Marketing Revisited with Liam Moroney

Lauren Volpi's headshot on a blue background

Liam Moroney is the founder of Suas Marketing, a demand generation consulting firm. He has more than 12 years of experience as a marketing leader in the B2B SaaS tech industry, most recently as the SVP of Revenue Marketing at Notarize. Liam is also the host of the Marketing Revisited podcast.

Here are a few of the topics we’ll discuss on this episode of Long Story Short:

 

  • The difference between demand capture and demand generation
  • How to develop separate strategies and measurements for demand creation and demand capture 
  • Ways to put your customer at the center of your marketing
  • How to break away from stale marketing playbooks
  • Why you shouldn’t distribute the same piece of content across every channel

 

Resources:

Oglivy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

Hey Whipple, Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan

 

Connect with Liam:

LinkedIn

 

Connect with the Host:

Jeff Sirkin on LinkedIn

 

Connect with Sirkin Research:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

LinkedIn

Jeff Sirkin:
Hello and welcome back to another episode of Long Story Short, the podcast about storytelling and connection. I’m your host, Jeff Sirkin. On this show, we talk to people making a difference as marketers, entrepreneurs, and social impact advocates. We dig into actionable strategies and tactics to help you connect with your audience and keep your finger on the pulse of your market.

Jeff Sirkin:
My guest this week is Liam Moroney. He is the founder of Suas Marketing, a demand generation consulting firm. He has more than 12 years of experience as a marketing leader in the B2B SaaS tech industry. He’s also the host of the Marketing Revisited podcast. When we did this interview, Liam was the SVP of revenue marketing at Notarize.

Jeff Sirkin:
Liam and I had a great conversation about some of the most important topics for B2B marketers. We discussed the difference between creating and capturing demand, and how to break away from stale marketing playbooks. We dug into how to put your customer at the center of your marketing, and why you shouldn’t distribute the same piece of content across every channel. Without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Liam Moroney. Hi, Liam. Thanks for coming on Long Story Short.

Liam Moroney:
Thanks for having me. Really excited to do this.

Jeff Sirkin:
This conversation, as I was saying, it’s been about two years in the making. I’m really excited to dive in. Where I want to start, can you give us a sense of what your world looks like today at Notarize?

Liam Moroney:
Sure. At Notarize, I oversee the revenue marketing function, which is a combination of B2C consumer type e-commerce, and then classic B2B demand gen type activities. Across the team, it’s all functions that really do a lot of the performance marketing, brand-building, demand generation. There’s content marketing, there’s social media, there’s email marketing. There’s event marketing. There’s the paid search.

Liam Moroney:
A lot of the budget gets spent through my team, for the most part. But we’re trying to solve two different problems. We’re trying to grow in an e-commerce section and acquire consumer customers, but also build a category on the B2B side, which is its own large initiative.

Jeff Sirkin:
I want to dig into that, because it’s such a unique opportunity to be a revenue marketing leader simultaneously in B2B and direct-to-consumer at the same time. And so, I’m curious. Just generally, in your role and priorities within the organization … How do you balance that? What do you see as some of the key differences in the way you need to market?

Liam Moroney:
I think the key differences are very much the speed at which things will happen. Because on the consumer side, the company itself, we are the leader in online notarization. We helped pass a lot of the laws that allowed this to actually be possible. We really have been at the forefront of it, and COVID accelerated an enormous amount of online activities. We were certainly one of them.

Liam Moroney:
From a consumer side, a couple of things happened. It’s probably worth going back in time a little bit to what happened when COVID really was at its peak, which was that there was a lot of necessity to continue doing things. There were businesses like banks and real estate agents. People were still selling houses. People were still selling cars. People were still adopting children. They were still doing things that required notarized documents for official use. And so, that had to continue.

Liam Moroney:
Now, the timing was great for Notarize, because we had passed all of the laws and helped pass them to allow this to be done. And so, from a consumer point of view, the journey was very short. People go onto Google and they ask the same question that it turns out most people ask when they need something notarized, which is, “Who is a notary and where do I find one?” It’s not a well-known thing.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right.

Liam Moroney:
It’s an interesting marketing problem. Because it’s one of those things, from a consumer point of view, you don’t know you need it until you need it. There’s no preceding of this problem.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s right.

Liam Moroney:
And so, a lot of where we had growth was organically through Google and paid ads through Google of people searching for, “I need a notary. Notary near me. Online notary.” Things that they were looking for. We were then saying to the people who were saying, “I need a notary near me,” our message was, “Yep. You can do this online. Did you know that?” And then, you bring them to that path.

Liam Moroney:
For anyone who was searching online, you’re going, “We are the one that you want to go to.” The consumer one is a pretty short journey, because the pain is very pronounced and it’s very immediate. It’s about being there where they are actively searching for us. Now, there are other ways of doing that. Right now, paid search has been a big growth and we still haven’t even reached the peak of that one. The B2B one is different.

Jeff Sirkin:
I want to bring up one thing that you touched on in terms of the direct-to-consumer. Something I think is really fascinating is the idea that you really aligned with your buyers. It wasn’t a matter of, “We have this playbook and we need to just unilaterally do this.” It was a matter of saying, “Well, no. People aren’t looking for it until they need it. We just need to optimize that, when they need it, we’re there.”

