Modernizing Demand Generation with Eric Stockton

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Eric Stockton is the Vice President of Demand Generation at SharpSpring from Constant Contact. He is an executive with proven leadership in running sales teams and creating marketing alignment within organizations, Eric specializes in creating revenue and driving pipeline for B2B, SAAS, and eCommerce. At Constant Contact, Eric focuses daily on the areas of Growth, DemandGen, Publishing and Content to help streamline processes, improve output and motivate the team to excel.

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

 

  • How to modernize a legacy B2B marketing motion
  • The value of amplifying content to prospects in the channels they’re already using
  • How to create new marketing motions that align with how prospects want to buy
  • Why you should set effective expectations with leadership — and how to do it
  • How to ensure marketing is seen as a revenue engine
  • The power of a test and learn approach

Resources:

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Connect with Eric: 

LinkedIn

Connect with Jeff:

LinkedIn

Connect with Sirkin Research:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

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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.
My guest this week is Eric Stockton. He is the Vice President of Demand Generation at SharpSpring from Constant Contact. He’s an executive with proven leadership in running sales teams and creating marketing alignment within organizations. Eric specializes in creating revenue and driving pipeline for B2B, SaaS, and e-commerce. At Constant Contact, eric focuses daily on the areas of growth, demand gen, publishing, and content to help streamline processes, improve output, and motivate the team to excel. I had a great conversation with Eric. We talked about how to transition a legacy B2B marketing motion into the present, and it’s really about aligning with how prospects want to buy and amplifying content to prospects in the channels they’re using. We also dug into how to get marketing to be viewed as a revenue engine and setting expectations with leadership. Without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Eric Stockton.
Hi, Eric. Thanks for coming on long Story Short.

Eric Stockton:
Yeah, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. I want to start with where you are today. Can you give us a sense for your role and what your world looks like at Constant Contact?

Eric Stockton:
Yeah, so VP of Demand Generation at Constant Contact. I focus mostly on the SharpSpring product, which is a marketing automation and CRM, connected CRM. Most of my job right now is running a sales-led motion that brings folks in to request a demo, talk to our sales folks. And also, just recently, within the last five weeks, pretty proud of this one, we launched our first PLG effort, so for frictionless activation, so free trial that gets people into the funnel, gets them to experience the product. That’s actually where I’ve been spending a lot of my time here the last six, eight weeks or so.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s awesome. And so I want to dig into a couple of those things. You mentioned, first of all, that a lot of this is a sales-led motion and meant to request demos, and so that sounds a lot like demand capture, and then PLG. And so I’m just curious, from your perspective as a seasoned executive, how do you define those top-level strategies and say how we need to move the needle?

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. It’s interesting right now. Whereas, before, we were 100% sales-led, right, where we were pulling people in and we had a sales funnel that was pretty well established, right? Then we introduced a free trial and that really, to me, when we were thinking about what would it look like to bring folks in to experience the product while balancing the sales needs, right, making sure that we had enough pipeline created for the sales folks, and getting that balance in place, right, and making sure we’re not cannibalizing the core business without … just making sure, right, coming out of the gate. We had some mitigation things in place for folks where we were able to essentially direct a dedicated amount of traffic to only the free trial, whereas everything else web-related, we go to the demo request flow.
Turns out that people do want to experience the product and get in and see the product, and, based on that, we’ve had some really good numbers so far, and now it’s a matter of tweaking and balancing and optimization, right? When we’re thinking about things like CAC and unit economics, and we’ve introduced an entirely new flow, so it’s changed the complexion a little bit around our business, and so we’re in that awkward phase right now of figuring things out. But, to me, this is the fun part because now we get to route folks to the right area, right, of the product.
For those that need to talk to sales, we want to make sure that they get that support because sales is really good about helping people build consensus and make sure that they get the answers to the questions they need, because it’s a fairly complicated product. And then, for those that are more self-guided, we want to be able to just get them right into the product and let them answer their own questions and then be available when they need it. Just so much in the way of in-dash reporting, what’s going on in the funnel, what’s going on in the actual product, usage, all of that stuff is really what we’re studying right now and we’re learning a ton.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, and I love that. You mentioned that it’s the awkward phase, but I couldn’t agree more. That sounds like the fun part to me, the testing, the learning. And I really love the perspective that you’re taking, too, of presenting options and really aligning of how people want to buy, right, and how they want to learn more, as opposed to having this monolithic, “This is everything you have to do.” I don’t want to say it’s just purely the old way of doing things, because a lot of things still could and should be done that way, but really giving options and identifying, to your point, that there is a subset of people that want to get their hands dirty right away. I love that perspective.

