Building Pipeline Through Brand with 15Five CRO Brad McGinity + CMO Julia Stead
Dave Gerhardt: Hey, I'm Dave Gerhardt. I'm the Chief Brand Officer at Drift and host of this podcast, the Pipeline Podcast. Got an awesome new episode for you this week. My guests are Brad and Julia from 15Five. We have a nice CRO and CMO pairing. It was awesome to get to sit down and interview them together. I was scribbling down notes the whole time, which is what I like to do, the interview goes all over the place. We talked about Julia being a new CMO coming in the last six months, what she did in the first 90 days. Why they're investing 50% of their budget in brand. How they've gotten aligned with the sales team. How she came in as a new CMO and went into action mode instead of planning mode. And how they split revenue and pipeline responsibilities from sales versus marketing. And honestly, when we had this idea for this podcast, this was exactly a type of interview that we wanted to get out. I'm super happy with how this conversation turned out and I think you're going to get at least two new things out of this as you can take back to your company. And if they're not new things, I think the other thing is just like this podcast can be therapy. These are other people working similar roles in sales and marketing to you. One thing that's helped me in my career is just understanding that we're all going through the same challenges at every company and nothing is really new. And the best way to learn is to learn through your peers and that's what we want to do on this podcast. So I hope you enjoy this episode. And here we go, my conversation with Brad and Julia from 15Five. All right, we're back with another episode of the Pipeline Podcast. I'm Dave Gerhardt, Chief Brand Officer at Drift and today I have B rad and Julia from 15Five. Let's just do quick intros like who are you, what do you do? What did you do before this? Go with you for, Julia.
Julia: Cool. My name is Julia obviously, I am CMO at 15Five. I'm based in Santa Barbara, California. Been at 15Five around six months now. Prior to that, I was CMO at a MarTech company called Allocadia headquartered out of Canada. And then prior to that, I was a VP of Marketing at another MarTech company called Invoca, where I was there for almost eight years in various marketing leadership roles. Got two young boys and I'm a passionate runner and swimmer. That's me in a nutshell. Brad.
Dave Gerhardt: Awesome. Textbook for everyone listening at home, that is how intros should go on these types of podcasts.
Brad McGinity: Of course.
Dave Gerhardt: Keep that in mind, this is a self... Go ahead, Brad. No pressure. You're a sales guy-
Brad McGinity: I know she set the bar high.
Brad McGinity: I'm
Brad McGinity: Brad McGinity, Chief Revenue Officer at 15Five. I joined four and a half years ago. We were about 30 people to help us pivot from self service only and kind of a product- led growth strategy to also having a sales- assisted or a direct sales model as well, and built the sales team from there. I currently lead success support, partnerships and sales at 15Five. Prior to that, worked at a company called Windsor Circle where I was co- founder and VP of Sales. We did predictive analytics for e- commerce companies. I've got three daughters ages, six to 12, live in Raleigh, North Carolina and can't say I'm a passionate runner or swimmer.
Dave Gerhardt: Good. Okay. Just a question right off the bat. Julia, when you come in to a company like this, and I want to talk about the relationship between both of your roles in a minute. But coming into this company just as a CMO, where did you start six months ago? How do you come into a... It's one thing to start early in a company and grow with it, but when you come in at this stage, what do you do?
Julia: It's a great question and it really depends on the situation being what the state of the marketing organization is that you step into. And so at 15Five, there had been a lot of change in leadership within the marketing department and just if we're being honest, which we should be a lot of turnover in marketing over the past six or nine months. What I did, what I focused on was creating a stable, thriving marketing organization and creating a little bit of order from some of what probably felt like chaos to some of the team members over a certain period of time. My first priority was the people and how I thought about that was really understanding the stage of business that 15Five was at, the partnership with sales, the partnership with customer experience, with product and so on, to understand, okay, what are the most important key functions in marketing that we need to prioritize right now? What leaders on the marketing team do I need to be really strong right now to match the business needs. And then from there, helped restructure and rebuild the marketing team and get everyone in the right roles with the right focus. That was the main, my number one priority is the people, because I'm not going to be the one doing the work, it's the marketing team that does the work, I don't. And then the other piece, which was unique to 15Five and a really fun, but also stressful onboarding period was we were in the middle of going through a rebrand. And I started a few weeks before we completely rebranded the company, announced an acquisition of another company and moved from a more feature- led product approach to a complete suite of products that you could either buy standalone or buy as part of a complete platform. So in that scenario, my focus there as a CMO was to look strategically at all the different moving pieces, because that's a lot like any head of marketing would like any one of those things to work with. I had an abundance of riches in terms of like news and marketing excitement to generate. So I looked at all the different pieces and tried to simplify and figure out, how do I take all of these things that are like already in motion that are already like 90% out out of the gate. Again, I go back to that theme of bring some order to it, bring a little bit of strategy to it and roll up my sleeves also and fill immediate gaps in the team to just make sure we execute really smoothly. That was how I spent my first two or three months.
