Excess choice. Over-selling. Over-marketing. Today’s buyers are faced with so many options that they don’t know where to look or who to trust. Reach, G2’s conference designed for people who market and sell software, tackled that issue head on with some of the biggest names in marketing. In just one jam-packed day, I got to learn from the COO of the New York Times, the VP of Marketing at Drift, and 10 other marketing and sales experts from across the country. The icing on the cake? Several of those speakers were also leaders at High Alpha Capital portfolio companies, including G2.
Couldn’t make it to Chicago for Reach? Read on for a recap of the day.
Opening Keynote with Ryan Bonnici and Jaimie Gilpin
Ryan Bonnici, CMO at G2, and Jaimie Gilpin, CMO at Sprout Social, kicked off the conference with a few convincing statistics about trust. One in particular stuck with me: according to G2 research, 75% of marketers and salespeople agreed that getting a prospect’s trust is becoming more difficult. Trust was a recurring theme throughout the day, from prospect trust during the sales cycle to trust between journalists and the government.
In her talk, Jaimie exemplified her frustration with the sales process by sharing her experience buying a playset for her children. When she was shopping around, she asked friends and neighbors, went to social media for recommendations, and read online reviews. When she buys marketing automation tools, she and her team researched options, read reviews, and requested demos. The majority of her research, both when buying a playset and a new martech tool, was conducted before she ever talked to sales. In fact, only 17% of buyers go to sales first.
Jaimie preached the importance of free trials and product testing ahead of purchasing to build trust and provide proof. “If you can get people in the product, it builds trust. No vaporware here,” she said. Buyers are afraid of being sold something that doesn’t actually deliver value — which is where the non-testimonialized first person interaction comes into play.
Takeaway: People are researching your product ahead of time, so put yourself in the shoes of the prospect and provide an experience that you would want. Personalized sales experiences are key.
ABM is B2B: Why Sales & Marketing Are Broken and How to Fix It with Sangram Vajre
“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” -Jim Collins
To begin his presentation, Sangram Vajre, Co-Founder of Terminus, a High Alpha Capital portfolio company, shared his perspective on sales and marketing alignment, focusing on greatness. He quoted Jim Collins and asked the audience what makes great marketing. Marketing is sales, sales is marketing. To drive his point home, he said: “If you think of sales and marketing as being different or separate, you’re missing the whole point.”
B2B is “not boring to boring,” Sangram said. He introduced the TEAM framework to explain how sales and marketing can partner to produce relevant, strategic ABM programs. TEAM, which stands for Target, Engage, Activate, Measure, brings value because:
- Marketing needs to talk with sales about what each target account needs in order to incrementally grow revenue
- Sales needs to know which accounts to target
- The framework can be used to justify marketing spend to the finance team
- It helps you predict exactly how many sales reps are necessary to reach all target accounts
99% of leads marketing teams create don’t do anything, which means an incredible amount of marketing dollars are wasted due to a lack of focus. Seth Godin once said, “It’s easy for us to think we live in a mass market world, but we don’t. We live in a micro market world.” Marketers must focus on micro markets in order to truly drive results.
Takeaway: Choose one segment of the TEAM framework to focus on for the next 30 days.
Earning Trust in the Digital Age with Meredith Kopit Levien
Meredith Kopit Levien, COO of The New York Times, discussed the subscription business in a fireside chat with G2 CEO Godard Abel. She began the discussion by sharing a few statistics — one of the most striking being that a decade ago, 80% of NYT revenue came from ads, while today less than 20% comes from ads. The New York Times was a subscription business “ahead of their time,” and currently boasts the largest business digital news subscription in the world. Their secret sauce? The overarching New York Times product is their number one focus.
“It’s so much more important to be iterative and software-driven in this age. It’s not all about team size or budget, it’s about the impact you’re making.” -Meredith Kopit Levien
The New York Times depends on trust, and part of their trust-building process has involved creating additional product offerings, including their podcast and TV show. “The Daily and The Weekly are making it hard to not see the lengths reporters and editors go to to see from different angles,” Meredith said. “We’re exposing people to our supply chain — explicitly demonstrating how we produce our product.”
Another way that The New York Times is earning trust in the digital age is by investing in their product experience, whether users are accessing their content via a physical newspaper, their app, or through their browser. “We are investing broadly more in journalism but also in the experience with our product versus just selling a story,” she said. “It would be easy for us to harden the paywall, but that wouldn’t help us build relationships. We want to help them unlock value in our products, and ultimately subscribe.”
Takeaway: Relationships are the foundation of (good) marketing.
Marketing Breakout Sessions
Every session I attended at Reach brought new, valuable perspectives that forced me to think about marketing in different ways. My favorite part of the conference, however, was definitely the breakout sessions. Sales and marketing were divided (oh, the irony!), and we each heard four rapid-fire sessions from experts at companies like Drift and SalesLoft.
Marketing on the left. Sales on the right. Which one would you pick? #G2Reach
Top 10 Tactics for Driving High-Quality Traffic with Neil Patel
There are more than one billion blogs on the web. Everyone is using digital marketing — so the objective is to do it better than everyone else, not just to do it. (This reminded me of something Mitch Causey taught me — everyone is publishing blogs once a week, so to stand out, you need to publish more often. This goes for everything in digital, not just content.) Neil Patel’s session, which focused on driving the right traffic to your website, stressed the importance of CRO. Since CRO requires the smallest marketing spend but generates the highest ROI for enterprises, it seems like a no-brainer.
Takeaway: Use free tools like Google Search Console and Google Correlate to see where you should focus your attention.
