The B2B sales process is becoming ever more like that of B2C sales. Behind this long-term trend is the understanding that the people behind B2B buying decisions are behaving more and more the way they do as B2C buyers. All of this makes my conversation with Bryant Lau all the timelier and more important for anyone involved in B2B marketing.
Bryant is the Head of Demand at Flockjay, a business services company that both recruits and trains candidates for positions in tech sales and connects them with companies looking to add motivated, diverse members to their sales teams. His role places him squarely between B2C and B2B marketing and sales. Bryant shares his lessons for success in both areas, including:
- The structure of a marketing team that incorporates B2B and B2C sales
- The differing channel needs of B2B and B2C
- How to balance the marketing needs of each
- And more
To get the most out of your B2B efforts, you need to better understand B2C marketing, and to better understand that, you need to listen here.
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 what b2b marketers can learn from b2c. Here to speak with me is Bryant Lau, who is the head of demand gen at Flockjay, a company that connects businesses to motivated candidates from diverse backgrounds who have gone through 300 plus hours of expert led training, helping them build a strong sales team. Bryant is a b2b marketer, who has been an early employee at multiple fast growing tech companies. He is passionate about bringing ideas to market for data driven growth strategies. Bryant, welcome to the show.
Bryant Lau: It’s great to be here, Steffen. Thank you for having me.
Steffen: Now, Bryant, before we dive deeper into today’s topic, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself. How did you get started in your career? And how did you end up in marketing?
Bryant: Yeah, I’d love to. So I graduated from Western Washington University in 2009. And while I was there, I had some really great professors who got me very interested in books like Innovators Dilemma, and Competitive Advantage, Blue Ocean Strategy books like that. And in discussions with those professors, I really wanted to understand how I could carry over that interest in an academic setting over into the real world and translate that into a career. And the opportunities that became obvious, or the best choice going forward, really was to work at early stage startups.
And that was especially true just graduating college without any actual experience. But just in general, as you know, early stage companies tend to offer more of an opportunity to have a greater impact on the overall direction of a business. And that’s really been the theme throughout my career since then. I think I’ve worked at five different companies prior to coming to Flockjay. They’re all early stage tech companies, I’d say they’re all b2b SaaS businesses. Most notable ones are probably Socrata and Highspot. But recently, I did join Flockjay, maybe about seven months ago now, which is a little bit of a different type of environment. It’s both a b2b as well as a b2c.
Steffen: Okay. Now, prior to Flockjay, did you have any experience in b2c? Or were you solely focused on b2b?
Bryant: Solely focused on b2b prior to Flockjay. This is actually the first time I’ve done any sort of b2c work. And it’s really interesting working at a company that has both sides of the business.
Steffen: So given that, that situation, so what have you learned now that you’re responsible for b2b marketing as well as b2c marketing? What are the difference between the two from your perspective?
Bryant: Yeah, it’s a great question. There’s, it’s really been eye opening, as I mentioned earlier. So you know, one of the things that first jumps out to you is trying to be a revenue driven marketer is that b2c doesn’t have a sales function typically. So really, when we’re going thinking about our b2c go to market function, marketing is under the gun to really fill that pipeline. We have to carry that full responsibility for generating pipeline, which is really just a great takeaway in mentality in general, as it kind of has shifted some of the mentality of just the way I think about marketing in general. Just, you know, when you typically are in a b2b setting, you have a sales leader that you can work with to understand how much of the pipeline is going to come from prospecting, or as compared to inbound with a b2c environment, you know, as marketers are really fully responsible for, for pipeline. That was one of the first things I noticed.
Steffen: Now that you’re responsible not only for the b2b, but also the b2c side. How do you balance that out from a marketing perspective?
Bryant: Yeah, so again, going back to kind of just a little bit about what Flockjay does. So we have this mission of empowering upward mobility through education and access. And historically, we’ve done that through retraining underserved communities for careers in tech sales. And it’s through a 10 week program, the candidates go through over 300 hours of training and then get placed at leading tech companies to start their career in tech sales. So there’s really two parts to the business there. There’s the student acquisition of acquiring students to go through the training program. And then there’s the b2b side where we actually work with hiring partner network to get the students placed.
