Do your marketing campaigns “drop the ball”? Unifying Sales and Marketing teams to optimize lead conversion

Brandon Pindulic, founder of OpGen Media, a full-funnel, performance-based demand generation agency, addresses how to boost sales through deep funnel sales-process management strategies, including process design, prospect-to-closing lead nurturing activities, and full sales-cycle marketing campaign implementation.

For our listeners, OpGen Media is generously offering 2 wonderful and useful free resources:

    • Review my lead flow
    • Review my marketing ops
    • Why are my paid lead sources not converting?
    Within 48 hours, an OpGen Media team member will get back to you, review your lead flow, marketing ops setup or your paid lead sources and nurturing process to provide 1-3 tactical recommendations on how to improve the above. In addition, Brandon is willing to commit to a 20 minute follow up phone call with anyone who is interested with his team to ensure you’re able to execute on his team’s recommendations.

Check out the episode here!

Episode Transcript:

Rob: Welcome to the marketing agency leadership podcast, I’m your host, Rob Kischuk, and I’m excited today to be joined by Brandon Pindulic, founder of OpGen Media. Welcome, Brandon.

Brandon: Excellent to be here, Rob.

Rob: Thanks for joining us. Why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about OpGen Media and what the agency is great at?

Brandon: Sure. So, OpGen Media is a marketing operations and demand generation services company. We excel in two-key areas, depending on the client and their goals. We started off OpGen Media, not as an agency, but more as a media platform for B2B software companies to come in and place orders and various types of leads—things like marketing leads, sales leads, things of that nature. That’s still a core piece of the business, but we’ve evolved to include more paid agency model as well, after modeling—basically, seeing what our most successful clients were doing and what the ones who weren’t having as much success were doing and we built it into sort of a package.

But what we really excel in is, first and foremost, on the lead generation side of things, really going deep into . . . a little bit further down the funnel. We’re more on the mid-funnel to bottom of the funnel side of things, past where our marketing lead would be is a good way to put it. We do quite a bit of performance-based lead generation on that side. The second thing that we really excel at is on the marketing operations side and actually building demand generation teams from scratch. A lot of our clients will come to us. If they’re at the 10 person to sometimes even up to 200-people range, they’re not ready for the lead our enterprise clients are doing—companies that have a lot of teams and process established.

So, they’ll come to us and we’ll work with them on building those things out on more of a longer-term model. We’re building things out from the very basics of setting up a Marketo or Hubspot or building the platforms for them to building out lead nurturing and scoring processes and things of that nature. So, we’re either adding fuel to a company’s pipeline if they really had everything built out and we know that our process will work with them. Or we’re taking it a little bit further and we’re actually helping that client build those processes in place before we get to that mark.

Rob: It sounds like you have a lot of deep knowledge in that process that a lot of companies that have just kind of found themselves thriving a little bit wouldn’t have internally. How do you come to that depth of knowledge and understanding of what’s needed in developing those processes on the sales and marketing operations side?

Brandon: Yes, interesting question. I started off the B2B side of my career working at a company called ProofHQ. At the time that I joined that team, we were still a bootstrap company. They basically did not have much budget. If they had an ad budget, it was less than a thousand bucks a month—it was almost nonexistent. Shortly after they hired me on, I was in more of a growth role, which is what I was in previously, so I was really working on everything—any type of organic acquisition or attention side of the marketing piece. Shortly thereafter, we took on some venture debt and things really changed in terms of how to grow the business. I was tasked with working with the team on building a demand-generation funnel from the ground up. There was really not a whole lot of historical data that we could look at.

We spent a lot of time running a lot of difference tests. We really had to get things right quickly. I worked with a lot of different companies that are now probably considered our competitors. We had kind of mixed results across the board—some things were good . . . some things were not. We started taking pieces of what was working and what wasn’t working. It took at least eight months to get to point where we built a true demand-generation flywheel, if you want to call it that.

