Today on the show we welcome Stephanie Cox to talk with us about how agencies can benefit from adopting SaaS solutions for their clients.
Stephanie has over 15 years of marketing experience, with companies such as Salesforce and Project Lead the Way. She’s also the host of the REAL Marketer’s podcast. Stephanie is the President of Lumavate, a leading no code mobile app platform that enables marketers to quickly publish apps with no code required.
Listen in as we discuss:
- The shortcut to finding the best MarTech solutions for your customers
- The top 3 questions to ask your customer before making MarTech recommendations
- How to benefit from being an early adopter
- 2 ways to select the top players to partner with
- And more
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 how agencies can benefit from adopting SaaS solutions for their clients. Here to speak with me is Stephanie Cox, who is the president at Lumavate, a leading no code mobile app platform that enables marketers to quickly build and publish mobile apps with no code required. Stephanie has more than 15 years of marketing and sales experience at brands such as Ingersoll Rand, Salesforce, and Project Lead the Way. Stephanie is also the host of the Real Marketers podcast. Stephanie, welcome to the show.
Stephanie Cox: Thanks for having me.
Steffen: Well, Stephanie, before we dive into today’s topic, I’d love to find out a little bit more about you. Tell our listeners about how you got started in marketing sales, and how you end up becoming the president of Lumavate.
Stephanie: I think a lot of it is hard work and a little bit of luck. So, you know, when I started my career out in the early 2000s, I came into a marketing role. And in a lot of cases, this may sound crazy for some people to believe, but not every company had a website back then. So websites, email marketing, social media, all of that was really new. And because I was fresh out of college grad, I kind of got assigned to deal with this new technology to figure it out. And that’s really where my love and passion for digital marketing started. And so what I say, you know, I worked hard. But I also had a little bit of luck. There’s a little bit of timing, right? You know, how lucky was it that I was coming in to the scene around the same time that email service providers were actually being created? Right, in the late 90s, early 2000s.
Or, you know, shortly thereafter that social media was, you know, Facebook was a thing, Twitter was a thing. So that’s really where I got started, I’ve always worked for the most part, my marketing roles have tended to be around software. In both the b2b and b2c and b2b to c sectors. I’ve gotten to work for a lot of really incredible brands, some of which you mentioned. And I think, as I thought about my career and growth, I’ve always looked for roles that allow me to do 70% of what I’ve done before, and then I’m really good at, and 30% of things I’ve never done before. So I like challenges. I like things that are hard, not just difficult and complex to figure out, but really hard to do, because I like I like constantly challenging myself. So when I joined Lumavate, four years ago, I came in to run marketing.
And, you know, really focused on that. And pretty quickly, you know, within the first two years, I was running the sales organization as well. And what’s unique about that is I don’t have a traditional sales background. So I’ve never been a full time account executive carry the bag, so to speak. But my entire career, even from the very first role that I had, out of college, I’ve always aligned myself closely with a sales team. I’ve always been focused on how I can help, how I can think about things differently for them. And oftentimes, in numerous companies in my career, I’ve been involved in the actual sales process and helping close accounts because I bring a little bit different perspective. I’m not a salesperson. So I don’t come across as trying to sell to you, I come across as trying to help you. And oftentimes, that’s the type of message that people need to hear, and reassurance that they want and in the sales process from a prospect standpoint.
So I took over sales. And one of the things that I’m also really known for is when I see problems, or I guess, areas for opportunity in an organization, I tend to just start doing it until someone tells me to knock it off. And that’s really how I started to take over customer success and support as I saw opportunities for us to improve our service offering. And because I was running marketing and sales that are so closely tied to services, I started making suggestions and improvements of how to do that, and then pretty quickly took it over and same thing with product. And now, you know, about 18 months later, I took over running the entire business. But if you would have told me 10 years ago or 17 years ago, when I started out my career that I was eventually going to run a company. I didn’t have that aspiration.
Originally, I think it’s only something in the last really five to seven years they started thinking about someone suggested to me one time they’re like, you know, you’d be an excellent president or CEO. And, you know, it’s that suggestion that got me thinking about that and when I joined Lumavate it’s really the what I love to do. People say that, you know, work, work life balance is important. And I agree with that. But I also think that if you find the right role, work doesn’t feel like work. I get paid every day to do something I love, which is a very unique and blessed position to be in.
