If done correctly, brand marketing can boost the success of your organization’s performance marketing efforts. Educating prospects from the beginning reduces friction in the sales funnel and shortens the time between lead and opportunity. Aligning the work of these two teams, brand marketing and performance marketing, is the smart approach to getting more out of your company’s messaging.
InVia Robotics CMO Kristen Moore joins this episode, bringing over 20 years of experience in marketing within the tech and ecommerce sectors to our conversation on aligning brand and performance marketing. Her important insights include:
- Assembling the right marketing talent for alignment
- The metrics to show the impact of aligned efforts
- Specific team actions to align brand and performance messaging
- And much more
Don’t miss out. Start boosting your efforts 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 brand marketing and b2b performance marketing, a powerful duo. Here to speak with me is Kristen Moore who is the CMO at inVia Robotics, a technology company that provides the next generation of robotics warehouse automation solutions for ecommerce distribution centers and supply chains. Kristen, has 20 plus years’ marketing experience in tech and ecommerce as CMO at inVia Robotics, Kristen is responsible for all marketing communication strategies, including branding, social, PR, advertising and product marketing. Prior to inVia, Kristen had executive marketing roles at several companies, including FedEx and AT&T. Kristen, welcome to the show.
Kristen Moore: Thank you, Steffen. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
Steffen: Of course. Now, Kristen, before we start talking about today’s topic, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself. How did you get started in marketing, and what led you to this point in your career?
Kristen: You know, I would like to say it was all planned out very meticulously, but it wasn’t. And I think you know, as many of us with careers of any any length, sort of hop from thing to thing and take advantage of things that are interesting. And that leads us down a bunch of different paths. So I like to say I started off doing my own marketing rotation. Really, I, I took on roles as an individual contributor early on in my career. And I think that really helped me as I moved into roles where I was responsible for the entire marketing plan, to be able to understand how to integrate those different pieces, and really make that more valuable than the sum of the parts, which will lead into a little bit of what we’re going to talk about with the powerful duo of performance marketing and brand marketing. And my career has been mostly in tech of some way, shape, or form I started started off in the OG tech, which was Telecom, and then moved into digital media with the rise of the Internet. And they have now very happily found my way to robotics, which is a really exciting space to be in.
Steffen: Now, what you just said resonates with me in regards to, you know, not having planned so to speak to become a marketer. I remember myself, back in the days after I finished university in Germany. All I wanted was to become was a key account manager. Honestly, I do not I didn’t have an idea what that actually meant. And that meant a lot in different companies, a lot of different things in different companies. But that’s what I had in mind. And, you know, 15, 16 years later now I’m in marketing. So you never know where you end up. Right?
Kristen: That’s right. That’s right. You’ve ended up in good spot.
Steffen: I agree. I agree. Now, obviously, today, we want to talk about brand marketing and performance marketing, how both of these activities can actually when working together properly, create a really powerful solution. So how can brand marketing help performance marketing be more successful from your perspective, Kristen?
Kristen: Yeah, I like sports. So I tend to use sports analogies. So hopefully everybody will follow me on this one. I look at it as a little bit like Formula One racing. So for those reviewers who have watched the Netflix show, and have now become fans of Formula One, what happens within that world is every year the externalities change. So the governing body changes the specs, know the things you’re allowed to do with the car, the tracks change. Which tracks they use change, some of the tracks have more turns, some have more straightaways. So you’re constantly encountering a new environment. And there’s a couple of key pieces that you can work with.
One is the chassis, which is the car sort of the frame of the car that you see the driver sit down in, and the other is the engine. And the engine actually gets made by another company, it’s Honda, or Mercedes or Renault, and through an entire year, each of those teams work separately towards the same goal. There’s this magical moment where the engine gets put in the car, they take it out on the track, and they test it, and they see how it does. And then they probably make some changes to it because they see some ways where it didn’t completely integrate.
But my point is, is that in my mind, performance marketing is the chassis. And then brand marketing is the engine that really gives that the thrust to be able to go fast. So you can have your performance marketing channels setup, you know the perfect retargeting, the right keywords, all of those things that in my mind, in my experience, if you don’t have really strong powerful messaging to be able to fuel those campaigns, then you’re not going to be able to get the maximum benefit and the maximum revenue out of it.