That was my first foray into that. When I started discussing it with people in the industry—the things we were doing versus what they were doing, trying to compare how we were doing things versus how everyone else was doing it, I really didn’t have a good benchmark. I realized that a lot of the things that we were doing were considerably better than what a lot of my peers in the industry were doing. We were keeping things consistent. I was just trying to look at how we were doing things versus companies that has similar ASPs, or average selling prices for this, and comparing the rest?.

We realized that we had built out a pretty good process with that. How did I test this again with other, different companies? I worked with multiple companies in different industries, still sticking in that SAS space and helping them implement these processes in their companies to see if doing this would provide any kind of improvement. We’ve seen time and time again, it helped. So, long story short, when ProofHQ got bought out after I was there for about 2 years or maybe a little bit less, I realized it was a good time to go and start OpGen Media full time, and start doing this with a lot of other different clients. Luckily ProofHQ and WorkTrymen were still clients. We’ve been doing this, ever since we started 2 years ago and I think we’re over 50 clients now.

Rob: Wow, that’s fantastic. I think you mentioned this sort of important undercurrent—we’re in the kind of marketing measurement space ourselves—and you mentioned keeping the numbers consistent. Are you finding, across these SAS companies, across the software and service companies, they are able to use essentially the same KPI’s across a lot of them or is it more of just helping them keep their own internal KPI’s consistent over time, so they’re not sort of moving the football?

Brandon: Yes, interesting question. So, are you referring to if certain KPI’s can really apply to almost all SAS businesses or is it . . .?

Rob: Yeah.

Brandon: Yeah, I think the answer to that is, yes. While the same metrics will apply to a lot of different companies, I think it needs to be broken out in a couple of different ways and the first one is—if it’s a mid-market or enterprise solution, they’re going to have one set of metrics. An SMB SAS company is going to have another. We tend to focus more on the mid-market and enterprise for most of our clients.

I think it’s important to discern that first off. The other thing that we really find before we get into the numbers with a lot of our clients is, when you’re looking at your numbers and I think a lot of companies still don’t do this, but when you’re looking at your main KPI’s, you need to branch off all of the organic, your referral type of leads, and closed business, and then look also at your paid side of things. When you’re looking at those two metrics, when companies are trying to find things like their average sales cycle or their lead velocity and things like that, there’s actually a big difference, more often than not, with paid and with organic. When you’re paying to acquire business, you’re going out-bound with anyway you do it—a lot of times those accounts and those individuals are going to be not as far along in the buying process as somebody who’s who ended up on your site organically.

Why? Because most people are doing a lot of their research before they come to your site. So, I think it’s pretty critical, before companies dive into these numbers, to really figure out why a certain channel or why a certain process is yielding a different result. So, that’s something that we review a lot with clients. I don’t know if that answers your question exactly, but I think that it’s super important to really have a paid and organic differentiation before you start digging into each metric.

Rob: I think there are two dimensions of good takeaways there that I heard—and probably a lot more. But, in particular, for the kind of the SMB segment, to not try to behave like a mid-market or enterprise client and then, additionally, just the importance of distinguishing paid from other acquisition channels for leads. I think that’s key across SMB and mid-market enterprise.

Brandon: Right, exactly.

Rob: So, I can certainly understand how, after an acquisition, it’s pretty natural for people to reconsider sticking with the company—after the acquisition, things change and new opportunities emerge. How did you decide to strike out on your own, rather than looking for another growth opportunity or another kind of earlier stage company that you could help along that same path with confidence now?

Brandon: Yeah, that’s also another great question. There was something I did think about, but it wasn’t something I thought about too much, to be completely honest. When I was at ProofHQ, the last few months I was there, I was actually building up what is OpGen Media today, building the foundation of that on the side. One thing led to another. I looked up after three months and OpGen was just me at the time. We had multiple clients, they were coming back, I was getting a lot of calls and e-mails during the workday from these clients, and I realized that the demand was there. So I figured it was a good time to strike out. I think the acquisition was sort of something that . . . after that happened, I said, “OK now, it’s really time to do it.”

