Getting your brand awareness to the tipping point will have the greatest impact on future sales.
How to get there can be a mystery. Too many marketing execs focus on sales and demand gen rather than efforts that engage your target market and warm them up before they enter the sales pipeline.
Angus Robertson is the CMO at Chief Outsiders. He helps companies accelerate growth by building their brand awareness in a strategic way that results in a more productive sales pipeline. Angus understands what it means and what it takes to create – and measure – brand awareness, and he shares the key strategies, including:
- The different brand awareness needs for startups and established companies
- Execution tactics to generate awareness within a target market
- His favorite metrics for measuring brand awareness activities
- And more
When you have a prospective customer who already knows your brand, your product or service, and your company, they are more inclined to move through the sales pipeline than a prospect who needs to learn about your business at the same time you are attempting to sell to them. Listen in and start introducing your band today!
Mentioned in this episode:
Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered. Insider secrets for digital marketing success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is the awareness tipping point, and demand gen overdrive. Here to speak with me is Angus Robertson, who is the CMO at Chief Outsider, a company that helps midsize and enterprise companies accelerate growth by providing fractional or part time highly experienced marketing executives who work directly with the CEO, CMO, or CRO.
Angus is one of 90 fractional CMOs at Chief Outsiders who help companies grow through effective marketing. He’s also a volunteer for CompTIA. Previously, Angus was CRO at Axcient, EVP Marketing at Convercent, CMO at insightsoftware and VP of Product Marketing at Spirent. When he isn’t doing marketing stuff, he loves getting outdoors and spending time with family. Angus, welcome to the show.
Angus Robertson: Thank you, Steffen. Great to be here.
Steffen: Now, Angus, before we before we start talking about awareness and demand gen, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself. How did you get started in marketing? And how did you end up where you are at the moment?
Angus: Well, it was completely by accident. I’m actually a programmer, or an IP guy originally. So I started off in programming and tech, I was obsessed with tech. And I interviewed for an opportunity in the 2000s in Hawaii, for a product manager position, which I actually thought was a engineering manager position. I was pretty clueless about marketing at the time. I really didn’t know much of anything about marketing. And before you know it, I had a product management position and managed to survive. But that was in the time of crazy hiring and the year 2000, the company I joined, doubled in in revenue and didn’t know what to do with all the people it needed to hire. So they got me.
Steffen: Interesting. So how did you end up at Chief Outsiders?
Angus: Yeah, so my background is more than 20 years of product marketing and product management. And I just love tech and the changes that are happening in tech. And the disruption tech has relative to product market fit. It’s always interesting and exciting. So I was in telecom for a while then I ended up looking after marketing and sales and a few b2b SaaS startups. And then I got to a point where I joined Chief Outsiders, which was really exciting to me, because it’s an opportunity to really specialize in marketing. I get to work with 90 other CMOs, who, for example, we have the ex-CMO of HP, of Starbucks, the lady who ran international marketing for Disney. And it’s just a lot of fun to really dive deep into marketing and collaborate with other marketing knowns.
Steffen: Well, interesting. Now today, we want to talk about awareness and demand gen. How do you define awareness, Angus?
Angus: Yes. So when I look at awareness, I think about the target market? And one, do they know if you exist or not? Do they, have heard of your brand? Are they aware of your brand? And then secondly, do they have an understanding of your value? What you stand for, what your value proposition is? Do they have an experience or feeling for your brand? So it’s really those two things for your target marketing, for your target market, do they know that you exist? And do they know what you what you stand for? I don’t know if you remember, but there was a time when you couldn’t get fired for buying IBM. And I think that’s the goal for any company that you can get to a point where your personas and your target market know that they can be successful by investing in your solution.
Steffen: Now, what’s the what’s the difference between, you know, as it comes to awareness for a company that’s a startup and then something or a company that is already established? Do you see the approach to generate awareness differently there?
