Episode 1

Craig Rosenberg | Eric Wittlake | Analyst | Researcher

The Impact of COVID-19 on B2B: Interview with Craig Rosenberg and Eric Wittlake

February 4, 2021 | Justin Gray | No Comments | ,

On the inaugural episode of season three of the Catalyst Podcast, host Justin Gray welcomes Craig Rosenberg and Eric Wittlake (formerly of TOPO) to talk about what is top of mind for all of us: the ramifications on B2B from COVID-19.

In this episode, Justin, Craig and Eric discuss the massive changes that we’ve seen over the last year,  how B2B organizations and individuals are innovating in the face of this global pandemic, and the MarTech and SalesTech trends we can expect in 2021.

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3 Key Points:

1. There are two big themes for 2021: speed and flexibility. COVID-19 caused rapid changes in the market and companies are still navigating these waters. That’s why organizations are delaying long-term strategic initiatives  to focus on the tactical in 60 and 90 day cycles. This enables leaders to pivot and react quickly when needed.

2. Go-to-Market strategies need to follow suit. As organizations consider what to plan, build and invest in, their go-to-market initiatives need to be built for speed, flexibility and versatility so they can adjust on a moment’s notice.

3. Buyers are either in or they’re out. COVID-19 brought buyers’ pain points front and center. Some buyers’ hands were tied as their budgets were cut, but others have invested in the solutions to help them navigate the changes ushered in by COVID-19. But they have and will need help fast, which is another reason to bring value to an organization immediately.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

2:13 – What are you seeing in the B2B market?

4:10 – How are sales cycles changing?

12:03 – What are you seeing with MarTech and SalesTech?

16:50 – How are revenue teams shrinking time to value and providing mission critical services right away?

22:00 – In what ways are go-to-market strategies evolving and what role does tech play?

25:30 – What are some permanent ways COVID-19 will change the B2B landscape?

31:11 – How do best in class organizations understand the strength of a customer relationship?

35:47 – What’s some advice for what organizations should start doing right now?

51:45 – Wrap-Up: Find Craig and Eric on LinkedIn.

Looking for more episodes? Check out more of our best practice podcasts!

Full Transcript

Justin:

Hey, welcome back again. You are on the inaugural episode of season three of Catalyst, so welcome. We’ve got a great double header for us to kick this season off. This season is all about what is probably unfortunately, top of mind for most of the folks viewing out there, COVID-19. The massive changes that we’ve seen over the year, of the devilish 2020. And how organizations and individuals are innovating in the face of this global pandemic, and all the market conditions that it’s created. I’m glad to welcome the TOPO guys to the call and to the podcast here. To kick us off I’ve got Eric Wittlake and Craig Rosenberg. Craig is a chief analyst over at TOPO. And Eric, do you run demand gen and something else in terms of your practice? Give me the rundown.

Eric Wittlake:

I generally lie and say I split my time these days between account-based and marketing technology. The reality is there’s a whole lot else demandgen and broader marketing that I spend time on as well. But if I were to pick the two things that I go back to from a research, from an investigation, from a best practice perspective, outside of the broader set of topics we cover with clients, those are the two things I spend my time on in that context.

Justin:

So I always think of Eric as like the TOPO mad scientist for all things marketing, go-to-market. And then Craig, as many of you know, I describe Craig as Colombo. So I’m looking for that aha moment here on today’s podcast from Craig. So welcome to the show, guys.

Craig Rosenberg:

You call me plenty other things too Justin. I appreciate you narrowing it down to one.

Justin:

We’re on a kid-friendly rating here on YouTube for this podcast. So we can’t do that today. But anyway guys, I appreciate you guys joining. Would love to get just kind of a… Maybe we’ll give you each a chance to answer this, but what you are seeing generally in the market. Are we starting… Are we kind of through the initial fear, and folks are starting to find their footing in terms of how they’re going to respond, or is everything really kind of still day-to-day? Eric, let’s start with you on that. What are you seeing out there?

Eric Wittlake:

Not quite as day-to-day as it was, but there isn’t a long-term confidence path moving forward by any means. I think I saw just this morning that Microsoft said now that work from home will be a permanent option. We’re continuing to make these big decisions and changes in our organizations. We’re not done with those. We’re still not sure what six months from now is going to look like. And when we’re going into 21 planning cycles for many organizations right now where we’re in the midst of it, right?

Eric Wittlake:

On the one hand, this is the first year that we don’t have 40% of programs budgets going to events by default and B2B. We were like daily change. How did we change that last year? On the other end, it’s like, okay, now a longer planning cycle. What do we actually do with the budget? We’re still sorting that out. And we’re going to learn a lot as organizations go through that process over the next three or four months planning, and then iteration. There’s going to be more iteration optimization, I think, this year than we would have had in a typical year. Because we’re doing stuff different and because the environment we’re in is going to continue to be changing.

