Buying Group Marketing | Joe McNeill
Katie: Welcome to Revenue Talks. I'm Katie.
Justin: And I'm Justin. And on this show, we get real about what it takes to build pipeline and successfully scale businesses.
Katie: By having conversations with folks who have been there before, we explore what it takes to create strong, cross- functional alignment, how technology factors in, how different teams think about attribution and so much more.
Justin: If you're looking to win in the revenue era, you're in the right place to learn how.
Katie: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of Revenue Talks. My name is Katie. I am the CMO here at Drift, and I am so excited to be joined today by Joe McNeil. He is the chief revenue officer of Influ2. Influ2 is a persona- based advertising platform for B2B companies and they've created the buy-in group marketing framework. And he's going to talk all about it today and talk about the importance of marketing and sales alignment, which is something that I've certainly found necessary throughout my entire career. Joe has a whole lot of experience driving that alignment as well. Joe, welcome to the show. We are so excited to have you.
Joe McNeil: Thank you for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.
Katie: Now, Joe, you have a lot of experience. Prior to joining the organization that you're at right now, you served as the vice president for SiteImprove. You led that organization through an acquisition, which is exciting. You were also the sales manager of business development at Protolabs. You led an organization through IPO. Can you talk to me a little bit about what drew you, based on all of those experiences... What drew you to Influ2 at this particular moment in time?
Joe McNeil: Yeah, I look back to my experience at SiteImprove, and I was there from 2014 through the end of 2021, and we were primarily an outbound organization. And as you're probably familiar with as well outbound has evolved a lot over time. And as we scaled our outbound approach and our SDR approach, we were always trying to be more prescriptive around the who, how, where, when of having SDR as prospecting. And it was always a challenge to align marketing and sales efforts very closely where we were looking at the same success criteria. We deployed a lot of initiatives, but never got down to the actual same people, same time. And when I was looking at potential organizations to join, I looked under the hood at what Influ2 is looking to achieve and the mission we're on and it really spoke to me in terms of being able to align marketing messaging and support the buying process for prospects. And SDRs have a very hard job. And it really supports the sales efforts for them as well.
Katie: How have you noticed the impact of having to work from home in a lot of organizations where you're just grinding on the phone all day? How have you seen that impact morale? And any creative solutions you've seen work really well to help alleviate some of that stress and pressure for SDRs?
Joe McNeil: Yeah, I think the biggest challenge of working from home for SDRs is just losing A, the learning experience through your peers, but B, also the camaraderie. It's hard to get ahold of people in today's world. If you're an SDR and you're cold calling all day, let's say, you might have one conversation a day. And if you're sitting in an office alone and you're not talking to your peers, and you're not having water cooler discussions, and you're not really exercising the social muscle, so to speak, when, surprise, Katie answers the cold call and you have 15 to 30 seconds to perform, that can be a huge challenge. I think finding creative ways to try to build that team environment where everyone's sort of learning through each other at what's working, what are the wins for today, what are the areas for improvement? But just getting together as a team and chatting and talking and lifting each other up at times and supporting each other is important.
Katie: Yeah, I agree. It's that human connection in any way that you possibly can connect in today's day and age. Let's talk a little bit about... I alluded to this earlier, this cliche, the storied friction between sales and marketing and how you overcome that ongoing. It's such a critical relationship in an organization and there are so many things that when the relationship is strong pay dividends for your business, and even for you personally and professionally, but let's start with some of the problems. What have you seen throughout your career be some of the key blockers in driving that alignment between sales and marketing?
Joe McNeil: Yeah, I think a lot of times it's a pretty simple high level problem that cascades down into a bunch of smaller problems. And to me the biggest issue is when commercial teams, sales and marketing, don't have a universal definition of what it means to win, right? Where we have these siloed OKRs down into KPIs, and then each group has a different definition for success.
Joe McNeil: And what happens is they start to optimize in different directions because they're not aligned under a common goal. And I think it really rears its ugly head when you're having a tough quarter or a slow quarter, and it's like," Okay, let's identify the gap, right?" And then everybody goes onto an attribution hunt and it starts to look at... Instead of everybody putting their oars in the water, as cliche as it is, and rowing in the same direction and saying," Let's just work the problem." It doesn't matter whose problem it is. It's both of our problem.