Now I will say that there’s some exciting changes up ahead for what we’re also offering in the marketplace where we’re going to be in 2022, offering some additional solutions to fulfill our overall mission. But with this existing business model that we have of acquiring students, which is a b2c side, and trying to also work with our hiring partners, make sure they have places to, to work, once they graduate, you end up with this two sided marketplace, and you really have to balance both sides of the business. And it’s not only are you trying to hit a certain revenue number on one side of the business, you’re also trying to make sure that demand on the other side matches at the same level. So it’s very, it’s very tricky to balance both sides.
Steffen: Yeah, I can imagine. Now, you joined Flockjay, after the company, you know, was already a little bit in the market. But in a situation like like, like Flockjay is where you have both sides. It’s like a little bit of chicken and egg situation, right? What do you start first? You starting first to train people? And then find companies that will be interesting, bring them on board? Or do you start on the other side? And that obviously also leads your marketing activity? If you would have been early on at Flockjay, how would you solve that problem?
Bryant: Yeah, so we primarily solve it by focusing on the student acquisition side first, and that’s the primary area where we focus. The reason being is that given that the program is about a 10 week program, once we start a cohort of students within that program, we typically know how many will actually be able to graduate from that program, and then gives us an idea of how many tech fellow we’d be actually placing at the end of the program at one of our hiring partners. So once we kind of have that in mind, we’re able to start working on some demand on the b2b side to make sure that we have enough hiring partners actively looking for headcount to then hire from the program.
Steffen: Interesting. Now, there’s obviously as you mentioned, b2c is different. Does that have an impact on how a marketing team needs to be structured? And who needs to be part of a marketing team? Or would you say it’s pretty much the same as on a b2b side?
Bryant: Yeah, there’s a couple big differences. I would say the most notable one is this idea of a growth role. You know, that term is, I think, was originally pioneered by Sean Ellis, who originally wrote the book, you know, Growth Hacking, that talks about this role that’s really more a blend between marketing and engineering. And it’s a very vital role in the b2c aspect where you typically have more of a product lead function where the product itself is part of your funnel, right? Like, you know, the typical example is maybe offer a free trial, you see how the person is actually interacting with the product.
We’re going to want some engineering resources there to make sure that they’re engaged with the product, so that marketing can hit their conversion goals. So that’s, that’s one of the most notable differences that that I’ve seen. And that kind of relates to how we think about marketing as well from the b2c side. And it’s been really, really interesting, and really great kind of having that, that focus as part of the marketing team. It’s something that was very eye opening for me and wish I had had when I was doing strictly b2b marketing.
Steffen: Yeah. It’s interesting that you say that, that kind of there’s this growth role is the combination of marketing engineering. It reminds me a little bit of a recent conversation I had with a podcast guest that was taught who was talking about the fact that in I think, in her organization, sales and marketing were put together because those two disciplines need to work very closely together anyway, right to achieve on a b2b side success. It sounds like that what you just said that the product and the marketing side in on the b2c side need to work really closely together to not only fulfill, you know, what, what people are looking for, but also to continuously improve things. Is that about right?
Bryant: It is. And I think it actually really highlights an overall issue that we see in many marketing teams is where the what’s needed in the marketplace from a go to market strategy doesn’t typically represent the historical approach to building out marketing teams, whether it be on the b2c side or the b2b, as the guest was mentioning earlier. The way we should be thinking about marketing org structure definitely needs to come from first principles standpoint now, not just the way it’s been done for many years.
Steffen: What kind of insights do you need to collect on a b2b b2c side to to provide proper information on how campaigns are working and where to invest more into?
Bryant: Yeah, on the b2c side. So there’s a couple different things, you know, again, approaching it from historically a b2b perspective, I’ve always had to kind of work from a what are the, from the limitations of whatever out of the box solution is available to a b2b marketer. There’s a number of different solutions available on the marketplace and trying to adapt our funnel to that. What’s really great about b2c especially with this growth role is that now that we have some engineering resources, we can really get to a specific data points that are unique to our business and our funnel.
