How To Launch Software Products Part III

Don’t look now — but you did it.

YOU LAUNCHED YOUR SOFTWARE PRODUCT.

  • You captured all the data to position your product effectively
  • You educated the hell out of your audience to prep them for your launch
  • You introduced totally new technology to the market
  • And you made sure every rep and buyer had every tool they needed to know how to use it

Time to pop some bottles, because IT’S OVER! SUCCESS! ONTO THE NEXT LAUNCH!

Animated GIF of The Office spraying champagne.
Narrator: But in fact, the launch was not over.

Don’t hate me just yet. You can keep sippin’ on that beverage because you have A LOT to celebrate.

The foundational knowledge stage is emotionally exhausting, and the launch stage is tactically taxing — and now that’s all effectively behind you. There’s plenty of reason to celebrate. 

But the goal of this whole product marketing thing isn’t just to pull back the curtain on new technology. It’s to maximize adoption and drive recurring revenue.

And showing your audience what you have to offer falls short of (in my opinion — and Simon Sinek’s) the ‘why.’

What do I mean by showing them the why? 

There’s a reason Pottery Barn sells all their furniture by setting up adorable little staged kitchens and bedrooms in their showrooms and catalog. And it’s not because the salespeople like to playhouse.

It’s because they know showing you a fantastic, beautiful, comfortable, expensive chair by itself is not nearly as compelling as showing it to you in context. 

Pottery Barn advertisement example
A chair by itself is a place to sit.

Add a throw blanket, a matching rug, a coffee table to kick your feet up on with a scented candle, and family photos? Issa VIBE.

That ‘place to sit’ just became your window to what your life could look like. The vision has been painted, it’s tangible, it’s real, and it’s appealing as hell.

You’re no longer buying a chair, you’re buying an experience, an emotion, and an outcome so real you’ve actually SAT in it, smelled it, felt it, and connected with it.  

Who says software can’t elicit the same connection we get as B2C consumers? 

In this final stage, we’ll break down how you can maximize adoption and beef up those recurring revenue numbers by transforming your product launch into a sticky, inspiring, ROI-driving business strategy, and we’ll do it in three key phases:

  1. Practical application
  2. Thought leadership
  3. Assessment

Phase I: Practical application

Math teachers had 4 modes: mad minute, overhead projector, worksheets, and tests.

Mad minute was the foundational knowledge stage — their way of reviewing what we already knew. How many multiplication problems could we knock out in a minute?

Some of us crushed it, some of us are still working that out in therapy. But it was the teacher’s way of knowing who was ready for division, and who still needed to strengthen that foundational knowledge muscle before learning anything new. 

Overhead projector day was the product launch.

Follow along carefully, class, and if you’re feeling slick, stroll up to the Elmo and take a spin yourself. Just don’t be left-handed, okay, because those markers smudge so easily, and then it’s all over your hand, and the screen, god forbid your face — it’s a mess.

The worksheets though? That’s this stage: practical application.

That’s the “Molly has 62 watermelons, and can only eat 2 watermelons per hour. How many hours will it take for Molly to polish off all 62 watermelons?” crap that in the moment, felt absolutely ridiculous, but in hindsight, was actually the only vision we had into how the hell any of this even plays out in the real world.

Practical application made us tie newly acquired information to real-life — in other words, the product launch to our own use case. 

Like damn, maybe I do actually need division (ahem, this new software) to get through my day.

If you executed the launch stage effectively, you’ve successfully turned once green buyers into bonafide technical wizards through assets, tools, and demos. Your buyers are now intimately familiar with what your product does. Now is the time to teach them how to use it. And you’ll want to start PRACTICALLY.

Some ways to arm your buyers with the practical application can include:

1. Playbooks

These are the “5 steps to getting _____ going TODAY” guides that shamelessly leverage our affinity for Buzzfeed-esque listicles to present real, useful 101-level steps to using and getting initial value out of your new product.

2. Pro-tips

Think bite-size, 1-2 minute clips showing different best practices and use cases for drawing out quick, measurable value from your product that your buyers couldn’t do before.

Figure out who in-house has a smooth narration voice and knows a thing or two about the product, give them a script, have them share their screen, and hit record.

3. Video testimonials

Did you have the good fortune of running a beta or early adopter group before launch? Time to cash in, baby.

The high-fidelity output looks like setting up lighting, a camera, and an interview with a few customers on their turf to capture a 20-minute conversation about their experience, use cases, and outcomes using your new product.

More budget-friendly option?

Set up a zoom and get to work in iMovie. Want to lift even less? Ask them to leave a fresh video review on your G2 profile — hell bake that requirement into their beta agreement at the onset, and you’re golden. 

These kinds of assets are evergreen and do more to build trust and reputation with your buyers than any Gartner or Forrester analyst is ever going to get you. 

Phase II: Thought leadership

I warned you in the practical application stage to keep it practical, right?

We want our buyers to start using the product, but remember who your audience is at their core.

These are tech bros, not Plato. Get too woo-woo with them right off the bat and they’re going to run for the hills (read: dollar draft night).

But if we get them to just start using the product, and seeing some value, then we can start showing them what it’s really capable of. And that’s when the fun begins. 

Because adoption is good, but retention is better.

Animated GIF of The Office saying "the fire guy!"
As Ryan “fire guy” Howard so eloquently schooled us, it is 10x more expensive to sign a new customer than to keep an existing one. And simply using something isn’t going to make your buyer keep using it. 

In this stage, you’ll want to go beyond how to use your product and get value from it, to showing them why your product should be central to their overall business strategy.

Yes, everybody, this is the why stage. The think bigger stage. The dream with me for a minute stage.

And frankly, you’re probably going to want to go above the tech bros for this one. 

Your target audience for thought leadership should land amongst the strategic drivers at your target accounts — think VPs, founders, department heads, and C suites.

These aren’t the people implementing the tool, they’re the ones signing the renewals, and holding their teams accountable for the output they’re getting from that software investment. Show leaders at your target accounts just how much value your solution can drive, and they’ll practically close the sale for you.

This kind of marketing should include:

Webinars

Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m serious.

Boring-ass buzzwordy quick-fix webinars are tired and over, yes. Inspiring, differentiated, breath of fresh air webinars? Your buyers are begging for them. I know this because I’ve hosted a few. Hell, I’ve attended a few.