Steffen: Interesting, interesting. Now, obviously, brand marketing is geared more towards the upper part of the funnel, although people talk about, you know, there is no funnel in the sense anymore. But if we think along those line, brand marketing gears more towards building awareness as the name says, right. And without someone knowing awareness, known, or it’s going to be harder to sell a product or a service, or whatever it is, that you offer, basically. Is that about, right, from your perspective?
Kristen: Yeah, absolutely. And I think particularly when you’re talking about robotics. If you think about robots, people have an idea in their head of what robots are, and it tends to either be really frightening, like the Terminator, or really soft like Wall-E. So we have a job to do in educating the market and being able to help them see what a robot would look like in their facilities. And just through a little background, what we do is we make robotic systems that go into e commerce warehouses. So when someone buys a product, our robots go up and down the aisles and grab the product and bring it back to somebody to ship it out. That’s a huge jump in efficiency from the manual way that’s been done for many years.
So our robots are small and compact, and they don’t look like a person. They look like, you know, small little, well, I should say, large roombas that, that run around and go grab products. So it’s really important for us to do brand marketing, to be able to educate people and help them visualize that content is a really key part of what we do. So then when they’ve been able to see that and understand how that can work and really benefit them, then when a salesperson calls them or they get a performance marketing call. It’s easier for them to say, oh, okay, I’d like to learn more about that. I’d like to have a sales call and understand that a little bit better. So for us, I don’t think you even could do it without combining them together.
Steffen: No, that obviously requires that, that there is a plan developed that really looks at you know, what is the communication on the top and then throughout the funnel? And what are we going to do in the more performance marketing focused activities, you know, whether it’s paid search, programmatic, social, or whatever channel you’re using in order to drive demand. How do you go about that?
Kristen: Yeah, and I think this is kind of going back to the Formula One analogy, it’s, you know, at the beginning of your year, when you’re doing your planning, you know what the goal is, you know how much you need to increase revenue, you know, how many MQLs you need to bring in, and then the teams can go off and construct the exact plans separately. So performance marketing will go off and understand which channels we’re going to buy, where we’re going to make sure there’s visibility. And then the brand marketing team can really work on the messaging and the content, and then bring that back together.
There have to be a lot of checkpoints in between to make sure you’re not going too far off in different directions. But my philosophy is the people that are in these roles are really smart and experts at what they do. And you want to give them enough, we kind of talked about this a little bit before we got on on air, you want to give them enough flexibility to be able to have their creative juices flow, and really be able to come up with original and inventive ideas within their different domains.
Steffen: Now at what point do you bring those two disciplines together, so people from those two different teams to basically ensure that they are aligned?
Kristen: That happens pretty often on at least a superficial level or shallower level, I should say. Probably on a monthly basis. I tend to hire people who are what I would call athletes, they’re a little bit more generalists. So they’ve usually had some experience both on the brand marketing and the performance marketing side. So it makes more sense to bring those folks in together because they can actually play off of each other. And really find the synergies and make sure that as we go along, developing campaigns, when we get to the end of it, there’ll be as integrated as they can be.
Steffen: Interesting. Is there. Is there some specifics you’re looking for? You talked about that your that you’d like to hire more generalists, the people that that probably know both areas to a certain extent. Is there something specific you’re looking at when you bring those people in or when you interview them in the first place to find the right talent?
Kristen: There is. I tend to hire people who have had some broad experience. I mean, you don’t want someone that’s jumped, you know, had a new job every six months and hasn’t been able to sort of get some traction. But I like to see some varied experience, because what that usually tells me is someone is curious. They have a lot of intellectual curiosity. And people who are curious learn a lot faster. So when you bring somebody into robotics, there’s, there’s a lot to learn. It can get extremely technical. And so it’s gonna have to be someone that is really interested and wants to spend the time, you know, going deep, and trying to understand how it works. So I find that people who have been able to succeed in different verticals, or in different functions usually do much better because they’re more agile.