Turning Signals Into Actions with Sydney Sloan
Sydney Sloan, CMO at High Alpha Capital portfolio company SalesLoft, presented a case study of SalesLoft’s own marketing strategy. The SalesLoft team uses their own tool to drive their marketing efforts, which means the majority of their marketing is outbound. Instead of classifying leads as MQLs or SQLs, they use unique “account signals” to prioritize accounts. According to Sydney, “it takes 15.5 touchpoints to convert a B2B buyer, which is why the combination of email, phone and other channels is paramount in reaching target accounts.” The presentation hammered the importance of training sales teams on what intent means, and which signals are the ones they should act on.
Takeaway: Marketing and sales need to validate intent data before acting on it.
10 Commandments to Modern Marketing with Dave Gerhardt
VP of Marketing at Drift, Dave Gerhardt, gave one of my favorite presentations of the day. He funneled marketing into 10 key takeaways:
- No one wants to be marketed to. Remember that.
- Don’t wait to start marketing — just do it. Launch now and start learning. Always test before you invest.
- Don’t do marketing by committee.
- Create trust with who you’re selling to. (See: My takeaway from Meredith Kopit Levein’s presentation!)
- Ditch your case studies, because customers don’t trust them.
- Become obsessed with copywriting.
- Become obsessed with storytelling. (Need a storytelling formula? Begin with a personal anecdote, pose a problem, state your solution, show examples, and make an ask.)
- Show that you are real — not just a robot in marketer’s clothes.
- Stand for something.
- Zig when everyone else zags.
3 Simple Changes That Transformed HubSpot’s Marketing with Meghan Keaney Anderson
“Breakthroughs come from being truly, utterly blocked.” -Meghan Keaney Anderson
Put shortly, HubSpot VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson’s presentation focused on failure. She brought three examples of failures she’s encountered at HubSpot so that we could learn from them. “If you don’t have ‘you’re doing it wrong’ moments, you’re doing it wrong,” she said.
These mindset shifts helped to transform the way the HubSpot team got marketing done:
- Old is new. It’s no secret that the HubSpot blog is a huge part of their marketing strategy. After blog traffic plateaued, HubSpot dedicated a part of their content team to updating and modernizing old content. They were seeing far more traffic to old content than new content, but needed to update it to make sure it was still accurate and relevant.
- Structure is key. As part of their content revamp, HubSpot decided to merge their content and SEO teams. They restructured their blog into a pillar and cluster model, where they identified broad topics, consolidated content, clustered related posts, and cleaned up old links.
- Customers are better at marketing than us. That’s why HubSpot created customer experience initiatives.
Delivering Happiness: How Zoom’s Founding Principle Led to Unprecedented Growth with Eric Yuan
Zoom CEO Eric Yuan did exactly what any good CEO of a video conferencing company would do and Zoomed into a fireside chat with G2 CEO Godard Abel to discuss the company’s success.
Happiness was at the core of everything Eric discussed. Creating a good company culture was his top priority. “Your business cannot grow to the next level unless your employees can grow to the next level,” Eric said. In addition to employee satisfaction, customer success was an integral part of Zoom’s success. His team made decisions from the customer’s perspective, constantly asking “will this decision deliver happiness to customers?”
Zoom’s IPO has helped put things in perspective. “Stock prices are out of our control. The only thing we can control is our product,” Eric said. “It was hard to compete because of the high level of competition, but our differentiator is customer happiness and hard work. We believe in humility, not arrogance.”
Takeaway: A people-first mentality is a must.
Building Winning Cultures with Jeremy Bloom
Jeremy Bloom, CEO of Integrate, a High Alpha Capital portfolio company, started his career as an Olympic skiier, continued on to college football, and eventually landed in the NFL. He learned how to create a connected culture as part of the Pittsburgh Steelers team, which he carried with him after he left the league. After retiring, Jeremy created the Wish of a Lifetime Foundation, where he learned to have a bias toward “yes.”
With his history, it’s no surprise that Jeremy focused on his team from day one. He provided a framework for building a winning team that is applicable to companies of all sizes.
Takeaway: The characteristics of a winning team include:
- Centering on the customer
- Rewarding performance
- Focusing on innovation
- Creating happiness
- Building trust
- Using the radical candor philosophy
Creating a Movement with Your Brand with Melissa Hartwig Urban
To close out the day, we heard from Melissa Hartwig Urban, the Co-Founder and CEO of Whole30. Whole30 is one of the most popular diets, part in thanks to the dedication that Melissa has built around the diet — it seems to be less of a diet and more of a community. “Every good idea I’ve ever had has come from my community,” Melissa told Hillary Fortin, Head of Creative at G2. “We gave everything away for free for like three years.”
Giving things away and building trust is part of why people keep coming back to Whole30 despite fierce competition. “Everyone wants to build community around a brand, but the differentiator is that the Whole30 community supports each other. It could standalone without me being part of it,” Melissa said. “Overdelivering is something we’ve done since day one. People want to have one place to go that they can trust.”
Bringing it into a software perspective, Melissa reminded us that we’re not just selling tools — we’re streamlining someone’s day, helping their business succeed, and solving a pain point. To get there takes trust, and it’s a lot easier to break that trust than it is to build it.
Takeaway: Word of mouth is the best sales tactic.
If you’re interested in boosting your software marketing prowess, Reach is worth checking out. With a dynamic mix of speakers, a jam-packed schedule full of new lessons and great reminders, and a great location, Reach was a great value (and P.S. — Reach 2020 is going to be even bigger).