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This week’s show is entitled, “Future-Proof Demand Strategies That Work“ and my guest is Eric Stockton, VP of Demand Generation at Constant Contact.
Tune in to hear more about the relationship between an organization’s demand and brand alongside:
- The holistic process of demand generation
- How marketers can convey their contribution and impact to an organization to reduce language friction
- Successes and challenges during an acquisition transition
- Maneuvering tension and prioritization across business units
Listen in now for this and MORE, watch the video or read the transcript below:
Matt: All right. Welcome everyone to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. My name is Matt Heinz. I am your host and thank you very much for joining us today. If you’re joining us live on the middle of your workday. Thank you so much for joining us on LinkedIn or Facebook. If you are on LinkedIn and watching this live, you can be part of the show today. Feel free to throw in a comment, throw in a question for myself or our guest today, and we’ll bring you into the show and make you part of this podcast as well. If you’re watching on demand or listening through the podcast feed on Podbean, thank you so much for downloading, for subscribing. You can catch every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, past present future at salespipelineradio.com. Always featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing telling us the latest what’s working, what’s not. Best practices as well as cautionary tales, excited today to have the VP of DemandGen and Constant Contact. Also a proud Florida Gator, Eric Stockton. Eric, how you doing today?
Eric: I’m good. How are you, Matt?
Matt: The fact is you’re a Florida Gator. The proud part I made that up but I’m assuming.
Eric: Oh yeah. I went UF during the glory years, so I’m definitely a Gator fan.
Matt: Okay. Awesome. Glory years meaning Tebow years. What glory years are we talking about here?
Eric: Oh, well actually the Danny Wuerffel years. So this would be the end of late ’90s, mid late ’90s.
Matt: So there’s multiple glories. This is a nice thing about` being a part of like a top tier SCC school. Which glory years are we talking about here?
Eric: That’s right.
Matt: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining us today. Excited to just talk about where we are now within the state of DemandGen, so to speak, right? I know you’ve been with Constant Contact and with SharpSpring for a while. And so I’ve been in the trenches making this work pre, during, post pandemic. I think a lot of things that were slowly trickling into existence two years ago have really blossomed into fixtures of DemandGen now. So we’d love to maybe just have you start with just who you are, your role at Constant Contact and some of the trends you’re seeing really be present and priorities in DemandGen today?
Eric: Yeah. I appreciate it. I run the marketing for the SharpSpring product and SharpSpring is a full blown marketing automation and CRM platform. What we do is, as a product, we’ll do full funnel all the way from beginning to end. I like to say that because I really do drink my own champagne when we actually use the product and we’re doing the work that we’re doing on the demand side. We were acquired, as you said, gosh, I don’t know, in September. So how many months ago that was? Seems like a long time, but we were required by Constant Contact about six months ago. And, we’ve been working through… What does it look like to become, part of a larger organization like Constant Contact, and how do we sell the product that we have within that larger context.
There’s a lot of brand discussion that happens. There’s a lot of other things that are going on as it relates to DemandGen and the way that I look at demand is, it’s not in a silo, right’s not one of these things where it’s just purely acquisition of traffic and driving leads. It’s really from brand and understanding what our story is and understanding what our take on the world is all the way through content, all the way through user experience on the site, all the way through to the pipeline, and driving revenue. It’s really holistic, and I think if you do demand, right, it has to be a holistic function. In a lot of ways, I spend a lot of time with, cross-functional teams, just getting all of that alignment and being able to be effective at the job.
Matt: Well, there’s a lot of different places we can go there, couple of follow up questions. To certainly a lot of companies thinking about that balance between brand and demand and they’re not mutually exclusive so people think, “well, I’m focused on my brand. And so where’s my pipeline.” Well, if you want to drive pipeline, having a great brand certainly is grease to the wheels because they work together. How do you think about that interplay and priorities from an execution in a strategy standpoint?
Eric: Brand absolutely is the core product or the core outcome of doing demand well, right? When you’re building a story and you’re talking about how your product connects to the pain points that your audience has in all of these various channels that you are running media against. You are creating that, right? You are leveraging a brand that you are becoming known for. In a lot of ways, I think demand helps to accelerate brand in the brand team.