If you layer this channel into your launch strategy at this stage, choose hosts they actually care to hear from and keep the “sale” far from the discussion, you will get registrants. You will get attendees. And you will evangelize decision-makers from your top accounts, in about 1 hour. 

Op-eds

I’ll give it to you, webinars are a heavy lift (as I exhale today from a 4-month long build-up to this morning’s webinar). But Op-ed pieces, albeit less flashy, can pack just as much punch if your thought leaders can write well (or, and you did not hear this from me, work with a fantastic ghost-writer).

You’re a business, so chances are, your ICP exists at your company.

Sell HR software? Have your Chief People Officer pen an op-ed about the state of HR, and how your software solves the challenges we’ll be facing in the next 10 years.

You’ll want this to come from a person who’s been around the block and has the credibility and experience to share an opinion people want to hear about. 

These pieces are meant to inspire possibilities, expand beyond technology, and let people in leadership positions sit in that Pottery Barn living room for a second and imagine what life could be like.

Evangelize decision-makers at your top accounts, and this phase will pay dividends long beyond the conclusion of your launch, that’s a promise.

Phase III: Assessment

I’m getting emotional. We’re almost at the end, which means you’re almost ready to go crush the hell out of your next launch. I’m so proud of you for making it this far!

But I feel in my heart that I’d be doing you dirty if I didn’t bring it back to our teaching metaphor just one more time.

Animated GIF of math equation.
So just like any good teacher finishing out any unit, the final stage of your product launch campaign can only be one thing: The Test.  

And it’s arguably the moment we’ve all been waiting for: The proof.

You’ve spent weeks…months…quarters (?!?!)… drawing out this product launch, creating compelling stories, positioning poetic narratives, launching differentiated features, and slinging inspirational dogma all in an effort to turn buyers, into customers, into believers — but there’s one thing in tech that speaks louder than all of it: data. 

Cold, hard, shiny, indisputable, numerical validation. If they didn’t buy it before, numbers don’t lie. And if they didn’t trust you before, their peers don’t lie either.

This is where you lean into a customer-led growth engine to seal the deal. Capture a few solid customer stories, and ride those beautiful KPIs all the way into the sunset.

But before we dig into just how much juice you can squeeze out of a good customer story, one more food metaphor for the road:

There’s nothing I hate more than when people order a bone-in ribeye and CUT the meat away from the bone, leaving the richest, most flavorful part of the steak to get cold and thrown out.

YOU IDIOTS. YOU’RE THROWING AWAY GOLD.

Everyone knows you either gnaw the bone, or you bring it home to use as a base in your next cooking adventure.

(By the end of this blog series you’ve probably guessed I like my steak. So if you’re in Chicago and are looking for a fantastic steak experience, book a table at Steak48 on Wabash. You can thank me later).

But my point is, by simply turning a customer story into one lousy ass case study, you’re leaving cold-hard ARR cash on the table. Our customer’s time is valuable as hell. And ya know what? So is ours.

Here are some examples of getting extra miles out of customer story:

1. Case study blog

Write and publish your customer story for your blog site. Optimize it, and let the organic traffic roll in.

2. Case study PDF

Pair down that story into the challenge, solution, and outcome sections, with big sexy data callouts in a fully designed PDF. Gate this PDF behind matching display ads with GIANT data points as the focal point and fill that top of funnel. 

3. Case study slides

Turn that story into 3 deck slides: Slide 1: The challenge. Slide 2: The solution. Slide 3: The outcome (make the data points the biggest part of that slide). Hand this over to sales to use in their pitches and watch the BOFU leads close.

4. Case study presentation

Give your customer the mic and let them tell their story on a webinar or conference panel.

If it’s a known company amongst your target audience, the logo will draw attendance, and co-presenting with a customer is one of the best ways to show, strengthen, and solidify that partnership. Retention and expansion with this account henceforth should be a breeze. 

Animated GIF of man saying "you can do it"

Well fam, that’s it.

That’s all she (I) wrote. I hope like hell this was digestible, and makes sense, and feels doable.

Give yourself grace when you try to implement these strategies. You’re not going to knock out every stage overnight, but I can bet the first time around you’ll get just enough validation from the market and your sales reps to give it another hack.

And before you know it, you’ll be off writing blogs for Metadata about how I SHOULD be launching products.

I’m proud of you, I’m excited as hell to see what our industry cooks up next, and I can’t wait to hear who checks out Steak48.

Til next time, Bears fans. Happy launching.

Meet Aubyn Casady

Principal Product Marketing Manager, G2

Aubyn Casady runs partner marketing in her role as Principal Product Marketing Manager for G2. She has spent her marketing career launching campaigns, products, and partnerships for some of Chicago’s top SaaS companies, while moonlighting as a freelance content writer and product marketing consultant.

Outside of her full-and-a-half-time marketing responsibilities, Aubyn manages and sings every weekend with Chicago’s premium event band, Rush Street Rhythm.

Connect with Aubyn on LinkedIn here.  

How To Create Webinars That Live Longer and Convert Faster

This is the ninth post in our new content series, No Fluffs Given. We’re tired of the fluffy content in our LinkedIn feeds, with no real substance or actionable takeaways. So we’re teaming up with some of the best B2B marketers we know. People who have ACTUALLY done this stuff before. And giving you new, actionable tactics to implement today.

Tyler Durden gets rebranding. He’s also good at mission statements and community building. Don’t be like Tyler, but do learn from Tyler.

See, marketers (you) ruined webinars with your pitch slapping, logo flexing, and ego stroking. You were so worried about getting butts in seats that you forgot about math. That’s right, math.

Think about how thrilled you’d be to get 100 people to your first webinar. You’d pee yourself. Yet, 1,000 organic views on a LinkedIn post is subpar.

So, the first thing you need to hammer into your head is the webinar is not about the webinar. Say that again if you need to.

Webinars are a way to learn from your audience and create community-led content that you can later distribute on other channels. The bulk of the ROI comes after the webinar.