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. I think it’s interesting you said it that way. I think we do things so often in B2B where we build it around our own needs and our own process and our ability to scale, I’m putting that in air quotes, right, and you forget about the buyer experience a little bit because whatever’s being built is built by marketing ops or somebody else who’s thinking about efficiencies, not necessarily the buyer journey.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah, and I think about that a lot. I refer to it as inside-out versus outside-in thinking. And I’ve been in a lot of companies, a lot of clients, and seen the same thing, where you see everything from the way we name the products to what we lead with our marketing messaging, it’s all based on assumptions we have internally as opposed to letting the buyers and our ideal customers really guide that. And I think about it, even just the idea, the idea of the buyer’s journey, 10 years ago, there was so much more talk around the sales cycle, right, and, to me, it’s the same idea, it’s just which perspective are you taking. And really, to me, I think the biggest part is really the connotation of control, that, if it’s the sales cycle, it means that we can control moving people through the funnel. It’s at our pace at the stages we want.
And when we think of it as the buyer’s journey, we recognize that they’re in control, right, and so, yeah, if they want to get their hands dirty and try the product right away because that’s going to answer their biggest questions, great, right? And, to me, I think one of the biggest things over the last 10 years, and especially over the next couple years, is going to be how do we continue to really align with how buyers want to buy? But I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s really a matter of letting them be in control, but making sure we have all the right resources in place.

Eric Stockton:
Yeah, I think one of the things that we forget is that buyers are not … they don’t behave the same way, right, and the funnel is a myth. It’s a way for us to be able to communicate to maybe [inaudible 00:07:55] marketing execs about how things are coming into the sales pipeline. And, at the end of the day, there are no two buyer’s journeys that are the same, right, and so, ultimately, we have to behave that way. And we talk a lot about that internally with our team, is like what does that look like for person A versus person B versus person C, and how do we open up those avenues to get them to where they need to go the quickest? And that could come in the form of the sales process or a PLG motion, like we’ve been talking about, or it could be in the form of content and accessing the kinds of information that they need to be able to make some decisions and do it quickly.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah, even just the connotation, right? They’re buyers to us, but, professionally, that’s not what they do, right? Professionally, they’re a CMO, they’re a director of marketing, they have a full-time job. And, frankly, a lot of cases, even the buyer’s journey, it’s something, a lot of times, they don’t even realize they’re on until they’re most of the way through. They’re just becoming more aware of a problem that they have and that there are solutions out there that can help them with it, and then, eventually, saying, “Yes, this is something we want to do.”
The funnel has always been an oversimplification and so, to your point, we forget that. And so for us to say, “Oh, yeah, we can move people from stage one to stage two,” or whatever terms we use around that, it’s, no, so much of it is they’re going to bounce around, they can come in and out, and then, suddenly, they’re ready, and it’s much more unpredictable. And so it’s really a matter of, at every step of the way, really aligning with what somebody needs when they’re at that level of awareness, right?
With all of that in mind and with the current state of marketing, what are some of the things that you really think about when you’re trying to really future-proof and build really solid demand generation strategies?

Eric Stockton:
That’s a great question. I think, right now, I’m just going to tell you exactly what we’re doing internally as a team, one of the things that we’re doing right now is figuring out what that content needs to look like that we should be amplifying on the demand gen side. In some companies, what you’ll see is content is siloed over here from paid or some other area in marketing, and what we’re trying to do is just make sure that we’re operating with that singular focus wrapped around the buyer journey or focused on that buyer journey. Right now, it’s all about content.
And, in the past, I think, for us, for the legacy SharpSpring product, it was always what are the things that we can do for SEO purposes and organic traffic, that sort of thing. And, recently, I think it’s shifted to, hey, what are the things that we know that our buyer needs to be able to make a decision and make sure that we have that mapped correctly, because they’re going to hit those pieces of content in different times in their buyer journey. They’re all going to come through differently, the way that we just discussed, but, specifically, how can we, on the demand gen side, figure out ways to amplify the content that we’re creating and get that messaging in front of the buyer in the place that they are?
And so rather than, I would call it, for us anyway, the legacy way of doing things was we would do paid search, a lot of the bottom of the funnel stuff, and we would bring people in, we’d obviously capture them through SEO and other types of traffic-driving mechanisms, like list and other things. But, ultimately, in the last, let’s call it, year, we have really elevated the content and got it out there in front of folks in the platforms that they’re consuming the content in.
LinkedIn, as you know, right, we’re very heavy into LinkedIn, we’re very heavy into paid social, and getting the message out there in front of them in various forms, right? It can be video in the form of a case study, it could be print in form of case study, it could be third-party testimonials, whatever, that really gives people an understanding of what issue we are particularly solving with the SharpSpring product, and then figuring out where they are in their buyer journey, and then, obviously, messaging accordingly. Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to accelerate getting the message in front of our ICP faster than maybe what we were in the past, where we were waiting for them to come to us.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah, I love that. And, again, I think that really speaks to what we were talking about before in terms of putting the audience first, right, and saying, “Where are they?” Rather than say, “Well, we have this website, right, and the way it’s always been is, well, we just set up all these roots to funnel them to us. Well, now let’s go to where they are,” right? And so, again, so it’s more, “You’re going to be on these platforms anyway, so let’s put the content where you are and let’s try out different formats,” right? And so, again, it goes back to what you were saying that you’re in this awkward phase, and I think the test-and-learn is the most fun part, right, because of all this. Okay, maybe video works, maybe it doesn’t, right? Maybe it’s case studies, maybe it’s a testimonial. What’s the type of content, what level of awareness are they at, and what’s the messaging that’s going to resonate that’s going to help them to at least give them the right breadcrumbs that they can help educate themselves along the journey?