Jeff Sirkin:
As opposed to saying, “We need to do these 10, 15 brand-building tactics that are going to build up our brand recognition,” and things like that. Because to your point, it wouldn’t matter. But I love the fact that you were really, in that case, customer-first. In terms of, what are people trying to do as they buy? How do we make sure we can align with the way they want to buy?

Liam Moroney:
It’s one of those things that it’s more prevalent in B2B, which I’m sure we’ll talk about.

Jeff Sirkin:
Of course.

Liam Moroney:
But it’s a thing that really has always been one of my problems. Where people react to channels, and they react to tactics, and they react to things very quickly without stopping to do the research of, “How would people typically find this product? How much do they already know about it going in? Who are you competing against? How do you make it easier?”

Liam Moroney:
You could ask a million questions that would lead you to the conclusion where, if I weren’t going through that process, if our team wasn’t going through that process … If I were asked, “How are you going to grow more consumer traffic?” You could instinctively go, “We should run a whole bunch of Facebook ads.” We should run a whole bunch of whatever it is. But if you don’t know that, “When do they need you? How do they find themselves in the position of needing you? What are the things that led up to that happening?”

Liam Moroney:
For example, one thing that we are talking about is affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is not an area I have a huge amount of experience in, but it was the logical conclusion when you started to go, “How do you find out you need something notarized?” Well, usually the company that needs the notarization tells you to do it. It turns out when you get deep into that, there were use cases we hadn’t even thought of. For example, in Florida, if you want to get your car back from a tow yard, you need to get proof of identity through a notarized document.

Jeff Sirkin:
Wow.

Liam Moroney:
There are all of these tow yards who are saying, “You want your car back? You got to go and get notarized.” Now, those people are in a position to tell you need a notarization. Therefore, they’re also a person that you’d love to influence to be the one going, “And if you’re doing it, you can also do it online. Here’s a link.” Then, maybe they get a kickback.

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely.

Liam Moroney:
It’s all about, “How do they find themselves in the position of knowing that they need this problem solved?”

Jeff Sirkin:
Right. I love that. I’d love to hear, especially as you mentioned early on as well, in terms of creating a category in B2B. I’d love to hear more about in terms of what that looks like.

Liam Moroney:
In our case, people were already doing it in the midst of COVID. I think this is where, from a marketing point of view, people get this mixed up a lot. That immediate demand because the world changed and suddenly you needed to find a way of doing things online. That goes away when you don’t need to do it online anymore. It’s different to consumers. Consumers, when they find out they can do something easier and online, they tend to want to do it that way forever. Businesses can do it in a pinch. We all learned very quickly.

Liam Moroney:
Work from home is a really good example. Everyone learned in March of 2020 that if you need to work remotely, an entire company can do so. Now, you’ll learn the pain points as you go along. But in a pinch and in an emergency, it can be done. But then, of course, we all see what happens as it starts to get less and less and less prevalent. Now, depending on where you live, the numbers are sketchy at best sometimes. But it’s now at a position where they’re saying, “Well, we want everyone to come back to the office.”

Liam Moroney:
The question you ask is, “Why? Didn’t we prove that we can do this?” But what happens is you learn that everyone has these entrenched things. “Well, we’re already paying for rent on that building. You’ve got to come back to the building.” And that’s not a good reason, but you’ve got an incentive that you are not willing to let something go. Now, it could be rent on your building.

Liam Moroney:
In the case of our category, it’s one thing to say, “Can you do stuff online if you need to?” It’s another to say, “Long term, are there things we need to consider?” Do we need to invest in privacy and security things? Do we need to make sure we’ve got protocols in place? Do we have staff that needs to be reallocated or redistributed? What happens is when people don’t have to do it, then you have to convince them why they’re willing to invest in it.

Liam Moroney:
They always stop long enough to go, “Well, do I need to make long term changes? Do I need to invest in infrastructure? Do I need to hire and train people? Do I need to put rules in place?” Suddenly, it becomes a lot harder. From our point of view, category creation is, number one, there’s still a lot of people who don’t know that this is fully legal and fully accepted across the entire country. As a category leader and a pioneer in the category, it’s our job to evangelize that fact. So that, number one, they’re going, “I didn’t even know that was possible.”

Liam Moroney:
Then, number two is going, “And we can solve it very specifically for your industry. We understand how you do business. We understand the intricacies of what you do.” And then, depending on the size of the company, the larger more enterprise section, it’s saying, “And we are stable enough to do it at a scale that you actually are willing to do a long term investment in.” That’s a long chain of events of things to go through. Each one of them needs to be hit on specifically.

Liam Moroney:
Some industries are in very different levels of awareness. It becomes a very complex problem. I think in terms of matrixes. My brain works this way. Where I map, well, who are the verticals? How aware are they? How invested are they? How are they already doing it today if at all? What are the requirements? You start to realize that it’s a multi-pronged approach. Everyone has to be treated individually based on their vertical, based on their understanding, based on their company size. You need to make sure you’ve got content and education across all of those facets. It’s a big problem.

