Marketing Forensics: Sleuthing Out Sales Closing Drivers and Building Scalable Pipelines

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Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, a B2B sales and marketing consulting firm based out of Seattle, Washington, is an author, blogger, speaker, and host of Sales Pipeline Radio podcast. Heinz Marketing builds predictable, scalable sales pipelines for startups and for companies targeting enhanced, consistent growth. In this presentation, Matt relates that “61% of decision-makers include podcasts as part of their research process at the beginning of a buying journey,” and emphasizes the importance of dynamic conversational interaction on social media (as contrasted with static website content and printed collateral). He challenges marketers to take holistic responsibility, not just for top-of-the-funnel leads, but for nurturing prospective customers through the sales funnel and collaborating with the sales force to drive sales and revenue performance. He warns that marketing and other professional services companies must, in order to be successful, always be watching and building their pipelines and to know their numbers?the percentage of deals they will close.

Matt can be reached at Heinzmarketing.com , which is a content-rich resource with links to Matt’s . Sales Pipeline Radio podcast, the Heinz Marketing blog, and a lot of informational downloads. Matt cam also be reached on Twitter @heinzmarketing, and email: matt@heinzmarketing.com.

Transcript Follows:

ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Kischuk, and I’m joined today by a bit of a legend: Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, and also an author, blogger, speaker, and podcast host based out of Seattle, Washington. Welcome, Matt.

 

MATT: Hey, thanks so much for having me.

 

ROB: Thanks for joining. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Heinz Marketing and about what you’re great at?

 

MATT: Thank you. Heinz Marketing, we are a small B-to-B sales and marketing consulting firm based out of Seattle. We focus on what I like to call helping companies build predictable pipelines. We’re entirely B-to-B focused and we’re entirely focused on the sales funnel. Demand creation, lead management, sales enablement—helping at every stage of the sales process and the buying journey to help companies not just drive more demand, but create more predictability and scalability of their sales pipeline development efforts.

 

We do that for early stage companies, we do that for enterprise companies—basically anyone who wants to hit a bigger number and wants to do that more consistently, that’s what we help with.

 

ROB: Excellent. I’d argue you were probably early to that game, a little bit. What brought this opportunity to your attention to really drive meaningful business-to-business marketing through some of these channels?

 

MATT: It’s a good question. When I started the business about 9-½ years ago, I thought I was going to do lead generation for tech companies. That’s what I had done; that’s what I knew from the last couple companies I’d worked at.

 

I realized quickly that lead generation, the act of just generating inbound leads, was just part of the equation. Once you generate the leads, those leads may or may not be qualified. The sales team may or may not have the best preparation and messaging to follow up with them. Helping a prospect get to the point where they’re ready to buy, helping a sales organization manage a higher volume of quality interactions, those are all part and parcel with actually doing what matters most, which is getting the closed sale, getting the business, and earning the ongoing business from that customer.

 

One of our VPs said in a meeting once, “Leads are great, but you can’t buy a beer with a lead.” So we use that as sort of a rallying cry in a lot of cases to say, “Listen—clicks, likes, tweets, open rates of emails, even podcasts and blogs—that’s all great, and those may be the things that give you the opportunity to create demand. But even once you’ve created demand, you’re not done until you’ve made money.”

 

So I think that we not only help our clients think through that entire process and their sales process, but also are really on our own mission to encourage more marketers to embrace that revenue responsibility, to step up and say, “My job is not just leads, my job is not just the top of the funnel; my job is to drive sales and revenue performance for my business.”

 

ROB: Among your many credentials, as we mentioned at the top, you are an author, you are a blogger, you are a speaker, you are a podcaster. You were doing some of these things that were, probably, nobody’s just handing you a contract in the middle of a speech that you’re giving. How do you suggest people think about which opportunities to engage in, and how to think about actually holding responsibility toward revenue when engaging in them?

 

MATT: If you’re a marketer, whether you’re working at an agency or you’re working in-house, everything goes back to: Who is your audience? Who are the companies you’re trying to attract? Who are the people at those companies you’re trying to engage? Most complex B-to-B sales processes include a multitude of people inside the company who are helping make that decision. There are decision-makers, there are budget approvers, there are influencers (positive and negative).