Justin:

Yeah. Budgeting is so interesting this year. It feels very non-standard. And certainly, I think a lot of people have a lot of questions going into that. So hopefully we can highlight some areas that you guys are seeing out there in terms of what’s working and where are people seeing returns. But before we get into that, Craig, what are you seeing on a macro standpoint?

Craig Rosenberg:

I’ll just talk in sort of two buckets here. So one is, what Eric’s talking about. Generally in the business environment we’re seeing, we believe that this is about 90 day cycles. That’s plans for 90 days, and as we can tell you a lot more in, say, 60. And the data bears that out, right? With Gartner studied buyers, and 90% of sub-one billion companies will delay long-term strategic initiatives, and focus on tactical projects through 2021. That’s because we can’t make… We can make big bets, but they’re big bets in the short term. Look, it’s a big decision that Microsoft said everyone’s going to work from home for a year, but that’s a quick one. It’s still very quick.

Craig Rosenberg:

And if you think about how everyone’s announcing these things, we keep adding months because we don’t know. And that, I don’t know is a theme, and you could see that’s affecting how people are buying. And 90% are going to pull back on big vision projects. We interviewed consultants that serve the big Fortune 200, and they’re saying the same thing. That people are going from five year strategic vision projects, to 90 to 120 day triage. And that is something we have to take into account as we think about the go-to-market. And so we believe that the themes of today… So it’s interesting because you sort of asked about, we’re sort of implying do people know what they’re going to go do? And we would say that there’s two big themes in whatever it is you’re trying to do right now.

Craig Rosenberg:

One is the need for speed. You have to be able to work fast. And number two is flexibility, right? As Eric said optimization, this is an optimization because of not stupidity, but you know what I mean, just bad management. This is actually, you’re building yourself for the flexibility knowing you don’t know. And I know it’s not exactly day-to-day, but we can all agree on this call that nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. That’s the story of our lives right now. And businesses are reacting to that. So the theme for next year is speed and flexibility. And so that it makes my second bucket really short, which is, as we think about what we will build, plan for, and invest in, it’s about how can I make my go-to-market built for speed and for flexibility and versatility. So that I can make the pivots sometimes very quickly, sometimes even quicker than that. And sometimes even quicker than that. There’s nothing on the other side. And we got to build for that. And that’s how a lot of the… You’ll see that in the way people are buying and the way people are building.

Justin:

So let’s kind of dive into marketing for a second. When I think about big macro trends for the last decade in marketing, data-driven stands out for me in a really big way. The influx of technology, the influx of attribution on one side and an ROI predictability on the other, and the focus that that’s had on all the people and operations folks that we’ve thrown at this.

Justin:

How are organizations starting to not necessarily shift away from that, but understand that some of these fundamentals that really drive agility, like creativity and knowing the buyer, and really starting to kind of rest on some of those foundational elements of can you get eyeballs and attention, from the buyers that you really serve? How do we start to weigh those things against one another? And are we seeing kind of the pendulum swing the other way in terms of that whole data-driven element?

Craig Rosenberg:

That’s not where I expected you to go when you started on data-driven. So I think that is one of the challenges that we see… Let’s leave data-driven aside and say, as companies have become over the last decade, massive data collectors, we actually have piles and piles and piles of data that we don’t really know how to use. And we don’t get nearly as much value out of it as we believe we should. Our premise is that we invested in that.

Justin:

Well that’s kind of a problem.

Eric Wittlake:

That was kind of a problem before.

Justin:

That’s already a problem.

Craig Rosenberg:

And now you’ve got that exacerbated with data that’s just largely, I don’t want to say irrelevant, but certainly it can’t be used in the way that we probably thought it was going to. We’re going to see these predictable patterns start to erupt, and that’s going to guide our future decision making. It’s largely going out the door.

Eric Wittlake:

I may disagree a little bit. Because I think we have historically gathered piles of what I’m going to call slow moving data, and data that hasn’t changed in 18 months is pretty worthless today. Today what we’re seeing is, who’s in the market? Who’s trying to solve these 90 day initiatives right now? Well, the engagement data that was part of my scoring and handoff process, but I kind of didn’t get as much value out of it. I didn’t make it as accessible to people in the organization.

Eric Wittlake:

So it didn’t show up in creative and messaging, and being able to be more relevant. It didn’t show up nearly as much as it could, and how I actually prioritize what I do. Intent data, other timing indicators, how do I do a better job of collecting information that gives me insights so I can decide what to do, and I can do a better job. Creative, messaging, all those kinds of things making it relevant to that now smaller set of people I’m picking out right now. And so making that data actionable with a lens towards data that’s relevant today, versus data from the pools we’ve collected over the eons, I think is going to be key as part of our lens of getting more value out of that data.

Craig Rosenberg:

So really everything’s just collapsing essentially, in terms of a timeframe perspective. Rather than trying to look back at six month performance, we’ve got to understand what the last 30 days look like and make our decisions based on that. That kind of what you’re getting at there?

