In today’s digital age, filling the pipeline is more challenging and critical than ever. But how can agencies leverage the latest in generative AI to not only survive but thrive? Tune in to this episode where David Howard, VP of Marketing at BuzzBoard, dives deep into modern strategies for business growth.

 

David brings years of experience in pioneering next-generation marketing strategies and building successful teams. With BuzzBoard’s AI-driven platform at his disposal, he’s here to share how agencies can enhance their customer engagement and pipeline development.

 

We’ll cover:

  • The evolution of AI in marketing: how generative AI has reshaped the landscape.
  • Personalization strategies: finding the balance between effective and excessive personalization.
  • Building a pipeline: innovative approaches for lead generation and engagement.
  • Content creation with AI: enhancing outreach with AI-generated, hyper-personalized content.
  • Future trends in AI and marketing: preparing for what’s next in the fast-evolving world of digital marketing.
  • And more

 

Mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

 

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. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how agencies can develop and fill their pipeline.

 

Here to speak with me as David Howard, the VP of Marketing of BuzzBoard, a generative AI-enabled online platform for sales teams to deliver hyper-personalized customer experiences across different media. David has over 50 years of marketing and demand generation experience. He builds teams, companies, and marketing infrastructures to ensure that companies are set up for success in the future. David, welcome to the show.

 

David Howard: Thank you. Happy to be here.

 

Steffen: Now, David, before we get started talking about a question that probably a lot of agency owners ask themselves on a day-to-day basis, how did you get started in your career? And what led you to being the VP of Marketing at BuzzBoard?

 

David: Well, that’s yeah, that’s a good question. I really, I started actually, agencies could relate to this, I started running pay-per-click campaigns on Google. Driving leads. A lot of them would be, or the agencies not so much, the kinds of agencies. These were the call center companies. And a lot of them were lead sources in some way.

 

They would use it outbound, have a website with a squeeze page, and collect a phone number, and an email address, and then they call it back right away. So yeah, it was it was an exciting time. And yeah I had a significant Google budget on AdWords. 10s of 1000s of dollars a month, and we almost doubled that in my tenure there. And then I just grew progressively, increased responsibility positions since I came along.

 

Steffen: So as the VP of Marketing what’s your role at BuzzBoard? What are you overseeing?

 

David: I have a small team of about six people. It’s all the content on the website. It’s some strategic work, messaging, and positioning. It’s lead generation. Everything demand gen. We don’t do a lot of PR right now. But there’s some of that, some AR/PR. Some work, like we’re doing now, me jumping on a podcast and getting the word out. The marketing role is really to facilitate sales at its core, right? I mean it’s paving the golden path for sales to happen, whether you have a sales team or PLG motion, that’s really what it’s about at a high level.

 

Steffen: For agencies that are looking to grow, I mean, every agency is basically looking to grow, because if they don’t, at some point they will stop to exist. But there are obviously a lot of options to grow your company. And it feels like it gets just more convoluted. You have AI now, which is the biggest new thing that pops up.

 

When you engage with one ad on Instagram, or any social platform, there all of a sudden, 10s of companies that do something different. And other consultancies that do business development, etc. Where do you think would be a great starting point for agencies to kick things into gear from a business development perspective for themselves?

 

David: Yeah, well, AI is thrown around. And what’s new about AI is this generative capacity. That’s what’s matured in the past two or three years. You can go back, artificial intelligence is a term that comes and goes in cycles, there’s been different kinds of AI. You go back to the 50s, all the sci-fi movies, AI’s going to take over the world.

 

So what’s happening now, is this generative capacity. And it’s a convergence of the models being good at predicting what the next word is going to be based on what the input is. It’s the computing horsepower has just increased and increased. I think that’s where it’s at. So if you’re an agency looking to leverage AI, as we’re thinking of it today, you’re looking to leverage generative capacity.

 

So how can, as an agency, how can I get outreach messages to new prospects? How can I deliver engaging content that’s really personalized to them. We’ve talked about personalization for a long time in marketing. And the marketing automation platforms have always had personalization tokens.