Here’s how to stop wasting time on the wrong webinar activities (ahem, lead gen) and start making money with webinar repurposing:

1. Identify your sweet spot

When my former employer, MarketerHire, launched a Live series (see how I didn’t say the W-word there?), we didn’t promise to cover all the marketing things and please all the marketing people. We took a step back to answer:

  1. Who are we talking to? CMOs
  2. Where’s the overlap between that person and our product? CMOs care about hitting their numbers. To hit those growing numbers, they must scale. We could help them hire top talent, faster.
  3. Where’s the gap between that person and your product? CMOs sometimes believe in-house hires are the only way to go. They’re also not 100% sure who to hire when. They want to hear how other CMOs are doing it before making a decision.

While we had the resources to talk about marketing in general, that wouldn’t help us address common objections around our product. Thus, it wasn’t the strongest play. The best move, we decided, was to focus on marketing operations — how to build a marketing team.

Ahrefs and HotJar follow a similar framework to prioritize their blog content. They give each potential topic a relevancy score between 0-3. A three means your product is an irreplaceable solution, a zero means there’s no connection between the topic and your product.

When I’m overwhelmed with content possibilities (often), I go back to Ahrefs’ scoring rubric.

You can follow Ahref’s topic scoring framework to find your webinar sweet spot. Once you find that intersection between the content your target audience wants and what you’re uniquely qualified to deliver, the next steps get easier.

2. Ask strategic questions

Every question you ask should relate to the niche you decided on.

On our webinar landing page and event promos, we promised to cover how, who, and when to hire freelancers. We also talked directly to CMOs and the pains of building a marketing team, not the pains of marketing.

Asking the right questions isn’t complicated. It just takes focus and the ability to say “no” when you want to go off topic. Tell your guests in the promos what they can expect. Then stick to it.

So, naturally, we asked questions like:

  • Which marketer should you hire first?
  • How is your team currently structured?
  • When do you hire freelancers?

Editor’s Note: If you’re getting too many surface-level answers and you want to drill more into the tactics, give guests the permission to dive deeper with follow-up “how” and “why” questions.

Having a clear webinar outline helps you and the guest bring your A-game. You won’t get to every question and attendees will ask their own, but creating an outline that aligns with your sweet spot helps guarantee you get repurposable content out of the show.

3. Mine the transcript for gold

While asking the right questions to the right guests increases your chances of getting repurposable content, you still have to dig for the best clips. I recommend a team member take notes throughout the event to timestamp what I call “money moments.” (I made this term up just now.)

Here are two things to look out for during the webinar:

Content that captures existing demand

Growth marketers were by far the most in-demand role at MarketerHire, making up a third of all hires. We also noticed organic content around growth marketing — blogs and social — not only drove engagement, but also SQLs. So, we asked guests specifically about what to look for in a growth marketer and when to hire them.

Content that creates new demand

On the flip side, non-performance marketers — brand marketers, SEOs, and social media managers — tended to have less demand. Also, some CMOs were skeptical about hiring freelancers over in-house marketers. We addressed these objections by asking CMOs when and how they hired specialist freelancers.

Once we found clips we liked, I would write a few headline options for each and send to our video agency to edit the raw footage.

4. Invest in a video editor

Whether or not you hire a video editor in-house will depend on how much video you plan to produce and what kind of budget you have. But trust me, if you aren’t a video person (guilty), editing will consume too much of your time. It’s worth hiring an expert.

If you’re just starting out, I recommend hiring a video agency. I personally use Motion for my podcast and we used Blnk Slate Media for general video repurposing at MarketerHire — webinar and customer story clips.

Here are some key learnings from testing dozens of formats on organic and paid social:

  • Bold headlines and colors perform better
  • Direct quotes and questions work well as headlines
  • Include captions (and proofread them)
  • Prioritize video over audiograms
  • Maximize your real estate in the feed (1080×1080 format on Instagram, for instance)

Don’t assume your video editor will know to do all of the above. Get specific about what you want in the brief. The cheaper the editor, the more hand-holding required. All-star (expensive) editors don’t need a brief after a while, they know good content when they see it.

5. Test clips and copy on organic social first

There are infinite things you can test on organic social before ever dropping a cent on paid advertising. Things like:

Formatting – I saw more success with video than audiograms on LinkedIn organic, especially when showcasing recognizable guests.

Placements – I don’t have much data on this, but we started testing Instagram story ads as well toward the end of my tenure. Instagram is pushing Reels right now, so worth considering. 

Copy – Easily the most important factor of all these. If the headline doesn’t resonate, they won’t read the rest or watch the video.

Clips – Think back to your sweet spot. Does the clip address an objection? Will it help you capture or create demand? Would you watch it?

CTAs – While you can’t mimic CTAs on organic social the same as you would in paid, you can create a Bitly link to test click-through rates. For example, we would always drop the link to sign up for the next Live in the comments. (NOTE: Most people won’t click. That doesn’t mean it’s not working.)

Here are two examples of clips we tested on our company LinkedIn and Twitter pages first. To get a more representative size, I would sometimes post these to my personal profile as well.

Headlines about what not to do tend to do better than headlines about what to do. That’s because we’re risk averse. Consider this when writing headlines for your clips.
Questions you know about your audience is asking make for good hooks. Also, consider the “fold” on social so you can end on a cliffhanger. I.e., “It depends.” On what exactly?

I highly recommend posting to a personal profile to test video content. You’ll get far better reach. The catch: this is only helpful if the bulk of your connections match the audience you’re targeting. Both of the above videos performed well relative to our other posts.

6. Promote top video clips to paid ads

Once you’ve taken the time to test your webinar clips in organic spaces where your audience hangs out, assess the reactions and comments.

  • Are you getting more engagement than you typically get on your other video content?
  • Is your target audience engaging?
  • Are they asking questions?
  • Are they tagging people from their team?

All of the above are good signs you’re onto something. Promoting to paid is how you’ll know for sure.

Of course, this part gets complicated as you not only need to know who you’re talking to (a given), but how to creatively target them on paid social given data limitations.

For instance, you won’t be able to target by title as well on Facebook as you can on LinkedIn. Our paid team used Metadata to track down our target audience on hard-to-reach channels.

The paid team would then A/B test two or three headlines per clip and two or three clips at a time. After a few days, they’d cut the low performers and double-down on what was working. That process is basically good marketing in a nutshell — test small and focus on what works.

Here are a few repurposed webinar clips that have been catching my attention on Instagram lately. Props to Active Campaign and AdWorld for earning my eyeballs (and now my praise).