Traditionally, an organization’s brand was like this big thing. You had budget that was nebulous, and you had content and you had messaging and you had PR and they lived over here in a silo. And that’s really not the case anymore. At least not in our organization. Frankly, I would counsel other organizations to be thinking about it more holistically too, because at the end of the day, you have to connect what we’re doing at the brand level to the story that you ultimately tell in these various paid media channels to create pipeline and revenue.
Matt: I agree with everything you’re saying, and it’s easy for you and I do agree to that in the confines of this cozy little podcast. How do you tell that story to a VP of sales? How do you tell that story to a CEO or a board. Brand’s nice, but how’s pipeline? What probably leads you generating for us?
Eric: Yeah. So that’s the only question right? At the end of the day. I mean, a marketer’s job, in my opinion is really twofold, right? It’s to tell the story really and really clearly and it’s to generate pipeline and revenue. Marketers tend to be really fuzzy. In my experience anyway, we tend to be really fuzzy in our communication of the value that we actually bring to the organization. At the end of the day, you’re absolutely right. The CEO (or more importantly) the CFO doesn’t give a wit about, what I’m going to call the vanity metrics that marketers tend to talk about right? Campaign metrics and other things that really are anything before an SQL level, right? It’s how you create pipeline and how that pipeline converts into revenue. How quickly, how much is it accelerating through the pipeline?
Those are the things that really matter. I think we as marketer has had to get better at articulating what that story looks like and what our impact is. Ultimately, you can just tell every single marketer, especially a marketing leader has been in the room, they’ve sat at the table with the CEO or CFO, and you start talking about your campaign metrics and their eyes immediately start to glaze over. What’s even worse is if marketing is out there celebrating their wins, they’re hitting their top line MQL number or whatever is, and you’re still half of quota on the sales team side and ultimately there’s a disconnect there and that creates a credibility problem for you as a marketing leader.
What I try to do is I try to connect the dots and really, I don’t talk a lot about upper funnel stuff. Right? What I talk about is really at the creation of SQL, right? That becomes that juncture. If you think about your funnel from awareness all the way through to closed one deals, that connection point is really the bridge between what you do in marketing and what sales and the business outcome (what they care about). If you can get in your language, in your storytelling, in your reporting, as close to that SQL number as possible, you’ll see how that leads to additional credibility. It helps to obviously get more budget, all of those things that we care about as marketers.
Matt: I mean it’s sort of the bottom of approach to marketing planning and marketing ROI, not just saying, “Well, here’s how many clicks and retweets I got, or here’s how much traffic we got.” Here’s the contribution of marketing to pipeline and closed deals. Or, here’s what it’s worth for us to get a deal. Here’s what it’s worth for us to get a marketing sourced SQL from a legitimate qualified account and saying that now I can invest in a body of work to get a certain volume of those SQLs. I’ve found that with some CFOs, you start from the bottom up and you say, here’s what I’m willing to spend to get there. They’re less in the weeds on the channels and let’s not pretend depending on the deal you’re selling that you’re going to get white paper selling the big deal, but it’s a body of work to get there. The bottoms up approach sometimes helps grease the wheels on all fronts there.
Eric: Also laying that comparison against what we’re currently doing today. If we’re sales led where you’ve got a strong outbound motion, whatever it is that is fundamentally relatively inefficient, what does it cost to get an SQL there? What does it cost to get a close one deal there? Run a comparison against that based on what you’re doing on the inbound side. At the end of the day, it’s pretty easy to look at, but we don’t, as marketers, again, we need to drive that conversation to that point where we’re showing it side by side. What I find is a lot of these non-marketing executives tend to struggle with what questions that they need to ask in order to zero in on what’s most important, because they struggle with the old concept of, okay, well, this is what a funnel looks like, and I should be asking about traffic, and I should be asking about MQLs and I should be asking about whatever.
That’s what they measure on, that’s what they compensate on. That’s what they build the organization around. That’s what they request marketing to report on but it’s up to marketing really to lead that conversation and say, “Look, yeah, those are all important things, but that’s not the most important. What the most important thing is this, right.” You show how the actual inbound motion works, how efficient it is from a CAC perspective, then how it’s contributing significantly to that pipeline of the sales team. Then on the other side, you’re showing what are the other things that we’re also allocating dollars to? When you start talking that language of the CEO, CFO, it helps to direct the conversation to things that are more important to the organization, rather than those vanity metrics like we were talking about before.