Angus: Yeah, absolutely. I actually this year have had a little over 10 clients I’ve worked with, and one of these clients is more than 500 million in revenue, and they’re very well known in the market. And when I came into working with them, they were quite concerned because they’re very far behind there target pipeline production by 10s of millions of dollars. And very quickly, within two to three months, we were able to turn that around and get them to the point where they actually exceeded their target by more than 2x. And I’ve never seen a turnaround that fast. But it’s because of the brand equity and the established brand and all the hard work that had been done over more than a decade in establishing themselves as one of the if not the leader within that market.
At the same time, I was working with a startup, less than 10 million in revenue, who had very little brand awareness who hadn’t invested in their brand, really had only focused on sales. And we tried a number of marketing tactics. And they all really didn’t work out very well at all. I remember trying to promote this virtual event, and we got one registrant. So we pushed harder, we managed to double that to two registrants. So essentially an abject failure. So what I like to do in the startup world is possible, because I focus a lot on b2b and software companies, is start with sales campaigns and direct outreach. So start to think about the marketer role. And then start to divy up the market. I like Geoffrey Moore’s approach, where you look for personas with really distinct pain points, and find the intersection point where you have a lot of value relative to that pain point.
And then make sure those personas talk to each other, they need to be able to talk to each other because you only have so much marketing dollars to reach any one persona. So you want them talking to one another and talking about the value of what you provide. So pick that distinct group of people that target market segment, and go after them with the sales campaign. So you have the list, you have the messaging, you have the pain understood, and you have the hook, the way of really engaging them. And then you can measure over time, how effective you are at reaching that audience, engaging the audience, what channels work, what content, what messaging works, that really doubling down relative to your bet, and your hypothesis around product market fit. So that more of the approach I like to employ for a startup.
Steffen: Yeah, that’s actually very interesting what you just said, because, you know, when we get engaged here, by startups, usually, many of them, they just want to scrape the bottom of the barrel. They just want to go out, do dimension. And what usually happens if you if you really just invest on the bottom is that the results are most likely not as good as they expect, right. If it is a product that is already existing, where there’s hype around it, that might be a little bit different. But if you have a product that needs explanation, and that’s a little more difficult to to kind of introduce to a target audience, that usually at least that’s what we’ve seen, leads to challenges, you know, and that’s where awareness is quite important. But you don’t have the money to actually go out and do the awareness piece, you really need the dimension part, to kick things into gear so that you can take parts of that, that that revenue that’s generated to do the awareness work. Is that, do you see that differently?
Angus: No, I think you’re exactly right. Because if you have a target market that doesn’t, maybe they have a problem, and they’re not searching for a problem, and they don’t have a budget to solve that problem, then it costs quite a lot of money and takes quite a lot of time to educate that market. Unless there’s a defining event, like the pandemic we just had, or a new technology that changes the landscape or new regulation that changes how people think or consider. So it’s more and more expensive to acquire a customer or new logo. There’s so much infrastructure, and there’s so much globalization and technology available to companies that the competition has never been greater. It’s never been harder to not only capture the eyeballs, and the attention as a prospect, but also engage because you’re competing with so many other messages and so many other voices.
So how do you stand out and engage especially when that prospect you’re trying to reach is busier than they ever have been? And more stressed than they ever have been? So it’s absolutely something that requires careful consideration and many executives to your point, they and investment firms, you know VCs and private equity firms. It goes straight for the sales team, right? You add more sales people, you’ll get more revenue. And then they go straight to the demand gen to create leads and pipeline, how many leads do you have? How much pipeline can you generate? But if only 10% of your market has any clue of who you are, and has any appreciation of your value, you’re not going to get very far. And it’s going to be very expensive to acquire those new customers. And it’s going to take much longer than you want it to as well.
Steffen: Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, especially when you have outside finance groups, that kind of, you know, venture capital company, AIMs, etc, that put the pressure on the company to actually start selling or showing movements. That’s where I feel like, you know, people focus even more on on the on the, you know, lower funnel and thinking about how can we maybe at least move one level up into the consideration stage, kind of go to people that have identified a problem, and now are looking for the best solution to alleviate the problem that they identified.