So, that was my thought process. But, I’ve always just really enjoyed building businesses. Even as a kid, I had T-shirt companies and lawn care companies and things like that. I always wanted to do that, more so than just marketing. I don’t want to say I was getting bored, but I felt like we took a fairly big challenge at ProofHQ and over the course of the year and a half we figured it out, we got it. I felt like, personally, I accomplished what I wanted to do there, so it was time to try something else. I know I could have replicated the model at another company. In some ways, we are doing that—actually, in a lot of ways, we’re doing that with a lot of clients we work with now—but I wanted to take that next challenge.

Rob: And what kind of t-shirts did you make?

Brandon: So, this is going back to high school and college days, but I was making streetwear. Where it is today, I really don’t know, but streetwear was a big deal back then. We made really graphic, design-heavy t-shirts that were very vibrant—stood out like a sore thumb kind of a shirt. They got some good attention. They used to sell on various online sites and things like that.

Rob: And lawn care? You’re in New York City now, I see you went to New York City. . . .

Brandon: I was born and raised in New Jersey, in the suburbs over there. That was a weird hobby of mine, but I always did it in the summertime. Even when I was doing t-shirts, I still did all that.

Rob: Sure. What are couple of things you’ve learned from your experience in building OpGen that you would do differently next time?

Brandon: When I look back at how it all started, I would actually probably do the same thing I did. I think it was a good move to be working at a job that was in the industry that we’re still servicing. For OpGen Media, I’m selling to somebody whose shoes I was in just a couple years ago. In many ways, I’m in their shoes because we’re still doing a lot of marketing ourselves at OpGen Media. So, in terms of starting a business, I don’t think I would do much differently. I think we’re a profitable, service-based company. There are no investors or board members or anything like that, so I don’t have any—we didn’t really have a lot of complexity when starting it.

In terms of the past few years, things I could have done differently . . . I think the biggest thing, and it’s something we’re seeing now . . . is, as we’re scaling the business with more team members, more clients, I probably should have started documenting our processes earlier on. I just started doing that the past few months. A lot of the stuff was kind of reliant on numbers in my head or just something I was doing where I had a gut reaction—it really had no process or thought behind it. Now, we have a lot of project management systems in place. We have a dedicated process for a lot of things. I think it would have been a good thing to have done this a little bit earlier, rather than going at it from tackling it on the fly.

Rob: What tools are you finding helpful for documenting processes that are working pretty well?

Brandon: So, in terms of our project management tool we use Asana. I think that’s really critical for us. We’ve tried a bunch of different ones. A tool that I actually like a lot that is good for training purposes is Screencastify, a free Google chrome plug in. I use that thing on a weekly basis and I’ll do a quick training video on how to do something or someone in our team will do that and we store everything in Google-drive. So, those two are critical.

Rob: And I think I actually saw, it was it in a Forbes article, that you were talking about documenting processes earlier on, I think I saw that . . .

Brandon: Yeah, Forbes did. Actually, it was through Young Entrepreneur Council. They’re great. They do a whole bunch of media opportunities. One of them is sort of a Q. and A on things that entrepreneurs should be working at doing early on. I had the same exact answer, so you’re spot on with that.

Rob: That’s great. I noticed, if someone googles for “Brandon Pindulic,” Google automatically adds Forbes. I’m sure you know this, but, if you Google your first and last name, that’s a pretty cool thing that Google just predicts that we will also want to look at you on Forbes.

Brandon: Yes, it’s great. Google’s making us look better. I appreciate that—I did pick that up. I don’t know if it’s because the recency of the article because that’s relatively new or if it’s just the share branding of Forbes. But yeah, it’s a cool thing that Google does.

Rob: And you’ve done that a few . . . I found a few different articles, so is that . . .