Matt: Boy, you just start speaking the language of the business, start using the language of the business, using the metrics and the key in the words that the CFO uses. You certainly reduce friction between the organizations and help marketing tell a better story. We’re speaking today on Sales Pipeline Radio, with established proud Florida Gator and VP of DemandGen and Constant Contact, Eric Stockton. Before you were VP of DemandGen and Constant Contact, you basically ran the SharpSpring’s business. And so SharpSpring you can focus on a product, right? And a lot of people that listen to the show have either been acquired or their companies have acquired other companies. You go from necessarily having a suite of services that all like one product to having a portfolio of things with a common set of customers. So talk a little bit about what that transition’s like, and without giving any secrets, just what has that transition meant like for you and what have you learned along the way of moving from selling one thing to being part of a portfolio?
Eric: Yeah. Honestly, it’s been fun. I totally am going to just discount all of this by saying this is my experience, not everybody’s experience. But our experience or my experience has actually been really positive in the fact that, the parent company, Constant Contact is really wanting to invest in areas that help to serve their customers better. There’s a very large customer base of smaller customers, as you might imagine, that are “solo-preneurs” and early stage, smaller customers that are sending email and doing marketing. But they have a larger and broader group of folks that are getting more complicated. They want a solution that grows with their business and what SharpSpring does is helps to solve that particular problem.
So what are the challenges? Well, integration’s a challenge, right? So what does it mean? I literally had this meeting this morning, Matt, where we were talking about the brand of Constant Contact as an overall. We were talking about the products that live in that brand and how do they all align with the core values of the brand? How do we talk about them in context of not only, like within our own customer base to acquire new customers? But also, in context to the other products and also within the context of the umbrella, that’s not an easy thing. Obviously we’ve got a lot of smart people that are working on it but I think the challenge is maintaining your own customer, audience and being really good about that. Because, if we lose that, then what we end up having is we end up becoming this brand that nobody knows what we do. Right?
We have been doubling down and investing as Constant Contact to make sure that we’re talking about the audience first and who it is that we serve? Then, what does that buyer journey look like? And then ultimately, how does that make its way all the way through into product? Then we start talking about how do they relate it to each other and what does that path look like. So it’s a lot you know, we went from 250 people to 1,250 people or something like that. Organizationally, a much larger organization, lots of new faces that I have to interact with and work with, but, so far I think it’s been relatively smooth.
Matt: That’s great. I love your comment about just keeping that customer focused. I mean, I’ve seen best practices and cautionary tales in this scenario that really sort of pivot on that. If you have a customer focus, as you expand the portfolio, what you can sell, then you’d make the right trade offs. If you have fiefdom fights across business units and products, you have a problem. Right? So, what would your advice be based on what you’ve seen so far at Constant Contact because as well as just throughout your career, for those that are in like really kind of can sometimes be a coming political situation. Where you’ve got different business units fighting for attention, prioritize our product, no sell our product. We need more leads. How do you maintain that customer centricity? How do you justify and evangelize that?
Eric: Yeah. So first of all everybody’s going to have that. I mean, it is just a function of human beings and human nature and its just common. I think the thing that we have realized is that the data really helps to equal out the playing field. We are a smaller, SharpSpring’s a smaller brand obviously than the larger Constant Contact brand and what we’re doing is we’re telling the story with what is the customer? What is it worth? How do we think about it? How do we overlay that against the larger, strategic business decisions that we’re making around things like where we invest dollars.
My thing would be come to the table with data, because if you don’t, what typically happens is the hippo in the room is typically the one that’s going to end up making the decision, which may not be the best for the product or for the organization. We’re a very data centric organization so I think that obviously helps sort of my cause or if I’m an owner of a product or whatever, I want to be able to do that. It always helps when the organization is already leaning in that direction. But then it’s my job to be able to come to the table with that argument or with that data to be able to support it. It’s the great equalizer.
Matt: Awesome. Well, appreciate your time today, Eric Stockton, the VP DemandGen and Constant Contact. Thanks so much for joining us and say hi to Head Ball Coach for us.
Eric: All right. Thanks Matt.
Matt: Thanks everyone for watching. Another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, we’ll be back here again next week, 11:30 Pacific 2:30 Eastern until then. My name is Matt Heinz. We’ll see you next week on Sales Pipeline Radio.
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