How Is Big Data Changing The B2B Buyer’s Journey? : Interview with David Karel

Interviewer: . . . to introduce David Karel from Bizo. David leads Bizo’s marketing efforts where he’s grown marketing’s contribution to new business from zero to almost 50% in key market segments since joining the company 3½ years ago. David has almost 20 years of B2B marketing, business development and sales experience. Prior to Bizo, David served as the VP of Product Marketing at SuccessFactors and held positions at Instill, Siebel Systems, Tomson Japan and MBAVision, which he founded. Originally a New Yorker, David and his family have been in the Bay area for 15 years. Well David I’m very glad to have you here, and what we want to talk about today really are some of the challenges that we’re seeing with the B2B marketer; and I’d love to hear your perspective on that.

Karel: Absolutely, good to be here Glenn. So I think, you know, when you think about the challenges that honestly my team is facing, I mean we have to kind of keep up, keep pace with, and that anyone that’s trying to sell to businesses today is facing it comes down to something that, a notion that we talk about, but I think we don’t really internalize what it means for our marketing effort and how it needs to change is the B2B buyer’s journey; the B2B sales process which is an extremely long one. The B2B buyer, all the folks that I’m trying to sell to and that our clients are trying to sell to, the internet and ready access to information, ready access to research, has fundamentally put the buyer in complete control of where and when and how they want to engage with us right. Where, and when, and how they want to do research on problems they’re trying to address and solutions they might one day adopt. And when you think about it, what it does it puts, really it’s putting a lot of B2B organizations on their heels. Traditionally where the sales organization has kind of led the way, now there are some statistics, I know there’s one from Forrester, where 90% of the B2B purchase process is over before a sales rep has a chance to engage.

Interviewer: Wow now that’s the highest percentage I’ve heard, but I can see that happening in certain segments.

Karel: Yeah, so back to your original question, what’s happened to B2B marketer? It’s this unbelievable opportunity, but a huge challenge, which I think again is having a lot of marketing organizations grappling with okay how do I address this? Because a sales rep is not gonna have the opportunity to engage until way at the tale end of the process, puts a huge onus on marketers, on the marketing organization, to get our brands, to get our messages and to get our content in front of our target audiences really early in the process and throughout the process if we’re going to have any chance of being in the consideration set when a prospect is ready to pick up the phone.

Interviewer: Okay.

Karel: So that’s kind of the macro backdrop I think that we’re all kind of contending with.

Interviewer: Alright, so let’s talk about how you go about doing that as a marketer.

Karel: So I think as a marketer there’s a couple things when you look at the best practices they’re developing out there. First and foremost, if we as marketers need to get our messages and content programs in front of audiences early it’s about taking what I like to call a full funnel approach to marketing. Because marketers, we’re very comfortable in terms of ROI and investments, we’re very ultimately comfortable in investing in what we define as lower funnel programs. That’s our paid search, search engine optimization, PPC, email marketing, and the reason we’re so comfortable in this territory is that these programs are touching our prospects very close to the end of that buying process right. We’re close to the point where they fill out a lead form, or close to the point where they purchase, so it’s easy to measure, easy to build a [Unintelligible – 00:03:49].

Interviewer: Exactly.

Karel: The problem, again back to the macro situation that I lay out here is that, if that, fundamentally if that’s the first time we’re touching them it’s probably too late. And even more importantly, compared to the broad target audiences we’re all trying to reach, only a few people are biting today. There are only a few prospects actually on the hunt to look for a solution. They’re not in Google, there are only a few of the total audience that I’m targeting actually searching for my solution today. So I need to take this full funnel approach and I need programs that are going to gear to get my message in front of my top funnel audience. This might be PR. This might be social sharing right?

Interviewer: Um hm.