Katie: Right. Exactly. I've seen throughout my career, too, revenue is really a rising tide that lifts all boats and if you can anchor as an organization in revenue and we hit our revenue targets, everyone wins. That is maybe, to your point, a great place to start, and then you can work back on individual goals from there.
Joe McNeil: Correct. And I think if you just look at the prospect and customer experience as a whole, right? How do we create happy prospects and then continue to delight our customers? Because the output there is revenue as a whole, and I think at times when you think of elements of the commercial team owning a piece and then handing it off to the next team, that creates issues as well.
Katie: That's right. No one is actually creating that red thread across the entire customer life cycle to deliver on the surprise and delight experiences you reference.
Joe McNeil: Correct.
Katie: How has the framework that's been built at Influ2 helped address that customer experience as well as the marketing and sales alignment? Can you tell us a little bit about the buying group framework, and especially for those who might not have heard of it before?
Joe McNeil: Yeah. I think it's become even more prevalent since COVID, and it's not necessarily a new idea. It's just a new way to execute on focusing on the people that matter, right? I think in the past decisions could be made in a vacuum. They could be made by individuals. And I think as organizations have tried to become more aligned as a group, almost everything's agreed on in a committee at this point. And as a sales rep, if you do a really good job, you might have access to a piece of that committee, and as a marketing group, you're trying to reach that committee. But the problem is the individuals within that committee have different definitions of what type of value they're trying to deliver to the organization. Sales is trying to help revenue generation. IT is trying to not create issues with the current integrations and make sure there's adoption, because everybody's bought things that don't get adopted and fall through. And then legal is protecting the company's interests. And in the past it's been almost completely dependent on the sales rep to get the right value proposition and right message to each of the stakeholders within that buying group. And it's a big challenge because you're operating in a very reactive way. From a buying group marketing standpoint, quite simply, it's focusing on the messaging that matters to each individual within the group and being very efficient in only delivering marketing messages to the people that matter most to you and your organization.
Katie: Can you talk a little bit about how that differ... It sounds a lot like how perhaps we've historically thought about account based marketing of speaking in the language of the customer, making it very targeted and personalized. What makes this buying group marketing strategy slightly different from traditional ABM?
Joe McNeil: Yeah. If you zoom out, there's a lot of synergy between BGM and ABM. If you zoom out, ABM was designed to sit on top of your marketing automation to help you be more strategic and focus on the accounts that matter to your organization. Right?
Joe McNeil: It's a let's double click into the accounts that we're very focused on and align around targeting these accounts. BGM is the same idea, but it's the double click into the people within those accounts. At the end of the day, brands don't buy. People buy. From a sales rep standpoint, ABM created a lot more alignment between marketing and sales, but ABM data and ABM information can be tough to action on as an enterprise rep because it's based on the account and not on the individual.
Katie: Right. Yep. It's interesting. I think a lot of people felt like when ABM became a bit of a buzzword in the industry, there were organizations who perhaps thought it was more of a set it and forget it strategy, that automated component that was a bit more targeted to targeted accounts. It sounds like BGM has taken that a step further and perhaps the true intent of ABM, which says to be very targeted at the individual level, to the individual person who's buying, as you suggest.
Joe McNeil: Correct. And I think obviously it's easy to think of it as really empowering commercial teams, but if you flip it around, I think it really empowers buyers on the other end because people don't hate advertisement or information from vendors. They hate irrelevant advertisements and irrelevant information.
Katie: Right, right.
Joe McNeil: If you can deliver relevant information to the right people, it really empowers organizations to make decisions because they have information readily available.
Katie: Well, and you're earning trust at that point and building relationships because you're delivering some level of value before that prospect is even a customer. It builds trust to say," Okay, you get me. You understand me. Perhaps you might have a solution that could help me be better in my life and my job."
Joe McNeil: Correct. I mean, access to relevant information for buyers is a big differentiator for vendors because not a lot of organizations are doing it the right way.