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. It’s interesting you say that because I was talking to a CMP, they’re probably around 100 million ARR-type business, and they’re in a fairly complicated product. They sell a physical product. And I was talking to actually the sales leader and the CMO together, which was a fun conversation, right, because the sales leader is saying, “Hey, look, when I can get in the room, I can close them. My close rate is 30-plus percent, 30 to 40, and that’s pretty great, right, once they’re in the pipeline.” And then the marketing, the CMO, is over here saying, “Okay, well, the opportunities I’m bringing to you, yeah, we need to get more of them to you, but, ultimately, we’re not even in the conversation most of the time.”
And so the sales leader was literally talking to the CMO. There was this interesting dialogue between them. I was just the fly on the wall in the conversation, and they were talking. And one of the things that really came out of it was they were saying, “We’re just missing the boat because there are so many conversations that are happening and these buyers are already predisposed to another product before they ever get into our consideration set, but, when they are, when we get in front of them, we’re going to win them a lot of the time, so how do we get in front of them more often?” And that was the conversation, which led to the demand gen and some other things. I thought it was a really interesting dynamic that I think probably plays out a lot across tons of organizations.

Jeff Sirkin:
Totally. And, again, they used to publish this number a lot, but what percent of the way through the buyer’s journey is somebody before they’re actually going to engage with a vendor, and that number keeps going up, of course. The internet has made a lot of this much more accessible. And, to that point, so if you had kept doing the old way and said, “Well, we’re going to keep our castle over here and all of the SEO roads lead there,” well, that’s great, but, for all the people that are in their own communities and are talking networking with their peers … because, to me, that’s one of the biggest things that the internet has really enabled is really some of these communities, and LinkedIn probably being the biggest, most obvious one, where it used to only be, and I think about this, that the really only opportunity you really had to network with peers that were people in your role at other companies were when you go to conferences and things like that, but now, through things like LinkedIn, and there’s all sorts of specialty groups …
Now what would be the first thing I would do, if I had a problem to solve, is I’m a small business owner, I would go to other small business owners and ask them how they solved that same problem, but I wouldn’t go to the vendor, right? And so more and more and more, it’s through word of mouth, it’s dark social. To your point, it’s how do we … because, if we’re missing the boat, if we’re not part of that initial consideration set, then we’re not in the conversation and you’re not getting in front of them. And so therein lies exactly where it’s like, if we kept doing the old way, those at-bats, as I would call them, are just getting fewer and fewer and fewer, and you just need to be able to get in front of that, which is why, again, I really commend what you’re doing to, again, to say, “No, we need to be where they are.”

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. You just flip it a little bit, right? If you think about how you buy yourself, right, you’re making decisions, you’re buying stuff periodically, I’m buying stuff, software or other tools, things that we need, and, if you just align the way that you … because I’m lucky in the fact that I run marketing. I’m my own ICP, right? Right.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right. And you sell to marketers, yeah. Right.