Jeff Sirkin:
Totally. Again, I love that you called that the education piece. Because again, as you’re very aware internally, building a category is more than just putting out the fish hook and saying, “We’re ready for you.” It’s having to help them understand the fact that it is legal. It is okay to do it everywhere across the country. Again, there’s so much education that needs to go in to actually build any semblance of demand to begin with.

Liam Moroney:
That’s the problem that everyone thinks incorrectly about, which is that demand generation is just go out and get people, bring them in, and get an app bash for your sales team. It’s much more important to make sure they know that this is even a problem that can exist. Or you end up getting a lot of people going, “What do you do? Wait. What is this?” That’s not demand gen. That’s just cold calling in a different capacity.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s one of the topics I really wanted to talk to you about. And so, between your Marketing Revisited podcast and your LinkedIn content, you have such a broad perspective. This one in particular caught my attention. It was around the differences between demand generation and demand capture. And so, I really want to get into the details, but I’d be curious if you could first define more broadly what we mean by each of those.

Liam Moroney:
Sure. I think I’ll start with the demand capture. Because it is largely what most people think of as demand generation. I’ve been in demand generation for about 12 years now. I did all of these older versions of them. The older school version was that your job was to acquire people. To hand them over to the sales team when they were ready to be speaking to someone on the sales team.

Liam Moroney:
That was the old model. You did it through lead generation. Bringing people in off the back of gated content, hosting webinars, trade show booths, badge scans, whatever it might be. And then, usually some nurturing in the middle, where you’re hitting them with two or three emails. Of course, firstly, that old model does not make any sense. No one mechanically goes from cold to warm because you sent them three emails spaced out over six weeks. Doesn’t work that way.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right.

Liam Moroney:
The reality is that you end up doing what is really demand capture, which is you’re fishing and hoping that when you scoop people up in your net, that some of them were already ready. It’s like putting a lobster pot at the bottom. And then, coming back next week and looking to see what’s in it and hoping that there are lobsters in it. But also, probably a whole bunch of small fish shrimp and things in there.

Liam Moroney:
The problem with demand capture is that there has to be existing demand from which to capture. I was talking to my team about this recently. I think of it in terms of two different kinds of demand. There is what I often think of as natural demand. And then, there is creative demand. Natural demand is a weird one.

Liam Moroney:
Natural demand can be unusual things, where you’re on the benefit end of it. COVID created a lot of natural demand for … Now, unnaturally so. But it was natural demand in the sense that, if you were in the online events business in April of 2020, you were in a good spot at a good time. You did nothing to deserve it. You just happened to be there at the right time. Or there’s another version.

Jeff Sirkin:
If you were at Zoom or Peloton.

Liam Moroney:
Exactly. Exactly. The timing was at your benefit and you got wind of all this. In our case, we had huge volumes of demo requests coming in throughout early 2020, because people needed something and they found us. We didn’t create any of that demand. We certainly didn’t put ourselves out there. We had the domain. We had the SEO. There’s a lot of things you can do to be easier to find when there is demand. Different conversation.

Liam Moroney:
But the other kind of natural demand is if you happen to be in a category where everyone else has already done the hard work of creating demand. Let’s say I’m an ABM tool who does intent-based targeting. There’s demand in that category, because 6sense and Demandbase … When it was Engagio and when it was Terminus. They’ve all been doing the work of evangelizing the category. When you come in, there’s demand there, so you could arguably capture some of it. It won’t convert. I think that’s important to know, because you haven’t established yourself.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yes.

Liam Moroney:
But the numbers could seem like they’re paying off. The problem with demand capture is that it starts to get very expensive and the diminishing returns come very quickly. I’ve seen this happen at more than one company. To the point now that I actually warn against it. Where if I come in and they’ve had no real sophisticated demand generation program, we’ll say, “We’re going to kickstart the program. We’re going to try a lot of stuff. We’re going to scoop up whatever we can and find efficiencies wherever we can.”

Liam Moroney:
You start to run a lot of programs and what you find is that suddenly all of this demand that was out there … Maybe you had people who had been kicking tires for six months. Suddenly, they come in off the back of one of your ebooks. It looks like it worked. Everyone goes, “The ebook was what converted it.” Ignoring the six months that had happened beforehand.

Liam Moroney:
What happens very quickly is that, the second month, that gets harder. The third month, it gets harder again. I’ve seen this play out a bunch of times. If I came into a brand new company and they’d never run demand generation, and if I had only a month in that company, I would run a whole bunch of demo request ads on LinkedIn. They’d probably work okay.

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely.

Liam Moroney:
But in month two, they won’t work at all. Because you’ve capped it. You found whatever was there and you just scooped it up. The other side of the equation then is, how are you adding new demand to that group? Are you building the category? Are you bringing more people into market? Are you evangelizing?

Liam Moroney:
That’s the stuff that takes a long time to seed. Because you have to do it so that, when they’re ready, you’re the one that they think of when they come to have a need. That’s what demand generation is. It’s much slower.

Jeff Sirkin:
And I love that. It’s funny. You and I have been in this industry for about the same amount of time. Demand generation, the way it’s termed today used to really be lead generation. Right?