 

The more you can understand who those people are, not only will you be able to customize the message you put in front of them, but you’ll be able to think about: Where do I find them? Where do I influence them? Who else has influence over them that I can speak through—to get the conversation that I want?

 

I think more than anything, if companies stop obsessing about their own sales process and start obsessing more about the[ir buyers’] buying process, the stages that the buyer goes through—I think you create greater alignment, you reduce unnecessary friction, and you create a path that both sales and marketing can follow together. It just makes everything work better. It makes the buyer happier, it makes the sales team happier, and everyone is a lot closer to hitting their numbers.

 

ROB: Awesome. When did you start your podcast?

 

MATT: I started Sales Pipeline Radio about 2-½ years ago.

 

ROB: Had you thought about starting a podcast before that? What made you pull the trigger on them? What gave you the clarity on the topic that you wanted to engage in?

 

MATT: Very few people know this, but I was a member of the radio broadcasting club in my high school way back when. There were four of us, I think. [laughs] It was not the most popular club in my high school, believe it or not. But there was a teacher who had done some radio work earlier in his life and was really passionate about it. Basically what we did was, we’d get together at lunch and record ourselves reading old commercials into a tape recorder and practicing our radio voices. [laughs] But I always really enjoyed it.

 

I’ve been writing a long time; I’m a journalist by trade. I studied journalism at University of Washington. So I’ve been a writer most of my career, and I realized we probably needed to diversify our content media. It was all written stuff. I’d had a friend who’d really been encouraging me to do a podcast, and I finally decided, okay, why don’t we give it a shot?

 

I wouldn’t say it was on a whim, but it was definitely a “we’ll see what this is all about.” And I’ll tell you—I know I’m preaching to the choir—in the last 2-½ years, the audience and reach we’ve had with the podcast has blown me away—the number of people that it reaches and the impact it has.

 

It’s just been incredibly enjoyable as well. There’s something you can do in a conversation like this—we could totally take this conversation and put it into a Q&A on a blog, and it would just sit there and be one-dimensional. Yet here, you can have a back-and-forth. You can have some fun with it. You can take it in the car, to the gym with you. You’re reaching people with a podcast that you literally couldn’t reach elsewhere with the written word. So I’m a total convert. It’s been great.

 

ROB: It’s pretty amazing, this revolution of, basically, Bluetooth headphones and then better cars, in a way.

 

Along the way, and perhaps coming through that journalism background, you’ve engaged in each media as it’s come along—whether it’s blogging and some stuff that’s in some ways a little more old school, but more credible in terms of being an author, in terms of speaking. What are some of the media that you contemplate that we should be thinking about as leaders and marketers and business owners next?

 

MATT: That’s a good question. I don’t know that I am the best prognosticator of what’s coming next. I can tell you that the volume of younger decision-makers in B-to-B environments leveraging video and podcasting is exploding.

 

I saw somewhere that 61% of decision-makers include podcasts as part of their research process at the beginning of a buying journey. I knew it was big; I didn’t know it was the majority of people. I’m excited to see more and more companies leverage video. I think we’re behind on leveraging video. We do some of it, but not a lot.

 

I think that, across channels, the ability to interact is way more important. I’ve been spending more time over the last few months doing LinkedIn updates. We still do a post on our blog every day, and we’ve got some format and structure for how we do that and the reasons why we do it, but then I also do these shorter form, more casual LinkedIn updates. I’m very intentional about interacting with the comments and responding to comments and trying to encourage answers to questions that I post on those LinkedIn comments.

 

The medium is interesting, but I think the interactivity and the intimacy you create with that is more important and it transcends the medium itself, whatever you’re using.

 

ROB: I agree completely on LinkedIn. It’s hard to say exactly where they’re going, but I would say that the efficacy of posts from businesses without paid support is somewhat akin to Facebook and elsewhere. The emergence of LinkedIn as a platform for projecting your brand through your personality is, to me, exploding. I don’t know, maybe that’s your experience as well?