Eric Wittlake:

That’s a piece of it. I’ve always grimaced at the idea that I’m going to send an SDR to a 10K in order to figure out what the priorities are for a network security director that they’re reaching out to. I’m like those documents are written by lawyers, they protect the company as much as anything. Try to go through that and figure out what there is then really the priority for these folks. That was always the wrong approach. Now it’s still the wrong approach in terms of the insights and it’s dated, and things are changing too quickly in terms of the priorities these organizations have. We talked about that 90 day initiative cycle, how much of the data that we’ve typically gotten in order to try to be more relevant is actually from the last 90 days? Not very much of it.

Craig Rosenberg:

Right.

Justin:

Craig, what are you guys seeing in terms of the folks that are really getting hit hard, or get getting hit the hardest by the effects of COVID, and kind of the fallout there in terms of an industry, or maybe there’s a different type of segmentation that you’d apply to that?

Craig Rosenberg:

I think we’re in this part of our sort of weird time. I mean, I’m not an economist, but I will say that we’re in this trying time and there’s heartbreak socially and all these other things out there. But I don’t know what to say. I don’t… Eric would have to tell me the reasons that the Fed’s pumping money, tech selling like crazy, and business has been relatively good for a lot of folks. We did see the SMB slow for a minute and then rage back. Remember one of the areas we track Justin is, we do MarTech and sales tech. I’ll tell you right now, sales tech is raging. It is so hot. There’s unicorns everywhere. I mean, literally look at it. I mean, I tease Eric all the time and if you want to get in on that as part of this podcast, let’s do it.

Justin:

Would love to.

Craig Rosenberg:

Marketing was the belle of the ball. The Brinker slide was about marketing for 12 years and just boom gone. And everyone’s buying sales tech. And so sales tech’s a good proxy for us. Also some of our hotter MarTech, like intent data, et cetera, they were worried about the SMB mid-market. And as everyone knows, the upper SMB and mid-market in martech sales tech is the key, right? It’s the baseline foundation for how you build your business. That’s how Marketo did it. Right. And you see that in the sales engagement platforms they build from there. And then that area started to look weak and then it came back up and what’s been interesting of what we’re hearing from vendors is that verticals they never thought of before are coming in.

Craig Rosenberg:

It’s hard to get our hands around it. We have… And so the enterprise… I mean, look I would say this, people are either in or out. If you think about the 90 day cycle, what we’ve seen is faster sales cycles. Imagine that we’re in what should be part massive economic inertia, and it’s not. There’s people that aren’t doing stuff, and the people that are are buying fast, okay? Faster than before. And it’s because man, if you sell into 90 day problems and you can bring value to an organization immediately, then you have a winning value prop. And so I know that’s general, I know you wanted to get… But like that is a big insight. So like one of the hottest markets in sales tech is conversation intelligence. Now one is, it’s easy to grok the value prop. You can record calls.

Craig Rosenberg:

But more importantly is, you can literally turn it on today and start getting value. And think about that in the revenue process, that’s like, what are we doing today? We’re changing messaging. We’re entering new markets. We’re trying to figure out what’s working and what’s not working. That market is done like this. You’ll see every sales tech vendor having some form of CI into their products because it’s just hot, and so take that. They’re selling against companies that want to solve things fast. I mean, look, there’s a lot of buying activity around that.

Craig Rosenberg:

And so it’s hard to tell who’s really… We thought the SMB was going to struggle because it looked bad. They bounced off the bottom and started buying like crazy and sort of MarTech, sales tech that we’re seeing. We’ve definitely seen organizations come back and say, they’re doing well. And obviously selling the tech is huge. Transportation. We’ve had a number of reports of people doing extremely well in transportation, which was, who knew. Well, I guess they knew, but I didn’t know. And we’ve definitely seen moves into financial services, and that’s typical in sales tech MarTech. They often go there next after tech. But in this case there’s been buying activity, lots of digital transformation happening in those businesses. And so there’s key drivers happening there as well.

Justin:

Yeah. It seems like we’re seeing two major trends erupt. One you touched on explicitly, which is time to value. And I’d love to get Eric’s perspective on how marketing and really just organizations in general, how they’ve changed their marketing and sales notions to provide that value earlier. You guys are going to hop in right at the beginning of the whole COVID thing and start talking about kind of these hyper value offers, like bringing value where we normally wouldn’t have provided it before, right?

Justin:

You got to go through the process, you got to see a demo, you got to sign a contract and then now we’ll start helping you overcome some of these big barriers. So Eric, what are you seeing in terms of marketing? Let’s just term it the revenue team, working together to provide that the… Or shrink that time to value and provide real mission critical services right up front at the beginning of the buying process.