Brandon: Yeah, that’s right. I know there were two in Forbes and there might be a few other floating around out there. Any time that we can do any sort of Q and A or guest-post or interview or whatever, I think it’s a great way to share different things that you’re doing. Whether that gets published or not, I think being involved in communities for marketers and for business owners and things like that, I’ve got a lot of value add items. Any time we can answer questions where we know something or if I know something specifically, then I’ll go for it.

Rob: That’s great. I think it’s really good for the brand. I would imagine, on the lead gen side, you’re fairly ruthless and metrics driven. How do you think about this broader PR and these opportunities to participate that maybe aren’t so metrics driven? Do you do some of that for clients as well?

Brandon: Yeah, great question. As of right now we don’t do it that often for clients. Every once in a while, for a client we have on retainer, we’ll come up with new ideas to implement for them. We’ll consider maybe 10 or 20% of our effort as testing. But we to remain pretty focused for our clients on demand-generation and marketing ops. In terms of how I think about it—I guess the best way to put it is, it’s not something that we necessarily do just for marketing. It’s something that I actually enjoy doing. I think it’s also important, from an SEO standpoint, to be out and about on certain sites and just putting yourself out there.

But I think it’s fun. We usually connect. Often, I’ll do an article or something, somebody will connect with me, and it’s good to make that relationship. You’re right, though. I don’t really look at any specific metric on that, but I’ll take those opportunities anytime.

This is probably not an answer you’d expect from me: I actually think doing things that almost don’t have a great way of being measured tend to actually perform the best and drive the most results. Even on the lead generation side, when, you’re absolutely right, we’re really, really digging into our metrics and analytics on a daily basis for us and our clients—multiple times a day.

Even something that we do with clients—I see more and more clients tracking this now—is, given something we have indirectly influenced—there’s a lot of influence I guess is my point—we’ll generate a lead and they won’t, especially given our market of B to B software where our clients have sales cycles that go anywhere from 2 months to 2 years or even more. There is a lot on the lead generation side of things really influencing it. Just trying to get somebody in their chair, so to speak, or something along those lines. So, I think it’s important to be looking at it from a number of different ways, rather than just as a direct conversion.

Rob: That makes sense. I think there are a couple of good things to highlight that you mentioned in there that I think could probably contributed to your success so far. You mention that you enjoy some of these more PR-driven opportunities. You mentioned that you had built up a strength in doing this sort of work before you even started—even to the point where you actually had to choose not to continue OpGen—like the train was already leaving the station and you would have almost had to choose to not start it. I think we need to highlight that there were elements of strengths and enjoyment that were part of that decision. It’s not even so enjoyable to be entrepreneurial if you’re not in your strengths and if you’re not enjoying it.

Brandon: Right, that’s exactly right. And I was actually thinking about this the other day, too. It’s something that, even when you don’t, you might—if you were to dissect your day and I think you would agree with this, too, not everything you do you like. But, it seems to be everything I do, I do enjoy it when it comes to running the business and working with our clients. I like getting into the nitty-gritty on that side.

In terms of the overall enjoyment part? When I was working at ProofHQ, I was using a lot of free time on nights to weekends just connecting with other people—and for no other reason than just learning what they were doing, seeing what we were doing wrong, or what was really working well. I think it was just something that naturally I enjoyed and the same with helping others and wherever it leads—I do find interest in a lot of that stuff.

Rob: That’s great. Now, what’s coming up for OpGen Media that you’re excited about? What will you be looking for next?

Brandon: This year is going to be our first full year as an agency on top of a media platform. I’m very interested in seeing how everything unfolds. We started this probably 3 or 4—actually maybe even 6 months ago. It’s been really great so far. Our clients have gotten more success. Everything has been working exactly how we wanted it to. I’m very interested to get a full 12-month view of how our services are going to combine with the media side of things. So far, so good. That’s still probably priority number one.