Liam Moroney:
Absolutely.

Jeff Sirkin:
I think about it that it really was to me about control. The idea was that there really was only one way to get information about products and pricing. And so, you used to have to go through sales. It really was a very controlled process that you had to go through to get the information. But today, especially with everything available on the internet, buyers are only engaging when they’re … Pick a number. 70%, 80% of the way through their buyer’s journey.

Jeff Sirkin:
And then, of course, that number’s going to keep going up as there are more options for self-service. To your point, demand capture is the thing that gets measured through the attribution software. To your point around, “That ebook worked.” What people forget again, to your point, is it’s that first 50%, 60%, 70% that created the demand. And so much of that, we can’t see.

Liam Moroney:
One of the best places you see it is paid search. I’ve been asked this question a whole bunch of times. “Should you bid on branded keywords?”

Jeff Sirkin:
Right. Branded. Competitor.

Liam Moroney:
I personally don’t think you should. I think the data suggests it’s not really valuable. I’ve been asked a bunch of these times, “All those people who came in through paid search. Can we say that we converted them with that page? Or had they already done a lot of research?” I was like, “Of course, they had.” There’s no way. Unless you’re selling something that costs $10 bucks, you cannot direct response your way to a sale.

Liam Moroney:
It is the combination of all of these accumulated things that they see. One channel, it may be the entry point. I often think of it as … I use this metaphor in some work. I talk about it like, “If everyone’s on a highway and you’re seeing signs, you just need to show them where the off ramp is.” You need to show them how to get off and how to actually find their way to you. And that’s the bit where most demand capture is. It’s just a pathway into your company. Maybe it’s a trade show booth. Maybe it’s a paid search ad. Whatever it is. All you’re doing is you’re giving them ways to find their way to you. But it did not convert them.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s right. But I think what we’re talking about, which I think is so important, is the idea of how you communicate that within the organization. Because I think, from a marketing perspective, we’re becoming more aware of the fact that … Whether it was natural search or paid search or direct traffic. Because these are a lot of the ones typically that are at the end of line. Somebody’s coming in. As a result, people will unfortunately then say, “Well, these are our only valuable sources of traffic.”

Jeff Sirkin:
And so, again, the thing that I always used to say when I ran analytics was that somebody’s not coming in and raising their hand and saying, “I want to talk to a sales rep,” when it was their first exposure to your company. To your point, you just can’t do direct response in 10 minutes and get a demo request or a Contact Me. What I’m curious about. With you being able to articulate this so well in terms of demand capture and demand generation … How do you explain the difference internally and especially to executives? How do you balance that with the constant pressure to meet any of those short term goals?

Liam Moroney:
It’s a good question. And it’s a hard question. It depends on their perspective and background. I think where people struggle the most with it is that it’s a very big company way of doing marketing. The reason lead gen worked was because it was sitting on top of a brand. If you are Salesforce, you can scoop up thousands of leads. You don’t need to worry that they’ve heard of Salesforce.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s right.

Liam Moroney:
All you need to do is you just need to get access to those people and remind them that you’re there. That’s a very different problem to people who are trying to build a category. Especially, something where no one knows this is a problem that needs to be solved. There’s a lot of uphill work. A lot of it comes down to, “Do they know the value of marketing?” Some of it you can educate. And it is definitely the job of a marketing leader to educate. It’s more about where they think marketing exists in that organization.

Liam Moroney:
If it’s nothing more than the thing that feeds the sales team, you probably will never succeed at convincing them of that. If they understand, “Who do you want to be? What do you want people to think of when they think of you? What does it look like six months from now?” If they can articulate that, then you’ve probably got at least the foundation you need to be able to convince them that, “Well, we need to get there.” We need to get there through educating either on the category or on our brand as a better option within that category.

Liam Moroney:
That’s where you position it. It’s not one or the other. The thing that you hear with a lot of demand gen … At least, I think it’s beginning to normalize. It swung wildly in the opposite direction over the last six or to 12 months. It went from lead gen to ungate everything. Give everything away for free, Field of Dreams style. “If you build it, they will come.” I think we’re coming back to center now, where it’s a combination of the two.

Liam Moroney:
You need to be creating demand for the long term and you need to be capturing demand for the short term. But you also need to balance how much demand exists today and auditing what that looks like. That I think is where the real conversation happens. Because the danger is coming in and thinking that you can just keep on capturing and never investing in the long term … I also say that sales lives in the current quarter. Demand generation has to operate for the current quarter, but they need to be planting seeds for the future quarters. The question is, how much? What’s the split?

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. I think the other facet that you mentioned is brand awareness. Again, it’s not just a matter of one versus the other. To your point, when you’re building a category and trying to build brand awareness, there are certain tactics you can do differently. If you’re Salesforce, you can do things like display ads where just seeing your logo is going to mean something to somebody. Because you already know that they already have pretty good awareness of who you are and what you do.

Jeff Sirkin:
It’s different when you’re building a category and you’re a newcomer. As far as B2B goes, it’s not the same thing. To your point, it’s not just balancing the short term and the long term, but it’s also taking into account the brand awareness piece. And then, that will help define how long it will take to push the rock uphill. In terms of demand generating.