To understand what we want to track and what the leverage points are in our funnel, so from the student acquisition side from the b2c, it’s really a very complex funnel, to be honest. I mean, it’s driving awareness of the brand, first of all, as any business would have to do, but then driving people to apply, can complete the application, then schedule interviews and be admitted to the program is really a multi step process. So there’s a lot of different stages throughout there. Different funnel stages that we really have to track. And I think that’s one of the major advantages that we’ve seen from from having a growth team.
Steffen: Now, you talked about data a second ago. Is the topic of attribution different for b2c compared to b2b, or is it pretty much the same?
Bryant: No, I definitely think it’s different. I mean, one of the biggest challenges you have with attribution on the b2b side is trying to understand what came through sales and what came through marketing. Which I think inherently is one of the least effective questions that we try to answer in a marketing perspective, because your buyers typically aren’t buying from only sales or from marketing. But yet, we try to analyze it from the perspective of sales or marketing. In reality that the buyers journey is very complex, and it engages multiple touch points. So to try and split it up by different departments is not very useful. Now, when you think about it from a b2c standpoint, again, going back to the idea that marketing only has has full responsibility for pipeline, for generating revenue that you no longer have to try and answer that question.
And you’re really trying to answer more specific questions about the buyers journey in terms of, you know, what were the digital touch points that they came through to get to your site? So, you know, we previously have ran a decent amount of digital ad campaigns, and trying to understand, trying to capture those touch points as to like, did they first come to the website and then convert later? Did they start an application at that time? Did they complete an application later? What are all those touch points throughout our unique funnel has created a far more challenging, far more unique attribution approach for us. So it’s really been great having this growth role on the team helping us capture this data.
Steffen: Yeah. Now, your title is head of demand gen. How important is brand marketing or brand advertising as part of your goal to achieve revenue from a b2c perspective?
Bryant: I absolutely love it. And I think it’s absolutely critical. So when I think about brand marketing, I think about not only the designs and colors on your website, but what is, what is the affinity that your buyer has towards your brand? What are the connotations associated with it? And understanding that impact on your funnel, because it’s, there’s this area of our funnel that we’re starting to see, both on a b2b and b2c side where not everything can be captured, right? Not everything can actually come through in a digital touch point that you can look in an SQL table and understand what’s working, what’s not. There inherently is always going to be this aspect of your brand, having an impact on your funnel, as well. And it’s, it’s one of those areas where you can’t always just hold yourself to looking at the the data just because it’s not something that’s always going to be able to appear in a report.
Steffen: Now, one issue or issue I have quite often when it comes to b2b marketing is that things can take long from, you know, first touch of a marketing activity to generating a lead to becoming an opportunity to becoming a sale. And what results from that is quite a quite a slow feedback loop. Right? It takes quite a lot of time till you can feed back to marketing from a sales perspective, that a bunch of leads that were, let’s say, sent through last month, didn’t really make it that far they weren’t called they weren’t of high quality, basic right? How is that from a feedback loop perspective on the b2c side? Is that is that different? Is that quicker or slower? What’s your, what’s your thoughts on that?
Bryant: It’s much quicker on the b2c side, at least in our business model. But again, going on your point, like how does it look on a b2b side. If we have an idea, you know, a growth test per se that we want to run, you’re typically trying to plan these two to three months out, so that your team is organized and knows what we’re going to be running for the next few months. Takes time to execute on those and then takes time for them to actually generate leads, go through your sales process. You know, and hopefully, you know, if you have a standard b2b sales process and maybe three to four months, by the time you’re all said and done, you’re looking at time from idea to results being six or seven months, you know, if you’re lucky.
And then tack on the fact that unless you’re already a very well established business, you probably have a very small sample size to even know if anything definitively is working or not. So it ends up being a very difficult environment, from a b2b standpoint, to know, you know, from a very data driven standpoint, what’s working or what’s not. From a b2c standpoint, it typically is much easier for us to run these growth tests, you know, we can launch one and typically see if it’s driving more applications, more students through the program, and maybe just a couple of weeks. So definitely, much quicker feedback loops on the b2c side. Absolutely.