Eric Wittlake:

I think from a marketing side, I look at it less about shrinking the time to value. A product marketing a product, that’s critical. Post-sale, that’s critical. Setting expectations of our ability to do that in marketing is critical. But from a marketing perspective, what I see more of is how do I prove value? How do I prove through trial, lightweight proof of concept? How do I prove it through the conversations I can set up? How do I look at this from an enablement perspective? How do I get somebody to the point that they are confident that they are going to see value in 30 days? And how do I get that proof that I’m going to be able to deliver that?

Eric Wittlake:

So early on, when we saw a lot of companies actually go to trial type solutions, be it a gated trial or you’re going to have to talk to somebody first. But yeah, you’re fit, 30 days, prove it out. We’ve seen some companies actually accelerate processes they already had in place to get to the point of having a more traditional end user focused free trial. Let’s prove out the value. Get on, see it and have that trial product led approach that they can start to adopt and move towards. But from a marketing perspective, I look at that as, how am I going to get you confident? De-risk early in the process for the buyer, and how do I set the expectations clearly? The time to implement, this is something that comes up later historically. I’m seeing more websites that actually talk right up there. It’s like within seven days, how long does it take? We see that messaging come through more today as well, of setting that post-purchase expectations.

Craig Rosenberg:

I was going to say, as Eric was talking, but I wonder if… So one of the things is marketing, just going back to, marketing was the driver of data and innovation and let’s get automated for years. And that flipped. It did. I mean, like nobody’s talked… In our work with customers, sales is the big driver. And everyone says it always has been, but not in terms of thinking differently, marketing was always banging on their door. You guys know this, we’ve talked to them and say, “Hey, I want to show this. CRO these reports” That’s kind of changing and I think one of the things improving value is that marketing actually has to gravitate to pipeline right now. Because as people think in 90 days, they actually don’t think of marketing in 90 day cycle.

Craig Rosenberg:

They think of marketing as like big picture stuff. And that’s why Justin, I think the… You work in demandgen like Eric all day. I mean the folks that can turn an offer on demand, scale it up, scale it down, they’ve got the foundation built. Those folks have done okay. I mean, like, and proving value for them was just not an issue. As Eric talks about proving value, it’s like you got to gravitate to pipeline. You got to deliver into the organization right now. So I know he was sort of talking about the market. I was sitting there going, “Well, we got to talk about marketing.” Marketing had the technology advantage for a long time. They would produce the reports so we could do these… But now marketing has to produce, like right now. Everything they do has to deliver right now, and the pressure’s on, or they are not ignored but they’re secondary. And that shouldn’t be like that. But that is an important thing to think about as you enter into 2021.

Justin:

Absolutely. So the other big trend that we’re seeing, and you hinted at this as well, but this… I liken it to when your grandma buys an iPhone, right? There’s this forced innovation that’s happening with the media in a lot of… As you mentioned, industries that you typically wouldn’t expect, right? You’ve got a lot of healthcare in there, you’ve got a lot of manufacturing. You’ve got just… We were working the other day with an organization that sells fishing and hunting licenses, right? And they are a big provider for this. And they’re completely innovating their go-to-market strategy. They’re enabling it with tech.

Justin:

They’re very much thinking about the world in these types of cycles that you guys are talking about. How do we ideate? How did we get into the market? How do we see the value? And then how do we spin this up again, and again? What happens when… Feels like there’s a bit of a wave of, “Hey, we’re going to innovate, we’re going to lean in. Things have changed.” What happens when we’re kind of on the other side of that wave? Do you guys see that as a possibility here to where things start slowing down at that point, or is there another factor that picks up after we’ve got these new machines built?

Craig Rosenberg:

Well, I mean, I would say to anybody right now, trying to predict the future is impossible and you’re just-

Justin:

But that’s what we’ve got you on here for Craig.

Craig Rosenberg:

I know. But the way you positioned the question though, I think was really important, which is… I’m actually very encouraged, right? I mean, I keep going back to that Satya from Microsoft’s quote, which is, “We saw four months of digital transformation happening in two.” You would say 12 to 14 months happening in one, like it’s fast, right? And only good things can happen from that, Justin, I think that’s… So your point, actually, you asked a question that had a point in it, and I would agree with that point, which is the bait and tackle company that gets digitally transformed is going to be a better business. I do believe that. I do believe we were… This isn’t going to stop, but just getting all of these other companies to innovate only good things will happen when we come out the other end of this.

Craig Rosenberg:

I mean, that is really important. I think if we had to think about what… A big learning for everyone was certainly digital buying, right? And being able to offer that channel across in B2B, our world, that’s real. But in the bait and tackle shop situation, we’ve got to be able to have multichannel. That digital foundation to deliver that and all that stuff, and they are pushing to that. It’s extraordinary. So when we come out of this, we will have machines. Machines we never thought of before. We won’t have that mid-market tech company with a lot of VC money that has some hard hitting demand gen person on our webinars. That’s our hope. In like March of next year, the bait and tackle shops talking about how they innovated. We should all be… There’s a bright side of this, man. We know, like Justin Gray I’ve known for so long, and he has been on his pedestal that you… There is a platform you can build guys.