Steffen: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more, right. If if you do something that that you love, then you enjoy every day, then it’s not a pain to to to turn on the computer or go into the office and then have to stay there for eight hours, basically. Now, you said a second ago, when you are running Lumavate’s marketing, you kind of you aligned yourself with the sales team. Which I find it’s a great statement, because I quite often see when, when I talk to prospects or to people here on a on the podcast, that a lot of people, they don’t really think that marketing and sales need to work really closely together, right? Because, you know, marketing’s like, well, we generate leads, and then we give it to you sales, and you just turn them into sales. And if you can’t do it, then you might be doing something wrong. What did you do from a marketing perspective to ensure that you were closer together with sales to increase the conversion rate from lead to sale?
Stephanie: Well, I think it is a couple different things. So first is, you know, in addition to meeting the marketing team, again, need to know all of them, I want to get to know the sales leader. Who is my counterpart? What are they motivated by? Right? So oftentimes, that’s what are their goals? What are their compensation metrics? And a lot of ways, you know, most sales leaders are compensated based on like bookings targets, or potentially net revenue retention, depending on what you know, kind of their compensation plan looks like. But finding out from them, what do you care about at the end of the day? And that is the most important thing, I think it’s a question that oftentimes, marketing leaders don’t tend to ask early enough.
Because if I know what motivates you, then I know how you’re going to view everything I do for you, and the light, you’re going to view it on. Because if I do something that is positive, then it’s going to help you with your goals. If I do something that’s not tied to your goal, then it’s not going to matter, you’re not going to see value in it. So I’ll give you an like an example. If a sales leader is not compensated based on the number of website traffic or leads generated, or anything that’s related to, like, let’s say your website, they’re probably not going to care as much that I spent two months updating the entire website, right? That’s, they’re going to see that as, okay, that’s something marketing needs to do. But it’s not going to be as impactful to them as potentially running a campaign that generates them more instantaneous results, that helps fill their pipeline faster. It doesn’t mean that the website’s not important, and it won’t have an impact on sales.
But they just will look at it differently. And I think that’s been really helpful for me throughout my career, as I think about what is most important to sales? What are the things that they care about the metrics they care about? How can I align our marketing metrics to feed into those? And then how do I think strategically about the initiatives that we’re going to tackle from a marketing perspective? And how do I balance ones that feel like we’re constantly doing something that’s helping the sales team push forward, while also doing the other things like brand building, generating PR, things that maybe don’t touch sales immediately, but have a huge benefit on it later? So I think it’s really about, you know, balancing out those two.
Steffen: Yeah, that’s a that’s a great point. And I think, you know, given today’s topic that we’re going to talk about, how agencies, or companies can benefit from using SaaS solutions, and that kind of leads nicely into it. Because if you if you run lead campaigns, if you’re trying to increase your bottom line sales, it obviously is important to make sure that you have a full view of the entire funnel. Not only marketing side, but marketing and sales side, whether you use a CRM system, for example. Or, or any other software that visualizes that entire, you know, the entire journey that a prospect basically takes from first contact all the way down to signing on the dotted line. Now, Stephanie, there are so many more tech solutions, you know, available? How should agencies or companies go about looking into what solutions helps them? What would you recommend to businesses to agencies to do?
Stephanie: Yeah, so I think there’s a couple of different ways to look at it. So I’m gonna start from the company perspective, and then go over to the agency perspective. From a company perspective, most senior level marketers are going to have a really strong network of other senior level marketers. So the first thing I always do when I’m looking for a new, more tech solution for my company, and I’ve done this at multiple different companies of various sizes, is I’m going to go and ask my trusted advisors, my other fellow marketing peers who they use and what their feedback is on them. Because here’s the thing, you can’t go there’s over 9000 marketing tech solutions today.
There’s no way to go through all of them. There’s no way to go through all of them for specific use case even. It’s very overwhelming. And you don’t want to hear what the Mar tech solution has to say you want to hear what actual users have to say. And I often find, and I’ll give you an example with video, you know, what I looked at video’s hosting solution for Lumavate three years ago, when I finally reached out to the company, which happens to be Vidyard that we use, I reached out, and I, the question I had was, how much does it cost? Because I had already talked to numerous colleagues of mine that I’ve worked with in the past and have a ton of respect for about the solutions that they use. And based on that, and based on what they told me, I knew that Vidyard was the best solution for me.