Dave Gerhardt: Brad, on your side, and don't let me derail you. If you're going to say something, go there anyway and maybe you could take this as a followup, but just curious to hear, what were you looking for as a CRO at a however big your company is now? What were you looking for in a marketing partner? I'd love to just hear your perspective on that.
Brad McGinity: I just want to jump back for a sec. Part of what you did, Julia, when you stepped in was you immediately went into action mode. In a lot of ways, doing individual contributor level work because of this rebrand and because we were short staffed on some things. And so your first month into the job, you were just in all out, 100 miles an hour execution mode and leading a team of people, but you yourself were doing a lot of that work. And so I want to give credit to you for recognizing, you weren't coming in as a CMO who could like stop and interview everybody, and ask a bunch of questions, and get a lay of the land and developed your 90- day plan, and then roll on your 30, 60, 90. You hit go immediately. And then I remember, as soon as the rebrand was done, you whipped out this strategy of how we're going to become like 100- million company very, very quickly.
Julia: I thought you were going to say I went to Hawaii.
Brad McGinity: And so immediately after you launched this stuff, you were like, " And now I'm stepping into strategy mode and building the team." And so your adaptability to understand exactly what we needed and quickly pivot yourself was amazing to watch as you stepped in.
Dave Gerhardt: What did you say, Julia? You thought he was going to say what?
Julia: That I went to Hawaii, because I also did that. I spent one month working really hard and then I pieced out for two weeks in Hawaii.
Brad McGinity: That's sweet crosstalk
Dave Gerhardt: I have a couple followups on that. First of all, I love that as an example, because I think that at least in my limited experience, what I've seen is it can be hard when the new leader of any department comes in because so much of that first 90 days is like you're not really doing anything. You are and it seems important, but you're meeting with people, you're catching up on emotions and feelings, and I'm not taking away from that. However, if you're the sales side of... Revenue does not stop, and so you don't get to... You've already been looking for a marketing leader for X however long, then you finally bring that person. The process is insane from start to finish. And so just to hear that, someone with your experience, Julia and background from Allocadia, et cetera to hop in in action mode. Don't you feel like there's a certain level of like, that's the best way to build trust with the sales and rest of the organization, is to see you come in and like, " Okay, she still has a little game herself"? And then when you shift into strategy mode, you almost get a little bit more credibility, right?
Julia: Yeah, definitely, I think you got to earn the trust and earn the credibility. And also to be fair, if you're hiring a new head of marketing, whether it's a VPS, VP or CMO, things probably aren't in a perfect state. And so I said, it was complicated when I joined 15Five because of all these factors, but that's going to be the case for any team. There's no company you're joining where you need a new head of marketing and everything's just going perfectly. So I think it's a great reminder of, yeah, you got to be able to roll up your and earn your street credit at the company at the beginning,
Brad McGinity: Dave, there's a great book called The First 90 Days, which I've read about 90% of, I haven't finished it and it has some acronym called STARS, which I cannot tell you what all the letters stand for. But it basically identifies five types of situations that a new leader steps into, and so it's a great book. You can Google it and find the STARS acronym and understand most of the book's contents in about 45 seconds. But it's a great reference point to understand, what exactly am I stepping into? What does this situation call for? And how am I going to be the type of leader that the situation and the people and the business need right now? Because it is different from situation to situation, so it's a nice book for that.
Dave Gerhardt: Okay. Let's talk about what do you need? If you both can share the... If you can give people a little bit of context of like... You don't have to share specific revenue numbers, and I know you won't, but like ballpark, company size and give people a sense of like... I want people to have a sense of what does the revenue function look like? What does sales and marketing expect from each other? What are your goals? How do you operate? People love to hear that type of stuff, and so maybe we can dive into that a little bit.
