Peter and Jacques worked together at IBM Software Group when Peter was leading global marketing campaigns for WebSphere and Jacques was part of the US Marketing team, leading SMB Campaigns. The following is a rough transcript of their conversation:

1) Jacques, you’ve been running campaigns for years, what Marketing Tech providers do you rely on?  What are the trends in terms of offerings from these providers and what’s the outlook for this industry?  

First of all, thanks for having me on the show! 

  • There were over 10,000 vendors in the 2023 Martech Vendor Landscape by ChiefMarTech. We can include a link in the show notes afterwards. There are so many vendors they actually built an interactive map!
  • It’s the “paradox of choice”: people want choice, but when there are too many choices, our brains can’t handle the volume. So we either shut down and don’t make a choice, or fall back on rules-of-thumb like Brand or referrals.
  • So in terms of outlook, I can only imagine a wave of massive consolidation is going to happen. I think there’s a recession-like market in enterprise Tech now. Despite rapid innovation in AI, total VC funding is way down from last year. But Gartner also sees the same thing: in their 2023 CMO Spend and Strategy survey, 75% of CMOs agreed that they plan to cut investments in new, and optimize existing, martech solutions. 
  • The innovation outlook is of course dominated by headlines of AI. I feel like we’re in a bit of a hype cycle, but lots of established vendors are adding smart AI-powered capabilities without calling them AI.
  • In terms of the tech I’ve relied on, I’ve used a lot of tools. Before I talk about those tools, I want to express that, no matter which tools you use, if you don’t have a good understanding of your current processes, and how you hope the tech will improve your processes and customer experience, then you’re just going to waste too much money on too many tools that don’t really move your business forward.  
  • Even I can fall into the tech trap. I had a recent conversation with a CEO, and when I mentioned product marketing should help drive tech-forward innovation (e.g. “are we thinking about AI in our roadmap?”), he challenged me to stay focused not on pure  innovation, but more on what customers really need.
  • CRM/Marketing Automation: I’ve used HubSpot and Salesforce. I know Marketo and Oracle are popular. I know a lot of small businesses are using Microsoft Dynamics or MailChimp too.
  • ABM: I’ve used Pardot and Engagio. Heretical: I don’t think you need ABM software unless you’ve already exhausted your existing CRM, and marketing automation capabilities. 
  • For Project and Task Management: I’m a fan of tools that can give me simple Kanban boards and interconnected / subtasks, like Asana, Trello, Wrike and ZenHub. They all make your marketing processes SOOO much better than just relying on email, spreadsheets and Sharepoint / OneDrive or Google Drive
  • For Collaboration, I’ve used the Microsoft universe (365, Sharepoint, Exchange) and Google Workplace. I have a slight preference for Microsoft, but again, for 80% of what you do they’re about the same. Same for Zoom vs. Google Meet vs. Skype vs. Teams, though I tend to favor Zoom.
  • For Content: I’ve used content lifecycle management systems like Kapost, but honestly it now feels like overkill to me. Your office suite combined with a shared drive, a task tool like Trello, and some lightweight automation like Microsoft Flow is really all you need, to be honest. 
  • And last but not least: Sales Enablement, I’ve used Paperflite and Highspot and Seismic. They all pretty much do the same thing, which is organize sales collateral and enablement content, and make it easier to track who’s using what and how it’s influencing deals. They’re all good, though some are more expensive than others.

2) I know you’ve been involved in aggressive growth hacking efforts and also account based marketing and other more refined techniques.  Can you give us some examples of programs that really worked and delivered replicable ROI?  

  • I’ve seen a lot of growth hacking over the past 10 years. My #1 takeaway is that those tactics feel like dopamine hits that lead to an unhealthy addiction to rapid response digital tactics, and ultimately unsustainable growth. 
  • It reminds me of that fake vintage poster, with a 1950s housewife drinking coffee, with the tagline: “drink coffee: do stupid things faster with more energy”: jittery, short-term tactics that wind up with low conversions, irritated customers and a diminished Brand.

Growth hacking feels like it’s giving way to Growth Marketing, which feels like a healthier mix of performance marketing PLUS product-led growth that drives better ROI. What I think drives more repeatable ROI is when you addding in solid foundations, and experimentation.

  1. Start with the basics: your tactics need a solid foundation in your customer behavior, and how you serve them. An ICP, positioning and messaging that’s based on deep insights about buyer needs and how your solution does it better. Content that brings that positioning to life in a creative, engaging way at key moments in the buyer’s journey. To me that’s how you drive healthy pipeline of quality prospects with intent, not throwing swag at an event to capture walk-bys.  
  2. Account-Based Performance Marketing and Product Led Growth. For B2B, you need these 2 sides of the same coin. Also think about them as a top-down PLUS bottoms-up motions, or account-level marketing PLUS user-level marketing. The goal: create delight in every touchpoint of the post-purchase user and client experience, and make them your advocates. With the death of cookies and increasing poor quality of the rest of the 3rd-party-data landscape, your existing clients’ first-party data is your unique, differentiated audience. That data is precious. It only comes from the care, feeding, and nurturing of your users’ and clients’ success. 
  3. Set aside 10%-20% of your program budget, and marketing team’s time, for experimentation. You don’t REALLY know which channels or creative will outperform until you try lots of different things and learn from them. But if you experiment too much, you wind up chasing keywords or the latest digital fad, which may yield insights but not necessarily a lot of ROI.

3) How do you prioritize Performance marketing vs brand marketing/awareness efforts?

I’m with Jim Stengel on this. He’s the former CMO of Proctor & Gamble, has a long-standing popular podcast, the CMO podcast. Like him, I think Brand vs. Performance is a false dichotomy. 

  • Every tactic is a brand tactic because every touch either reinforces, or diminishes, your Brand. Your brand is built up over years of consistent, concerted effort, including every single one of your performance touches. Brand still matters. We saw that during the pandemic. Brand is the flywheel, the heavy momentum of awareness and association and differentiation that lives in your customers minds, and only comes from sustained, consistent effort.
  • Every tactic has a performance element, because if what you’re doing isn’t contributing to your pipeline or revenue, directly or indirectly, whether next quarter or next year, it’s just a creative project. New ways to measure attribution and marketing mix modeling, as well as connected customer journeys in your CDP and CRM, help overcome that old adage, “50% of my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which 50%”. You can now have a better view of how Performance is building, or eroding, your Brand. 
  • I saw bad examples at both extremes. One company I was at had amazingly creative Brand campaigns. But they failed because the company didn’t grow revenues despite the campaigns. We never saw how those campaigns actually drove product pipeline and revenue.
  • In another company, a startup, we over-emphasized performance tactics. Campaigns were too short, too focused on top-performing keywords, lacked connective tissue over time or channel, and drove leads for use cases we couldn’t profitably serve. So customer churn or “failure to launch” was too high.
  • I think it’s easier to unify Brand and Performance when your portfolio is simple. Apple to me stands out as a great example of this. Every touch point: every ad, every billboard, every word of copy or website, every product design, the store experience, strives to be consistent and unifying and clean and clear. It reinforces the Apple Brand.