The other thing is that we’ve had a lot of success on the lead generation front. A number of companies out there do similar things, but we all have a different approach. [At OpGen,] we use intent modeling to try to find out what companies are in the market and which accounts are consuming what. We’re trying to find companies that are somewhere along their buyer journey for a particular solution. Then, we use that data to influence our lead generation campaigns—it’s a big reason why we connect with clients and figure out their sales cycles—so we can look at how our leads are moving through their pipelines on a full sales cycle. I think a lot of companies miss that. In the lead generation space, it is care about what happened that week in that month or even that quarter, but, as I mentioned previously, some of our clients have sales cycles that are 2 or 2½ years—so we keep in touch with that—even if we’re not running a campaign—just to collect that data.

Something I’m interested in and we’re working on is productizing our intent models in such a way—and I don’t know if it’s something that we’re necessarily going to go to market with or just something that we use internally and our clients can access—but we’re working on finding more scalable ways and more visual ways to represent a lot of the data that we do . . . and why our campaigns tend to work better. That’s the big reason for [productizing our intent models]. Those two things are really, from a high-level standpoint, what I’m looking forward to this year.

Rob: Got it. And is there anything else? You started to answer this a little bit, I think. Is there anything that you think that marketers in general or agency leaders in general should be paying attention to this year?

Brandon: My experience really is just stemming from the B2B side. I wouldn’t say necessarily “just this year.” That said, I try to look at things from a 5-year standpoint. But I think that one of the things that B2B marketers get held up with is looking at things with too short of a view. You need to find a way, relative to your average sale cycles, to build campaigns that are going to go for that long.

So, we’ve had conversations with clients that have a 2-year sales cycle, but their campaigns will only be a month out. There’s no real nurture process, aside from generating something and passing it over to sales. It’s super critical for companies to be thinking more about how they nurture and develop an account, how they’re treating their data from that side, and their marketing campaigns from a more long-term view rather than just trying to get a lead in the pipeline or trying to hit a monthly or quarterly number. It’s really not necessarily something that’s always in the marketers control; a lot of it is management. But that’s something that we see time and time again—the more companies take a long term view, the better the results they are going to get.

Rob: That make sense. I think that ties back well to what you were mentioning early on, that what you specialize in is deeper into the sales funnel. I think that leads to thinking about solving these problems at a higher level that isn’t just, “Let’s get that marketing qualified lead, that MQL, and check the box and say, we’re done.” How do we think about the complete business? How do we think about how to work together rather than having this-handoff-lead sales model?

Brandon: Yeah, exactly. And it’s not to say a lot of companies don’t have success with producing more MQLs. In fact, a lot of our big clients do that quite a bit, but they have the right processes in place already, and they’re doing things correctly. In that sense, we’re basically just adding fuel to their pipeline. For a lot of different companies, especially on the smaller end—and it’s logical, right? Because they have investors, they have all kinds of goals that they’re going to need to hit before they can raise another round or just keep the lights on. It makes sense. We have a lot of data and run hundreds of campaigns a year, so we really see what tends to work best and what doesn’t. We divulge a lot of that to the (smaller) clients. The ones that take that information into consideration, which is most, tend to have better than average results.

Rob: That’s good, Brandon. When someone wants to get in touch with you at OpGen Media, how can they find you?

Brandon: Yes, any way, you can send me an e-mail at: Email is almost always the best way for me. Or you can go to the website: see what we have there and send us a note that way. I’m always available through email, though.

Rob: Or they can just read Forbes. That’s great. Thank you for your time, Brandon. It’s great to talk to you, I think you’ve shared some good insights.

Brandon: Yeah, I appreciate you having me around. It was a good time and I’d be more than happy to answer any questions the audience may have and we’ll sync up afterwards. I want to send something out to your audience too. So, we’ll discuss that.

Rob: Sure, we’ll put that in the show notes. Thanks so much, take care.

Brandon: Thank you.