Steffen: Now, Kristen, these days, I have a lot of conversations with, with people from different companies, and it feels like everyone just wants to focus on performance marketing. They all want to just, you know, scrape the barrel at the bottom of the barrel and take everyone who’s there out and convert them as quick as possible. But no one seems to really think about the fact that at some point, the barrel is going to be empty, right? And then you need to do something in order to bring new people in. But for a long time, people don’t think about that. That needs to be an investment, an upfront investment that’s not going to yield results tomorrow when you start today. How do you approach showing that doing brand advertising and performance advertising together, is actually impacting key sales metrics?
Kristen: Yeah, you’re right, Steffen. This is an age old problem with brand marketing. One of the reasons why I think we all are so enamored with performance marketing is because we can’t measure brand marketing accurately, it’s it’s really impossible. You can give proxies and direction. But that’s not what investors want to hear what your CEO wants to hear. So you know, what I can say is that when we have, so for example, and I’ve constructed a quarter where we have performance marketing, aligned with the pushing brand marketing, I can show in the next quarter, that we’ve reduced the sales time, or that we have gotten the lead to opportunity conversion to be higher.
Because those leads that come in that have been educated and understand what it is that we’re selling, just have a lot less friction in the funnel. So once they get to a salesperson, the salesperson isn’t having to spend their time educating them on what automation is, they can spend their time talking about what the benefits are in doing the ROI analysis. So it takes a little bit of time to be able to show that that effect. And some of its directional, you know, there has to be a little bit of faith, but it’s pretty strong to be able to say in this quarter, I didn’t do any brand marketing. In this quarter, I did a lot and I kept performance marketing consistent. And in the quarter where I did both, I reduced the sales cycle.
Steffen: That’s, that’s interesting. Now, because I’m having a lot of conversations lately with peers of yours, about, you know, sales and marketing and generating demand. There’s always one point that everyone was going to talk about, which is, you know, quality of leads and creating, creating feedback from the sales sides on which leads are actually of higher quality, and therefore, move down the funnel and become an opportunity and hopefully a sale versus the leads that just have very low quality. How do you approach that?
How do you work with your sales counterpart, in establishing the feedback loop or, or some form of feedback, that helps you the marketing side, fine tune the activity? Because at the end of the day, you know, you not only want to fine tune the performance market side, but you also need to fine tune the brand marketing part because that’s where the engagement basically starts.
Kristen: Yes, but I’m very fortunate in the role that I’m in now. I have a fantastic partner, my CRO. And the thing that’s been great about him is he trusts me, he knows that I know how to do marketing. And I know he knows how to do sales really well. And neither one of us want to get in each other’s jobs. So I think part of its relationship and trust, you know, I can have candid conversations with the sales team and really understand you know, why one lead works better than another and really start to dig into it.
So that line of communication is open. And I spend a lot of time actually, you know, I listened in on sales calls and look at some of the communications from the sales team to see how they’re communicating and make sure that that aligns with how we’re communicating from a marketing perspective. If I can help, you know, improve that or if there’s some things that we can take from the sales sort of line of thinking and bring that into the marketing side as well.
Steffen: Now, do you use, do you use any technology? Or is it more anecdotal information that are being shared from the sales side?
Kristen: Right now, it’s more anecdotal. We’re small enough that so we’re small in the sense that we are an early stage startup. But we’re also small in the sense that we’re selling industrial systems. So you know, we’re never, we’re not, we’re not a company that’s gonna have, you know, 20,000 customers at a time. You know, we do 10 to 15 deployments a year. So it’s a luxury for me to be able to dive pretty deeply and manually into each one of these accounts. In the past, I have used some things that were more automated, and I think they worked well. As long as you have somebody driving it, you need to have somebody dedicated to make sure that sales is giving the input that that’s getting captured and being sort of analyzed on a regular basis.
Steffen: Yeah. How do you align b2b marketing and performance marketing? So that the output is what you’re looking for in increased quality of leads, but also leads moving quicker through the sales funnel? Do you do you do specific activities with the two teams so that the messaging is lined up? You know, the brand messaging is picked up on the performance marketing side? How do you work in regards to audiences, which as you just said, you know, you have a rather small audience site, I assume? How do you do that?