Brad McGinity: I'll give an attempt to that one, Julia, please fill in the blanks. Company's around 220 people or so, we're roughly doubling revenue this year in 2021 with the intention to do it again in 2022. We have a shift in our customer persona that we've been going after from primarily built around managers and CEOs and department leaders to a business that's primarily focused on HR buyers, we know how to shift there. Pricing, packaging changes that Julia referenced and a business that still has a product- led growth self- service part of our business. As well as this direct sales motion with customer success and implementation, and a customer support team that sits underneath the whole thing. We have multiple personas, we have go- to market strategies that involve self- service... Excuse, that involve land and expand as well as company- wide implementations on day one. And so it leaves us in this really interesting spot where lots of different strategies are very, very effective as we go- to market. Obviously involves a lot of coordination to understand, starting with Julia and I, who is the customer, what is the persona and the segment and the go- to market strategy that we're going to prioritize and put most of our resources into? And then what other bets are we going to make with these other segments and try stuff out in order to see what kinds of new opportunities we can unpack that'll help us to double in 2022. Her team runs obviously a bunch of demand gen stuff, and a bunch of content leads, and webinars are really important part of it, as well as building up the brand. Which are then picked up by our sales development team, who's doing inbound, outbound, passing over to account executives. Once we win the customer, they go to our implementation team and our customer success team. The success team is taking the customer on a journey to achieve their outcomes, and then looking for expansion opportunities. More seats, upsell into a new package and passing that back to our expansion account executive team. So CSM's running renewals and the expansion account execs are adding new revenue on that as we sell new products. So we get this application of marketing into our existing customer base as we do expansion and they go upsell work. Obviously out into the market through lots of different techniques to generate demand for the business. And then we've got this multifaceted sales team who's working with everything from SMB up to enterprise and the success team that's layered in the same way to circle it all back into the engine again.
Dave Gerhardt: Julia, where does pipeline come from to today?
Julia: It's a mix of inbound and outbound, heavier on the inbound side, which is by choice, by selection, I guess you could say and also by capacity, it's kind of interesting. I can touch on that in a second, but most of the typical places you would think it would come from. So digital advertising, paid search, paid social, Brad mentioned webinars are very successful for us, virtual events and so on. One of the things that I think is interesting at this stage of growth and how Brad and I work together is, ideally you would do everything that Brad just outlined, and we do to an extent. But also we're still not a massive company with infinite resources, so every quarter, we look at our model. We look at what our bookings targets are and how much is expected to come from new logo acquisition versus expanding into existing customers. And then from there, by market segment, is it SMB, mid- market enterprise and so on? We talk about where we have our biggest strengths right now, what areas we're building out more. And then in the given quarter, we'll pick a few focus areas. And so last quarter it could have been, okay, we're going to really invest a lot of resources in new customer acquisition, we'll still work on the expansion stuff, but not as much. And then this quarter feeling like, " Okay, hey, we've got a really strong, solid new logo machine running and humming, it's time for us to invest more resources in expansion. And so as we look at like our OKR planning for the quarter, we'll discuss with the demand gen team, " Hey, when you're looking at your budget allocations, let's shift 50% specifically to support expansion efforts." And then from there we look at, okay, what does this mean from like an SDR resource perspective? How much are we going to emphasize ABM in expansion efforts and so on. But it really starts, like Brad was saying, with he and I connecting prior to the start of each quarter and figuring out what are the areas we want to go deep across the revenue organization in a given quarter?
Dave Gerhardt: First of all, I love that, that level of detail is exactly what people like to hear, just working back from the revenue, working back from customer segment. But I think what you mentioned is really important because a lot of people listening, we are all... I've been in this position also as a marketing leader. As a sales or marketing leader at a high growth SaaS company, and you talked about, you have to double revenue this year, and then you have to double revenue again next year. It's a hard job, there are so many different ways... Think about the whole funnel that Brad laid out. There's a million different plays alone in there. I think that it's so hard to... There's so many things that you can do. I often feel like there's multiple ways that you can be successful, but where companies get paralyzed is like there's too many things versus... I love the way that you broke that down by saying, " There's lots of ways we can grow this thing. This quarter, we are focusing on new versus expansion and therefore the playbook is going to be dictated this way." Because I've found, at least in my experience, in my own shortcomings has been like, when you're trying to do it all, it's like who's responsible for expansion? What are we doing for expansion? Just sending emails to people is not expansion. And so I like idea of you two sitting down each quarter and presenting the plan back to the team with almost like a highlight on like, " Look, there's lots of levers we have, for this quarter we're going to focus on these three levers." And then even as an individual contributing marketing person, I can then go and build my individual content plan, for example, around that mix.
Brad McGinity: Yeah.
Julia: Yeah. And this is... Go ahead, Brad.
Brad McGinity: What I was going to say, one of the tricky things in there is don't forget the timing of all of it. If we're talking about quarterly OKRs, we're going to go after expansion. We've got a life cycle of how long it takes to generate an expansion lead and nurture that lead till it becomes an MQL. And then becomes an SQL or SAL or whatever we call it as a sales opportunity. And then that's got a life cycle as well. So if we're talking about running 90- day OKRs or 180- day OKRs, what are the appropriate measures of success in the right timeframe to understand how well we did before we're moving onto the next thing? And so obviously we've got a lot of marketing OKRs that are ultimately designed to create bookings, but bookings has to run all the way through an entire sales cycle. So we might not know for four or five months if the whole thing really worked. And so I think that requires this extra level of diligence around the correct measures when you're doing goal planning and OKRs. And then of course, high level of communication to go back and say, " Did this thing really work? And do we agree on the measures themselves?"