 

MATT: That could be where this all ties in, right? Podcasting and video allow us to see and hear from people and almost feel like we get to know them a little more as people. Interacting in a more casual environment does the same thing. That’s the reason why a lot of businesses are increasingly spending more time on platforms like Instagram, so they can show a little personality. They can show their people doing a day off work to go help a charity. They can show some of the personality and humanity behind their company.

 

I think we forget that sometimes in B-to-B. We write very formal sell sheets and you look at people’s websites. Look, buildings don’t write checks, man. People do. The people behind those company names have needs, they have interests. There’s politics, there’s passion. I think that becomes part of the relationship that we can build with our customers and prospects.

 

ROB: That’s fantastic. If we rewind a little bit, Matt, what led you to make the leap to start Heinz Marketing?

 

MATT: Let me start off just by saying this has all been a giant mistake. Like I said, I was a reporter. I studied journalism and political science at University of Washington and became a reporter right out of school, so I was doing what I expected and wanted to do. Didn’t like it. So I ended up at a PR firm for a little while, went to Microsoft for a while, ran marketing at a couple startups.

 

Once I left Microsoft I thought, boy, it’d be fun someday to maybe try to do my own thing. That tickle stayed with me for several years, and then I finally got up the gumption to do it.

 

I said this before, I think there are three things in my life that, if I would’ve waited until I was ready, I never would’ve done: get married, have kids, start a business. I’m not ready for any of those things, to be honest with you, still today. But eventually you just jump off the cliff.

 

It was November 2008 when I finally quit my job and decided to give this a go. If you remember, in November 2008 the market had just crashed, the beginning of our little recession. My wife was pregnant with our first child. So I decided to quit my job, give up benefits. Sounded like a good idea at the time.

 

The nice thing, though, is as a consultant—I had no intention at the time of building a business; I just wanted to do my own thing. It literally was just me, a laptop, and a bus pass with a couple clients in Seattle. And I was happy with that. But we had some opportunities and things started to grow, and here we are.

 

ROB: I think you’ve been very humble from November 2008 to now. Maybe you’re humble or maybe you’re hungry when you say “small” organization, because I think a lot of people would be jealous to have grown to the point that you have. But perhaps there’s also a much larger appetite ahead.

 

MATT: There is and there isn’t. We’re about 12 people now, but we’ve got employees in three states. We’ve got clients all over North America. I feel incredibly blessed and humbled by the work that our team does. The very first employee I hired 8-½ years ago is still with us today. We’ve got a great team.

 

There is growth opportunity for us and we’ll continue to pursue it, but my objective is not growth for the sake of growth. My objective is not to get as big as we can or to go find some competitor and try to be like them. As I mentioned to you earlier, I want us to be excited to go to work in the morning, I want us to be excited about the work we’re doing, and I want us to be proud of ourselves when we go home. Proud of the work we’ve done, proud of the impact we’re having for each other as employees as well as with our clients.

 

And then just personally, I’ve got three young kids. I want to spend more time with them. I took them to school this morning before coming to work and doing this podcast. I’m going to pick them up from daycare at the end of the day. Those are things that are important to me. I will, at this stage in my life, forego certain opportunities to be able to have that experience. That’s part of my compensation and part of my reward, I guess, for having my own business right now.

 

ROB: Right on. I think there is a lot of living the life that you want to live in building an agency and owning a business. I think that’s a strong thing. I also hear you talking about your personal values. What are some of the guideposts in terms of the values of the business and culture and how you build that strong team? You have someone who’s been with you for 8-½ years. That’s huge. That’s longer than a lot of people are married.

 

MATT: [laughs] That’s true. I think we spend a lot of time thinking about our values at Heinz Marketing. When it was just me and there was no one else in the business, I wrote down what I thought my values were and the values I really wanted us to be focused on as a business. As we grew, we made those values that we all believe in.

 

We’ve got 6 specific values that we focus on. Very quickly: We are results driven. We are generous. We are creative. We are curious. We are proactive. We are respectful. There’s some copy that goes behind each of those that explains them more, but it’s more than just something on our website and on our walls. We live it on a daily basis. We talk about them.