Karel: With total intent of increasing awareness of Bizo and my solutions and punch line there is, if my intent is to create awareness when we get at the problem of attribution and what’s the value, I need to choose metrics that make sense based on those goals, those top funnel goals. Going down funnel, as I’ve now made a broader audience aware, I need to have what I call mid-funnel programs. And this could be, you know it’s an abstraction, but mid-funnel programs can be something like our thought leadership webinar series, or it could be a series of field events right. You’re trying to get folks to more deeply engage with your brand. In
B2B that means, often it means deeply engaging with the content that you’re sharing through social media, or through your website.

Interviewer: Right.

Karel: And if you’ve done that good work, so that’s really what a – how does a market overcome this – if you’ve done the hard work to make efficiently target and get your brand in front of a broad audience that’s the right audience. You’ve done then – the second pool of work is to get these [Unintelligible – 00:05:35] deeply engaging in your brand and your content. Then those full funnel programs really are starting to fire on all cylinders, and suddenly you find yourself with actually more people biting, because you’ve been able to accelerate these folks through your funnel.

Interviewer: Well okay so let’s talk about how we incorporate data into this upper and middle funnel, and how do we make sense of that.

Karel: Absolutely, so the truth is the, and I hinted at it, it’s a problem of target ability and just how do I – I’m not sure the biggest brands on the planet, and I’d argue even the biggest brands on the planet still have constrained budgets – it’s about efficiency of spend. And efficiency of spend comes down to target ability. So the only way I can actually – you know it’s easy to say I want to get my brand in front of this broad target audience, data is the key to being able to target my programs; to target my social advertising, my paid advertising to very efficiently share the right content with my social audiences. As I’m capturing leads in my database, which is the eventual goal, to very intelligently be able to segment that database and nurture folks based on where I think their interest lies, and where I believe the profile of who they are. All this comes down to data, because we all have limited budgets and time. So target ability is one key output or end product of using leveraging data to accomplish this.

Interviewer: Well can you talk a little bit about perhaps an example of data that’s useful, because what we see is many marketing organizations frankly dealing with too much data. Data that’s in their CRM system, in their data management platform, they have marketing analytics or sort of website analytics. They have other sources of information, but it’s not all brought together necessarily in a cohesive, easy to understand way.

Karel: Absolutely, I’ll give you, since we set this framework across the funnel, I’ll give you a good top funnel example then we can kind of float down funnel. Display advertising: so display advertising in the old days, especially in B2B, I know personally when I was at SuccessFactor and previous roles I’ve had, you know display advertising was kind of seen as a bet. You’re trying to place a bet in the path of where is my audience traveling. You would place a bet on the sites that I think they’re visiting, and even if I make a pretty good guess, there’s still tons of inefficiency, because a lot of folks go into that site I don’t want to target. So it’s very hard to get at our or rely when there’s so much inefficiency built into the targeting. Today, I can actually target at, for example, a company like American Express right, who is looking – might want to reach microbusinesses. It’s very hard to get at a microbusiness because there’s so many of them. Microbusiness, financial service professionals; microbusiness on the east coast, today leveraging data, a company like American Express or name your company, can serve up ads based on the very specific demographics of someone who’s surfing the internet. They can serve up ads to someone who’s on Facebook based on the business demographic profile in an extremely precise way. And that allows them to do two things. One, obviously they’re going to be efficient in their spend. They’re going to start, as you get your brand in front of this right audience you’re going to drive the right audiences to your website. You should see targeted website traffic increase. You’ll start seeing form fills that are converting actually be higher quality. And it just has a ripple effect in a positive way across downstream.

Interviewer: So I have a question for you about that. So typically it’s the consumer led companies, or the consumer focused companies that have been really good at this in the past. They have access to a lot of information about us as individuals. How do I think about this from a perspective of a company buying from a company, or B2B?