Katie: Right. Especially in the digital first age where we're all working from home and so much investment is made in digital channels, there's such a barrage of information that comes. If I think about my own purchase behaviors, I mean, it's just noise. Right? And so to really stand out in the marketplace, to have that personalized approach with BGM, makes a lot of sense, and is also buyer- centric
Joe McNeil: Correct.
Katie: Can you talk very tactically for a moment, just about how you see the... If there's a lot of synergy between BGM and ABM, how do you see that playing out tactically between what a marketer does on a day to day basis, what a sales rep might do on a day to day basis, when they're trying to employ both of these strategies?
Joe McNeil: Yeah. I think from a messaging standpoint, there's a lot more alignment. If you go into an SDR's enablement platform and look at the sequences they're running, you'll see a high level of personalization, right? They're trying to deliver personalized messaging from a value standpoint. And I think if you can start to do that with your advertisements at a marketing level, you get a lot more alignment in the messaging, but you get a lot of more alignment in the targeting, right?
Joe McNeil: Because at the end of the day sales isn't looking for volume, they're looking for quality. And when you're aligned on who the target list is within the group and you're aligned on the messaging, it just creates a higher level of success for sales, but also for the prospects.
Katie: I was just going to ask, does this mean more of a focus and less volume, fewer at bats, but more focused, higher quality at bats for our sales organizations?
Joe McNeil: Correct. Yeah. I mean, the days of spray and pray and volume are over, right?
Katie: Yep, yep.
Joe McNeil: The volume and spray and pray game is really what created this problem with irrelevant information and sort of attention overload with the barrage of everything pulling at your shirt sleeve every day.
Katie: When a prospect becomes a customer with Influ2 and they adopt this framework, what are some of the things that you hear from them? Are there light bulbs or ahahs or... I'd love to know more about what they experience as customers.
Joe McNeil: Yeah. I think it's a higher level of sales and marketing alignment because suddenly you're thinking about targets in a different way. You're thinking about messaging in a different way. The concept is relatively simple, right? Let's look at specific people and try to deliver them the most valuable message. But once you're able to do that from an execution standpoint, it does put a little more stress on. Now that we can message to our key personas, how do we want a message to our key personas? And I think everybody's experienced the sales and marketing meetings where sales may be like," I don't want you touching these people within these accounts, because I don't like the type of messages being delivered." Right? Where this way there's a lot more collaboration between how do we work together to message these individuals, because we know who we're targeting with what, and we know whose eyeballs it's going to be in front of. I think we see a lot more collaboration. We see a lot more alignment in what success is in the sense that, listen, we're not sending gated content looking for hand raises. We're trying to warm up this market and generate pipeline, generate customers, and then generate expansions within our key segments. I think from our standpoint, in a word, what we see is alignment.
Katie: Yeah. That's great, and kind of alignment both at the relationship level, but also at the KPI level, at the business outcome level, it sounds like.
Joe McNeil: Correct.
Katie: How does this framework scale as you think about the variety of organizations you do business with? Is this ideal for small, medium and large- sized organizations? Let's say you have a large volume of contacts within accounts that you're targeting. How does it scale with different business needs?
Joe McNeil: Yeah. I think the value for us is we typically fit into your go to market process to enhance it. Right? I think at times maybe there's only one segment we fit with. Maybe we just fit with the top 100 accounts in the enterprise, or if you look at it holistically, maybe we fit a little different between all the segments. I think typically that with us, it's usually a top of funnel initiative to start, but where it scales is customers start to use it during the sales process to multi- thread their opportunities. And then they really start to look with their customers. Most organizations now are a land and expand model where you're not selling a gigantic enterprise deal as a new logo, so delivering the right message to the right people within your customer base is extremely valuable, especially during economic challenges where the balances of revenue turn to be more customer expansion than new logo centric. Usually we start top of funnel and then as we forge ahead, we move more towards the mid funnel on the customer side.
Katie: And as we think about just revenue being everyone's job, which is what we talk a lot about in this particular podcast, it used to be looked at as very much a sales owned motion. Now it's truly throughout the entire customer life cycle, as you alluded to. Do you think that kind of mind shift towards a revenue orientation really helped jumpstart the popularity of BGM and thinking about this in a new and different way?