 

Just a quick story, we have some awards we give out internally for exhibits of our values. The award is called the Heinzy. I did not name it, but it started—someone found online a plush ketchup bottle. It was a Heinz ketchup bottle, and it had a face and arms and legs. So we ordered a couple of these things, and for a while those became like, at the team meeting, you got the Heinzy to set on your desk or whatever.

 

Eventually I decided, we’ve got these values, and these values related to big and little things. Sometimes it might be something you do—just a gesture to a client or to a peer—that exhibits our values. I wanted to start rewarding and recognizing more of those to reinforce how important the values were. So we created a helmet sticker program.

 

Basically, for those listening who aren’t familiar with college football tradition, a lot of college football teams, at the end of a game they will get stickers for their helmets for things they’ve done. Sometimes they had a great game, they broke a record. Sometimes it’s “you were a cheerleader on the bench, even though a fourth string quarterback, you were a cheerleader to help us stay motivated, to help us make that big comeback.”

 

Every employee at Heinz Marketing has a full-size Heinz Marketing football helmet somewhere on their desk, and every team meeting we have stickers with a picture of that Heinzy plush bottle. We give helmet stickers for exhibits of our values. At the end of every meeting, we name the person or the team that did it, we name off the values that they exhibited, and then we give the example or the story of what they did.

 

One of my favorite examples of a recognition is we gave one of our employees a helmet sticker for taking lunch. I used both proactive and respectful as the values that she represented. It’s so easy for us to sit at our desk and eat our lunch and just scroll some headlines and get back to work. She got up, she went to a conference table we had in an open area outside in front of the refrigerator, and just started to eat lunch there.

 

Now, every day, there’s a team of three to five people—usually a roaming group, and it’s not huge, but people sit there and eat lunch together and just talk and catch up. Sometimes there’s work conversation, sometimes there’s not. But I love the fact that she’s taking time out of her day to take a break and be ready for the afternoon. I think that’s fantastic. It was a great example, and so many other people have taken that cue and done it with her.

 

It’s an example of something that maybe other companies wouldn’t notice, but I think it’s a big deal. It’s another exhibit of the values that we have and why I think it’s a special place to work.

 

ROB: I love that. I think that quite often that affirmation really costs little to nothing. When you sit and think about it for a moment, you wonder sometimes why we’re so stingy with our encouragement. I think a couple weeks ago, I wondered to myself why I was being so stingy with my likes on social media feeds. Why wouldn’t I just throw out likes and favorites like they’re candy? They cost me nothing, and I’m already looking at the stuff, so why would I not want to make someone’s day a little bit brighter? Unless they’re saying completely awful things.

 

But other than that—and I think to take that lesson into the workplace, an individual helmet sticker isn’t going to break the bank, and the helmets cost far less than hiring people or replacing people who don’t stick around.

 

MATT: People come into the office and are like, “What’s the deal with the helmet?” You can tell a story about that. A new prospect or a new customer comes in for a meeting, like, “What’s the deal with the helmet?” You tell them the story.

 

You’re right, it costs next to nothing to print up a bunch of stickers. I was not going to do fake helmets; we were going to do real deal helmets. So the helmets actually are a little more expensive than I thought they were going to be. [laughs] But they’re awesome. They really are awesome.

 

Even people on the team who really don’t care about football at all, it’s just cool. It’s fun. It doesn’t cost much to recognize people. A lot of times, when people talk about why they stay where they are, they talk about being respected. They talk about being recognized. They talk about being appreciated for the work that they’re doing.

 

And look, we’re not giving out participation awards. We don’t give helmet stickers for just doing your job. That’s not what this is about. It’s about recognizing and rewarding the special people we have and the special things we do for each other and for our clients.

 

ROB: Fantastic. Matt, what are a couple of things you’ve learned building Heinz Marketing that you would do differently if you were starting over tomorrow or next week?