Karel: Yeah, it’s a great point. I think in some sense B2C companies are focused on this, and the technology and the vendors out there supporting that ecosystem have been a little bit ahead of the curve compared to B2B. And I think yeah, B2C companies they are based on our behavior online. They’re booking us into different segments based on whether, you know, the sites I’m visiting or the intent of purchase that they believe I am based on my site visits. They can target me very specifically. In the business though if you think about it, business it’s more about who you are. It’s a function of who your role an organization really determines the value you are to someone selling products or services to your company.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Karel: So it’s very analogous. I think the behavior comes into play, but I think especially when you’re thinking top funnel it’s really the nature of who you are, the kind of company that you work for, what size company, the industry you’re in. These are the criteria that kind of determine whether you should be a priority for my company to sell to. However, once you go down funnel, we talk about advertising, but think about even something as sacred as your house database. We’re all spending so much dollars across the program mix to collect leads. All that latent value right, it’s all kind of it’s there waiting to happen. Unless you can segment your database and understand, based on data, who someone is you can’t effectively get the right content in front of them. So I’ll give you an example. At Bizo we have, again, as marketing practitioner I am selling to multiple audiences. I’m selling to one audience who might be, call it midsize and above, and selling them a set of products. And then I do have an offering, a self-service platform for small businesses. And the earlier I can identify which segment someone falls in I can very intelligently, whether it’s from site retargeting, based on where someone’s visiting my website; the sooner I can through data identify that this is a small business, I can start messaging and getting content that actually is valuable to them. And [Unintelligible – 00:12:12]. Or once I have them in our house database we use a marketing automation system of course, and we’re creating very distinct nurture paths. So if I identify that you are a small business, maybe fitting some other criteria, I’m going to send you down what we’ll define as email drip campaign that’s going to put relevant content in front of you based on the challenges I believe you have right.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Karel: So just as a couple of examples.

Interviewer: So talk to me about how organizations go about doing this from a data perspective, especially if I don’t have data scientists on my staff today.

Karel: Yeah, I think that you kind of even mentioned [Unintelligible –00:12:57] data is, in some sense it’s paralyzing, because there’s so much of it.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Karel: In some sense, my direct answer to you is its technology is the way out of the mess if you will. But I think technology is also the cure, but it’s also the cause of these ills, because when I think back again at just using myself practitioner, when I first joined Bizo four years ago we had a relatively simple little defined marketing staff. Simple yet I think it was still probably beyond what maybe some other organizations were using. We were using a marketing automation system, of which I elected to bring in very early in the life of the company, because I knew I’d need that to get scale out of any dollars I would invest.

Interviewer: Right.

Karel: We had a CRM, and we used some basic web analytics, that was kind of it. Fast forward four years later just based on, it’s our evolution as a company, but it’s also evolution of what’s available and how quickly best practices in technology have evolved, we have a very complex stack. You know we have a marketing automation system, CRM, our website driven by content management system. We have, I won’t laundry list, let’s say there are probably 25 specific pieces to my marketing stack. Different vendors that have sold me different point solutions that integrate to a heavy or light degree into my CRM marketing automation system.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Karel: This is all spitting out data right? Some of it the data is getting along, some of it’s not getting along. So this is really the cause of the problem. That to accomplish, again, back to full funnel marketing, you need technology to support you. You don’t have enough budget and time to do this well and at scale, but there’s so much data out there and the challenge of marrying this data. For example, the path that we’re taking, because it is hard, we’re actually feeding data from our marketing automation system, CRM, web analytics into a separate data warehouse. And that’s allowing us just to do things while some of these other platforms are using while they kind of catch up and they start talking better to each other, we need to kind of beat them to the punch by marrying some of this data in ways so that we can view the dashboards we need to understand our business. So technology I think is the path to a better place. The truth is though, you’re always going to have too much data. So my advice, even when we’re talking with the team, when I’m talking to marketers every day in my job as I’m pulled on the phone to talk with some of our clients, and I think it has to do with don’t let perfect get in the way of better.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Karel: So much better we can be doing. And I think doing better has to do with focus on a few key questions, like based on where you are in your marketing effort, is it about getting more leads? Is it about reaching a broader audience? Is it about understanding the quality of the leads you’re passing to the sales team? What do you feel is that is creating friction in your [Unintelligible –00:16:08] management process, and then go after the data to help answer that question.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Karel: Make it literally as easy as that. It’s trying not to understand it all. The truth is if – you leveraging data comes down to the human brain, if you don’t have someone on your team, a human brain that’s actually looking to solve, answer a question, you’re not going to make use of the data anyway. So I think it definitely has – it’s creating that short list and then like a dog on a bone going after the technology, putting good process and definitions in place to support usage of the technology, and getting the DNA of your team. Probably in many cases you’re going to probably find a team you had in place 10 years ago is in no way fit to address the needs of a marketing organization today.