Craig Rosenberg:

It’s there, I mean, he’s been hounding his fist on the table going, “I can build you this revenue platform.” And now they’re building them. And gosh, that’s going to be… I just have a lot of… I’m very positive about when we come out of this in terms of people thinking differently. I will say though, they will all… From now on, everyone is going to be building for flexibility and adaptability into their processes. So everything that… These themes we’re talking about now, those are only good themes for when you come out of this and have that foundation to go do that. I think we should be really encouraged about that.

Justin:

Yeah. We’ve removed a lot of blockers in a really short amount of time and just applied a lens of reality, and the lens of common sense, quite frankly. But so, you kind of answered a bit of my next question. So I’ll position this one to Eric, which is, what do you see changing forever as a result of this entire situation? I know there’s smaller elements like physical events and things like that, but what’s the really big product that we have as a result of this change that just, we hope never goes back to the way it was before?

Eric Wittlake:

I guess maybe I need to go a little bit back to the last one on that. And your question of, is it going to slow down? Well, when ever have we said that the slow moving companies are the winners. So the speed is now this new norm. And in order to compete, in order to be competitive, the bar’s raised for how quickly we can move. How well and how effectively we can pivot and we can change. This has forced that for everybody.

Eric Wittlake:

I hope, but I may not be quite as optimistic that one of the things that we’ve seen is better alignment. This forced a lot of conversations. It has forced us to actually determine what our top down priorities are, and force everyone to get behind them to make it happen. You talked about, briefly the idea that we forced faster innovation. A lot of that faster innovation would not have happened without the top down prioritization alignment. We no longer have 30 moderate priority things that we fight about. We have three things and we are going to get them done.

Justin:

Yeah.

Eric Wittlake:

I hope we keep that. Honestly, I’m not quite as confident that six years from now, we’ll say we’ve kept that.

Justin:

There’s lots of job creation in moving slow, right? But to the inverse, there’s a huge value in what we’ve seen come out of this from, again, I think the executive sponsor element. We’ve seen so much CEO coming over the top, CRO coming over the top and saying that thing that you keep telling me is fine. It’s good. No, we got to clear the board here and we’ve got to rebuild it. We got to focus on the client. We’ve got to make sure they’re at the center there.

Justin:

So that’s one element that, well, I hope the answer to this is yes, but I’m scared to ask the question. How do you guys see marketing expanding its reach within organizations as a result of this? Is customer success, and customer engagement really going to start coming under marketing’s purview. Because we’re seeing a lot of successful organizations that had started allowing marketing to reach further into the customer relationship, post-acquisition, post-sale. Are you guys seeing the same thing and where are we headed there?

Eric Wittlake:

We work within technology, high growth, SaaS. That’s a significant piece of the market that we work in. Those companies, when we go back, weren’t very big. Most of their growth came from acquisition. As those companies get larger that’s changing, and suddenly the customer expansion becomes the primary revenue growth segment, right? So that evolution is natural. I go back to my old days before I joined TOPO and was working with more traditional industry companies in part, and marketing was involved with the customer a lot more than it is with many of the companies that I work with today. So part of this I think is actually a natural maturation that we’re seeing within these markets. We’ve been overemphasizing, versus many other markets, the emphasis on acquisition.

Eric Wittlake:

So I do think we’re going to continue to see that. I think that part of that is just the revenue portfolio mix going forward, where it comes from. And part of it is the natural evolution as these organizations grow. As they mature as organizations, marketing does start to have that broader footprint. Now the piece that I think is more interesting here is how much more of that is digital in nature, and how I do expect that more digital less in person is going to continue to be the afectada. Are you looking at all the companies that are saying, “Hey, work from home is permanent for you. If you want that.” Well, I mean, Justin, I like you well enough, but you’re selling me and you’re not coming to my house, you know? Yeah. We’ll see each other in events, things like that, but I may no longer have space for some of that sales engagement in person. So some of those kinds of things are permanent changes, more of that becoming digital on the sales side and marketing becoming a more important enabler of those interactions and focusing more on that full experience. I think we’ll see those all continue to trend in the future.

Justin:

So Eric, you touched on something critical there, which is existing business expansion. Where we saw a lot of revenue coming from within this period of time, specifically from vendors and providers that really understood their client. They understood what the goals were prior to COVID. They had their relationship, the channel to reach out and understand how this was impacting them and how they were going to enable that change. Craig, where do you think we’re headed in terms of understanding the real strength of a customer relationship? How are best in class organizations understanding the strength of a customer relationship?

Craig Rosenberg:

They’re not. I mean, I think we got to be careful, right? You brought up customer marketing, that seemed like the right idea two and a half years ago and from the beginning of time. Certainly as Eric said, there are numerous industries that have had customer marketing in a significant way before. But for many of the folks that we integrate with, it’s like, “Yeah, of course we do.” They just don’t invest in it until there’s a really strong use case built and a storyline for that, that investment to me is still not there. Should it be there? Yes.