Sometimes your guest is Seth Godin and he sells himself. But the fire engine red doesn’t hurt either.
I’ve found video to work better than audiograms, but this one’s done well and the bright, bold blue certainly caught my attention. Also, the headline plays to a universal fear — messing up.

The results

Every MarketerLive guest had at least two great clips and each campaign (guest) generated a few hundred qualified leads for MarketerHire. And by qualified leads, I mean people who clicked on the “hire expert marketer” CTA and filled out a 10-question form. That indicates a much higher intent than the webinar attendees B2B marketers are currently classifying as leads in the CRM. Just saying.

On average, webinar ads had a 25% higher click-through rate compared to non-webinar ads. However, they converted about 25% worse. At least, based on what we could track within the platforms.

The iOS14 update kicked in during this time, so we could only track conversions from ads for seven days. That means if you didn’t convert on the platform within that window, there was no perfect way to know if they converted from the ads later. Or, if they found out about us from the ad but visited the site via Google.

Still, if you know your audience and the message you want to tell, content consumption should be a core focus. I’ve found webinar repurposing to be a great way to engage your audience on both organic and social. If you have a solid product that aligns with the content you’re sharing, the conversions should come. You just won’t be able to attribute everyone.

Now what?

Now you launch your own webinar, er, live event and repurpose it into engaging social clips and ads. You’ll do this to drive the right people to real conversions. As Metadata says, “generate revenue, not just leads.”

If you want more tactical content marketing tips, I host a podcast called Content Logistics where I interview the marketers behind the best content flywheels. It publishes on Spotify and Apple biweekly, is 100% free, and I’m told it’s best consumed while walking your dog.

Now go forth and create.

Meet Camille Trent

Head of Content, Dooly

Camille Trent started her career as an agency copywriter and found her home in early-stage B2B SaaS. When she’s not working on content strategies, she’s hanging out with her two favorite redheads or coaching the Portland Trail Blazers (unsuccessfully) from her couch.

You can connect with Camille on LinkedIn here.

Metadata Selected Second Year in a Row for Inc. 5000 List, With 3-Year Revenue Growth of 420%

Metadata named one of the fastest-growing private companies in America, changing the way B2B marketers think about demand generation

SAN FRANCISCO (AUG. 19, 2021) — Metadata.io, the first demand generation platform for B2B marketers who want to get closer to revenue, has been named one of the fastest-growing private companies in the United States, ranking 1159 on the Inc. 5000 list.

This is the second consecutive year that Metadata, which has had a three-year revenue increase of  420%, has made the Inc. 5000.

The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment—its independent small businesses.

This achievement puts Metadata among an elite group, sharing a pedigree with Intuit, Zappos, Under Armour, Microsoft, Jamba Juice, Timberland, Clif Bar, Pandora, Patagonia, Oracle and other notable companies that have made the Inc. 5000.

“We are incredibly proud of the customer-first culture we have to create not only a product that marketers desire, but an entirely new category in a market that is sometimes confusing,” said Gil Allouche, CEO of Metadata.

“This recognition is a testament to the fact that autonomous demand generation is working for our customers. Our customers’ success fuels our continued growth, and that is the ultimate validation that our work is disrupting the status quo for B2B marketers.”

B2B marketers use Metadata to run paid campaign experiments at scale. Metadata’s demand generation platform automates how campaigns are launched, finds the best performing experiments, and self-optimizes based on what drives pipeline and revenue.

With Metadata, revenue marketers from customers such as Slack, G2, Zoom and Juniper Networks have experienced as much as a 4.5X ROI in as little as 90 days using Metadata. 

Metadata’s rapidly growing customer base continues to praise the technology for helping B2B marketers achieve results beyond the scale they previously thought was possible. On average, Metadata customers achieved positive ROI within just seven months compared to 17 months from competing platforms.

Not only have the companies on the 2021 Inc. 5000 been very competitive within their markets, but this year’s list also proved especially resilient and flexible given 2020’s unprecedented challenges. Among the 5,000 listed, the average median three-year growth rate soared to 543 percent, and median revenue reached $11.1 million. Together, those companies added more than 610,000 jobs over the past three years. 

“The 2021 Inc. 5000 list feels like one of the most important rosters of companies ever compiled,” said Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief of Inc. “Building one of the fastest-growing companies in America in any year is a remarkable achievement. Building one in the crisis we’ve lived through is just plain amazing. This kind of accomplishment comes with hard work, smart pivots, great leadership and the help of a whole lot of people.”

Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000. The top 500 companies are featured in the September issue of Inc., which will be available on newsstands Aug. 20.

The annual Inc. 5000 event honoring the companies on the list will be held at the annual Inc. 5000 Vision Conference on Oct. 19-20. As always, speakers will include some of the greatest innovators and business leaders of our generation. 

More about Inc. and the Inc. 5000

Methodology

Companies on the 2021 Inc. 5000 are ranked according to percentage revenue growth from 2017 to 2020. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2017. They must be U.S.-based, privately held, for-profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2020. (Since then, some on the list may have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2017 is $100,000; the minimum for 2020 is $2 million. As always, Inc. reserves the right to decline applicants for subjective reasons. Growth rates used to determine company rankings were calculated to three decimal places. There was one tie on this year’s Inc. 5000.  Companies on the Inc. 500 are featured in Inc.’s September issue. They represent the top tier of the Inc. 5000, which can be found at http://www.inc.com/inc5000.

About Inc. Media

The world’s most trusted business-media brand, Inc. offers entrepreneurs the knowledge, tools, connections, and community to build great companies. Its award-winning multiplatform content reaches more than 50 million people each month across a variety of channels including web sites, newsletters, social media, podcasts, and print. Its prestigious Inc. 5000 list, produced every year since 1982, analyzes company data to recognize the fastest-growing privately held businesses in the United States. The global recognition that comes with inclusion in the 5000 gives the founders of the best businesses an opportunity to engage with an exclusive community of their peers, and the credibility that helps them drive sales and recruit talent. The associated Inc. 5000 Vision Conference is part of a highly acclaimed portfolio of bespoke events produced by Inc. For more information, visit www.inc.com.

For more information on the Inc. 5000 Vision Conference, visit http://conference.inc.com/

How To Find Your Perfect B2B Facebook Target Audience

Let’s be honest—finding your perfect B2B Facebook target audience kind of sucks. Okay, not just kind of. It’s about as fun as cleaning your kid’s car seat. Or scooping a yard full of dog poop.