Steffen: I couldn’t agree more on that one. You know, when you run A/B tests, or you do conversion optimization, so you’re, you’re kind of optimizing landing pages or a web slide, in general, certain touchpoints there, you know, you can run those tests in a much shorter period of time and consider the impact. When you try to do it on the b2b side, I mean, that’s sometimes really hard to get the information in or back from sales to actually make adjustments on those elements that you want to test, basically.
Bryant: Yeah, and actually tackle on the fact that most organizations have fairly, most b2b marketing organizations have fairly short tenures, you know, like, I think the average CMO tenure now is, what, 18 months, 24 months. So you might have an opportunity to really only run a couple of them, and then hope that they’re documented well enough. And you end up seeing this scenario, in many b2b marketing organizations where they’re kind of just running the same playbook over and over just because it’s not, you know, the, the feedback loop is so long that it’s not getting properly documented in terms of what was tested and what lessons were learned.
Steffen: Now, let’s talk about channels. What what kind of channels do you use from b2c and from a b2b perspective, and how are they different?
Bryant: Yeah, for sure. B2b is definitely more event driven, I would say. More word of mouth. We have a good network of hiring partners that actually tend to refer us to other hiring partners. So it’s really great, just having that affinity of your brand. Going back to that. I think the other thing that’s really notable on the b2b is a stronger and stronger focus on search engine optimization. And that’s one of the areas that we’re continuing to try and grow in. It definitely is one of those things that just takes a very long time to build out and succeed with. But we’ve seen some some good results on that side as well. In terms of channels, on the b2c side, we try to be where the consumer consumers typically are. So it’s, you know, going back to just who are exactly our buyer is, it’s typically people who are actually, in that job search motion. So we try to find those sites, and that represent people who are actually trying to look for a new career. And we do some paid advertising as well within that, to help target those buyers as well.
Steffen: Okay, so obviously, I would assume, you know, a platform like LinkedIn, is that is that relevant for for what you guys do on the b2c side?
Bryant: It is yeah. Actually, LinkedIn is a pretty decent channel on the b2c side. Just given the ability to target on people who have indicated they’re open to work is a great way of finding those people who are looking for a career change.
Steffen: Now, why do you think it’s important that b2b marketers concern themselves a little bit on, or with what, what b2c marketers do?
Bryant: Yeah, I think there’s a couple things is, I think there’s a macro trend of the consumerization of b2b. And what I mean by that is, I think there’s a long term trend that the behaviors we take in terms of purchasing as consumers in our personal lives will ultimately make their way into the b2b decision process. You ultimately at the end of the day are selling to people. And I think people are going to eventually want to buy software from a business the same way they purchase, they make purchases in the personal lives. And I think you see that come through in a couple different ways, partially just with shorter and more digestible content, being far more popular on the b2b side than it ever used to be. I think you can see this just in terms of LinkedIn influencers, etc, is something that’s really growing in popularity.
And the other aspect of this is just, we’re continuing to see higher barriers to purchasing attention on the b2b side. The amount of money circulating in VCs right now, going to different companies, really makes the fact that additional dollars within a campaign be less than less of a differentiator within the marketplace. So you really have to look for additional ways to gain attention, that aren’t solely dependent on spending an additional dollar. That doesn’t mean that ad spend doesn’t have a place, it totally does. And by no means am I saying we don’t do it. But I think as we see this overall consumerization of b2b happening within the marketplaces, we really have to start thinking about additional ways that we can earn attention that aren’t solely reliant on spending an additional dollar.
Steffen: Now as we’re, as we come towards the end of today’s podcast episode, from your perspective, what are the three major differences between b2b and b2c marketing?
Bryant: Yeah, just kind of going back through a little bit of what we covered, I think just the idea of a growth role for sure. Having that within an organization, I think the power of community and influencers and we talked a little bit about brand marketing, absolutely is a key differentiator. And then just the views on attribution. If you can really invest in an in house model that is unique to your business, you’ll see huge dividends in the long run.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, Bryant, thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your thoughts on what b2b marketers can learn from b2c. If people want to find out more about you and Flockjay, how can they get in touch?
Bryant: Yeah. If you want to learn more about Flockjay, just visit our website, flockjay.com. And if you’re interested in connecting with me, my name is Bryant Lau and you can find me on LinkedIn or just email me. Bryant@Bryantlau.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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