So as long as I can see the functionality tested out myself, and it was within my budget, I knew right then and there, I was going to purchase it. So I think that’s where I would start from a company perspective. Now, when you work with enterprise organizations, oftentimes, what you end up doing is to send out these RFPs, and you want to send them out to all these huge, well known Mar Tech providers. And you can do that. But oftentimes, I found most, if not all the time, most of the time, the champion already knows who’s they’re going to who they’re going to go with. Right. And it’s really just kind of an exercise of box checking. So I would say start with your network. Now, if you’re an agency, it’s a little different. I think you have the opportunity to be in that network for companies. And I think a lot of times, agencies don’t think about themselves that way.
But I’ll give you a couple of personal examples. So when I was at Project Lead the Way, and we were previously, we were using Drupal as our website, kind of content management system. And we wanted to build a new website, you know, the first thing I did was reach out to trendy minds, which was our agency at the time, and ask them who they would recommend. And, you know, they gave me two recommendations. And then basically, what they did as well is walk me through pros and cons. Because this wasn’t the first time that they’ve been asked this question. And it happened to be, yes, it was two solutions that their team can develop on really quickly. But what it did for me was a couple things.
One, they’ve done all the homework for me, they told me the good and the bad of each one, in a pretty unbiased way, right? I’m not going to get that from a sales rep. If I were to call one of those solutions. They also show me examples of, you know, other customers, they’ve implemented using it and could talk really realistically about pricing and budget and timelines. And so they were kind of like, in a lot of ways, that trusted advisor network that I talked about when I’m at a company. And so I think one of the things that agencies tend to sometimes forget is, you are a trusted advisor, you can make those recommendations.
And when someone’s talking about a new area, if it’s in your kind of wheelhouse of expertise. And I’m not saying I expect agencies to know all 9000, different mar tech solutions out there. That’s crazy, no one can. But if there are a couple of areas where you really tend to excel, I’m not saying your agency just does those two or three things. But maybe there are two or three things that you are just really well known for. And it would be very important for you to understand that landscape and have two or three solutions that you would recommend, because it does a couple things.
One, it just further reestablishes your expertise and that specific area, it also allows you to recommend a solution to an existing customer, and ideally help implement that solution and manage it long term, which is another revenue stream. And then three, you know, a lot of times these mar Tech solutions, have partnership opportunities with agencies, where agencies can get a portion of the software deal for that referral. So I think there’s just lots of things to think about from an agency agency perspective, that not only helps further deepen your relationship with the customer, but also creates another revenue stream for you.
Steffen: I’m glad you said, you know, agencies potentially should look into you know, two, three solutions. If we stick with the CRM. I obviously hear quite often HubSpot Salesforce is a is a solution that comes up a lot. However, when when I talk to some companies I hear quite often well, we’re focusing on one and that’s the one we are recommending to our clients. Do you see that as a problem? Because you just mentioned that obviously, you know, as an agency, they could get kind of a referral deal in place. And that client might think, hey, you know what, that’s the only reason why they recommend a solution A, B or C.
Stephanie: I think it can. I think the other thing it can do as well is it can tend to limit you from an agency perspective. So for instance, you mentioned HubSpot, so I can give you an example with HubSpot. You know while HubSpot is going into the enterprise, they tend to be most typically used in the SMB mid market space. And Salesforce is oftentimes thought of as the enterprise solution. So a lot of times, you know, perhaps I use your agency for my HubSpot implementation. But now I feel that I really need a software solution like Salesforce, I need to kind of upgrade to that. And if you don’t offer that now I’m taking that business elsewhere. And so maybe a portion of your revenue stream that you weren’t getting from me from my implementation of HubSpot, probably managed by HubSpot on a day to day basis. And continuing to really own that system for me now is going to a different vendor. Because you’ve chosen to specialize.
So I think that’s the risk of just having one. Now the difference to that is right. From an agency perspective, if you just have one and you are like HubSpot, and you double down, and you drive a lot of revenue to HubSpot, obviously, you’re gonna make typically, better margins, right. So as you sell more HubSpot, you get a better a higher percentage of those deals, is typically how most partnership agreements work. So I think that’s another benefit for agencies. But I think you really have to think about, you know, your customer base, not just who they are today, but who they’re going to be in three to five years, whether or not you want to keep supporting them for that, because these are conversations that you’re likely going to have at some point.
Steffen: Yeah. And I think one point to mention here also is obviously, if you have a strong relationship with one partner, and I’m not advocating, you know, whether to stick with one partner have several partners. But in general, if you have one partner, that also helps you build a strong relationship with them, not only from a fee perspective, but most likely, they will make additional resources available to service your clients, because they know you are a valuable partner to them. So there is a much bigger investment from their side into the relationship than if you spread yourself across 2, 3, 4, or how many partner you ever think, you know, pulling in for specific solution.