 

You can feed stuff in. But this is a new layer because what’s possible is, well, the flip side is not just what’s possible, AI is nothing without the data. It is right? It’s the old age-old garbage in, garbage out. So if you don’t have strong data input, you’re not going to get good output from it. So it’s really about capacity to generate content that is impactful, that’s personalized, that generates a response in one way or another.

 

And you could deliver that content in different ways. You can try a telephone script, you can put it to a video that you send out, put in an email. Lots of ways to deliver the content. But that’s really what’s happening right now, is this generative capacity. And a lot of people struggle, right? It’s the blank page problem. I got to sit down, I gotta write something.

 

I’m looking at a blank page, what do I write? It’s pushbuttons simplicity now. I was talking to somebody last night about this at a dinner, and you don’t need to learn prompt engineering. So many of the tools basically are creating an AI wrapper, that at the back end, they generate long prompts.

 

And everything about people selling, I mean, they don’t really want to learn how to write prompts. I liken it to Microsoft Windows versus the DOS, the MS-DOS prompt. The MS-DOS prompt has now gone away because people want the simplicity of a graphical interface. And I think prompt engineering is likewise gonna go away.

 

It’ll be the purview of the experts who need more control, they feel that they’re handcuffed with some kind of graphical interface. But most folks, particularly if you’re in a sales role, you just want to point and click. You just want generate for me. And you don’t care what happens in the back.

 

Steffen: Now with AI, they are as you mentioned, there are no ways to be specific and personalized in messaging in whatever form of messaging you use. Whether you go by email, you use artificial intelligence to do your cold calling, whether you use it for LinkedIn, you name it. How much personalization is too much personalization in that regard?

 

David: Well, at a high level, I mean, if it starts to feel too creepy if you’re like I noticed that it’s your daughter’s birthday. So it needs to be business professional personalization. I mean, it really should be personalization around the pain points of the company.

 

Not so much personalization about a business person’s role. David, I see you’re the VP of Marketing. If you’re like most VPs of marketing, you have this problem, and I noticed your website, you’ve got this pain point. But when it starts to get, and maybe the word personalization is too much. Because we don’t want it too personal.

 

We’re not, nobody’s trying to doddle, nobody is trying to delve into the real personal life details of prospects. Business professional, right? What’s your company? What’s your pain points? What’s your personal pain point in your role? I think that’s the level and just yeah, don’t be creepy.

 

Steffen: Now, when it comes to identifying prospects, is it always just a question of how much budget you have available? Or are there other ways to go about building a pipeline?

 

David: I talked to somebody the other day, one of our prospects who said, I used to get all kinds of referrals by word of mouth. And that slowed down. And we’ve had, what, 18 months of a recession. So no, I mean, if you and this is true for any business, if you do good work, you make customers happy, you should get word-of-mouth referrals. And that’s usually, I mean, an endorsement or testimonial in a way. That’s what they are. It’s inexpensive, right?

 

It comes naturally from the work that you do. So that’s a great way, a great low-cost way. But this guy I spoke to, he’s like, well, the word of mouth has dried up. So I need to find some other source of people that I can call on, that are fit in my sweet spot for the services that I offer. And then they’re looking at budget, right? And then of course all the other paid advertising, paid sourcing, all that stuff.

 

Steffen: What are your thoughts on email marketing in general, these days? We touched on AI, obviously, that can help to be more personalized, where the system can pull information out of LinkedIn to kind of reference a post or an event related to business and make it sound like if you do your research, right?

 

But, I’m getting these emails that I can tell if someone talks about well, you studied in Germany, I had a friend that went there, and you look at the person’s it’s like, no, you did not. And tries to build this report. How much email marketing should agencies do these days? Is it still part of the overall tool? What’s the importance in the entire mix? Can you talk a little bit about that?

 

David: Yeah, I think it’s still there, but it has to be relevant. You have to offer something of use. If it’s just come have a sales call, come have a sales call, of course, it’s ineffective. So with email marketing, you can get into content marketing. In my field, you know, b2b SaaS, content marketing still plays.