Craig Rosenberg:

And so in terms of customer health, I mean, look, it’s an important topic, obviously. I think it’s still pretty elusive for most folks. I mean, there has been… There’s what we call customer success management is a category, that’s part of it though. Just the ability, if you think about this, the promise of the CRM, the 360 degree view of the customer, if we look back, that has failed. We don’t have that. You know what I mean?.

Justin:

Do you feel like that’s understood by most folks?

Craig Rosenberg:

What do you mean? They understand that bit of information or…

Justin:

Are most organizations saying, “Hey, we’ve implemented what was supposed to be a true 360 degree view of our client and we’ve failed there. What are we going to do to improve on that?” Or are we just kind of going with the flow and saying “It is what it is” and so on?

Craig Rosenberg:

No, well, I don’t… I think it’s… There’s some long-term back pain there. It’s there and it hurts, but nobody’s screaming that. What they are screaming is “What can you tell me that will allow me to drive more revenue?” And so if you go to someone and say, “I want to give you a 360 degree view of the customer” they’d say, “Oh, well, yeah, that sounds pretty cool.” But if you went to them and said, “Hey look, I can have an effect on opportunity, generation, deal closing. And here’s how I do it, right? Your sales guys today have no idea of the historical interactions, or current customer health, or engagement levels that you’re seeing right now. I can give it to you.” If you back into it that way. Then I think it resonates, but I don’t believe people go, “You know what? I don’t have a 360 degree view of the customer. I got to go fix it.” It’s just we have to bring it up in the context of the use case. That’s my belief.

Craig Rosenberg:

And I also believe you would ask someone, they’d say, “Yeah, we have a good view.” But if you dug in, they’d realize, “Ooh, it’s not that good.” And so, I mean, that’s my opinion. I would stand by it too. And that’s why I brought up initially I was talking about the sort of idea of investment and marketing to the customer. There’s just the reality and what’s right. Both things we’re talking about are right. You need a 360 degree view of the customer and for God’s sakes, unleash marketing across every part of the life cycle. But the reality is that’s still very niche and for… Not even a… It’s not a thing. That’s the sort of reality.

Justin:

Yeah, it’s a subject for another time. But the organizations that are still out there measuring usage and measuring the tactical output of these solutions, rather than measuring the impact are the ones that we’ve seen just most impacted by this and having the greater barrier to really selling to that existing base. And frankly are treading a lot of that existing customer base. But again, we could go on for hours on that. I do want to wrap us up on the whole COVID topic with an actionable takeaway here. What’s one thing Eric, that you’re seeing powerful enough returns in that you would recommend that any organization that you speak to start doing right now.

Eric Wittlake:

Talked about this a little bit already. I do not wait… I’m not going to go buy something because a sales person or vendor convinced me that it was a thing that I needed for the pain that I had, but wasn’t researching against, right? So for you from a marketing and selling perspective, where there is active demand, interest, or against the problems you solve, the solutions you deliver. And if you can find ways to identify so you can prioritize, so you can focus your resources on that set of accounts. By the way, this can change regularly. Okay, there’s another cycle.

Eric Wittlake:

But what can I do to identify where there is demand already in the market and go actually capture that, start a conversation for myself. So this is where data and listening is a piece of this. By the way inbound, that has been a great source of the people who actually are interested in what we have to do. They came to us, right? We’re seeing inbound is something that, because of those who actually have initiative, it helps us to identify who’s truly interested in seeing that that is more important as well. What can I do to get the insight about what pick your number, 10% of my market, I can focus on now. That’s going to give me the best return in the next 90 days.

Justin:

Craig, same question.

Craig Rosenberg:

Yeah. So, I agree with Eric. Our sales practice is running on this theme called find engageability. That means can we use any piece of data that tells us this is a better person to engage with than before. I think people thought that was nice before, but think, look, we came out of an eight year bull market. Everything worked and now, look, there’s buyers out there. You can hit your number. You can roll out your number, but you have to find the right people. And so any piece of data, right? And that’s why intent data is interesting. But we think of it as more engageable. We can engage with these people. Engagement data, what’s happening on your own sites, AKA, formerly known as lead scoring inbound. The biggest thing I’m telling you right now, the most successful programs in SDR land and prospecting are the most obvious ones. You know what they are?

Justin:

Tell me.

Craig Rosenberg:

Reaching out to people that have engaged with you before. Poor marketers are like, “We called that lead.” We had a name for that. It was lead nurturing. Right? But like the SDRs right now, we’re getting the reports back. It’s like ripping the list of anybody who’s had some type of meaningful engagement with us in the last six months, that they’re highly engageable, that’s working. So that’s something you could do right now is I feel like… We feel that outbound and account-based, and these things are about fit only. And that can be a waste of time, right? We have to actually… There’s no moral victories here, guys. We can’t say “AT&T or bust.” We’ve got to say, “Well, AT&T is looking at this type of topic. It’s worth spending time there.” That’s really important.