Now as it relates to identifying the SaaS solutions, or the solutions that make sense for an agency, what would you recommend there? I mean, you know, I own a digital marketing agency, obviously. And there are several solutions that I can think of immediately that we’re using, whether that’s, you know, a landing page software that obviously, we’re using CRM system, email marketing, you name it, what do you recommend how an agency should go about and identify the SaaS solution that make most sense for them to have in their pocket to, to recommend, suggest, offer to their clients?
Stephanie: Yeah, I look at it in two lenses. So the first lense is I’ve kind of already mentioned it’s around, where’s your expertise? So I’ll think about agencies that I’ve worked with before that maybe, as you mentioned, new digital marketing, which is the gamut of everything, right. But you know, some that I’ve worked with in the past, they tend to have like two or three sweet spots. While they can do all of it, while they they can run my Google ads, they can run my paid search, they can build my website, they can do my social media, they can do my SEO, they have a couple areas where they really like that’s where they gel right, like, that’s where they’re just really kick ass.
And I start there, because chances are your experts in those areas already know, the players and the mar Tech field, as well as the pros and cons of each, because they’ve been using them to do their job already. Or they know them from just their, the landscape and their, you know, ongoing education. So I think I’d start with with, you know, where are the two or three areas where you almost always sell those services to a customer. That would be my starting point. The second point that I think that a lot of people don’t think about is around new areas. And podcasting is a great example of this. You know, podcasting has grown tremendously in last three or four years. Right. When you look at three or four years ago, the only podcast that you really saw a ton were more b2c driven, or you know, a true crime podcast. And now you see in this huge growth in podcasts, and it’s almost seems like every company is starting to have one if they didn’t already.
But what a lot of people don’t realize is no one knows how to get one started. Right? It’s not something we’ve been doing as marketers for a decade, right? If you go and say, I need to find a new email service provider, any marketer and digital could list off a couple of big ones that they would start with. But for podcast solutions, I think you’d be hard pressed to find marketers unless they’ve been doing podcasting before even mentioned who they should start even start thinking about or even understanding the amount of software that’s needed to get a podcast off the ground. And so I think there’s opportunities when new channels start to arise for agencies where it makes sense to do their research and have had those solutions. kind of really like on top of mind for customers and use it in two ways.
One obviously if a customer comes to you and says, hey, we’re thinking about podcasting, is that something you support? You can say yes, here’s, you know how we think about it, here’s our process, etc. But then two use it also as a way to educate customers, I think this is where I would love to see more agencies do this is, you know, really think about what your tech stack should be for something new, like podcasting. And once you kind of pull that together, have a series of content, whether it’s blog posts, or an ebook, or whatever you want it to be that where you share all that out and share to your customers. Because it does two things. One, obviously, there’s SEO value from it, because they’re podcasting as an example, there’s a ton of great content around of how to get started.
And then two it also, you know, you can package that in a way you deliver that to your existing customer base to tell them, hey, if you’re considering podcasting, here’s a couple of reasons why here’s how you should go about thinking about it. Oh, by the way, we can help you with this. And now you might actually do two things, one, get them to start thinking about podcasting for the first time tie that to your brand or two if they were thinking about it, have them go, oh, I didn’t realize you could do that. Because they never used you for that before. Right? So they may not immediately assume it’s something that is in your wheelhouse.
Steffen: Yeah, and you’re establishing yourself as an as an early expert, basically. It’s like from a digital media perspective. You know, whenever there is a new media channel that shows a lot of potential, as for example, you know, Tik Tok, I think is probably the latest example, though, already two, three years old now. But, you know, after after Tik Tok kind of emerged, there were companies that had an early jump on the solution and had an opinion on how to use it, and how to benefit from it, etc. And that established them as an expert early on, and they probably were able are able to carry that on, as time passed by.
Steffen: Now, when we when we started, you mentioned that there are about 9000 mar Tech solution. So once an agency identifies, you know, this is the software solution that would complement their service offering quite well, and most likely, their clients will, will need that. How can they go about to find the best solution? Because again, I mean, even if you take CRM, there are so many CRM solutions out there, for example, and every year, there are new CRM solutions solutions emerging. So how should they go about to find the solutions that make more sense for them and for their clients? And then how are they going to stay on top of constantly suggesting or recommending the best solution in market at any point in time?