Julia: And one of the things I was going to add is, joining 15Five, it was the first time, and this is all thanks to Brad, where there was an organization in place called the revenue organization. And it wasn't just sales and marketing, it was sales, marketing, and customer experience, customer success. And from a planning perspective, and we're still working this out, because it's going to evolve as we grow, but we have what we call our rev org, team priorities that... And it's not a set number, it can be two, it can be four, can be five, but that each quarter we've identified the most important priorities for the entire revenue organization. And then individual departments will also have their own goals and priorities and whatnot. And in the case of expansion, for example, it's so helpful having customer success, customer experience leadership involved in one of those cross- functional initiatives, because you can't... Expansion isn't just a marketing and sales thing, it is a customer success thing as well. And so kudos to Brad for thinking of it that way, I don't know how common it is to bring all three of those groups together on a regular basis for planning to stay connected.
Dave Gerhardt: And product. I think the missing link at a lot of these conversations is... The easiest way to do expansion is to have a product that naturally expands with customer success. It's much harder to swoop in every 90 days and try to get someone to sell more stuff.
Brad McGinity: Yes. Products that naturally expand obviously make a big, big difference.
Dave Gerhardt: You mentioned the pipeline and revenue goals based on sales versus marketing. Do you have that like, " Hey, our goal for this quarter is X ARR. We expect 70% of that to come from marketing and 30% of that to come from sales." Do you have something like that split?
Julia: We do. We do. I can tackle this one if you want, Brad.
Brad McGinity: Go for it.
Julia: It's funny because I've been on the record in previous interviews at previous companies saying, " Hey, marketing and sales should have one shared pipeline number and it shouldn't be about who source what." But I've learned, I think a lot of that depends on not necessarily your business model, but the stage of growth and category creation that you are at. Because if there's a lot of inbound interest in demand, I think it makes sense to measure that and understand, hey, marketing is going to source X percent. Versus if you're in a really emerging category where even if you wanted, just that inbound interest isn't there and you have to do a lot more outbound combined sales and marketing initiatives. It really the source piece becomes less important. So we do look at both, we look at marketing source pipeline and opportunities, and then... And those still go through SDR, so they'll come in inbound, but they're still qualified through SDRs, and then get passed onto an AE. And then we also have another bucket that is sourced, you could say by SDRs or through other means, but is still influenced and impacted by marketing. We are big investors in brand right now. I'd say almost 50% of our marketing budget goes to brand awareness, and thought leadership, and more of that brand marketing. And that's the kind of stuff that pays off, not just for the marketing source pipeline, but for the rest of the pipeline as well.
Brad McGinity: When I first joined 15Five, Dave, we had three people on our marketing team. We had no account executive and like two SDRs. It's back in August of 2017. Sorry we had one account executive, his name's Tim and he's freaking fantastic. And he's now leading our expansion sales team and absolutely crushing it, so he should get some kudos here. So we had-
Dave Gerhardt: Everyone's go google or go to LinkedIn and find Tim right now. You know that, right?
Brad McGinity: That's right. If you poach him, Dave. We had 100% in our leads and we set a goal that said we wanted to get to a place where 60% of our bookings were coming from marketing/ inbound and 40% was coming from outbound. And so we ultimately achieved that within a couple of years, we got to a place where we were doing... We wanted... It was 44% was coming from outbound as that play was really working and the team was repeatable and scalable and it was growing. That model definitely works for us. I think where Julia and I are in a really healthy place is that where we have these distinctions around what's marketing source pipeline or sales source pipeline, et cetera, it's not about fighting over credit at all in our relationship. It is entirely about resource allocation and measure-
Dave Gerhardt: 100%.
Brad McGinity: ... what's workingso we can, so we can figure out why that we can make it better or figure out why it's working so we can do more of it. And a lot of that just comes down to leadership and maintaining healthy relationships.
Dave Gerhardt: 100%. I'm so glad you said that because I think... Julia, you mentioned you used to have the philosophy of the source doesn't matter. But the hard part is like it does because I've been in those conversations where it's like, " Well, marketing said 70%, sales said 30%. Marketing hit our 70%, but the company's shorter the revenue number." Marketing leader often is like, " That's on you, that's on you."
Julia: Yeah, not my problem.