 

MATT: That’s a good question. It’s funny, I was on a panel a couple years ago, and it was sort of “entrepreneur things I wish I knew back then.” Someone asked me the question, “What’s the most important part about running a business and starting a business?” I started to wax on about the values and building a culture, and I finally stopped myself in the middle and said, “No, actually, it’s accounts receivable. It’s making sure people pay their bills on time.”

 

I think a lot of people start a business without necessarily knowing how to run a business. I would say I was, by default, in that group. I’m a journalism major, right? I didn’t study business, I don’t have an MBA. Even for a small business like ours, there were some basics of finance that I learned on the fly, and I wish I would’ve had a little better awareness—either self-education or sought-out education—around some of the basics of finance and cash flow and the like.

 

But also, boy, I look at a lot of people who have started similar businesses, either before or after I did, and who are no longer doing it. The main reason isn’t because they’re not good at it—it’s because they don’t focus on their own pipeline. Even if you’re not a sales and marketing consulting firm, depending on the business you’re in, if you’re a consultant or you’re professional services, 100% of your clients are going to turn over after a certain period of time. What are you doing to make sure you continue to have “deal flow” for yourself over time?

 

I think, for a services business like ours, to also figure out how to create more stickiness with client projects so that we’re not just doing short projects, that we have some recurring elements of our business so that we can plan resources and plan cash and growth a little better, those have been important as well.

 

ROB: What are some of the basics of pipeline, as you and Heinz Marketing are somewhat expert in the pipeline business? What are the minimums that people should be thinking about when they’re thinking about their pipeline?

 

MATT: The foundation of it all is knowing your numbers. I think a lot of the reason why people don’t know their numbers is because they don’t have enough pipeline. Some people expect that more deals are going to close than actually will. We have companies that have really grown through word-of-mouth referrals and they want to scale. When I tell them they should expect no more than 20-25% of their qualified opportunities to close, they say. “That’s crazy. We’ll close 70% of our deals.”

 

I say, “Well, when you’re only doing inbound leads, when you’re only doing friends and family referrals from people that already have a need and are actively buying, then that makes sense.” But only 3-4% of any given market, according to Gartner data, is actively buying. Which means the vast majority of the market is not quite ready.

 

Just because they say they have a need—I can tell you, I’ve done this for 9-½ years of building our own pipeline—if I had a nickel for every time I had a prospect that called or emailed and said, “We have an immediate need, please tell us how you can help us,” and then I never hear from them again . . . [laughs] That happens frequently.

 

So I think you have to be conservative about the economics of your pipeline—to know that you’re probably only going to close 20-25% of your qualified opportunities, and that you’re probably only going to have opportunities from a single-digit percent of your leads. If you do that math and you do the work-back math on what it takes to get one deal, you’ll realize it’s a lot of leads. It’s a lot of conversations. It’s a lot of fishing and prospecting. Just because someone’s the right person at the right company and says they’d like to talk to you, doesn’t mean that’s going to be a deal that closes next month.

 

Our expectations as owners, our expectations as sales and marketing folks that the pipeline is going to be more efficient, is what gets us in trouble.

 

ROB: That’s a strong dose of truth, and I appreciate the comments also on finance, cash, cash flow. I think if you combine those—this delusion of your pipeline and not knowing your finance numbers—it ends badly. I think that’s a meta-point you made there.

 

Finance and accounting is the only, perhaps the best thing I can say about when I did my MBA. I appreciate understanding financial statements. I think most people can save themselves business school just by learning to understand their financial statements.

 

MATT: Yeah, I would agree. It’s been an ongoing learning experience for me, having run the business, and I think I’ve gotten a lot smarter and a lot better at it over time. But I’ve certainly made a lot of mistakes along the way as well.

 

Even though I run a sales and marketing consulting firm, we’ve made those same pipeline mistakes I’m talking about. I’ve fallen into the trap of having a prospect that’s ready to go and I’m like, “Okay, I’ve got the resources.” You feel good about it, you feel confident, you take the foot off the pedal a little bit in terms of additional deals you’re working on and additional marketing, and then, all of a sudden, that deal falls through. Or all of a sudden it doesn’t become as big as you thought it was going to be. Then you’re like, crap, now what am I going to do to make payroll?

