Marketing measurement is a discipline that has history. Pre-internet, during the days of direct mail, marketers asked pointed questions. Why did this work? What should we test? This stands in contrast to Big M marketing where advertising, creativity and brand are center stage. Steve Schley’s early career exposed him to this analytical side of marketing, studying direct mail performance.
Schley then spent over 15 years in sales leadership positions in both the U.S. and Europe. And after that Schley crossed the river again, coming back to the marketing side of the equation. As a result of his sales experience, he understands how valuable it is for marketing and sales to move in lock step, and for marketing to focus on measurability.
As a marketing leader at CPA Global, he focuses heavily on sales and marketing alignment and performance analysis. CPA Global serves the intellectual property legal market, including law firms and corporations that own intellectual property.
Schley joined CPA Global to build out its North American marketing function, a function that is closer to sales and closer to the market.
Schley explains segmentation, positioning, persona research and sales enablement in our interview.
Tell us about your personas and how you define them
It starts with who we are talking to, it’s either a law firm or a corporation because there’s a fundamental divide right there in terms of what’s driving professionals in those organizations.
The next level down is the persona group, for example, a strategic person such as the managing partner of the law firm, or the chief IP counsel in the corporate setting. This person is setting the strategy for the intellectual property, the patents, and the trademarks.
The other group is more tactical and administrative, this could be various paralegals or secretaries that are getting patent protection and making sure it stays enforced. And then there’s the R&D community which primarily shows up in the corporate setting. This group generates novel ideas the company wants to seek protection on. Within those three groups, we probably speak to about 20 different personas.
Then industry comes in from the side where we might message to each of those three persona groups differently based on the industry challenges they have around intellectual property.
We spend a lot of time on individual persona here. We try to orient any outbound marketing or selling around What’s Important To You, what we call “WITY.” This way we know what persona we are talking to when launching a campaign or sales effort. Is this an administrative person in a law firm? Is this a strategic person in a corporation?
We look at personas from several perspectives. We look at the duties, responsibilities of that particular title, their daily routine, the knowledge they bring, and the ways their success is measured at their organization.
We also look at the dynamics of that particular person in that organization, the challenges they face, the power structure that exist in their organization, and their aspirations.
How does your view of personas feed into your go-to-market?
As we go to market one of the fundamental things we’re asking is, “What is our goal in going to market?”
We have about 20 different products or services and we’re operating on a global basis, speaking to a number of different personas. My team lines up very close to the sales function in addition to being part of the marketing function. Goal setting is where we start every effort, whether it’s an annual goal or a particular campaign, we start with the business goal.
Often times we are trying to cross sell, up-sell, add on, or break into a new market. We define the business and how we’re going to measure success at the end of it. Once any of the constituents involved in that effort understand the goals and what we’re trying to achieve, we can start to think about how we’re going to achieve it. Once we have that determined, the persona information starts to feed into messaging.
An area of messaging that’s crucial for us is around cross selling. Of those 20 different products, there’s probably a good chance that a target customer, a target market, a target type of customer is already a customer of one or more of our other products.
Once we figured out who we’re talking to, then it comes down to what’s important to you. For example, we would message differently depending on what product or solution we are offering and what they are already buying.
I think once upon a time our company was a lot like other companies in that we started with the product. The thinking was, we’ve got a product, let’s figure out features and benefits, let’s go out and promote the benefits.
We shifted that around so that we’re going in the other direction and starting with who we are talking to and understanding the challenges they’re facing. Then we can discuss the various ways we can solve that challenge and the various tools, the software, and the services we have that can solve that particular problem.
And that’s a unique component for us. We think about that direction.
Then, we really get to some of the functional aspects of messaging to the market. We’ve got some programs that are multi-month programs, multiple touchpoints where we coordinate across tradeshows, webinars, email campaigns, and social posts. We have touchpoints that are more specific, and don’t even have a “marketing component” other than sales enablement. For example, giving sales the talk-tracks to speak to very specific customers.
And that leads into our account-based marketing work that enables the sales people to have a conversation based on truly unique positioning we need to take with for that specific customer, or small handful of customers.
How do you ensure the sales team is ready and has the resources they need?
The sales team is organized primarily by size of client. We have large national named accounts, more regional accounts, and an inside sales team focusing on the SMB market. And that format is replicated across the different global regions.
One thing that probably wouldn’t come up in a typical marketing discussion but is really important to address is the tenureship of sales leaders. Our average tenure for sales people is close to 10 years across the North American salesteam. And that’s just with our company. A lot of these sales people come from other areas of the industry, e.g. other vendors on the client side.
We do routine training on the more generic persona activity. We’ve got a sales book that details each of these personas, detailing what the personas are typically responsible for, and how that persona varies depending on the size of organization. For example, a chief IP counsel is the most senior person in the IP function of a corporation, but their role is going to vary considerably if they’re the only person in a small company or if they’re leading a 200 person IP team in an enormous company.
We really get into each of these personas. What are their challenges, what are they working on, how are they measured, how do they fit in to the reporting structure, and how might it differ based on the size of the organization?
When we launch sales enablement tools, which could be anything from videos on-demand, sell sheets, PowerPoint decks, and brochures. We train around those. So, rather than just delivering a brochure geared towards a particular persona and telling the sales team it’s available, we’ll train on that brochure.
We train our team how to sit down in front of a customer and walk through the key points of a brochure. Here’s how you stand in a trade show event and use this as a support for your conversation. We want to prove the idea that products can fit a particular persona well.