Kristen: Yeah, and it’s, this is really a page from the performance marketing book, we do test, measure and optimize, right. So we’ll take you know, one line of messaging that emphasizes a particular feature of the service. And we’ll we’ll plot that up against a different message that’s going to show a different feature of the service. And so we really do test things, we do the A/B testing to make sure that we’re getting some quantitative data on what’s working. And so I think that’s the main thing that we do. I mean, other than that, it’s, again, getting a lot of feedback from the sales team on what’s resonating within the marketplace.
We also do some more formalized research, you know, with customers and being able to do some quantitative research to understand things like what are trade offs that they’re that they’re willing to make between pricing and some of the features that we offer. So we do get some data that sort of fuels both the performance and the brand side. But for the most part, we’re really a test and optimize type of company. We sell our service, it’s on a RaaS platform, robotics is a service. So it’s, it’s even our software, we’re constantly updating it and innovating with it. And we really approach marketing the same way.
Steffen: That’s interesting. Now, how do you construct your marketing mix when selling a new technology like robotics?
Kristen: Yeah, it’s it’s different. And it’s similar to what I mentioned before, you really have to put a lot of effort into education, I do a lot more PR and analyst relations than I have in any early stage stage tech startup. In previous roles where I’ve been in tech startups where it’s an established sort of technology. It’s usually all about performance marketing. How do we drive demand gen? How do we get more leads in? What’s the, you know, the MQL the SQL ratio? But with robotics, there really is that stuff won’t work unless you really explain to people what it looks like, and how it’s going to work within their facilities. So the brand side and the communication side analysts relations, and PR is really just as heavily weighted in our space as the performance marketing side. But you need both of them. They don’t work without each other.
Steffen: Are there any particular channels that you use? I mean, you mentioned PR, obviously, but outside of PR on the market performance market side, are there any particular channels that you predominantly use or use more often in a situation that you are in at the moment? You have a small target group of companies that you’re going after? How do you work with that situation?
Kristen: Yeah, social works really well, and partially because it’s really visual. And as I said, you really need to help the customers visualize what our robots would look like for them. So YouTube has been strong. LinkedIn advertising has been very strong for us as well. One of the other things that we found during the pandemic, which I realize isn’t over yet, but it’s a little bit softer than it was in the beginning. The first few weeks of the pandemic, everybody flooded email, and I’m sure you maybe felt the same way. I had so much email spam coming into my inbox, I didn’t want to open it in the morning.
So I think every sales team was sort of doing their, you know, their 18 point touches through email and we moved into and maybe this is a little different for our space. But we moved into working with trade publications to do gated content. So, you know, if they were doing a webinar, or they had a special issue that they were publishing, that required someone to register for it, even though it was free, then we could sponsor that and buy those leads. So that has been a good source of lead gen for us. And demand gen is working with trade publications to do gated content.
Steffen: Now, your company offers support as a service, I assume, does that change the marketing mix that you apply? I mean, you know, SaaS or software as a service and other solutions. Do you see that circumstance or that you have a product as a service being different to how you look at the marketing mix?
Kristen: Well, I think that as a service, anything, whether it’s your product, or software is different in the way you look at your marketing mix. And by the way, we sell the entire system, that software and robots the robots don’t run without software, but we sell the software alone. So we do have the SaaS offerings as well. And since you know, with these as a service offerings, whatever they might be, the acquisition is just as important as the retention or I should say the retention is just as important as the acquisition.
So you have to be thinking about when you acquire these customers, how important it is to keep them happy, and to keep in front of them so that they understand how they might be able to upgrade or add a new service or expand their service. So to me that makes it even more complicated with your your marketing mix. And I think it makes it even more important to make sure that you’ve got a good mix of brand in there as well. For example, our contracts are three years, and I’m sure all of our competitors know exactly what day our customers sign so that when the two and a half years is up they start hitting them and trying to get them to switch.
