, which is awesome because it shows up really well. It creates a very specific experience. And, you know, we are able to show off things like, you know, if someone clicks on, if we just had email signatures, they’ll find easy off ramps to other kinds of content like that. And that’s true across the board. So really like the back up, how we how we go to market. We warm accounts up with Terminus. We get them clicking around our content all over the place. We will use a product like Sendoso to send direct mail to them. We think that works really well as a door opener for having trouble generating engagement. And then we use. I mean, I think really that’s kind of Terminus has become so end to end for us. So like we we acquired three companies last year and at this point, like Terminus is itself trying to be an all in one solution. So we’re eating our own dog food in that way, to your point.
[00:36:25] Gotcha. And I want to double back on two things that you said there. And these are things that kind of come up often in both the context of submersed and people just trying to do know better marketing overall, particularly in the B2B side of things. One is you mentioned personalization down to the level where, like individual accounts have specific, creative, specific copy. That sounds terrific. It also takes extra time, extra effort. And there’s a balance. And we always talk about this with folks that come in saying, I want to personalize everything that I do. You say, OK, cool, that’s going to take twice as long and twice the time. And the results may be twice as good. But like if you have a deadline on this campaign for next Friday, maybe this is the opportunity. Right. So talk a little bit about how you guys think about just resourcing and balancing what it takes to do that level of personalization or direct mail or outreach. And how you think about that lining up with the database of accounts that you have, you can’t take that giant database that you guys were talking about and do personalization for everybody, I presume. So how do you guys think about that investment of effort, even though the technology is there to deliver a personalized message to accounts or to individuals?
[00:37:50] That’s a hell of a question, and I think philosophically, like, if you’re a good marketer, you want to personalize everything possible, right. But that does not scale. So the way we break it down and I’m sure there are other ways of doing it, I’ve done it differently in my career as well. But the way we do it currently a term this is it’s tiered out. So are kind of top tier. I know there’s no name for them, but go with me here. Each of our sales reps gets to big five accounts per quarter. They will get personalized everything like we spend the time to create kind of just what I describe. Like one to one adds personalized content experience is very thoughtful, direct mail pieces. And we have an entire we have a full time person focused on just supporting the sales team and creating opportunities with those five accounts each. I think that’s super powerful. I’ve I’ve done that before in my career. And it is transformative for how your team thinks about generating pipeline. Right? No longer do we matter if there’s only five accounts you care about in the world and you’re doing everything you can can to open it up. That feels good as a marketer. Then we’ve got tier two, which are very likely future customers for us, and we define that as we have a score actually that I won’t describe here because it’ll be boring.
[00:39:13] We have a score that defines how likely these are to be great. Future customers will get a lot of value out of using Terminus and for them we still do personalization, but it’s not down to the account name. So we don’t label things with a specific account. But it will be like I was talking about earlier, like that financial services example. We will do kind of industry or persona specific content for them. They get an outsized amount of ad budget that we spend on them. And then the third one is kind of tier three where it’s like they’re probably going to be a good customer at some point, but we don’t quite know. Right. And so really, if you think about it in terms of both financial and bandwidth resource allocation, Tier one gets a bunch like their full time headcount associated to generate opportunities with them. Tier two gets a lot and it’s a lot more in the finance part of it. Like we’ll dedicate a lot more our resources to them. Tier three, we will show some love, but we’re not going too far away for. And then below that is kind of the general marketplace. And that’s just kind of I think with every market in the world as in terms of just trying to get people to know and care about their brand.
[00:40:19] Yeah, I think that that’s super helpful to share. And like I’ve seen similar similar hierarchical structures work in the past. And I think a lot of people, you know, kind of get that intuitively. But oftentimes you find people are either like buying into that or they’re not right, and I think there’s a certain amount of discipline that’s required there. So going to last question that I’ll oppose here that I don’t know. I don’t want to say it’s like the magic of ABM, but you guys have talked a lot about go to market teams and this is sales, working with marketing, working with customer success or the account team after things are on board. And what is what does that relationship look like overall and obviously utilizing Terminus and these other tools to kind of expose the relationship over time. But how do you guys think about interacting with sales, with customer success and just approaching? What are the marketing lines like? I’m not hearing anything of that. Like I’m hitting my Emeco goal and then its sales problem. Like, how do you guys just think about your relationship with the other parts of the business as marketers in this this ecosystem?