Joe McNeil: I think it did. I think part of it is when you look at go to market planning, I think the most successful ways to plan are to look at your most successful customers and reverse engineer their life cycle with you, right? Where did they come from? How did we get them in the door? And then how did we expand that relationship over time? And instead of really focusing on, hey, how do we close the most revenue possible? You focus on how do we replicate that motion again? How do we find similar customers? How do we deliver value and how do we broaden our relationship throughout? I think from a BGM standpoint, if you're focusing on delivering value to customers, it's really a people- oriented motion. And I think BGM helps sort of deliver the right information to those people to deliver that value.
Katie: When you're thinking about kind of selling a new model or a framework, even if it's based on a simple idea, so much of that often hinges on this idea of people having an open mind and being open. It's change management. It's culture change. Where have you seen resistance to pivoting to this less volume, more quality, getting sales and marketing more aligned? Where have you seen pushback and how have you overcome that in an organization?
Joe McNeil: Yeah. Where we see the most pushback is just what success looks like. I think we see a lot of organizations that come in and say," Hey, we're looking to generate more NQLS or more leads. Let's figure out how we do this." And I think their heart's in the right place in terms of looking at bolstering the top of funnel to look at the overall revenue engine, but they're kind of taking a backwards approach to it. I think sitting down and usually getting marketing and sales engaged, and sometimes it's a challenge because marketing views account based marketing and this motion as a marketing initiative, not a sales initiative, but just getting them on the same page to try to help them define how we're going to measure the success of this program and what success looks like can be a little bit of a challenge at first. And sometimes it's not the individuals we're talking to's fault, it's whoever created the framework on how to measure success of those groups.
Katie: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. We talked about your previous experience and the different organizations you've been in. I was at companies prior to Drift and didn't necessarily have access to our technology. You probably didn't necessarily have access to Influ2. How are you using your own technology and this whole notion of BGM in your own go to market efforts and has that helped you actually sell the product in a more effective way?
Joe McNeil: Yeah, absolutely. Our product drives our entire top of funnel strategy and mid- funnel and customer strategy as well. I think for us it's extremely beneficial because our target persona are marketers most of the time. And delivering highly personalized ads to marketers immediately gets attention and gets-
Katie: Gets their attention.
Joe McNeil: How did you do this, right?
Katie: Yeah. Yeah.
Joe McNeil: I think for us it's maybe cheating a little bit in the sense that the persona we're targeting is keenly aware of what we're doing and not necessarily aware of how we're doing it. Our product is front and center to our strategy as a whole. But even us, we've had to look at, hey, what is the goal of this program? How are we doing this and how are we optimizing over time? Because anytime you're looking at pipeline generation, what worked last quarter probably isn't going to work the same this quarter and it's always an evolution.
Katie: How are the macroeconomics of just the current world in which we live impacting how you're thinking about BGM? Does it become more important than ever before? What are your thoughts there?
Joe McNeil: Yeah, I think it does, because at the end of the day one of my main focuses right now, as well as most commercial professionals, is efficiency. How do we get the most out of the team we have, right? Because a lot of organizations are going to pause for hiring a little bit. And I think if you look at delivering the right messaging to the right people, it's an efficient motion. Right? From a high level standpoint, we're supporting revenue generation, which matters still, and we're supporting efficiency. The reality a lot of times is just trying to look at what the organization we're speaking with target outcomes and main initiatives are and then align behind those. And a lot of times with efficiency on the forefront, there's definitely room to look at how we can support that.
Katie: In some ways, efficiency is a good thing, right? It allows us to drive focus and change can often come through crisis. It just allows you to look at things a little bit differently and be a bit more prudent in your approach, regardless of what organization you're in or what you're selling.
Joe McNeil: Yeah. I mean, it does. Unfortunately, the economic situation isn't great for a lot of individuals.
Joe McNeil: It's hard to say. It's hard to pull glass half full measures out of it, but a focus on efficiency typically results in a better customer experience as well.
Katie: That's right, yeah.
Joe McNeil: If there is one good thing that comes out of it, I think efficiency is healthy, not only for commercial organizations, but for prospects and buyers.
Katie: Well, and I think we're all collectively holding our breaths that this too shall pass and we can get back to feeling more comfortable and confident in the state of the economy as well, moving forward.