Working in the Facebook platform natively, you have very limited options for finding and targeting B2B buyers.

You might even wonder if it’s worth it for your company to use Facebook advertising. The short answer to that question is a resounding ‘yes.’ There are an astounding 2.89 BILLION people on the platform. Your buyers are definitely among them, and with a little creative targeting, you can find them.

Here’s what you need to know about the challenges of finding and building the perfect Facebook audience for your B2B company. We’ll cover tips for working natively in the platform—as well as some options for if you’re lucky enough to have some additional resources.

What you need to know about building B2B audiences on Facebook

The reason targeting B2B audiences on Facebook is such a pain in the @$$ comes down to the ways in which Facebook allows you to build these audiences. Facebook allows you to target in four ways:

  • Demographics. Age ranges, gender, geography, yadda yadda.
  • Interests. The stuff Facebook deduces each person is interested in based on their online behavior—like running, or Disney, or marketing.
  • Behaviors. Actions Facebook users take, such as clicking your ad or downloading your content or visiting your website.
  • Your lists and lookalikes. You can upload your lists to Facebook, and Facebook will do their best to find these people, as well as others like them.

 

What’s notably missing here are most of the variables B2B marketers use for effective ad targeting:

  • Job function
  • Company
  • Industry
  • Revenue
  • Employee count

 

Ouch. This is a huge pain point for reaching B2B audiences on Facebook.

Facebook does allow you to target by job title, but the platform offers a limited set of options. Plus, when was the last time you updated your job title on Facebook? Maybe around the same time you ordered your last studded belt or Ed Hardy t-shirt. This data point is dubious at best.

You can also choose industries and companies that the audience is interested in. But who cares that the person viewing your ad is interested in the healthcare or technology industries? What you need to know is whether these folks have been able to achieve gainful employment in these fields.

As Adam Goyette, VP of Marketing at Help Scout explains, “Using Facebook’s demographics, the closest I can get to targeting people in B2B SaaS is ‘Business & Financial Operations.’”

There are even targeting complications when it comes to uploading your own lists. Working natively in Facebook, you can’t upload target account lists (TAL) consisting of company names and domains. The platform only allows contact lists of individuals’ names and email addresses. No bueno when it comes to B2B and ABM.

Without these options available in Facebook ad targeting, finding your B2B audience is tricky at best. And the leads you do generate will probably suck a little, too.

How to find your B2B target audience natively in Facebook

We’ve painted a pretty bleak picture, but not all hope is lost, young grasshopper.

So, how DO you get your ads in front of the right Facebook target audience? You have a few options for finding an audience that delivers the results you’re looking for (leads, signups, content downloads, new best friends…).

If you’re set on targeting natively in Facebook, there are a few things you’ll have to get good at.

1. Use first-party data to find your Facebook target audience

In case you’ve totally been living under a rock, first-party data refers to data your business collects directly from your customers. These data points are called identifiers and include things like name, email address, phone number, etc.

You can feed this information into Facebook to build a custom audience. Facebook takes your identifiers and matches them to user profiles to find the people in your target audience. Since these people are your customers already, you know they’re the kind of people that buy your product.

Then, you can ask Facebook to find more profiles like these people via a lookalike audience. And Facebook can probably do a better job than you can at figuring out the trackable similarities between these people.

The better quality first-party data you put in, the better your results are likely to be. So, get collecting.

Caveats on lookalikes:

  • Keep the lookalike audience at no more than 1-2% of your total audience. Anything more and Facebook will start pulling in people that probably aren’t very relevant to meet the required audience size.
  • Make sure you’re reviewing the leads coming through from lookalikes. If you have a small total addressable market (TAM) and a very specific ICP, lookalike audiences may not work too well.

2. Retarget engaged prospects on Facebook

Who else do you know is likely to be jonesing for your wares? The peeps that have engaged with your company already. Maybe they’ve visited your website and downloaded some of that sweet, sweet content you’ve been sweating over.

Your goal is to get them to come back and enjoy more. You can track this behavior on your own website with the Facebook pixel—then build a Facebook target audience specifically made up of these people.

As Facebook explains:

“When someone visits your website and takes an action (for example, buying something), the Facebook pixel is triggered and reports this action. This way, you’ll know when a customer took an action after seeing your Facebook ad. You’ll also be able to reach this customer again by using a custom audience. When more and more conversions happen on your website, Facebook gets better at delivering your ads to people who are more likely to take certain actions.”

Don’t forget to personalize this retargeting to people based on what they’ve already engaged with. Keep it relevant, friends.

3. Use exclusions to keep out the wrong people

Most of us are pretty fixated on targeting the right people. But it’s equally important to keep the wrong people out of your target audience. When your impression pool is full of fluff, there’s a higher potential for overspending—which means higher customer acquisition costs (CAC) and lower ROI.

This means you’ve got to get good at using Facebook’s exclusions.

Running a demo campaign? Exclude anyone that’s already signed up for a demo. The same goes for things like webinar and event registrations.

Got a special offer for new customers? Make sure your existing customers don’t see it and get miffed. Lot’s of companies don’t—which is just insane.

A good rule of thumb when you’re creating your B2B target audience is to always exclude:

  • All paid customers
  • Any contacts marked ‘bad fit’ or poor ICP

Pro tip: Create a 1% lookalike of your worst customers/leads—and exclude them from your targeting.

4. Target only high-value leads

Our friend Adam over at Help Scout explains it this way:

“Facebook automatically optimizes ads for ‘website conversions,’ but I would much rather have it optimized for the highest quality, which means the likelihood to convert into a sale.”

Adam reviews the deets in his post on lowering your Facebook CPL, but the TL;DR is that you need a good lead scoring model. He uses Madkudu, but there are plenty of other options out there. The model looks at thousands of your data points and figures out the most common traits in people that converted into a paying customer—and those leads that went nowhere. Then it tells Facebook exactly what kind of target audience to build based on this information.

How to find a better B2B audience on Facebook

If you’re totally sold on Facebook ads (but tired of crappy B2B targeting), it ironically might be time to forget working natively in the platform. There are a variety of tools you can invest in to access the granular, B2B-specific data points and targeting options you need to build the perfect Facebook target audience—like accurate job title, job function, company, industry, etc.