Stephanie: Yeah, it’s a hard task. I won’t admit that it’s easy, but I think it’s manageable for a couple of reasons. One, if you’re really picking like a specific use case, and let’s say CRM for an example. It’s pretty quick, for the most part, and almost every use case and losses in that new net new channel for you to go whether that’s through the mar Tech landscape infographic through a Gartner Magic Quadrant, through a Forrester wave report and really see the top players in the space. And from there, I think, you know, the advent of product led growth is a great way for you to experience a lot of those, it’s becoming very uncommon for MarTech solution not to have a free trial or a free offering. So there are ways for you to even test out that solution yourself, and get an experience with it before you’ve ever had talked to a sales rep for that organization.
So I think that’s, you know, where we get started. The other thing is once you start to narrow down that list of ones where it makes sense for you. Also drawing upon your previous experience, as a marketer, as well. Reach out to those organizations, almost every single one of them is going to have a partnership program, where as you mentioned earlier, they provide resources, training materials, etc, on how to best use their platform, how best to sell their platform to your customers, and all the potential use cases. So you know, speaking about Lumavate for a second, you know, for us, you know, with our partners, one of the things that we do is we help train them. Not only do we give them resources, but we train them how to use our software. We train them on how to think about selling our platform as well to their customers. And we’re constantly pushing out releases every two weeks.
So, you know, for them to keep up with all the information that we’re coming out with is a little overwhelming, right? Because this is just a portion of their job. So we really try and distill that down into what matters to them and what they need to know about and helping as an ongoing education perspective. So I really think it can’t be done, but you can’t boil the ocean. You can’t go after multiple use cases at the same time. You can’t go after you know, eight to 10 to 15 different solutions. You really need to narrow it down to two or three. I think five max to get started. But in reality, if you go to someone within your organization, your agency right now and say, you know, what are the top two or three CRM solutions that you’d recommend? They could tell you, you don’t need to do research. Because they’ll tell you based on their previous experience. Whether it’s them personally using it, or it’s talking to customers, who have you used it, and use one in a positive or negative light. So I think, you know, a lot of that you can get just from your own internal team as a starting point.
Steffen: Yeah, yeah. I mean, what I find very important, when whenever we look for solutions is, you know, create a list of the problems, do you want to have solved some of the solutions. You know, what is the most important thing that the software needs to be capable of doing. And then based on that, check, you know, the likes of terror, jeetu, etc, to to to identify the solution, or as you said, ask your peers. And then do a little bit research, use these, these these aggregator site to to get a first view of things, and then dive deeper, once you identified four or five, six, going to their website to kind of narrow it further down. Now, one more thing you mentioned, which, which I think is very important is the customer service side, which, again, from my own experience, can make or break a relationship at the end of the day, what from your perspective, the importance of the customer service part when it comes to being a valuable solution to to an agency or to a business?
Stephanie: Yeah, I think there’s two levels of customer service. I think one is between the software solution and the agency. And I think, you know, like we talked about earlier, I can’t speak for all MarTech solutions, but I can speak for I think, a majority of them, they value agency partners, right. So their goal is not just to onboard you and teach you how this all their software, but to make you successful doing that, because they want you to continue doing that and grow the book of business. So I think you’re gonna get resources on both the selling aspect, as well as the customer service aspect. But then I think there’s another another kind of avenue here, which is the customer success standpoint, to the to the end customer, right? So there’s two ways that customer’s gonna look at it. They’re going to look at it, as my agency is the one that maybe manages the software platform for me. So to CRM as an example, maybe they manage my CRM for me, so I’m looking for them to provide me with support.
But then I’m also looking at my actual software provider to provide me with support too right. So I think the the challenge that agencies can face sometimes is, there may be situations where a customer needs something changed or needs something to work, and there’s nothing you can do about it as the agency, because maybe it’s a bug in the software, maybe the software doesn’t offer that functionality yet. And so I think, you know, being really clear up front as to, you know, what you can do as an agency and how you can help from a customer service perspective, but then also kind of where, you know, the software solution comes in. And there are things that maybe you can advocate for, but not necessarily control.
Steffen: Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. Well, Stephanie, we’ve we’ve come to the end of today’s episode, thank you so much for joining the Performance Delivered podcast, and sharing your thoughts on today’s topic. Now, if people want to find out more about you, and lumavate how can they get in touch?
Stephanie: Yeah, so you can follow me on twitter at StephanieCox04 or visit lumavate.com. L u m a v a t e.com.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you’d like 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 symphonicHQ. Thanks again and see you next time.
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