 

You have to have good content, and emails are a delivery mechanism, it’s a solicitation mechanism. You send out an email, we’ve got this great piece of content, come download it. So yeah, relevance. Relevance to your audience. And I think people don’t mind if there’s something useful to it.

 

So it comes down to what’s the next degree in your email marketing? Well, then what are you gonna send? How is it relevant? How is it useful to them? How do they find value in it? If you’re not delivering any value, then it doesn’t matter what we’re at right? Paid advertising, email marketing, if you just don’t deliver something valuable to them, then it’s irrelevant.

 

And I mean, I think it’s still part of the mix, right? I mean, if you’re doing email marketing and you get them to a website, then of course, you want to tag them for retargeting, you still want to have your paid campaigns, and so on. So it’s in the mix still. And again, it’s just about relevance and value. If you can deliver that, you’re in good shape.

 

Steffen: When you talk about something of value, can you elaborate on that a little bit? What have you seen works in regards to providing value?

 

David: Well, at BuzzBoard, we have a tool that lets people tap into our data. I liken it to the free sample of ice cream. You go to the ice cream shop, you get a little scoop. So how can you let people try your service or your offering? We call it an audit tool. So people can come and put in a website, and they get a sense of the data that we have.

 

So I think people need to adapt their mentality to their own business. What are you offering as some kind of ice cream taster sample? Anything that pulls people in and gives them a little bit of the experience. And I think people are gravitating, increasingly we see the numbers. It’s all online marketing, by the time you have a conversation with a salesperson, they’ve already made their mind up.

 

And that’s all true. But they want to have a sense of what they’re going to get into. So anything that you could offer, a sample report, like I’m an agency, and I specialize in SEO audits. Give a taste of what an SEO audit could look like, right? Or, I do website creation. Give them lots and lots of samples.

 

Lots of access to what they’re going to see. People really want to understand what they’re going to get, what’s the value of working with this agency or this company? What’s it going to look like? So any kind of sample, I think is great. Try before they buy.

 

Steffen: Now as an agency owner, if I’m getting started to do more phone business development, proactive business development perspective, because as you said earlier, my word-of-mouth pipeline is not enough or is drying out. Would you recommend to go after a niche, and then kind of focusing on that in order to have more success, or are there also advantages to playing the entire field?

 

David: Well, it might depend on your size and scale. But if you’re really trying to grow in an early stage, really zero in and hone into that niche. So if you’ve built a great practice with dental agencies, right, focus on those, get testimonials and case studies if you can, testimonials, put them on the website. And just drill down on that. I call it the dentist in Des Moines problem.

 

So, that company I told you about earlier when I ran the Google AdWords, I always had the salespeople. Well, it’s like I’m talking to this guy, and he’s in the dentist field and he wants to talk to another dentist in Des Moines. And we’ve got to have another dentist in Des Moines, right?

 

So yeah, that’s the niche approach. Is zero in on what your success points have. And sometimes it seems silly. Well, this is crazy. If I can design a website for a dentist I can design a website for a lawn care company. But audiences they really want to see like for like. They want to see, I want somebody that looks like me so that I know that what you did for them you can do for me.

 

Now you know as you grow, maybe you have a few different niches. Maybe develop that dental niche, and then you’ve got a lawn care niche, you got the healthcare niche and the legal niche, whatever. And then you can be a bit more horizontal, but if you’re just trying to grow a practice, yeah, focus on the niche for sure.

 

Steffen: It’s definitely easier to prove your point that you are an expert in a specific area, if you have proof points from clients or case studies or whatever other content you have, then if you tried to use the ad for, as you said, the lawn care space where it doesn’t align. Yes, you’re still building websites, or you’re still running a paid search campaign, but they might feel that you know that specific industry, and what their pain points are better than then another person that just plays every area.

 

David: You just want to say that you’ve done it, right?

 

Steffen: Yeah, exactly. Now, decision-makers. The question I quite often hear is so who am I going out to? Should I find myself some champions that can promote my company within the target business? Should I go straight to the decision-makers? And how do I get attention from the decision-makers? What are your thoughts on that and what would you recommend?