Liam Moroney:
The thing that bothers me a lot, and I certainly fell into this category myself, was that B2B marketers don’t understand brand very well. Because I think there’s either a very short term view … Some of this is we tend to operate in a very heavily VC-backed industry, where it’s very short term. It’s get acquired, go public. It’s very, “We need to get there. We need to get there in two or three years.”

Liam Moroney:
B2C very often is, “We want to last forever. We’ve got a 10-year plan. We want to be this brand.” Some B2C, I should say. And I think that we don’t do very much education. You don’t have a lot of brand marketers in B2B. It’s growing, but it’s not that common. Worse than that is if you ask people to define some of the brand terms, they probably either are skeptical of them, because we’ve been trained to think it’s all fluffy vanity metrics that’s not real. “Brand recall? That’s not a real thing.”

Liam Moroney:
Or they don’t know it at all. Brand is important. It’s much more than, “Have I heard of your company?” It’s so much more than that. It is, “Do I understand what you do? Do I have an affinity for how you do it? Do I prefer you over other people?” It’s, “Do you reflect the kind of person that I want to be?” I think the biggest mistake that people make in B2B is to forget that we do buy emotionally. We make decisions emotionally in B2B.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yep.

Liam Moroney:
Now, it doesn’t matter if you’re spending a quarter million dollars of the company money. There are things that we do. A good example is marketing automation. Now, depending on the marketing automation tool that you use … I don’t care who says that this is wrong. Most marketers will say that says something about the marketer that you are.

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely.

Liam Moroney:
And I’ve done this. I’ve been guilty of this. Where I’ve come in and HubSpot was in-place. I will go, “That’s not appropriate for a more sophisticated engine. We need to up level to a Marketo.” Now, in my mind, that represents something to me. I’m not saying I go around bragging about what’s in my tech stack. But I do feel differently about going, “Well, we use HubSpot.”

Liam Moroney:
It’s no knock on HubSpot. It’s a great tool. But for the marketer I want to be, there’s an emotional decision that I’m making, where that feels too small a company for me. Or it’s not the level of sophistication that I want. Now, it’s akin to driving different types of cars. It is the same thing.

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely.

Liam Moroney:
That’s because I have a perception about what kind of marketing I can do with a marketing automation versus what I can do with a HubSpot. That’s brand.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, the other thing I would add to that. As you said, the idea that B2B, frankly, I’d argue it’s an even more emotional buy. Frankly, the idea is, if you buy a consumer product and it doesn’t work out for you, you can just stop using it. Again, people have that understanding that B2B is unemotional, because it’s not your money.

Jeff Sirkin:
But at the same time, think about what’s on the line. If a project goes really well and it helps accelerate things for your company, you can get promoted. If things don’t go well and it’s over budget, and it doesn’t have the result you look for … You could potentially get fired. There’s really a lot on the line. And so, to think that B2B is unemotional and that we sell to nameless, faceless companies is just not true. It’s humans that have real human emotions that are in charge of the purchasing decisions.

Liam Moroney:
And that’s a very intentional type of marketing. It’s a very hard to measure type of marketing. But it’s also the thing that anyone who has ever created a category and became the leader of that category knew. And they did it really successfully. You see it everywhere. This is where I think we’re getting better at starting to be inspired by who’s doing it well.

Liam Moroney:
But Salesforce was the original. Salesforce doesn’t have buildings called Salesforce Tower for no reason. It doesn’t have giant logos for no reason. It is an established brand and its job is to continue that brand perception. Because it even affects them. IBM did not do a great job of that. IBM have struggled for years to not be the dinosaur tech company and old school.

Liam Moroney:
I remember. Total aside, when we were at NewsCred, IBM was a customer at the time. These two people who were part of the content portion of it at the time came in to speak to the company. For lack of a better term, their job was to show the market that they were still young, trendy, and innovative. That was their entire job.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right.

Liam Moroney:
They were evangelists to say, “No. We’re just like all the other tech companies.” It says something about the fact that you have to maintain your brand. You have to decide who your brand is going to be. You have to invest in your brand. B2B is absolutely, like you said, it is as emotional a placed buy as anywhere else.

Jeff Sirkin:
Look at a 100,000 plus people. I’m thinking now it’s more like 250,000 at Dreamforce every year. If that’s not brand affinity, I don’t know what is.

Liam Moroney:
Or if you take it down really small. Refine Labs is a really good example. Chris Walker has enormous respect in the community. He’s a big personality. But a lot of the reason that people want to work with Refine Labs is to say they use that, because that reflects them. “We’re partnering with them.”

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely.

Liam Moroney:
Same way. Now, a lot of demanded people are going to work at Refine Labs. Because they’re saying, “This is the kind the marketer I want to be.” And so, that’s a brand. And that’s a very intentional move that they’ve made.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, to your point again, this is probably an entirely other conversation. But the idea that brand affects people wanting to work there. Again, it’s not just from a perspective of sales. But it’s actually building your team. It’s acquiring the right talent. It’s retaining that talent. I think it’s fascinating.