Angus: I was just going to say, one, one company I’m really impressed with, and the tactic they took is Atlassian, they’re now valued at $100 billion and they started with a $10,000 investment when the founders were university students in Australia. But they started off with the concept of wanting to build a remarkable product. In other words, a product that their audience, their market, or their persona would remark upon, and they focused on creating a frictionless experience with very transparent pricing and a freemium offering.
And, before you know it, you get a set of early adopters that are using the freemium product, deriving value from that product, sharing the product with their peers, and throughout the enterprise, and it starts to catch. So that’s another very cool topic and or tactic within the realm of b2b SaaS, that PLG or product lead growth and a great way, obviously cost money because you have to build the product. And it’s a premium product, but allocating dollars to a different approach for generally generating awareness and demonstrating value.
Steffen: Yeah. Now, you touched already on it a few times during the last couple of minutes, but why does awareness really matter? I mean, if you have the money to invest in awareness to to make sure that people know you as a company, what you stand for, what your product is, your services, etc. Why does it matter? How does it help your company to invest in that area?
Angus: I think, in particular, within the world of b2b, brand is almost a dirty word. Many executives and investors don’t want to hear about it, and they don’t invest in it, they don’t think about it. And so if you’re not yourself, understanding of your total available market, your serviceable addressable market, and your obtainable market, and you don’t have a clear idea of, one how big that market is and who your target persona is, then you don’t have a clear understanding of how effective your demand gen capabilities can be. And to me, it’s amazing and the companies I’ve worked for, and also the clients I’ve worked with, that genuinely doesn’t enter the equation.
That thinking doesn’t enter the equation. So I think for the savvy executive team, the savvy marketer, thinking about that at the beginning, how you’re going to reach the audience, how the audience is going to grow, to love and invest in you and your cause and your idea is really powerful. And I think, because most of market is not thinking that way. They’re thinking about sales and demand gen, it’s a way of setting your company apart, and really quietly becoming quite powerful, and the company that owns the conversation.
Steffen: Now, once a company invests in awareness building, how do you advise them to measure the success of that activity? And also, how, how are those activities kind of weaving in with with the dimension side?
Angus: I think it’s important to establish your addressable market and understand the complex of the CAPDB, or the customer and prospect database and understanding what your total market is. And then within that market, where do you have the strength to absolutely trench it and provide value and how do those personas reach you? So establishing that baseline where you understand the potential and you clearly understand where you’re going to focus first and you have some campaigns that clearly are designed to, from a content standpoint, and from a activity and channel standpoint, to reach that targeted subset within that larger market, then it becomes much more manageable to see how effective you are at reaching reaching the audience and measure that over time. One of my favorite metrics is a concept called sales velocity, which is an equation that encompasses four variables.
You have the number of leads or opportunities that you can generate within a certain period, you have the average deal size and the win rate, you multiply those three variables together, and you divide by the sales cycle, the length of the sales cycle. And so you can correlate your target market, you know, the personas and demographics that you’re attacking, and the campaigns that you’re running and the channels that you’re using. And by looking at the relative sales velocity between those different go to market activities, you can quickly get a sense of what’s working and what’s not working. But I think it’s important that you have to firstly put that stake in the ground and have agreement across the executive and go to market team of what the potential is, what the bet is, where the focus is, and then provide that baseline measurement and iterate against it. And as you do so, see what’s working and what’s not working, then make adjustments.
Steffen: Well, when it comes to demand gen, you know, the success is relatively easy to measure, right? It’s well many qualified leads, are you going to generate. So the leads that at the end of the day, make it through MQL, SQL, become an opportunity, then hopefully, they come a sale. From from an awareness perspective, what you just said that equation, is that really what you’re using to identify, you know, am I investing enough in brand awareness activities? Or should I do more? What is the impact on if I invest more in each of those activities over if I pull back?