 

David: Well, yeah, that can certainly be a challenge. A lot of small, small businesses, right? They operate from a personal Gmail account, where they just have sales@ or info@. That’s the challenge. So how do you collect data? You need to get as much data as you can. And in some ways, it’s not much different from my background in enterprise b2b sales. Who’s the buying council? Who are the decision-makers? You know create a map. And, I mean, they’re not always terribly forthcoming with all their information and their data.

 

Steffen: Yeah.

 

David: So yeah, it really comes down to do you have access to the data. Can you track them down? Either do you have manual research or use some kind of platform? And in some degree, yeah, it’s going to depend, is this really a solo entrepreneur, there’s only one decision-maker? Or is it a little bit larger?

 

If it’s larger then maybe have a buying council of a couple of people. You find their champion of who’s not the big boss, and then you’ve got two people you need to convince. So I know it depends. But it does depend. It depends on your target. You know, small business can be anywhere from one person to up to 500 people under the SBA definition.

 

Steffen: That’s a wide spectrum. I would say that a company that has 500 people probably has different needs than a one or two-person company.

 

David: And different buying processes.

 

Steffen: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

 

David: Champions never hurt. Champions never hurt. Oftentimes, salespeople become the champions. And we’ve seen that. It’s like, wow, this is a great tool. I really like that. How come we don’t all use it. And look, I’m exceeding my quota and this is the platform that I’m using. And then they want to build some currency within the company. Sometimes they’ll pull out their personal credit card to give it a try. And then once they have success, they’ll go in and like, I want you to pay for this.

 

Steffen: So as you mentioned, so how does BuzzBoard help in this entire process that we discussed so far?

 

David: Yeah, well, we have data, right? We have lots and lots of data at the business level. That’s our focus. We’ve got company data, so long as it’s company data. We have some contact data. But the real specialty for us is the 1000s of different signals that we associate with each company.

 

So sometimes, it’s not just can I find the buying person? I help people in small businesses manage Pay Per Click ads, are they spending money on Google right now? Are they spending money on LinkedIn? So it’s incredibly helpful to have access to a platform that gives them an estimate. Here’s the monthly spend. This is what they’re spending on Facebook, this is what they’re spending on Google.

 

So okay, they have a spend. They’re digitally savvy enough. So that’s it. Now, as I said, we have 1000s of signals in each of our customer finds for their ideal customer profile, what signals make sense? We give a profile of the company, we get the signals, and then we have push-button automation with AI to generate content to go out to them.

 

Steffen: Yeah, interesting. Interesting. Now, that kind of obviously, and I know we talked about AI and how it supports the entire process of having a system that generates content that kind of hopefully increases success rate of watch it is what we’re all looking for, but how can companies or agencies in general increase the success rate? Is there, I don’t think there’s a magic bullet but are there certain things that would you have seen works better than others in increasing the percentage of leads to sale?

 

David: Yeah, so we like to think of that in terms of prospecting. How do I find people to talk to, and then once you know who to talk to, engagement? So we placed our bets on the technology. And what we see working is a three-legged stool, if you will. So one is the generative AI technology. One is the computing platform.

 

And the other one is data. And we provide a lot of data out of business, but we also we ingest data. We can connect to somebody’s CRM and pull that information in. Lots of folks have other data in their CRM. And people can configure in our product. I sell Google Ad Management, website services, and SEO management, but I don’t sell website creation.

 

So, it’s the old maxim of computing. Garbage in, garbage out. So with that three-legged platform, and the data is core. AI is nothing without the data. I mean, even if you go to chatGPT it’s trained on data. Examine the internet at large, that’s data. So, think of it as a three-legged platform. And we’re able to, with that create engagement, right?

 

Once we got this prospecting into engagement, we’re able to create different sorts of email content, conversation starters. We can do it in a humorous fashion. Give me a humorous email, or give me seventy-five words, give me 200 words, or give me a more serious, somber tone. So it really happens in the engagement.

 

Some of it is email. Like we talked about that. It’s not only, an agency should not only do email marketing. You might have to do some telephone calls. And when you get on the telephone, if you have some level of personalization to a business level, you bring those things together.