[00:41:37] Yeah, that’s a great question to close things down with. So like I said earlier, I’m a recovering demand gen marketer. And if you’re in demand and you have one of two conversations with sales every quarter, either sales isn’t getting enough weeds or the weeds sales are getting her garbage. Right. It’s binary. It’s one or the other always. If you’re feeding your sales team of weeds alone, you’re lucky you’re either super awesome at your job, where to go or you’re like. At Terminus, because we are account base like leads don’t come up in our our weekly metrics meeting, right? It’s about how much how many opportunities we open, how much pipeline we generated. And because of that, it creates superstrong alignment with sales because this is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. A sales team person may say and this happened last week when our sales guy said if marketing generates an opportunity before with one of my target accounts before I do, I don’t feel like I’ve done my job. And that is the beauty of IBM. It’s marketers get to market and tell good stories to people to drive interest.
[00:42:46] When that interest is observed, the salesperson knows to pick up the phone and try to generate an opportunity. And so it works really well. Everyone’s pulling in the same direction around the same team now as far as how we work with customer success teams. It hasn’t always been a strong. But when Covid hit, we got hella tight. We got really nervous about churn, just like every other company in the world did. And so previously we didn’t have a marketing and meeting schedule, like everyone has a sales marketing weekly or biweekly meeting. We didn’t have that with customer success. So we over rotated and started doing it three times a week because this was such an important topic to us by virtue of starting to work really closely with our customer success team and dedicate marketing resources towards our customer, we improved our retention rate by forty five percent in a little over a quarter. So marketers on the phone. Meet with your team marketed to your customers actively, it’s going to help you grow your business more than focusing in just a top of the funnel.
[00:43:54] You hollered something really important with the comment from the sales team there, which is every successful organization that I’ve seen has had a healthy. Competition between sales and marketing, like marketing, should be trying to do some sales job and sales should be trying to do some marketing job with good SLA is in place to kind of govern that. But if sales are just waiting for schools to show up and not doing any kind of outbound on their own and marketing is just saying, hey, I did my job, the form filled like it’s all up to you from here, like the Venn diagram, bubbles don’t overlap and healthy relationships should overlap in in some way. Right. Like you should be trying to do each other’s job like that. That feedback that that salesperson gave is awesome because it means like you should be trying to put sales out of business in a healthy way. Right. Like, if I can just close the deal without anyone talking to you, then I don’t need you. Like, we’re not going to get to that point. But, like, that should be my, you know, stretch goal here.
[00:44:58] Yeah, exactly. And I think you’re exactly right. Like I mean, what brings teams together is making money together. Right. And if marketers don’t think their job is to make money for the company, if marketing thinks their job is to make leads, then they’re not aligned themselves. If sales think their job is to take inkwells or whatever from the marketing team and close them, they’re just feeding themselves and not really trying to create a good customer experience. When they’re when both teams are focused on revenue, that’s when you get. Focused and aligned on the same thing, and that’s when you become really good friends.
[00:45:35] So I think that’s an awesome place to to leave it. You know, everybody should be focused on revenue. And I like to say there’s only one customer journey and the only people they give a sh*t about whether sales or marketing is part of an individual piece of it is you, not the customer. And yet definitely lean into the the teamwork and sounds like it’s it’s a worthwhile exercise even not related to covid to go do some meetings with your customer success or existing customer team, because if you can make a forty five percent impact on anything in a couple of months, it’s probably worth seeing if that’s something that’s replicable.
[00:46:14] Yeah, 100 percent is. I promise you might not be. Or five percent. I don’t know what your turn into like, but it will have an impact I promise, just by virtue of doing it.
[00:46:22] Awesome. Well Justin, thanks for, for sharing today. I feel like we covered all kinds of of awesome stuff here. Sounds like, you know, maybe the best opportunity just to continue to connect or keep an eye on the work you’re doing is obviously following Terminus on on all of the various channels. But maybe a final plug for Break Sh!t Here as we wrap up.
[00:46:44] Yes, thank you. Break Sh!t May 19th at noon. We’ve got ten amazing marketing badasses and we have an amazing musical guest, Saxsquatch, who is a Sasquatch who plays the saxophone. You got to go to YouTube. It’s wild. Like it sounds like a joke. He bumps. It’s an amazing it’s an amazing musical experience. And Devin, thank you. Thank you so much. I love this podcast. It’s awesome to be a part of it. I really I really appreciate you letting me chat with you today.
[00:47:11] Thanks for joining us. And we could probably do another hour on the musical abilities and sasquatches, but I’m going to cut us off here. And Justin, thanks again.
[00:47:22] Thank you very much.
[00:47:25] You’ve been listening to marketing behind the curtain to ensure that you never miss an episode. Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time.