Dave Gerhardt: And I actually think of it as like... I think of like, if you think of it as marketing's job is to make sales easier, period. And sales can mean like I show up on the website and you have a great website and great content. That's making sales easier, but it's also supporting the sales team. And so I feel like the philosophy should be like, as a marketing team it's always internal battles or like how someone is comped or really silly reasons that you can't get on the same page. Because if we're working together and you say, "Hey, look, together, we own this pipeline number." I can shift my mix of things. If we want it to be 50% sales- driven, then that's great, we're going to hire more product marketing, we're going to do more bottom of the funnel content. We're going to hire two copywriters in marketing that are going to own writing outbound emails. It's a mix shift, and so it's good to hear you say that it really... It shouldn't be a credit thing, it comes down to a resource allocation thing. It's a hypothesis. What is our mix of how we're going to get customers? Some from inbound, some from outbound. Last thought on this ramble is, inbound is great, but it can also be your biggest curse because if you have inbound early coming in, you just have people showing up and they're booking and they're buying. What you need to be doing though is building predictable, repeatable pipeline channels for six months, 12 months, 18 months down the road. And so it almost seems like that's the shift that you all have made now, which is you're taking a more... I don't know if programmatic is the right word, but you're taking a more systematic approach to building pipeline as opposed to just seeing what comes in with inbound.
Julia: Yeah, I would agree with that. And a fun little anecdote that I haven't experienced before and that's come up this quarter. I think it speaks to like shared goals and across marketing and sales, we just want to hit the pipeline number the best way that we can, but we run... We had everything perfectly modeled at the beginning of the quarter of X amount would come inbound, X amount would come outbound. And then we got lucky... We have an amazing strategic head of demand gen, who we created more inbound demand than we had capacity for. Which like, okay, cry me a river, all right, what a problem? But it meant we had to pull outbound SDRs off of outbound to catch the high volume of inbound because we didn't want to let that go to waste. And it meant then that we were falling shot on our outbound targets. And across sales and marketing, we were okay with that because together we'd made the decision, this is the right way to handle these capacity constraints. And so, of course in Q4, we're going to be investing more in beefing up capacity on the outbound side. But I thought it was just an interesting example. You've got to be flexible. You can have your model and set your targets and stuff, but you've got to collaborate across sales and marketing to ultimately figure out what's going to get you to your quarterly goal the best way possible and be flexible to change throughout the quarter, even if it means you have to shift people's focus areas.
Dave Gerhardt: So often you set a goal and it's just a goal and a plan, but it hasn't been operationalized. And so if in the plan we have, we're growing from 20% to 30% sales contribution, who's actually doing that? That's not just going to happen. There has to be a program that someone is driving. Okay. This is what I do when I do this, by the way, I scribble all these random notes and things that I want to come back to, so I have a couple things. One of them is I have this note circle about Julia. You said that right now you're spending about 50% in brand. I'm assuming that comes from come a philosophical conversation around strategy with you, with Brad, with the CEO. Can you talk about that? Because it can be hard to do that, right? You have short- term revenue goals, and if you miss the pipeline goal in Q4, nobody's is going to want to hear. It's because you put all your budget into brands, so where does this come from?
Julia: It's an awesome question. I want to pass it over to Brad because one of the reasons I'm successful in doing it and feel confident is because I have cross- functional support. So I want to hear Brad's perspective and then I will talk about it. But Brad wants it too, which makes it work.
Brad McGinity: Yeah.
Dave Gerhardt: Anytime we can get the CRO to talk about the power of brand, you my friend, you have the mic. Go ahead.
Brad McGinity: It's all about mindset. I think the first thing that we as CROs, or VP of sales, or whatever have got to get our heads straight on about is the fact that we are not responsible for leading the sales, part of our organization. We are responsible for leading the organization, the entire company to maximize its revenue potential. And so if we get into a bunch of short- term thinking, it's going to optimize just for sales, but minimize the long- term opportunity and impact that the business can have. Then we're not doing our jobs well, as members of the executive leadership team. Our responsibility is to the company, not to our sales team. And so when you get into that orientation first, well then it becomes this question of, what's the value of brand of the business? And brand is a long- term, sustainable competitive advantage that any business can create that is really, really hard to unseat. Whereas somebody else can copy your feature, somebody else can copy your sales model. These other things are short- term competitive advantages, but brand is a long term durable, sustainable, competitive advantage. I'll pat David, our CEO on the back with this one and his strong belief that we have got to be investing in brand at 15Five. And so we set aside brand investment in 2020 during COVID. When we rebudgeted everything in March of 2020, when COVID initially hit, we put that brand investment on hold with the intention to go do it in 2021. And literally, built into the model that we're going to start spending dollars and not see a bump in our pipeline for nine months. So when Julia came on board and she led us through this rebrand effort, we were so excited to have somebody come in, who we knew was going to be a great steward of those dollars, and spend it in a way that was going to maximize the brand opportunity. So I crosstalk
Dave Gerhardt: Can you talk about those dollars, actually?
Brad McGinity: ...you've got to have a long- term view-
Dave Gerhardt: Can you pause and talk about those dollars, Brad? Can you just explain what... What is that spend actually? It's not just a new logo. Can you explain a little bit more about what the spend on brand is?