Angus: Ultimately, pipeline contribution is the metric I like to use and sales velocity, is the way I measure the effectiveness of of pipeline contribution. Because if you’re contributing enough pipeline, it’s a great place to be when you’re in marketing, because sales is happy, management’s happy, the board is happy, bam, the marketing team gets to go do all the fun, innovative things that are exciting, right. But it can’t be the only thing. You do have to measure the top of the funnel. And it does get pretty hard. I mean, things like share voice, and surveys, and being able to define the edges of your of your TAM and of your SAM and understanding your ability to reach them. It can’t. it’s not always perfectly quantitative. There are some qualitative elements to it.
And it takes some discipline and some number of metrics that vary depending on the target market and the way you reach and engage that that audience. But you do have to have those leading indicators, much higher in the funnel to understand how effective your awarenesses is. That’s where it’s interesting, because you start to combine, you know, the science with the with the art, and it hasn’t been completely solved, or, or figured out. So there’s a lot of gray area there where there’s opportunity for marketing to set themselves apart and do some interesting things.
Steffen: So how do you then approach the investment level? How do you define that? How do you define whether you know $10,000 in awareness is is enough to move the needle on the you know, the lower part of the funnel and therefore drive demand, or whether you have to go and spend $100,000?
Angus: Yeah, that’s a very good question. So ultimately, I do like the LTV CAC and sales velocity equations, because if your LTV CAC ratio is below three or four, and you’re not seeing the sales velocity and you’re in your target market. Because your sales cycle’s too long, you’re win right too low, then you don’t have the awareness you need are the product market fit that you need to be viable and scalable, and that does depend on the maturity of the business as well. The less mature businesses need to invest to win those first customers and often that’s through personal networks and through direct outreach and field marketing efforts. And as you build that cohort of initial customers, you need to make sure that they can help spread the word that they can be your advocate. That they can support you with the with a high NPS score.
So I think it’s a combination of understanding, you know, are you spending too much to acquire that new customer based on the maturity of your business, and is it taking too long. So when you start to see that, then you can understand that more investment needs to be made on the awareness side. Again, it’s not an exact science, but there are certain accepted metrics with regard to LTV CAC, that can help pave the way and also, your NPS score. I can remember I was working for a startup that’s since been sold last year for more than 11x, I was quite happy to see that in terms of the revenue multiple. But I can remember having a conversation with the CEO when I was running marketing, and he was pushing me to invest in sales and marketing, and start ramping up the demand gen pipeline in the demand gen spend and demand efforts. And I was as constructively as possible pushing back, because our NPS score while it was okay, it was in the 20s.
I really liked to get an NPS above about 40 or above 50. Because at that point, you can really scale. and I knew that the value we were presenting to our existing customers, the story they loved, but the value we were following through, through with on the product didn’t quite match the story we were telling, based on the follow up interviews we had with those NPS conversations. So we knew I knew our team knew that we needed to round out the product to deliver the value that our story says that said that we were going to deliver, and then the demand gen would be a lot more efficient. Because if you’re delivering a new product that’s not matching the value that you’re speaking to, and sales, people are not going to be as efficient, they’re gonna have to spend more time doing support, they’re gonna have to spend more time troubleshooting issues or giving discounts, and it slows down the sales velocity. So that’s, that’s one example.
Steffen: Yeah, I think if you don’t do much, much explanation, you know, on top or in the middle part, then, as you said, the people that actually then pick up the phone and start talking to, to the leads, have to do that job. And that takes basically more time for them to close, or to to move people down the funnel. What are some execution tactics that you like to use to generate awareness?
Angus: Yeah, so I shared two of them. One, I’m a big fan of sales campaigns. And I structured and structure them very simply. So to find that target market, you want to go after, build the list, using data providers, create messaging with a hook, and then build sequences for sales to follow with marketing warm up and marketing support. And every month, you can deliver a nice, shiny object to sales. That is a variation on that target market, and the messaging and the hook to engage that target market. And every month, you can vary the channels that you use to warm up that target market as well. Something else I’ve seen work really well are these floor days with sales. Where you see sales and marketing, collaborating either on a monthly or every other week basis to energize the team, create some rivalry within the team to generate as many meetings as possible.