 

And then, of course, you’ve got like I said, the retargeting, you get into the website, you retarget them, you get brand awareness and refresh as they go about their business on the internet. So it really happens in the engagement, and how can you leverage all your data to make an impact when you reach out and connect with them?

 

Steffen: Now, once you establish a connection with a prospect, how do you keep it moving forward? How do you keep it moving to a point where there’s a decision to be made? Is my agency going to work with them, or not?

 

David: Yeah, so that comes down to really understanding their pain points. And we have built into our platform, a SWOT analysis, which helps with that So like I said, they can, people can configure their products. So you get into some kind of engagement. And then you can give them a high detailed report. It’s like, this arm’s length tool as indicated that you could be doing more paid advertising, or that these are some problems with your website that are not SEO-optimized.

 

So you’re identifying specific challenges or pain points that they have. And if you can do it kind of with an arm’s length tool, and it’s not necessarily bias. I’m not just making this up. We found this other analysis tool that does that, and then you speak directly to it. This is exactly how we can help you. We’ve identified this specific pain point, this is what we can do for you.

 

And that makes sense. As opposed to just if you need our services, let me tell you all the services. You get very narrow and specific to their weaknesses, their pain points in their business, and then you bring forward exactly what you have to offer, and then how you’re going to solve it for them.

 

Steffen: Yeah, interesting. Now before we come to the end of today’s podcast episode, not only is the market busy with the same. What I mean by that is indices that look and sound the same. There’s literally not much difference.

 

For example, the likes of Google and Matter take over more and more control when it comes to managing advertising campaigns through AI is not really helping the course. But then the next layer to that is, let’s say someone has an established agency, and that they’re focusing more on small limits this time but their ambition is to grow out of that and go higher.

 

How can they compete against larger agencies, when they probably don’t have potentially a staff, they probably don’t have the financial means that those larger agencies have, and they might not even have the portfolio at that point, to prove that they’re able to compete.

 

David: This is the advantage of being small, right? It’s much more personalized. I challenge anybody in that boat to get somebody from Google on the telephone. You don’t get people on the phone. So really personalized service, kind of white glove. Here’s my phone number. You can call me. I’m here for you.

 

Access is a big part of it. Access and then transparency. This is what I’m doing for you. This is what’s happening. I’m glad you called me to ask about that. Because I’m going to talk to you, and I’m going to show you exactly what’s happening. Exactly what we’re doing for you.

 

So I think that’s probably the biggest thing. A personalized service. Especially for local business or small business, they tend to be more into personal. They’re going to Chamber of Commerce meetings, and mixers and all that stuff. So be personal back with them.

 

Steffen: So basically, bottom line there is identify what your advantages are over the big agencies, and there are advantages. So it’s not that sure, you have to kind of, you know, if you’re like, I’m never going to be able to compete with, it might not be on the amount of people they have, although having worked for big global agencies myself, I can tell everyone that it sometimes just looks shiny from the outside.

 

I’ve worked on accounts where, you know, for big common factor accounts, where the team was so junior, and the reason why was because the negotiation from price perspective that happened, didn’t allow to hire more experienced people.

 

So if you as an agency are able to get in there, and can showcase, for example, that you have experienced people that have been in the industry for several years that have done solid work, you have a good basis to argue your your point or your position in that conversation.

 

David: Some of these big companies have a lot of churn, right? I mean we get notices, right? I’m the new account manager, and somebody just had a new one. And so, that’s part of the personal, right, is consistency and staying power. We’re not the big Google, Facebook type company. But we have consistency. We’re not churning people over there.

 

Steffen: Well, David, thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your knowledge on how agencies can develop and fill their pipeline. If people want to find out more about you and BuzzBoard, how can they get in touch?

 

David: Well, the best way is through our website, www.buzzboard.ai. If you want to connect with me, the About Us page and I’m listed there, my LinkedIn is there. You’re welcome to connect with me there. And you know the platform I’ve been talking about, sign up for a free trial. Top right on the website, free trial button. No credit card needed, just fill out your email address and you’re off and running.

 

Steffen: Sounds great. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe, 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, or now I guess I should say on X at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again, and see you next time.

 

Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience-focused and data-driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com.