The messaging we do is focused on WITY. If we’re launching a multi-touch campaign geared towards a particular audience, then we’ll train sales on the messaging too.
For new hires entering such a complex category, how do you help them understand the customer and acquire domain knowledge?
There is a tradeoff. One of the challenges for an organization that hires from other competitive vendors is they don’t bring a new perspective, there are no new ideas coming up. And you’re establishing, or you’re bringing in, some potentially bad habits. This isn’t always the case though.
But for new hires there are challenges too. For example, in a month we’ll have a new marketer and couple new inside sales people joining. They have zero background in this industry and very limited exposure to legal topics other than maybe having a relative that’s a lawyer.
It’s important to judge how quickly the new salesperson or marketer can understand the mindset of the person they’re selling or marketing to.
And I don’t mean just going through an hour of training and seeing the PowerPoint deck about what this persona is interested in. I mean can they really understand what the customer is facing?
Here’s how we address this. For new hires who have very little domain knowledge, we’ll take a couple of days and go visit a couple of our law firm clients. Trainees spend a half day meeting different personas within that law firm environment. We’re taking a tour of the office, sitting down as much as we can and watching what they’re doing, getting a flavor for what this person’s life is like. We want new hires to get to the point of knowing what the customer brings to eat for lunch.
Before and after the off site visits are tests. For example, asking if they can spot these different personas, confirm what kind of things are important to the customers, and what kind of responsibilities they have on a day-to-day basis.
At the end we discuss and dissect what we actually saw and how that impacts how we go to market.
That’s the number one thing: how quickly can you as the salesperson or the marketer understand the challenges your customer is facing? It’s easy for a lot of people to just stop at, “Hey our solutions improve efficiency, our solutions mitigate risk.” It’s pretty easy to stop at that and feel like you’ve done your job, but the fact is, that doesn’t connect to the person on the other side of the table. The prospects says, “Well, yeah, that’s true but you don’t really seem to understand the reality of what I face each day.”
So we’re really trying to bridge that gap, getting closer to exactly that prospect’s reality.
How do you make sure that marketing is delivering content that is effective, has long-term value, and resonates with prospects?
We have a feedback loop, it’s not terribly sophisticated. They are conversations around what the teams are experiencing. We have one-on-one conversations, e.g. me to my counterparts in the sales team, the marketing people on my team speaking to individual sales people. There are routine conversations. We back that up with a little bit of analytics.
We use both ClearSlide and PointDrive from LinkedIn to deliver content. Rather than just appending a PDF to an email and losing track of that, we try to keep the engagement with customers as digital as possible. It affords the kind of analytical view we want. And that gives us the reality check to understand what our prospects are engaging with, how much time they are spending, and what’s proving important whether it’s a sell sheet or whether it’s a proposal to a customer.
Conversational feedback and content tracking is how we measure content effectiveness.
To make sure assets get used, we do trainings when launching new assets. It’s not just throwing a new asset over the fence, it’s giving people a sense of how they can use it.
When launching a brochure a salesperson doesn’t have time to read it. So what typically happens is the content gets created, sales reads the title knowing only that it is about a particular product.When a customer asks about this particular product, the salesperson simply gives the brochure and then the customer never reads it either.
What we’re trying to do is find natural points to interrupt that. And one is this idea of training. For example, “here’s a four-page brochure. Take your highlighter, go to page two, highlight this particular sentence because that’s the key takeaway,” and, “Move to page three and circle this diagram because that’s something you really want to use as a basis for engaging with your customer.”
We train step-by-step on how to use a brochure with a prospect so that at the end of the conversation the prospect has something they can take to their organization and refer to as they start evangelizing on our behalf to other influencers in the organization.
It’s crucial not to just throw it over the wall.
How do you build a revenue operations model in marketing?
First and foremost, we have to agree on what we’re trying to do. The first thing is deciding what to measure and what we’re promoting within the organization. I think the common mistake is that you as a marketer get excited about all the marketing data you have and just start spitting that out to anyone that will listen. You’ll lose your audience immediately in other areas of the organization because they simply don’t care. For a lot of marketers that’s a fairly difficult hurdle to overcome.
So number one, what are we going to measure and what are we going to report? For us we’re very aligned with the sales organization. We’re looking at marketing captured leads, lead scoring, and then what sales has accepted.
We look at the machine, how many leads, the quality of leads, how quickly are those being qualified, and whether the sales team agrees these are high quality leads.
That measurement piece allows us to not only improve communication with the sales team but immediately show marketing’s value. There’s a two-way conversation right there about getting the right kind of leads, getting enough, and getting high enough quality leads. We can mutually adjust machinery after this discussion.
So top-of-funnel is one of the three areas we measure. The second measurement is opportunity creation. So of the entire set of opportunities that have been created in a time period, how many of those are marketing generated or marketing influenced? We can dissect how much we are contributing in strategic areas adjusting from there.
The third and final area we measure and communicate on is closed-won business. For deals that have been closed-won, both in terms of volume and dollars, how much was influenced by marketing or sourced by marketing? And those are the three metrics that we’re reporting out to the rest of the organization. We found that those are the three metrics the leadership team can easily consume. They can see how marketing contributes to business growth.
Marketing teams need to be able to show measurable results for the marketing function to be seen as an investment. Influencing the customer journey and shortening sales cycles is one way to achieve this.