Brad McGinity: Yeah, we should pass that over to Julia because at this point, we just set aside the money and now she's inaudible
Julia: Now, I get to have a lot of... I swear doing a big brand campaign is one of the most fun things, I think you can do as a marketer. The actual dollars are going to creative concepting and design. I've worked with in- house teams, I've worked with outsourced agencies and I do find that it's really effective when you want to do a big brand campaign to work with an external agency, because they just have fresh perspective on your audience and your value proposition, and can usually get the creative juices flowing in a way that it's hard to do internally all the time. So a fair amount of cost go to that and then the actual media cost. So we are doing out of home placement billboards, bus shelter, digital ads in physical city locations combined with heavy social and digital advertising. That's the crux of a specific brand campaign that we'll be running for a quarter or two across different locations. But then other areas where I'm investing in brand and using those dollars is around PR and thought leadership as well. So investing in a really solid partnership with a strong PR agency, creating a lot more thought leadership content, building out an influencer strategy and investing dollars in that as well, those are the different areas that I think about in terms of brand investment. And then how do I measure the impact of that? Because that's usually the question that follows and I look at it a few different ways. I look at ultimately, what are we trying to accomplish with this? And it's more people having heard of us, more people know us and seeing us as a trusted brand. So I look at website traffic, direct organic, and then I also, over time, it's way too early to be measuring this, but like to generally just look at overall is our win rate increasing? When our sales teams go outbound, is there more name recognition? I'm looking at setting up for example, tags and Gong calls to understand, hey, is the brand campaign coming up or certain keywords coming up that they might have seen referenced in some of our campaigns? So that kind of stuff, website traffic over a long time increases in pipeline and win rate. And then also I do look at some of your more traditional PR metrics around share of voice and and coverage gathered.
Dave Gerhardt: No, it's great to hear you break that down because I think the... You're doing this big campaign, but it should have some short- term results also. Like, if you're all of a sudden turning on all of this out, you would see that in shorter term website traffic. The part that gets interesting though, is measuring... Your part about outbound is really interesting, which is like measuring win rate via outbound after or around this timeframe. Because I think one of the hardest things in sales and marketing right now is like there's just so many different influencing factors in why somebody's going to sign up for 15Five. Again, it goes back to the credit thing, it's like, however you set up your attribution model are you setting the team up to battle over credit for that? Or ultimately, could someone have visited your website, read your blog, and then saw one of your bus shelters, and then saw a billboard, and then they reach out to sales? And you just want to know, are more people hearing about it? I like taking the approach to Gong, that's like the ultimate close the loop, which is like in the sales conversation. And that'd be amazing way to do attribution is like, " No, they told us that they saw the billboard and they heard about us." Is there like an offer that's with that or is it just straight up like visit 15five. com?
Julia: Right now, it's just a straight up visit 15five.com. Because we have such strong, direct response, demand gen type marketing and also because we're starting to target a new audience and just want more broad awareness, we really wanted to go with the understanding at its core, who we are as a company, and what we stand for versus trying to get someone to take a demo of product X.
Dave Gerhardt: And the bad is that, that will ultimately lead to that anyway.
Julia: Will support and drive even more results from the demand gen stuff from when our sales team goes outbound and so on, yeah.
Dave Gerhardt: Just one more question on this. How did you come up with the actual, this is the message? Because when you do a campaign like that, you have a bunch of ideas, you whittle them all down, lots of people have lots of opinions. You ultimately have to pick one or maybe two variations of creative. How did that net out?
Julia: The general concept... Sorry, let me take a step back. Goals for the campaign, audience, high level like message that we want to get across, feelings that we want to get across, I and the marketing team came up with, agency came up with concepts, and we did a workshop with different stakeholders across the company, so got input from our CEO, from folks in our sales organization, from our CX. And then it really narrowed to a small group of myself, someone from product marketing and corporate marketing, a little bit of feedback from one or two other executives. And then ultimately, I just made the decision. I was going to say-
Dave Gerhardt: This is what they hired you to do. Hell yeah.
Julia: I was going to say, " Yeah." It gets to the point where someone's going to make a decision and ultimately that's my job, so I'm comfortable and just do that. And I think it's super important to do that often too.
Dave Gerhardt: On the goals piece, are the goals, " We want to increase website traffic 30% over the next X months"? Or is it more like, " We will measure success by more website traffic"?
Julia: More the former, but it's a little bit of, hey, 15%, 20%, what feels right? And so it's a little bit of a guess, but that we did set that type of goal, also some engagement goals around to measure the success of is this campaign resonating with folks? Are they watching the video clips longer than your typical benchmarks for engaging with video? That type of stuff. And then we will look because this... I'm relatively new to 15Five still, it's my first brand campaign, I'll use this to sort of benchmark, and then in subsequent campaigns, feel a little more confident setting numerical targets in advance.
Dave Gerhardt: Brad, you got any add ons to that before I go elsewhere?
Brad McGinity: Nothing that'll actually help, but I always get words to say.