Joe McNeil: Correct.
Katie: One final question for you today, Joe. This question you somewhat alluded to already, but in addition to efficiency, what is the number one thing your team is focused on to accelerate revenue this year?
Joe McNeil: Yeah. I alluded to efficiency. I also alluded to just let's identify what our target prospects' main outcomes and OKRs that they're looking at this year and figuring out how we can help them deliver on those. For us, it's really taking a customer first approach to let's have an honest conversation about what your priorities are. And then let's have an honest conversation about if and how we can support those priorities this year. And if we can't, then let's reengage when what we can support becomes front and center for you.
Katie: I think the really important piece there is a lot of people confuse... Perhaps they orient a bit too much towards revenue, revenue, revenue at all costs, and they forget that what will drive revenue, as you said earlier, more than anything, is delivering an incredible customer experience. And so if I were to paraphrase what you share, really focusing on how you can best help the customer and being honest about that if you can't help the customer will ultimately drive revenue for your business.
Joe McNeil: Yeah. Because at the end of the day, a lot of vendors can help customers, but customers don't have infinite bandwidth so you also need to align into what their primary areas of focus are. And sometimes there's initiatives in play where... Hey, look, once you get over the hump with what you're working on now we'll be in a better position to support you, so how about we reengage at that point? Because at the end of the day, our relationships are about longevity, not about getting someone in the first door, so being able to have an honest conversation about what value you can deliver and how you can deliver it's important for healthy revenue.
Katie: Yeah, and I just think about my own experiences as a buyer. To me, that what you just delivered feels much more authentic and versus you trying to hard sell me on something and it feeling too transactional. It makes a lot of sense.
Joe McNeil: Correct, and I think a part of that is just access to information, helping buyers have access to the relevant information so they can vet whether or not you can be a resource for them, and when you can be a resource for them.
Katie: Empowering them to make that decision and come to their own conclusions.
Joe McNeil: Exactly.
Katie: Makes a ton of sense. Well, Joe, thank you so much for being here with us today. We really, really appreciate your time and your insights. I care very much about the alignment between sales and marketing and it's always great to hear from another CRO and pick their brain on how we can continue to deepen those relationships in our organization. Again, thank you for your time and we hope to have you back at some point in the future.
Joe McNeil: Thank you, Katie. It was great to be here. I love this topic and obviously I'm hopeful to see sales and marketing teams become more and more aligned in the coming years.
Katie: Thank you so much for listening to Revenue Talks. We'd love it if you left a review wherever you're listening and hit subscribe so you never miss a new episode. You can connect with us both on Twitter at KatieJFoote with an E, and @JustinKeller and remember. Revenue, it's everyone's business now.
Ask your sales team what it means to "win." Now ask your marketing team the same question. Are their answers the same?
Joe McNeill, the Chief Revenue Officer of Influ2, a person-based advertising platform for B2B companies, would bet on no, and it's this discrepancy that he believes is the key blocker for sales and marketing alignment at companies today.
That's why Influ2 created Buying Group Marketing (BGM) - a new way to focus on all the people that matter in a sales process. On this episode of Revenue Talks, Joe tells Katie what exactly Buying Group Marketing is, how it can improve a company's go-to-market alignment, and he explains how BGM can co-exist with, and enhance, an ABM strategy.
- (1:30) Why Joe joined Influ2
- (2:56) How work-from-home has impacted the morale of SDR teams
- (4:31) The key things Joe believes to be blocking sales and marketing alignment
- (6:47) What is the Buying Group Framework?
- (8:38) The difference between Buying Group Marketing and traditional ABM
- (11:27) How salespeople and marketers can deploy both ABM and BGM strategies
- (12:57) The lightbulb moments customers have when they adopt the Buying Group Marketing framework
- (14:58) How Buying Group Marketing scales with varying business needs
- (16:30) The mind shift that jumpstarted the popularity of BGM
- (17:46) Where Joe sees the most pushback in trying to align sales and marketing
- (19:11) How Influ2 eats its own dog food with BGM
- (20:21) How macroeconomics of the world are influencing the need for BGM
- (22:26) The #1 thing Joe’s team is focused on to accelerate revenue this year
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