For example, with the right tools, you can layer in information like G2 and Bombora intent data, target dynamic Salesforce audiences, upload and target account lists (versus only contact lists)—and generally get access to all of the firmographic targeting options that give you the warm fuzzies.

With Metadata, we’ve found that combining these various data sources and B2B targeting options allows you to increase your Facebook audience match rates up to 9X (but you can also explore options like Lusha, Clearbit and Versium).

And when it comes down to it, more audience accuracy means more moolah.

As our own Jason Widup likes to say, “A mediocre ad targeted to the right audience will typically outperform a stellar ad targeted to the wrong audience.”

We’re diving deep on Facebook, so keep your eyes peeled for our next post on Facebook ROI.

By Marketers, For Marketers Ep. 8: ABM vs. Demand Gen

In this special episode of By Marketers For Marketers, Jason discusses ABM and demand generation with Chris Walker, Founder and CEO at Refine Labs.

In this special episode of By Marketers For Marketers, Jason discusses ABM and demand generation with Chris Walker, Founder and CEO at Refine Labs.

Additional panelists for this episode include:


• Alex Mann, Director of Growth and Marketing at Capchase
• Blake Cohlan, Director of Growth Marketing at SupportLogic
• Brandee Sanders, VP of Marketing, Motive Retail

What is the definition of ABM and demand gen?

ABM and demand generation are two of the most common strategies that B2B organizations use to generate leads.

The problem is no one agrees on a standard definition of the two.

Most marketers define demand generation and ABM differently depending on how their company or software vendors define it. And that’s a big problem because it distorts the reality of what’s involved in demand generation and ABM.

The truth is, the definitions of demand generation and ABM are the same regardless of what technologies you use.

Think of demand gen and ABM as subsets of each other rather than two separate things. You can’t have one without the other.

Demand generation involves using paid ads, organic search, or other channels to reach your target audience. Once you’ve done this, ABM allows you to go after the most valuable accounts on your list. It helps you personalize your messaging.

And when done correctly, it leads to better alignment between sales and marketing and improved return on investment.

Are display ads for B2B worth it?

As a B2B marketer, you’ll need to continually experiment with different ABM channels to get the results you want.

Many software vendors recommend using display advertising for ABM, but it’s not a requirement.

The problem with display ads is that it can be challenging to prove their ROI. Yes, they can help you with brand awareness.

They can keep your brand top of mind. But if your goal is to increase conversions among your target accounts, you might be disappointed by the results you see when using display advertising.

ABM lists are typically smaller compared to broader audiences you would use for brand awareness display ads. As a result, an ABM display ad campaign will more often than not have lower click-to-conversion and higher-than-average costs.

Why bloated sales teams make ABM harder

ABM is especially challenging to implement in large companies. The larger the sales team, the more importance is placed on quantity over quality of leads.

This forces marketing teams to focus most of their effort on launching demand generation campaigns at the expense of ABM.

The difference between volume and quality is often the difference between demand generation and ABM. You can only generate a large volume of leads by using a one-to-many demand generation approach.

It’s not possible to do that with ABM, which requires you to focus on lead quality instead of quantity.

Prioritizing a large volume of leads means that marketing teams won’t always be able to put resources towards an ABM strategy. Similarly, focusing too much on ABM might create a situation where the sales team doesn’t have enough leads to hit their goals at the end of the quarter.

A compromise between sales and marketing is always required when developing an ABM program.

Why Marketers Have the Fear of Failure (and How To Overcome It)

Marketers aren’t experimenting enough.

I’ve seen it as a B2B marketer and research confirms it.

Too many companies underuse marketing experimentation even though it’s the most effective way to maximize campaign results, generate new ideas and prove marketing ROI.

At Metadata, we think of experimentation as putting out combinations of new creative and offer types to new and different audiences and channels to discover which have the most positive impact on revenue, brand, or whatever the metric is we’re trying to influence.

Experimentation is necessary because audience behaviors change all the time.

Whether you’re improving website conversion or ad performance, you must continually experiment with new messaging and design to understand what works for your evolving audience.

If you never experiment, your company will only be mediocre. Sure, you may get lucky with a few campaigns that resonate, but “luck” is never a good marketing strategy.

The most common experimentation challenges — cough, excuses — are lack of time and resources. These are both legitimate barriers, but both are resolvable with better planning.

Much of the blame for not experimenting enough go, to that most human of emotions: fear of failure.

And this is where company culture holds sway.

Marketers understand that some experiments will fail, but at least they’ll learn something about audience expectations. If the C-suite doesn’t share this point of view, they’ll see experimentation as a waste of time and budget.

The experimentation engine breaks down quickly in this type of culture. And so does innovation.

The danger of company cultures that don’t support experimentation

Put simply, innovative companies embrace experimentation.

Google runs thousands of tests and experiments per year. Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Expedia, and even companies without digital roots such as FedEx and State Farm credit experimentation for maintaining successful products.

In my experience, the “fear of failure” mindset is more common at bigger, bureaucratic companies that tend to be adverse to change.

I know, I know. All the companies I just mentioned are BIG, but I consider them outliers regarding experimentation.

When an intimidating company culture doesn’t support experimentation, it’s human nature for marketers to play it safe.

They become afraid to experiment or ask for more budget. They run once-successful campaigns repeatedly and then see ad fatigue set in.

Goals are based on activity, not performance. Vanity metrics, not revenue.

You end up with a complacent marketing team cranking out weak leads that’ll inevitably create a rift between marketing and sales.

Trust me. Once marketing gets a reputation for repeating itself, it does not get taken seriously. None of this sounds like fun, right?

Well, take comfort knowing there are still many companies that weave experimentation into the fabric of their culture.

And they share the following characteristics:

  • They value marketing in general – The size of the marketing team is relative to the overall company size. If there are 200 employees and only a five-person marketing team, that’s a red flag. When a company invests in the appropriate amount of marketing staff, it’s usually open to letting marketing experiment and try new ideas.

  • They celebrate failures as huge learning opportunities – If the company supports experimentation and is ok with failure as a way to learn, they tend to be unambiguously upfront about it.

  • Trust, relationships and communication across the company are strong – As a general rule, when people trust each other and communicate clearly, that’s a good sign they support experimentation.

Get over the fear of failure with an experimentation strategy

If you’re fortunate enough to be at a company that supports robust experimentation, you need to maximize the opportunity.