Dave Gerhardt: Okay, good. Great. Then please don't say anything.
Brad McGinity: I won't.
Dave Gerhardt: Question back to the revenue piece of this. One of the things that's changing is that in B2B, sales and marketing is a little bit harder because as sales and marketing people, we don't control the buying process. We don't say like... In the past, I could say, " There's only one 15Five in this space, so our whole website is locked down, click contact us and that's how you'll get our information and pricing," and then you can control the whole sales process. But today, anybody that shopping for 15Five is also looking at two or three other of your competitors checking out their stuff. So one of the friction points has become, and I'm mentioning this because I hear you mention content and webinars. One of the friction points at a lot of companies is that marketing is generating a lot of ebook downloads and webinars, but those might be leads, but there's a difference between leads and demand, or the big buzzword in B2B today that you will both know is intent. I'm just curious to hear how those different offers fit in your funnel. Because it seems like you two are both too savvy on revenue to go back to the sales team and be like, " We got 100 webinar registrants. Yay." And so I'm just curious to hear how does that actually fit in the funnel?
Brad McGinity: We've alluded to this forecast planning, pipeline spreadsheet that we have, and it's a matrix. And now one column is SMB, mid- market enterprise and across the other access is primarily four different buckets. Partnerships, outbound, which is mostly ABM, hand raisers, and inbound, and we just call it MQLs. And so we separate out people who are inbound and they're raising their hands saying, " I'm interested in learning more about your product today," the demand side of it. And those who are in our ecosystem, but aren't yet raising their hand. And so we take those people who are in the ecosystem and not yet raising their hand and we passed them over to our SDRs to go prospecting into them and we've got specific pipeline goals for it. But it is separate and distinct from the pipeline goals with different conversion rates and a different funnel specifically for the hand raisers who are saying, " I want your product today." That allows us to celebrate all the people who are downloading the eBooks, and coming to the webinars, and are not yet raising their hand because of the momentum that that is creating for the business, while simultaneously holding ourselves accountable to the demand that we have to source and create today via the hand raisers and track that crosstalk
Dave Gerhardt: So is that the kind of money metric that you both go off of, how many like hand raisers are we generating?
Brad McGinity: We focus on the pipeline number. When we're doing all of our planning, we have different ASPs that we're plugging in for different channels at different sizes, SMB, mid- market enterprise. We're focused on the pipeline value and so we will. We'll certainly get quarters where like last quarter, for example, we were missing on the enterprise number of sales opportunities, but the ASP was way higher than we had anticipated. And so we far exceeded the pipeline goals. And so we're paying attention to both, but I would say, we're more holding ourselves accountable to the pipeline dollars.
Julia: Yeah, I'd agree. The only thing I would add is, in an ideal world, 100% of our pipeline would come from like the hand raisers and demo requests, and whatnot. It's not realistic, just given the volume of pipeline that we want to create, but in marketing and SEO, we are trying to optimize for the highest intents leads, MQLs push them through. We always optimize our spend to get as many of those as possible, knowing that we're still going to need to do more of the long nurture process with some of the inbound MQL types.
Dave Gerhardt: But everything's driving to a meeting, right? So you have that one. You can look at... Meeting's is kind of the leading indicator for pipeline.
Julia: SQL meetings, yeah.
Brad McGinity: Yeah. We track three little micro stages that are happening. One is the meeting that the SDR is having with the prospective customer to qualify them. That's a qualification call. And then they schedule, they got a qualified customer, so they pass it over to the account executive. But then the account executive has to verify that it's a real sales opportunity. We don't just let the SDR do it by themselves, and so we have the qualification call and then it becomes a presale opportunity. In our nomenclature, it's a PSQL which is weird, because they're really Os not Ls, but anyway. So we have a pre- stage there and then it gets validated by the account executive in the discovery call to become validated and actually become a sales opportunity. We see the conversion rate drop off where account executives aren't validating everything that's come over and they're rejecting some of it, which is good. We don't want 100% conversion rate, because that means the SDRs aren't taking enough chances, but we don't want that conversion rate to drop so low that we're wasting account executive time either.
Dave Gerhardt: Julia, I want to go back to you for a minute as we wrap up. As a modern CMO, Brad, this is not to say you're not modern. I'm just asking a specific question to Julia.
Brad McGinity: Julia is very modern.
Julia: He's post modern. Yeah, Brad's post modern.
Dave Gerhardt: You've been in this space related multi- tech kind of companies. What trends are you excited about right now and what... Actually, let's start with the bad stuff. What problems do most B2B sales and marketing orgs have with generating pipeline today in your opinion?