 

I’ve learned over time, no matter how good I feel about the business we have, you have to continue to build your pipeline every day. Sometimes, actually, the most important time for you to be working on your pipeline is when you are flush with business.

 

Even if you’ve got a recurring revenue and a retainer model, some of that business will go away faster than you think. Some of that business will just disappear. They’ll reorg, you’ll get a new person [as a contact], the company will get bought. There are always things that unexpectedly happen, especially in a professional services business. You have to have that pipeline just to tread water, let alone grow.

 

ROB: Right. Matt, what’s coming up for you and for Heinz Marketing, or perhaps marketing more broadly, just general purpose? What are you excited about that’s coming up?

 

MATT: A number of things. We talked earlier about marketers embracing revenue responsibility, and I think with that comes a greater level of attention on what’s really working and what’s not with marketing programs. With B-to-B marketing when you’ve got complex buying cycles, you’ve got months of the buying process. There are so many different factors that go into “What impacted that prospect to close?” It might’ve been where you found the lead, it might’ve been what message got the lead to actually pay more attention. Was it a piece of content? Was it a case study? Was it an event?

 

I think the issue of attribution and marketing performance management is becoming a bigger and bigger deal. We’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what that means for companies. There are tools in the B-to-B marketing world that can help you to answer the attribution question, but those tools aren’t very useful unless your data is organized, unless your campaigns are organized in a certain way, unless you’ve got some consistent structure of how you execute sales and marketing efforts.

 

So it’s not just a set of technology. There’s a real methodology and discipline around marketing performance management. I think as more and more marketers embrace revenue responsibility and/or as more and more companies expect marketing to be more transparent and accountable, that marketing performance management element is only going to increase in importance. we’re spending an awful lot of time helping an initial set of clients work through that and then building a methodology that can scale to others.

 

ROB: How do you suggest someone who’s not up to speed on a good methodology gets where they need to be?

 

MATT: Well, they can call Heinz Marketing at 1-800… [laughs] Honestly, the first thing to do is do a little bit of forensics and archeology on your own marketing today. My very first client 10 years ago, we were asking the same question: “We do all these things—what’s really working?” We were able to pull data out of Salesforce.com, put it into a spreadsheet, do some regression analysis, and do a little weighting to find out what we thought was working better than other places.

 

Look, if you’ve got data on your campaigns, you can start to answer some of these questions. The answers may be a little fuzzy; it may be just directional, but you can get there. Asking the question: “What’s really working?” and understanding and recognizing that whitepaper downloads don’t generate complex 7-figure deals, but it’s still important to know—where did the lead come from? What touched it last? What correlation can we find between certain activities internally and externally and greater velocity or greater movement from those prospects? Even if you can’t see the full picture, looking for evidence of impact is important.

 

The concept there is not just to find out what sales was sourced by marketing, what also to figure out what sales were influenced by marketing. A certain prospect may’ve been on your list for 6 years. If they’ve been on your list for 6 years, it really doesn’t matter where they came from now. What matters is: What got them active? What part of your sales and marketing efforts, what message, what channel, what campaign worked? And is that something you could repeat with reliable, predictable results moving forward?

 

ROB: That’s sound advice, Matt. When someone wants to get in touch with you and Heinz Marketing, how can they find you?

 

MATT: Heinzmarketing.com is our website. We’ve got a ton of free content up there. You can get our podcast and our blog and a lot of our downloads. We’re on Twitter as well, @heinzmarketing, and I’m just matt@heinzmarketing.com.

 

ROB: Brilliant. Thanks for joining, Matt. It’s been great to talk to you and draw on your expertise. Thank you for sharing.

 

MATT: Absolutely. Thank you.

 

ROB: Take care.

 

Thank you for listening. The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast is presented by Converge. Converge helps digital marketing agencies and brands automate their reporting so they can be more profitable, accurate, and responsive. To learn more about how Converge can automate your marketing reporting, email info@convergehq.com, or visit us on the web at convergehq.com.

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