One way of reducing your fear of failure while maximizing the opportunity is to actually have a strategy and plan for experimentation.

At Metadata, we’ve been using a framework inside an Airtable base for prioritizing experiments and measuring results.

In a follow-up post, I’ll publish our experimentation framework and explain it in more detail. But for now, here are the main features:

  • It starts with the budget – Figure out how much discretionary marketing budget you have for experimentation.

  • Collect ideas internally – Anyone at the company should be able to contribute an experimentation idea.

  • Each idea gets data points – What metric will it impact? How long will it take to build? What’s a revenue estimate for the idea?

  • Each idea gets a status – To keep the workflow organized, add statuses for experiments such as building, running, awaiting results, etc.

  • Assign each experiment to an owner – A specific person runs the experiment for a set period and returns with data.

  • Assign a next step to the experiment – Promote it to evergreen status or toss it out because it didn’t meet the initial criteria.

Your first experimentation framework can be simpler than this. Track the most critical inputs such as “impact” and “effort” and add data points as the framework grows.

If your company views experimentation — and failure! — as opportunities to learn rather than costly mistakes, be thankful. But also, get to work!

A framework like ours is a good start. It’ll help you follow through on the company’s faith in marketing to understand audience expectations and help build better products.

How To Create a Memorable Brand and Grow Revenue With Your Content Strategy

This is the eighth post in our new content series, No Fluffs Given. We’re tired of the fluffy content in our LinkedIn feeds, with no real substance or actionable takeaways. So we’re teaming up with some of the best B2B marketers we know. People who have ACTUALLY done this stuff before. And giving you new, actionable tactics to implement today.

Marketers aren’t just competing with other vendors’ products – they’re competing for their buyers’ attention

And in the attention economy, content isn’t just king. It’s currency. 

When done correctly, you can create a memorable brand that your audience loves and generate revenue that fuels company growth.

But the truth is that most marketing teams have solid content marketing. They don’t have a great content strategy.

As a result, their content efforts are disjointed and ineffective. This prevents them from building a brand that separates them from the sea of sameness, one that creates loyal followers. 

Having an effective content strategy is a superpower for marketing teams. 

It can put you in the forefront of your buyer’s mind… and keep you there. 

It can build brand loyalty than fends off competitors, and keeps clients coming back for more. 

And it can become a heavy contributor to your qualified pipeline gen.

I will walk you through how to create a cohesive and effective content strategy by breaking down how we created one at Gong. 

But first… the fundamentals.

The anatomy of a cohesive content strategy 

There are three core pillars in an effective, cohesive, and memorable brand strategy:

  1. Clear, unique point of view (POV) 
  2. Clear target audience
  3. Defined brand tone

These critical elements are your baseline before choosing your topics, media, or distribution channels or putting anything out into the world. 

Let’s look at each one:

Clear, unique point of view (POV)

Your POV is how you see the world and envision what it could be. 

In terms of marketing, this is typically tied to the problem your company solves. Your POV is that a given problem exists, and you have the right perspective (and product) to solve it. 

Most importantly, your perspective has to be unique. Being different is the key to being memorable.

Gong’s POV is that sales leaders don’t have full visibility into their business. But with revenue intelligence, our category, they can make business decisions based on reality instead of perception or gut feelings. As we say internally, it’s “opinions vs. reality.”

That’s why the core of our content strategy is sales research. 

Because for a long time, the sales content landscape was exclusively made up of individuals sharing “best practices” that are actually based solely on their individual experience. 

By introducing real sales research – using our proprietary database to analyze millions of sales interactions – we provided something our audience had never seen before. And equally importantly, this approach aligned with our POV, which is that we value data over opinions. 

Your content strategy must be an extension of our company’s mission. That’s cohesion. 

Clear target audience 

To build a brand, you have to know who you want to attract. That means having a clearly defined target audience. This might seem obvious, but that doesn’t prevent some people from skipping it or thinking it’s clearer than it is.

It’s most effective to pick ONE specific audience and win them over.

Gong’s audience started as B2B sales professionals in the software/internet vertical, and our buyer is a VP Sales. 

We created top-down and bottom-up content because (1) there are significantly more sales reps than leaders, and (2) reps have a heavy influence on the tech stack that their leadership team decides to purchase. We knew we needed to win over both for long-term brand building. 

We started with Sales as our core audience, then attracted other revenue personas as our content strategy matured and grew.

And speaking of brand… ours is unique. Here’s how we keep it cohesive (there’s that word again).

Defined brand tone

Your brand tone is how you present yourself to the world. It’s a way of speaking that becomes familiar to your audience. It helps to tie all your content outlets together. So how do you define your brand’s tone? You get clear on who you are as a company. 

Our tone choice is very specific. We aim to be a reflection of exactly who salespeople are today: casual, humorous (but not silly), professional conversationalists. We knew this would stand out from other brands in the sales technology space. We chose that path on purpose because, as our CMO, Udi Ledergor says, “different is better than better.”

Choose a brand that suits your company’s mission and personality.

And remember, while most marketers think of content as either brand or demand gen, you can design your content strategy to do both. Be intentional and strategic about how you execute your content to ensure that it stays on brand while hitting your demand gen targets. 

Those are the basics.

Now let’s break down the layers of our content strategy at Gong — the what, why, and how of it — so you can apply these strategies and tactics to your own content engine. 

Phase 1: Build a brand

This slide haunts me:

That’s the number of companies selling to marketers. 

And even if you think, “Yea, but I’m only targeting PR professionals.”

Cool. Still, 30+ companies are fighting you for your buyer’s budget and attention.

Without a standout brand, you become “just another vendor.” And that means you need to find a way to break out of the mold. 

As a marketer, you differentiate yourself by creating a brand, not necessarily by having the best product (though yours may, in fact, be top-shelf). Part of differentiating yourself is building an audience. 

That’s partly because the buzz is worth more than thousands in advertising budget. But more importantly, everything’s easier once you have an audience. Getting people to come to your events, asking them to swap their email address for content, or subscribe to your podcast; all easier once you’ve earned their trust. 

Great content has a gravitational pull. It brings the right people toward you. It also pulls like-minded people together around you. And by default puts you in the center of attention and conversation. That’s how you dominate a market and box out competitors. 