Craig Rosenberg:

The second thing though, I do want to say for right now, you brought up earlier we didn’t address, which is, Eric Wittlake said something very important at the beginning of COVID. He said, “Everyone understands that you need to sell value. The most important thing you need to understand is the buyer’s definition of value changed.” Okay. So remember this, you guys will laugh. I think buyer persona’s set in stone. People might as well have carved them in the wall. They use the same one for 10 years, that is out the door. And it changes all the time. So we’re talking about this just very fluid atmosphere out there. That’s part of your buyers too.

Craig Rosenberg:

So Justin you were like, “Wait, did we pivot away from fundamental creativity?” You can’t, because the buyer’s definition of value changed. I mean, we have a customer that swapped out every piece of content in seven days, and put it in their content management system because they knew the buyer changed. All the topics we had before they changed. And that’s really important, man. You brought it up earlier. We cannot forget that baseline of figuring out what’s happening in our buying environment, but in this era more important than ever, you can’t put a buyer persona in stone. You can’t put a market analysis in stone. You got to watch that thing. You have to be ready to adjust and then adjust messaging, content, et cetera. As a result of that.

Justin:

Yeah. I think the big takeaway I have from that is so much of the waste that was just previously being generated and sat on the shelf specifically around things like buyer personas, right? Not only were they these massive projects that took six months a year to create, but they did. They sat on the shelf and they also were not comprised of actual data points that you can consume on a daily basis, and intent insights that you can actually see. Why do I care if this guy drives a Porsche? I don’t. You know what I mean?

Justin:

I care that this individual typically looks for this type of thing through this channel, and I can monitor it with this piece of software, or by visiting this type of a web asset, whatever it is. These things have to be actionable, and we don’t have time to generate all that waste that looks really nice in a boardroom presentation, but never makes its way into the hands of someone and simply can’t be used because of that. As you guys have touched on, a lot of good results of a really bad situation.

Craig Rosenberg:

Yeah.

Justin:

So I want to wrap up with our new rapid insight questions. What we do is we take the entire season, we edit these questions together and just get an interesting flavor of what our guests are feeling about some non-traditional topics. I’ll stop picking on Eric with the first question every time. Craig, where do you go for news and information? What’s your source?

Craig Rosenberg:

Are you guys going to laugh at me?

Justin:

Yes.

Craig Rosenberg:

It’s Twitter.

Justin:

At least it’s not Facebook, but now I threw out the answer that I’m going to pick on. I can tell you I’m there all the time, but it’s only false information.

Craig Rosenberg:

Well, I only share. I’m very cautious about, believe it or not as Eric said what I share… I just want to share fun. But what I read is much different. I do have lists of folks that I use Twitter to figure out if I want to hear what they have to say, I do. You know what, I got to say I like the context around it. Someone, a good author will share an article on, you name it. I like the information as a source. I read that sort of on the business side.

Craig Rosenberg:

I love when they share something and you see it on Twitter and there’s a little bits of conversation happening. I like the context around it. Then I like to read the article, but I’m not locked in on a particular source except for, I do use Twitter, but not on an open way. I mean, I follow certain people to see what they’re sharing. So that’s very… Is that old school now with me?

Justin:

I don’t know what anything is anymore. I see you on there liking Kanye’s posts all the time. I kind of assumed it was you. We should go to Eric. Are you a Twitter guy? Where do you get your info?

Craig Rosenberg:

My kids would definitely say Twitter is old school.

Justin:

TikTok then?

Craig Rosenberg:

I can’t even understand the names of the things that they say I should be using. I’m not nearly as active on Twitter. I don’t consume nearly as much as I once did. To Craig’s point I do appreciate that piece of it. And I find myself every day or two, like let’s go through and see what I’m missing there. But these days it’s real quick, either just CNN, or Axios for quick headlines. 

Justin:

Just information you’re supposed to know.

Craig Rosenberg:

I want to see today’s headlines, I don’t even want to see articles. I don’t want anything else. I just want to be like, “All right, is there something going on that I actually should take five minutes to read about?”

Justin:

Craig, what’s your guilty pleasure?

Craig Rosenberg:

Well you and I have always been solid streamers and pressed each content exactly. I mean, and just so you guys know, if Justin tells me to go watch something, I go watch it. It’s been pretty much 100%. That’s not stopped.

Justin:

What are you watching right now?

Craig Rosenberg:

That’s an issue. I think Sabrina has a new season… So that’s a good, Naples mafia series. It’s not as good as Gomorrah.

Justin:

No, I haven’t checked that out. Gomorrah is great.

Craig Rosenberg:

Yeah. Our favorite, but that would be one. And then I just started that new HBO one with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant.