So during that time leading up to it, you want to make sure that from a brand perspective, we’re still very visible to them, you know, they see inVia’s logo, they see inVia in the press, they’re hearing about inVia, so it makes them feel better about the choice that they’ve made. You can imagine if someone came to them and tried to get them to switch when it’s time to end their contract. And they hadn’t heard about inVia for, you know, months, they might be questioning it a little bit. Especially as a startup, you know, you want to make sure that they understand that you’re still here, you’re still strong, and that you’re not going anywhere.
Steffen: I think that’s where it is really important. As you mentioned earlier, you’re constantly improving a software constantly improving the product, so that you have a story to tell to your existing customer. And then you constantly keep up with competitors. What they are doing.
Kristen: Exactly, exactly, yeah, you want to make sure that they see the innovation. No, again, robotics is a really it’s an a very early stage. So what robotics looks like in three years, or even, you know, a year from now is going to be very different. And so it’s it’s it’s really important that people see that we’re on the cutting edge, and that we’re coming out with the newest features or the newest versions of our robots or our software. And they trust that they have the right solution and they want to stay with it.
Steffen: Yeah, yeah. As it relates to the investment side of the marketing activities. How from a presenter perspective, how is that geared in a brand marketing and performance marketing combo approach? Do you invest more on the brand side and less on the performance marketing side? Is that changing over time? And if so, depending on what?
Kristen: Yeah, I think it flexes sometimes, but for the most part, it’s pretty even for me. I probably have a pretty even 50/50 split if you measure that over over time. Definitely flexes during different times. For example, so we’re a very seasonal business. All of our customers are operating e commerce warehouses and so there’s this this period called peak which is holiday peak shopping season that happens from October to the end of December when most of our customers have you know, four to five times the demand that they have the rest of the year. And particularly now I mean I you probably have read some of the doomsday stories about you better have already gotten all of your holiday presents bought because of supply chain issues are just so overwhelming and pervasive.
So for us, we probably don’t do a ton of performance marketing during peak season because we know that our customers aren’t really going to have the bandwidth to take a call about oh, what would it be like to put a new automation system in? That’s going to happen during the first and second quarter of the year. So that’s when we’ll do more of that. But we might up the brand marketing during that peak season so that they still see our brand and see the awareness of it, but they don’t have to sort of dive into a sales call.
Steffen: You basically prep them for the time when they start thinking about what could be done better, and how can they be more efficient for for the next peak time?
Kristen: Absolutely. That’s absolutely right.
Steffen: That makes a lot of sense. Now, Kristen, as a last question, what what are some tips you would give someone that says, hey, you know what, this sounds interesting, it makes total sense to me that I have to do brand marketing. And I have to find a way to align this or integrate this with performance marketing. What are the potential hurdles that they will find or stones they they tumble over?
Kristen: Yeah, I think really having people whether it’s an in house talent, or whether it’s an agency, having people that have done both, and it’s, it’s okay, usually all of us lean one way or the other a little bit more. But having had experience on both sides, gives you some empathy, and helps you understand better where the hooks are that you can sort of integrate things and they’re really going to stick. So I think if you’re if you’re hiring folks, on your team, people that have had some experience, if you’re hiring a brand person, someone that’s had some experience with performance marketing, and vice versa, if you’re hiring an agency that’s going to help you.
Let’s say, for example, even with SEO, you know, they can have some some breadth in the type of customers that they’ve worked with, where they’re doing a lot more branded keywords or where they’re doing competitive keywords. And really having that breadth of experience, I think, gives you a big advantage.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, Kristen, thank you so much for joining me in the Performance Delivered podcast, and sharing your thoughts on how to use brand marketing and performance marketing to really kick things into gear. If people want to find out more about you or your company, how can you get in touch?
Kristen: Yes, well, thank you first of all, for having me. It’s been a pleasure. I love talking about this. So I can talk about it all day. Our website is www.inviarobotics.com all one word, inviarobotics, and go there and see what we’re doing. I think we’re doing some really innovative things. It’s always fun to learn about automation, too. We’ve tried to get some good visuals in there. You can also visit our YouTube page. There’s a lot of fun videos there about how the robots work.
Steffen: Perfect. Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us all 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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