Interviewer: Right.

Karel: So if the team you have in place, depending on how – the maturity of your marketing [Unintelligible –00:17:03] hasn’t been able to evolve, you’re going to need to seriously think about, based on these questions I need answered, do I have a team in place that can help do the data sleuthing.

Interviewer: Right. Right, we’ve seen people and skills are both a shortage for the new data marketer. So let me ask you if we could, one last question, because we’re running out of time here. So let’s assume I do have the right team in place, or I’ve educated them sufficiently and I call them data marketers. And I can make sense and focus where I need to focus. Let’s talk about the CEO for a second. How do I take this massive amount of information that we’ve been calling data, that’s available to us, and make it useful for the CEO, because I cannot walk in his office with a spreadsheet? I especially don’t want to walk in and with a data warehouse and start doing queries against it.

Karel: For sure.

Interviewer: So how do I make that huge leap from okay now I have data scientists on my team and we need to communicate with the CEO who needs it abstracted at a much, much higher level?

Karel: Yeah, it’s a great question. And almost – when I bring up – I think the answer is it’s tying what you’re doing to revenue, which this day and age in 2014 we should all be doing that I feel or endeavoring to do that.

Interviewer: Right, right.

Karel: But it is, it’s actually I describe the evolution I’ve had over the last four years of the technology supporting me, and my teams growing and we’re evolving to try to strive to be at the leading edge as marketing practitioners. Even four years ago, it’s actually fairly easy kind of a stretch, but it’s fairly easy to tie what you’re doing to revenue. The way marketing automation systems are built, and CRM systems are built, you’re able to attribute the leads you’re capturing into if you have again a nice, sound, well-defined lead management process and good alignment with the sales team and processes are being done methodically; you should be able to understand downstream the impact on, by and large, to things that your CEO cares about, which is revenue, which is new opportunities going to pipe. So I think to your point, you can’t come in there with too much data. It’s what are the few questions that your CEO cares about and surface the analytics to support that. I will say though that you can’t tie everything to revenue at least today. Top funnel programs inherently, maybe I set it up for myself, a leading question here; the top funnel programs, what’s the aim? It’s to increase brand awareness.

Interviewer: Right.

Karel: So if I’m spending a bunch of money to increase brand awareness should I be measuring it based on leads and revenue? Probably not right. Ideally at some point you want to be able to tie the attribution down, so when I walk into the CEO, I do this very purposely, I need to train, and my CEO happens to be someone who has a very savvy marketer head on her shoulders, but that’s not always the case. I would want on my advice to market, go in there, answer the few key question the CEO cares about and that’s going to be bottom line. But use that opportunity. You need to frame just the budget you’re going to go after is not always going to tie to leads and revenues right?

Interviewer: Right.

Karel: So go in there and really start to introduce metric, other metrics that are very important, whether it’s brand list, or whether it’s targeted traffic to your website, so that you can make a case for that big pile of money you need to nurture you top funnel.

Interviewer: Um hm.

Karel: [Unintelligible – 00:20:39] bottom funnel programs, three quarters from now your bottom funnel bookings are going to depend on the good work you do in top funnel today.

Interviewer: Right.

Karel: You need to be able connect your CFO, CEO to how she should think about grading that spend. So I think you want to come in there with, very purposefully a richer set of metrics and get them really swimming in those metrics.