Justin:

I haven’t started that yet. But Lovecraft Country is excellent. It’ll blow your mind.

Craig Rosenberg:

Oh, I got to see that one. And then Tehran on Apple TV. It’s excellent.

Justin:

Just started it. Eric, what’s your guilty pleasure?

Eric Wittlake:

Well, since we’re going with watching, my kids make me watch way too much Marvel. So I’ve been enjoying The Boys as a very specific counterpoint to the world of Marvel.

Justin:

Sounds good. It’s a great social commentary.

Eric Wittlake:

Man, there’s so much. The more I’m like, “Oh yeah, and that, Oh, and that.” It’s interesting. And one, I’m not going to let my kids watch anytime soon. And then I’m finally digging into Game of Thrones after avoiding it for so many years.

Justin:

Awesome.

Eric Wittlake:

I’ve read the books. And so it’s actually kind of an interesting experience to now see, in some ways how different the takes are from the show.

Justin:

Yeah. The new book is probably supposed to come out, I heard, like early 2021. Like an eight year writing process, it’s nuts. So maybe we’ll get serious on this question as we wrap it up here. Final question, but maybe we won’t, I don’t know. Craig, what’s the one thing you would change about yourself? And this could be many, there’s a lot of options.

Craig Rosenberg:

I feel like this is a set up. Just because you have so many, you’d like me to change. I’m so old. I’m not sure there’s much point in changing.

Justin:

I agree with that.

Craig Rosenberg:

Yeah, no. I mean, look, I got tons of weaknesses I’d like to shore up. On the business fronts, I think there’s some areas where I’d like to expand my sort of view of tech. I’ve been so isolated in the sales and MarTech that just now… Hey, now that I work for Gartner, I’m seeing all this stuff that I really want to understand. Not just the AI’s of the world, but I do think as the world goes MarTech I wish I had a better background. I mean, look, if you pitch me in 30 minutes on any tech, I’ll understand what’s going on and be able to help you. I would just wish I were more ahead of the game on that.

Justin:

I thought we were really going to get a good self-deprecating answer to this. This is kind of constructive.

Craig Rosenberg:

Well, on the personal side I would… I did buy my Peloton, Justin, as you know, and that’s been a game changer.

Justin:

Have you used it?

Craig Rosenberg:

I use it all the time.

Justin:

Everyday you are on it?

Craig Rosenberg:

I do either the bike riding or one of the workouts. I do the 10 minute, if I have some time or go do some upper body or whatever, it’s been awesome.

Justin:

Yeah, I’ve got to get more of a rhythm on that thing.

Craig Rosenberg:

On the family side, I think I’ve tried to make it a new point that I come out of COVID and keep the high engagement that I have with my kids. It’s been both positive and negative with them stuck in the house. But that’s been the highlight of COVID –– I’ve been able to get to know my kids in a way that I’m not sure my dad got to know me. Can I keep that going? So I know it’s constructive and heartfelt, and you wanted something funny?

Justin:

We’ll take it.

Craig Rosenberg:

Let’s just go through the other stuff that Eric would laugh about. I lose glasses all the time and what the heck? These are like my wife’s glasses. I look funny. I lose those things all the time. I lose my phone, my keys. I mean, I’m so absent-minded, it’s unbelievable. 

Justin:

Eric we’ll wrap it up with what’s the worst job you’ve ever had.

Eric Wittlake:

So the worst job I ever had, and this takes me way back is when I was in high school. I worked at a lumber mill and pallet factory for about a year. So there was the lumber mill in one half, and then we built pallets of whatever shape and size were being ordered. And it was just crank as many as you could out for your three or four hours shift.

Justin:

Building pallets.

Eric Wittlake:

During school in high school. So that way I don’t have to pick on any of my current jobs, right? But every professional job I’ve had, has had some amazing elements and some frustrating elements. So it’s hard to kind of go, “Yeah, that’s the one.” I would say though its pallet building.

Eric Wittlake:

Pallet building, all right. There we go.

Justin:

Everyone should do construction at some point in their life though, when they’re a kid. That’s good character building. Well guys, I really appreciate you guys taking the time to join. Great insights, from the COVID perspective. And then just fundamental sales, marketing, and go-to-market strategy. Always can count on you guys for some great insights. Obviously, if you’d like to connect with Eric or Craig, Twitter seems to be a pretty good place to connect with them with. Craig’s @funnelholic. Eric is @wittlake.

Justin:

We’ll put the links in the comments here. So I don’t have to worry about spelling those things. Or you can always check out TOPO. I thought because of this big cash infusion from Gartner, they would have bought topo.com, but it’s still topohq.com. The new domain’s in the works. Thanks everyone again for joining us. Don’t forget to subscribe. You can do that right here. If you want to check out any of our past podcasts, or interview series leadmd.com/best practices, and remember never miss an opportunity to be inspired.

 

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