Liam Moroney:
I would argue that’s a big part of demand gen. You are right. People don’t just buy what you do. They buy who you are. Who your people are, how happy your team seems, how vocal they all appear to be says a lot. I’ll give you a couple of really good examples. Gong is great at this. Whereas, they did really big pushes where they were putting Time Square ads with the people who work at Gong.

Liam Moroney:
There was no business need for that. It didn’t drive sales, but what it drove was, “This is a culture. This is a real company that has invested in its people.” You see the same thing on … Demandbase is a good example. Demandbase is a pretty sizable company. It’s not a startup. And so, they’ve done a really good job at trying to feel that way. They do a lot of their product announcements by doing very silly things. There’s an account executive at Demandbase who leads a lot of these product announcements, where they had John Miller, the CMO, announcing a new feature. They did so by giving him a really spicy chip to eat while he was doing it.

Liam Moroney:
It was silly, but you came away going, “They respect each other. They like each other. They’ve got that freedom to be human. I like that kind of an organization.” That’s a big thing to me. Versus, candidly, there’s a lot of companies that, when they got bought by a private equity, you felt an immediate change in the culture of that company. That made you feel differently about that company. Because you thought, “They don’t treat their people the same way they used to.” That’s a real impact on how I would buy a product.

Jeff Sirkin:
I couldn’t agree more. I want to come back to the idea of playbooks and these standardized formulas, for lack of a better word, that we tend to use in B2B marketing. Going back 10, 15 years. And so, to me, I think they’ve become so standardized that marketers have really begun to think of the tactics themselves. “We need to do more webinars. We don’t have enough eBooks.” And so, I’d love to get your perspective. What are some of the drawbacks of that thinking?

Liam Moroney:
I think the order is wrong. That’s the biggest drawback. It’s one thing to say, “How do I use a webinar effectively?” It is another thing to say, “I need a webinar because …” That’s the wrong way of thinking about it.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right.

Liam Moroney:
The main reason that people think tactically in B2B is because they think through targets and metrics. It is, “I need leads. What is the most effective way of getting leads?”

Jeff Sirkin:
Yep.

Liam Moroney:
“I have enough leads, but those leads aren’t converting. What can I throw at those leads to try and move them farther down the funnel?” And it’s not wrong per se, but it’s very clinical. It’s taking the humanity out. You can’t bump people down a pathway. All you’re doing is you’re trying to give more ways for your sales team to just try and get to those people. The right way to step back from it is to think, “What am I trying to solve with the content?” And then, backing into what are the most effective ways of using different tactics to tell that story.

Liam Moroney:
Because when you think tactically, what ends up happening is you create a vacuum and it needs to be filled with something. I’ve seen this so many times, where someone will say, “We need more leads. We should create an ebook.” You may not have enough to write an ebook. Or let’s say you do. Let’s say you write a great ebook. I’ve done this before. It’s great. Everyone’s happy with it. It’s a meaty piece of content. We get a bunch of leads very quickly.

Liam Moroney:
Someone goes, “We need more leads. We need another ebook.” Now, you’re going, “Well, I don’t have enough for a full ebook.” You end up spacing out this 25-page thing with a bunch of illustrations. It looks nice, but did it actually deliver the same amount of value that the previous one did? Probably not. And so, you end up using tactics for your benefit. And then, what ends up happening is it falls short of quality. That’s sort of a secondary way of thinking about it.

Liam Moroney:
Whereas, if you forced yourself to go, “Hey. What are people really struggling with right now? Our researchers showed that this is a real pain point for them.” Well, do we need to solve that problem in a 25-page book? Or could we do it in a two-minute video? Or does it even need to be that big? In our case, a lot of times, we struggle with people going, “Is this legal?”

Liam Moroney:
Well, I don’t necessarily need to give you a full ebook that says that. Firstly, I could just remind you, “Yes, it is. If you want more details, click here and see where it’s legal. Here’s some more detail about how it’s legal.” Now, that’s not an ebook, but it solves the problem better than an ebook would have, once you take yourself out of the equation. Yes, you have to make lead targets. Yes, you have to hit certain quotas and stuff like that.

Liam Moroney:
But it’s much more effective if you start with a foundation of, “What are the most important things that I will solve their problem with?” Because ultimately, that will make the real decision for them. If you’ve solved their problem and helped educate them with something useful based on research that you spent time doing … You can keep telling that story over and over again in multiple formats, because you’re drawing from a really rich foundation of content.

Jeff Sirkin:
I think there’s a couple things I want to touch on there. First of all, I think we can agree on this. The customer needs to come first. There was the concept of the sales cycle. The idea that the company is in control of moving people through their sales cycle. When in reality, I think we’ve come to realize that it’s the buyer’s journey. There’s only so much that we can really influence about that.

Jeff Sirkin:
To be honest, partially, I think about this one a lot too. The idea that we’ve created these notions and visualizations of the funnel as this linear thing. To your point, we just need to move everybody down one rung. We need to move them closer to the goal. The idea that we control that is selfish. To me, it’s not true. And so, the way I think about it is we should really only be creating content that we would want to consume if we were that customer. Otherwise, you’ll end up just producing those metrics, but they’ll be empty.