The more people you pull into your brand’s sphere, the more gravitational pull you create, and the easier and easier it becomes to grow your reach. Soon followers become loyal fans, and those fans turn into paying clients.

How we did it at Gong

Our decision to build a powerhouse of an audience early on was intentional. 

Gong Labs, our data-backed research blog that uses proprietary data, was our first content initiative. It was specifically created to counter sales content that was all about one person’s experience/perspective. 

By sharing data-backed insights mixed with actionable tips, we grabbed attention and helped sellers become more effective in their roles. 

We chose to publish new articles on LinkedIn first, before the website, because we knew that was where sales pros spent their time. 

And we weren’t interested in providing the same, played-out content. We took a bold stance and backed it up by data. And our audience loved it:

One of our most popular posts analyzed thousands of sales deals to uncover how cursing affects win rates.

That sales research blog series, mixed with a consistent flow of brand content on our company’s LinkedIn page, fueled our growth from 12k to 85k+ followers in 24 months.

We specifically add “Follow Gong on CTA” across our site and content strategy to fuel our social presence.

It’s worth mentioning that we did some demand gen campaigns, from gated upgrade assets in blogs to webinars, but our primary goal was brand building. 

Performance marketing became the new strategic goal once we had brand momentum and a scaling sales team to support it.

Phase 2: Scale demand gen

No one needs to be sold on the value of creating pipeline. It keeps companies alive. But few content marketing teams know how to do it effectively. 

Content marketing can generate millions in qualified pipeline and thousands in revenue. It can warm qualified buyers until they come inbound, ready to buy, and create brand awareness that makes your outbound sales motion easier. 

The problem is that most marketing teams skip brand building and go straight to demand gen. When it comes to their campaigns, they assume “if we build it, they will come.” 

But motivating sophisticated buyers to swap their email addresses for a gated e-book is a lot harder when they’ve never heard of your company. That’s because there’s an information transaction, and every transaction requires trust. 

To buyers, an unknown brand is a stranger. And we don’t trust strangers, especially with our personal information and the unspoken agreement that I’m likely signing up for a call from an SDR. 

This results in high costs per lead, low conversion rates, and frustrated CMOs. 

But if they’re familiar with you, like you, and trust you, downloading your content becomes a no-brainer – and they’ll share with their peers. That’s how you rapidly scale your pipeline: by turning your followers into prospects and prospects into paying clients.

How we did it at Gong

At Gong, building a loyal audience meant a large LinkedIn following and an engaged email list. 

We accomplished both, and in the process, had learned that our audience LOVED data-backed insights. 

Now we needed to scale those channels to feed our rapidly growing sales teams.  

We chose to host a webinar every ~8 weeks, along with a more frequent cadence of email campaigns.

This webinar drew over 2k registrants because we focused on “different” and sparking curiosity.

We chose those routes because they were the perfect way to differentiate ourselves through sales research. 

Later, we used our brand and our growing following to launch a new category.

Phase 3: Category creation

Category creation is a long-term strategic goal where a company builds and leads a new market. 

It’s tough to do, takes a long time, and is really hard to measure until you end up in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. 

But if you pull it off (and fortunately, we did at Gong), it’s a marketing influence on steroids. Because instead of trying to play and win in someone else’s game by joining their category, you build a brand new one while positioning yourself as its ruler. 

(If you want in-depth info on creating a category, check out Play Bigger. It’s my favorite book on the topic and a great read.)

Building a category requires a content strategy that educates people on the problem you solve and how you solve it. 

Fail at this, and you’ll build a throne only to watch your competitor snatch the crown away before you take a seat. 

One of the most effective ways to do this is to create a content channel that interacts with your ecosystem: the buyers, thought leaders, and partners that make up your market. 

How we did it at Gong

Part of launching a category means launching new content to support it. 

At Gong, our big move was our first industry event, #celebrate: The Revenue Intelligence Summit. It served as a lightning-strike event in 2019, where we announced the launch of the Revenue Intelligence category. The event was a celebration of revenue professionals (our target audience), and was full of thought leadership and entertainment that wowed prospects and validated clients.  

Since the pandemic, this annual in-person event has become a quarterly digital event that continues to build our brand, generate pipeline, and evangelize Revenue Intelligence and our leadership position in it. 

#celebrate has become the core of our events strategy, drawing over 6k registrants.

From a content perspective, we wanted to launch an evangelical program that resonated with senior sales executives. 

(That’s a fancy way to say we wanted our ideal buyers to know about our category.) 

As always, we started with our audience: What did they like? What did they hate? And where/how do they already consume content?

Our research surfaced a few key things:

  1. They almost never subscribe to marketing lists
  2. They often consume content on the go and in short chunks
  3. They want to learn actionable thought leadership from their peers

The outcome?

An interview-style podcast where we talk to the world’s most successful revenue executives. The goal is to provide helpful content that drives awareness and publish conversations around revenue intelligence with high-caliber leaders.

Focusing on actionable thought leadership content led to 100k downloads in <18 months.

We even used the sessions and side interviews from #celebrate to create the first few episodes. 

18 months later, we crossed 100K downloads and landed a $140k+ deal by converting an interviewee into a client.

This is how we evolved our content strategy to include our big category moves. While our other content also reflects our company’s POV, this is the only content that exclusively focuses on our buyer persona and Revenue Intelligence.

Advice for getting started…

When building your content strategy, start with ONE specific goal. The best way to do that is to align your content strategy with the strategic goals your CEO presents to kick off the year. It might be generating revenue in a new vertical or becoming the go-to thought leader in a new space.

That’s what makes content strategy so fun and valuable – there’s no single way to do it “right.” So long as you’re intentional and consistent, you’ll be in good shape. By picking and accomplishing one goal at a time, you’ll position yourself to add a new layer, and that’s how you build a world-class content engine.

If you want more strategy and tactics on creating content that breaks through the noise, join my newsletter, the Content Strategy Reeder. It’s delivered on Saturdays, completely free, and takes less than 5 minutes to read. 

Meet Devin Reed

Head of Content Strategy, Gong

Devin Reed is a SaaS sales professional turned marketer. He was the second sales hire at Gong in 2017 and is now the Head of Content Strategy, where he’s responsible for sales research, content marketing, social media. He’s also an advisor to B2B marketing teams, helping with brand building and content strategy. 

Connect with Devin on LinkedIn here.