And then you start to see from the bottom up, from the individual members within the sales team, the individual members within the marketing team, what combination of marketing air cover, and sales positioning, and templates and tactics work. And you just iterate that month over month, with different channels, different tweaks on the messaging, different incentives, different promotions, but ultimately targeting that target market. And it’s really interesting. I’ve been at a couple of companies where I’ve seen that tipping point where a sales development rep or a salesperson calls a prospect and the prospect already knows who the company is. And everything changes when sales person is talking to a prospect and they have to explain what the company is what the product is what they do, everything. It’s just a lot more work.
But seeing the tipping point when the prospect already knows who you are and understands the value, it’s, it really, really makes a big difference. And then the other element with the other area I like is looking at all your product or service teams can support that journey. So this idea of reciprocity, and we see this, I don’t know, I’m sure you’ve been exposed to it, Steffen, when you get those LinkedIn requests, or those physical mail packages, which offer, you know, $100, or $500, gift card for a meeting. But I think based on your persona, getting creative, and really engaging how they think and being targeted, and how you reach them often have a lot of effect. There was one company I worked with, they were targeting chief financial officers, and the accounting finance team. And they had an ABM campaign or account based marketing campaign.
But of course, they had a targeted list of companies and personas. But they sent out these mugs, and they called them their pun mugs. And on the mug was just a simple statement saying, it’s a cruel world. It’s a cruel world. So of course, in finance, accruals are a big deal. And there’s a little bit of finance humor that’s very specific to finance. And it’s one of those things where everybody wanted this pun mug. That’s a great way and a cost effective way, but also smart and engaging way where it shows that you understand the persona, you care about the persona, and that resonates with with people, not just here’s a $500 gift card. So I think those are a couple of tactics that can work well in engaging the audience and having the audience see that you care about their pain and helping them be successful.
Steffen: Yeah, I think what you just said a second ago is kind of the answer why you should do brand awareness activity. You said, you know, when you have a prospect, that’s knowing you that’s knowing your product, knowing your service, that’s knowing your company, they’re much more inclined, if they engage with you in the later stages, to actually move ahead in the pipeline. If you have someone that you know, because you only focus on demand gen that you hit at that point that doesn’t know anything about you, that needs to do their discovery themselves. So air quotes themselves, is going to be a much, much harder process to convince them, you know, unless they have a really pain point. And in your conversation you’re able to identify that and you can convey very easily why your product is the one to to eliminate the issue, right. But I think when you said that, for me, it was like that’s exactly why you should do brand awareness to a certain extent.
Angus: Yeah, absolutely. No, that is a it’s a really visceral tipping point when the floor, the sales floor or the SDR team can experience that. It’s there’s there’s an energy that that creates, and you also see an associated spike in organic SEO related to brand branded keywords. So you can see that start to happen.
Steffen: Yeah. Now, Angus before we before we come to an end of today’s podcast episode, do you have any last tips or takeaways that you want to share with the audience?
Angus: Sure, I just like to reinforce we talked about in terms of the market segmentation that everybody understands it’s persona is a pain point. But the hardest part is do they talk to each other. And I think that’s so critical, when when trying to achieve that flywheel effect and getting your customers to truly be advocates for you. If your target prospects aren’t talking to each other, you’re not getting that multiplier effect. And then the second thing I have learned from a couple of mentors, and it’s a phrase that really stuck with me is when you understand the product market fit, and the conversations you want to have relative to the market needs and pains and your ability to uniquely satisfy them, think of conversations. Because if you can own that conversation within the market, then you can own the market.
Steffen: Thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your thoughts on awareness and why you should invest in awareness. If people want to find out more about you, about Chief Outsiders, how can they get in touch?
Angus: Sure. I encourage folks to look me up on LinkedIn and I’m Angus R 1. That’s the number one or you can visit us on chiefoutsiders.com.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.
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