Jeff Sirkin:
And so, to me, this always starts by under deeply understanding your ideal customers. What are their biggest challenges and aspirations? How can you solve them? That should be the focus of your content, as you said. And then, you can think about, “What’s the best format to be communicating that message?” To your point, if it’s a one-line thing, let’s do it in a short video. Or let’s plaster it everywhere. But it doesn’t have to be a 25-page ebook.

Liam Moroney:
I think you’re absolutely right in that you can’t make someone want to buy something now, if the organization or if things preventing them to do so are out of their control. In B2B, unless you are selling something that’s $99 a month, for the most part there is a lot of conversation and timing that has to go into it. Sometimes that timing can just take forever. I say this all the time. I have bought tools two companies later, because the previous two companies, the timing just did not work out.

Liam Moroney:
I wanted it, but recessions happen. Anything can go wrong. Suddenly, you find yourself going, “The timing’s not right, but I know I want it. When it’s right, I will be absolutely picking it.” If you don’t think about things like that, then you’re basically saying, “Well, if it’s not right now, we don’t care. Because we only want your interest now.”

Jeff Sirkin:
Yes.

Liam Moroney:
You end up either alienating people who are not ready or you optimize for people who are. And that’s a terrible strategy.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. Are you ready for a couple of not-so-rapid-fire questions?

Liam Moroney:
Let’s do it.

Jeff Sirkin:
Okay. First off, what would you say is the most overrated marketing activity? Something that maybe we’ve leaned into a little too much.

Liam Moroney:
I’m going to say a little bit of a cliche one, but it is gating content for the sake of leads. It does not work. The data proves that it does not work. If you think it will create awareness, if you think it will create business, it will not.

Liam Moroney:
All it will do is sit on top of whatever awareness you’ve already created. And if you’ve done none, you will get none. It’s not a good strategy unless what you’re offering is immensely valuable. 95% of the time, it is not. Their leads are what are valuable. The content is not valuable in return.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s it. I love that. We touched on this a little bit earlier. The truth is, despite what you may hear on social media, I don’t think the right answer is either gate everything or gate nothing. I think the truth is always going to be somewhere in the middle. There are pieces of content that are really valuable and it is worth somebody, but you really need to think of it as a transaction. It’s a sale.

Liam Moroney:
It is.

Jeff Sirkin:
You are asking for their information. And in B2B, that is the cash register. And so, you need to be mindful of saying, “Is this worth something that I would sell?” If it is? Great. If you feel confident that’s something that’s worthwhile, then that’s okay. Again, to your point, 95 plus percent of the time, the answer is probably going to be, “It’s not.” Then, think about ungating.

Liam Moroney:
There is a great case we made that charging for stuff gives a perception of value.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yes.

Liam Moroney:
There’s definitely a situation in which making something gated makes you think, “That’s probably worth my time.” But the fact that we’ve made it so that everything is gated. Therefore, you assume everything is worthless. So until we change that, it doesn’t work the way it used to. It doesn’t make it feel premium. It makes it feel bait and switch-y.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. Now, let’s spin into the positive side. What would you say is the most underrated marketing activity and things we should be doing more of?

Liam Moroney:
I actually think reflection and time thinking is the most underrated marketing skill. I’ve talked about this. I’ve written about this a few times. Creativity is a weird thing. It doesn’t fit into a box. You can’t have a 30-minute block where you’re going to brainstorm and at the other side, you’ve got a great idea. At the other side of 30 minutes of brainstorming, you’ve got the beginnings of what might be a great idea.

Liam Moroney:
It needs to somehow come together. There’s a reason people talk about shower thoughts. There’s a reason people have those terms, where you’re walking in the street and you go, “Oh my god. I have it. I know exactly what it is.” For me, I get a lot of marketing ideas when I go for a run. Whatever it is, my brain works in a certain way, where things suddenly like click. And I’m like, “That’s it.” But if you’re a marketing leader, if you’re a CEO or whatever and you’re hoping people will create that time outside of work … You’re gambling an awful lot on that.

Liam Moroney:
That’s a lot of hope that they’re all going to find a walk somewhere where they’re going to think about it. Whereas, it should be built-in. You should have days when it is just heads down days. Thinking days. Reflection days. That’s really valuable to creativity. Because otherwise, what you end up with is you end up with a bunch of first drafts that never get through a second draft. You just end up with the quickest version of that idea. Without ever refining it into something smarter.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. Ann Handley, in her newsletter, this is a couple weeks ago. She talked about something. She refers to it as, “Pre-writing,” where you think about what you want to write. And then, she says, “That time you spend on Instagram? That time you spend doing the dishes, cleaning the house, where you think of it as procrastination? You beat yourself up.” No. Your brain is actually working in the background.

Jeff Sirkin:
For you, that’s your version of going for a run. And so, ultimately what I found so powerful about her talking about this is that’s actually part of the process. That is actually part of the creative process. If you neglect that, if you just think of it as, “I have two hours. Must get this thing written start to finish in that time.” Just like we were saying with the sales cycle versus the buyer’s journey.