Eric Stockton:
Yeah, I sell to marketers, so I have that natural understanding of what my ICP would need, and I know I always have my BS antenna up, always. And, when I get an email, when I get something cold or a DM or whatever, immediately, my radar is up. And I think, ultimately, frankly, I’m too busy. That’s one of the problems is I’m busy, I’m doing a lot of different things, and, ultimately, the fastest path to making a decision is somebody else who’s already been there, right? And so, as a buyer, I’m already coming in predisposed, right? I’ve got my research in hand, so to speak, right? I’ve done a little bit of that work before I ever hit the website of the vendor. And the vendor really is there to be able to help me figure out can they check the box of the things that I need once I’m in market?
And, a lot of the times, websites, even homepage, really doesn’t connect immediately, right? What’s happening is you hit the website and it’s very feature-focused and that sort of thing and it’s really not tied to why did I show up there to begin with?

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s it.

Eric Stockton:
I already know these things. I already know I want to see the pricing, I want to see does it fit my particular use case, and, yeah, I know where the demo button is, right, at the [inaudible 00:18:48].

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah, but, honestly, I think it’s even just that small level of empathy that I think a lot of us, as marketers, don’t even take is just to say, “Now pretend you’re the buyer, right? What is this experience like for you?” And you’re right, I think, again, there’s just so many things where they become so commonplace and so we just have built defenses as people that are able to ward off these unwanted sales advances immediately, right? The number of marketing messages we ignore in a daily basis is tremendous, right, and, most of them, we don’t even realize we’re ignoring, but it’s just we have these protections that are like, “Nope, nope, nope, nope,” right? And I know, for me, I’m selfish in the way of, when I’m ready, I’m ready, right, but you can’t tell me I’m ready. But, again, but it’s just putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer.

Eric Stockton:
Something you said just flipped a switch in me. I think that’s the thing is, when I’m ready, I’m ready, right, and so there are two speeds, right? There is no and where’s the button to buy, right? There’s not a whole lot in between. And what we try to do is we try to impose a funnel on people and make them go through the, I say this a lot on the podcast, but the Plinko style. Have you ever seen Plinko on …
We try to make people go through this convoluted journey rather than saying, “If you’re halfway through and you just want the basic information to be able to make a decision like pricing, then we want to make sure that we surface that and make that available,” or, if you’re further up, and let’s say it’s a complicated product, we want to give you that material to be able to say, “Okay, this is the thing that might solve the problem that I think I have.” And we don’t know where they’re going to be until they show up, so we have to make sure that we’re customizing it that way, and then, preferably, as we were saying before, injecting that into the platforms and the messaging where they are, right, so they’re consuming it there.

Jeff Sirkin:
First of all, I love the Plinko reference. I was a Price Is Right kid my whole life, but I think-

Eric Stockton:
Yeah, me too. Yeah, me too. My mom watched that and I was like, “Oh, that’s exactly what happens with the buyers,” because you don’t know where they’re going to end up at the bottom, you know where they start, but you don’t know where they end. Yeah.

Jeff Sirkin:
And it’s funny that you say that because, as I’m picturing it is as we’re talking, what I’m thinking about is that, for those that are very early and are not ready yet, we’re probably a little too forceful in, “Oh, okay, here’s the demo,” right? It’s like, “Yeah, okay, I get it. I’m not ready for that,” right, and so we probably don’t do a great job of people that are early on just giving them the bread crumbs to be able to source themselves and, when you’re ready, come to us, right? And then, on the other hand, we probably don’t even do enough for those that are ready. We make it a little painful, right?

Eric Stockton:
We slow it down. Yeah, ironically, we [inaudible 00:21:51].

Jeff Sirkin:
A lot of companies, pricing isn’t really readily available and just everything is kept through the gate, right?

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. Yeah. I think, ironically, we slow things down once somebody’s ready to go, right? We route them through a BDR that then goes and reschedules somebody on an AE’s calendar, and then, three days later, you’re on a call. You can’t remember why you were on the call, if you show up at all. And I think, ultimately, that inflection point, when you’re ready to buy, you’re ready to buy, you make it easy to buy. If you’re not ready to buy, you’re not going to hit them over the head to try to buy something that they’re not ready to do, right? You’re just going to turn them off.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s right.

Eric Stockton:
And so, yeah, I think, ultimately, that’s obviously the challenge, right, because, when we think about numbers we need to hit, we think about the sales team needs pipeline opportunities, they’re willing to call anybody, right, and so, really, it’s more about making sure that we’re touching them before they get in so they’re sort of predisposed to the product and there’s brand affinity there, product affinity. Yeah.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. I want to shift gears a little bit, but very related, and you mentioned the conversation between the CMO and the sales leader, and so one of the big issues that marketing more broadly faces is that disconnect with sales. And the way this tends to play out is the head of marketing, and marketing at a corporate level, having a more … I guess I would call it a junior seat at the table. And so what are some ways and what are some tips, especially from your wealth of experience, what are some tips for marketers of how to get that full and bigger seat at the table?