Julia: The first one that comes to mind and it's like a less exciting one, but it's the saturation of digital and it's partly because of the pandemic. When in- person events were essentially wiped out for a long period of time, it wasn't just big conferences, but it was like your smaller field events, your wine and dine events, all that kind of stuff. And moving everything to digital has been really challenging and as marketers, we've been talking about it for a while, but it's here to stay. And so I think the biggest challenge is cutting through all the digital noise. If you peel back the layer on that, it really comes down to the storytelling and having a unique value proposition that speaks emotionally to whoever your target audience is. That's really good marketing and it's really hard to do. So that is the biggest challenge, but then flipping to what I think is exciting as well is it's almost forcing marketing to move away from being so formulaic. We still need to be data- driven and automated, and all that kind of stuff, but it's like stripping it down to brass tacks. So if you don't have a good story, if you don't have an emotional, compelling story and brand experience that you're offering up, you're just going to be one of thousands of other tech companies. So to really stand out in all the noise, you go to get back to the essential human elements of storytelling, which I think is exciting and one of the reasons many marketers get into marketing in the first place.
Dave Gerhardt: It's so good. It's a great observation. I don't want the... I think the competitive advantage to be, can we tell a better story? Can we come up with better creative? Can we tell a better hook? Not they can spend 100 grand on AdWords and we can only spend 20 grand. It's kind of table stakes to your point to be on digital. What else? I know you got one more friction point.
Julia: It's less of a friction point, it's more like if you want a good ranch for me. I think it's-
Dave Gerhardt: Oh, yes, please. Go, go crosstalk
Julia: It's just like a lot of traditional that makes sense, common sense tactics are continually rebranded as new things and repositioned. ABM is the most obvious one and it's great, it's a really effective way too market and sell, but it's been around forever. And so I think there's... And it's actually one of the reasons I've enjoyed moving out of MarTech. No, I'm not like dumping out of MarTech industry, but there's so many technologies out there that are solving great problems, but are trying too hard to re- envision things in a way that makes it more complicated to understand the bare basics of the value prop they provide. And so I think there's little bit too much of that going on in the MarTech space and it plays out in great strategies are great strategies, always keep testing and being creative and optimizing, and worry a little bit less about what you're calling it, I guess. That's my crosstalk
Dave Gerhardt: And even that makes life a little bit easier as a sales and marketing leader, which is like, you don't have to be paralyzed by trying to keep up with every new thing that's happening in the technology world. It's more important that you understand the principles, then you can get smart about technology as you might need to bring it into the mix.
Julia: Yes. That is a perfect summary of it.
Dave Gerhardt: Brad, what about you on the sales side? What are some of the, I guess... What's the old way of selling that you still see leaking through a lot of companies?
Brad McGinity: I think the main thing is that we're not very customer- centric. I don't think we spend a lot of time generally. We try to do a better job at this at 15Five and this is how we train people, but we don't spend a lot of time under the customer's experience, what their pain points are, what their world looks like, what their opportunities and challenges are as business people. We spend a whole lot of time studying our functionality and our buttons and our widgets, and how it might be different than our competitor's button and widget. I think we can be much, much more effective when we do two things. One, we really understand the customer's world and their environment. And then secondly, when we optimize the journey for evaluating and selecting, and buying 15Five awareness, consideration, decision, whatever to being one that is focused on how the customer buys out and how we want to sell. We optimize processes and systems with us in mind and not our customers in mind. And it makes for an insanely frustrating experience on the customer side of it. I think that we might get some short- term wins out of it, but we don't build long- lasting sustainable businesses that really meet customers where they are and solve their problem.
Dave Gerhardt: Amen. That was great. Thanks both of you. I got a million notes. This is going to be a great episode, don't worry about it. If you're already listening... If you listen to this, I hope you agree and don't think that we're just blowing smoke over here. Julia, Brad, thank you so much for doing this. I'm going to send you a note tomorrow with thanks and some other stuff, but we'll wrap up now.
Dave sits down with 15Five's CRO, Brad McGinity, and CMO, Julia Stead, to talk through all the components needed to generate pipeline for 15Five. Hear what Julia's first few days at 15Five looked like, the breakdown of 15Five's pipeline forecast matrix, and why prioritizing brand campaigns is crucial for pipeline generation.
Some key moments:
- Julia’s first action items when she came in as CMO 6 months ago (2:25)
- The importance of prioritizing people first (4:51)
- What it takes to earn trust & credibility with your team (8:30)
- What the revenue function looks like at 15Five (10:12)
- Why considering timeframes and lifecycles is critical to successful pipeline generation (16:30)
- How 15Five's marketing, sales, and CS teams align on planning & prioritization (18:00)
- The importance of being flexible with your revenue model throughout the quarter (25:00)
- Why brand investment matters & how 15Five measures the success of brand campaigns (27:00)
- What 15Five’s forecast planning pipeline spreadsheet matrix looks like (36:42)
- The most common problems B2B sales & marketing teams have with generating pipeline today (41:00)