Jeff Sirkin:
Creativity is the buyer’s journey. It cannot necessarily be controlled as much as we would like to say, “This is my creative time.” But it’s going to come to you at different times. Sometimes there’s a lot of it, and sometimes there’s not a lot of it. It’s just that thing. You have to leave the space to welcome it when it’s ready, but you can’t force it to be there.

Liam Moroney:
Absolutely right.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. What would you say from your perspective, and especially thinking of somebody earlier in their career … What is the most important skill or skills that a marketer can possess?

Liam Moroney:
I think there’s so many different technical forms of marketing out there. I think the technical skills belong to each different function. There’s SEO. There’s demand gen. There’s email. There’s all those different things. One thing they all tend to have in common is empathy and respect for the audience. Because it’s very uncommon. I don’t care if you are an SEO writer. The empathy starts with not, “How do I get them to click in?” It’s, “What are they searching for? What things are they looking for?”

Liam Moroney:
It applies to the most technical and the most creative. If you spend time understanding what it is they’re trying to accomplish and how can I deliver it to them in the most effective way, you will do better marketing. When you don’t, you see the other side of it. Black hat SEO was around so that you could game the system until eventually the system caught up.

Liam Moroney:
If you don’t have empathy for your audience, what you’re effectively doing is you’re like that con artist who has to try and keep on finding a new town after they’ve conned everybody in it. You have to. Because you will be found out. B2B, as big as it feels and as big as the TAMs always look, reputations get around really fast.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. The thing I would add to that, which you touched on, is the idea that as marketing has become so specialized into each of their niches … You do need some level of technical skills if you’re going to go into one of those specialties. SEO or paid search. They become their own mini functions almost. But it’s how the dots connect. It’s, “What are we trying to do? What’s the purpose?” To your point.

Jeff Sirkin:
But it starts with empathy. What is somebody actually looking for when they’re searching for this term? What are their assumptions? What do they know? What do they not know? And then, therefore, that will help you then know not just, “How do we optimize our page for this term?” But how do we make sure that the content they’re going to land on is relevant? And it’s actually helping them through their journey? But it’s being, again to your point, customer-first and having that empathy. It ties it all.

Liam Moroney:
Absolutely.

Jeff Sirkin:
What resources, books, blogs, podcasts, newsletters would you want to recommend to our audience?

Liam Moroney:
There’s a lot of great podcasts out there. There’s a lot of great blogs and LinkedIn has lots of great content. The thing I always push for though to try and at least add a different perspective is research older classic marketing literature. Especially, things like advertising. It’s not a skill people have. For some reason, everyone wants to learn from whoever is doing the newest thing, but not looking back at who’s been doing it forever.

Liam Moroney:
I’m not saying we’re all artists, but if you are an artist, you look at who has done it great in the past. There’s nothing about being a graphic designer today that says you are not going to learn from Leonardo da Vinci. It just does not work like that. The foundational things are there for a reason. They were masters for a reason. The same is true in marketing. A lot of the rules that were true for 60s advertising on Madison Avenue are every bit as true right now. Especially, with things like copy.

Liam Moroney:
Copywriting is a missing skill in B2B. A hugely missing skill. There’s great books like Ogilvy On Advertising. It’s a little bit outdated. You’ve got to take it with a grain salt. There’s some slightly dated references in there, but it is still really good. There’s a terrific book with a silly name called, Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, which is about copywriting for Madison Avenue from a Madison Avenue copywriter. How to write great ads.

Liam Moroney:
It is a funny book. It is all short snippets. It does some online advertising stuff. But when you look back at why the old ads were great, the same inspiration is there. They were great because they understood their audience. They knew how to write something that was compelling and emotional. Doesn’t matter whether it’s for a Facebook ad or for an insert inside the Time Magazine. The rules still apply from older classic literature.

Jeff Sirkin:
I couldn’t agree more. Finally, where can people find and connect with you on social media?

Liam Moroney:
I am always and possibly too active on LinkedIn. You can always find me there. I am highly accessible. I comment. I reply. I encourage anyone to come and chat, because I’m always eager to meet new people.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s awesome. We’ll link to your LinkedIn profile as well as your Marketing Revisited podcast in the show notes. Liam, I just want to say, you really are such a great steward for marketers. Thanks so much for being here today. It’s been such a pleasure to have you on.

Liam Moroney:
I really appreciate it. My hope is only to try and make people love marketing a little bit more. Everyone’s trying to do it better. But if you do it well, it’s very rewarding. It can be a very rewarding, passionate thing. If nothing else, it’s the only thing I want to communicate. That it’s a creative endeavor. It is a highly creative job, and when done well, it is a phenomenally interesting and rewarding thing.

Jeff Sirkin:
I couldn’t have said it better, Liam. Thanks so much for being here.

Liam Moroney:
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Jeff Sirkin:
I really enjoyed my conversation with Liam. I love his perspective on how to develop separate strategies and measurement for demand creation and capture. He’s also one of the most passionate marketers you’ll ever meet. I’m so excited to see what he does launching Suas.

Jeff Sirkin:
If you want to learn more about the resources mentioned in the episode, you can find them in our show notes. In addition, we’re publishing the full text transcripts of the episodes on our website at sirkinresearch.com/podcasts. Thank you for listening. I hope you’ll join us for a new story, next week on Long Story Short.

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