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. That’s an interesting one because I think everybody’s in that mode right now. Everybody’s doing budgeting, everybody’s in the middle of forecasting, and how often is marketing really there contributing to a bottoms-up understanding of what’s going on in the funnel to be able to drive pipeline, or are they just being dictated a number and a budget to go and hit, because that’s a recipe for failure, right? And it does start with revenue, right, what is the company goal, what are we trying to achieve in terms of growth next year, how does that tie back to the number of deals, number of wins, unit economics stuff, right, that the sales team needs to come in and contribute, and then backing your way into that from a marketing perspective, specifically the pipeline that needs to be created to be able to go and close those deals.
And, ultimately, I’ve never actually seen a forecast where there hasn’t been a gap between the two, right? There’s always going to be a number and there’s always going to be a number, right, and, ultimately, what ends up happening is there’s this negotiation that basically needs to happen in the room, right? This is where the marketer actually starts to gain influence and authority in the meeting is saying, “Okay, look, here’s what we’re saying, we’re all aligned, these are the things that we need to do. This is the pipeline that we need to create based on the budget. This is where we’re going to land. What are the bets that we want to place, as an organization, that we’re going to sign up for, that we feel like is going to give us the highest percentage of opportunity to win and close that gap?” Right?
If you’re just, as a marketing leader, just taking the number, you’re already setting yourself up to fail. It’s really more of a, I’m making this up, but let’s say it’s a 100 deal gap or something, right, that we need to go and close, where are those deals going to come from, and then you get everybody together problem-solving in a room, as opposed to just putting it on marketing. Because I had a CEO tell me once, I love the comment, he made this comment, he said, “Sales can be absolutely wrong and absolutely win the argument every single time.”

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that.

Eric Stockton:
And that is a 100% true, right, especially in that conversation that’s typically happening, and that’s not a dig on sales, right? It’s just the fact that that is the revenue driver in the organization and marketing is not, typically anyway, seen as a revenue engine, revenue-driving engine, inside the organization. I think that’s changing now, and marketers are, to your point, getting a larger seat at the table. But, if we as marketing leaders can’t articulate the case better and make the argument clearer and show it in the number and how marketing source contribution to the business is bringing success to the organization, again, you’re going to lose that momentum that you need to have to be able to help further the organization.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And you really hit on something there, where in so many of these, and I’m especially talking enterprise organizations, is that you see marketing is really seen more of a cost of doing business and not the revenue driver, right? It’s not seen as part of the revenue engine. And I think, to me, and I’m a data guy at heart, and so, ultimately, my perspective is, and you really hit the nail on the head of you have to be able to make the argument better, and so, to me, I think a lot of that comes around setting expectations. Sure, there are demand capture strategies, a lot of which we’ve talked about, that you can forecast pretty well, okay, SEO, paid search, things like that, but that is limited, right? That’s limited based on how much demand is in the market.
Now if you’re talking about building awareness and some of the things you’re talking about, right, like, okay, we’re going to go on LinkedIn, we’re going to do paid ads there, how you measure that has to be really intentional because it’s not going to be that we’re going to drive leads tomorrow that are ready to close or have a conversation with an AE. It needs to be that it’s going to take six months and here’s what we’re going to do, but we have a plan to nurture people through the awareness spectrum and get them to the point that they are ready, but also recognizing that does not mean I can’t be held accountable that, this budget, we’re not going to be able to show return on this at the end of this quarter. That wouldn’t be a fair thing to be able to say, right?
But it’s all a matter of setting those right expectations when you have these initial conversations, to be able to say, “Listen, we think we can reasonably deliver X. If we have the money to start building demand and building brand, then we think we can get Y, but that’ll take more like six months to a year to really add to it,” and that will be more of a compounding interest kind of thing, but it’s not an immediate return on the money. But I think being able to help see this a little more three-dimensionally, it will give a much more compelling argument.

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. I love the way you said it too, because it’s not just do we have the appetite as an organization to go and spend, it is do we have the stomach, as an organization, to wait it out as the pipeline builds, right? Because, in my experience, it’s usually not the first board meeting, it’s the second board meeting that really starts to hurt you. And, if you can’t point to some of those leading indicators and if sales isn’t in there supporting you as an organization, like, “Yeah, these things are happening, these are quality conversations, we need to build more pipeline, but we’re really starting to get traction here,” if that narrative isn’t happening, more often than not, you’ll see this strategy go south. I think the reality is it’s building that story inside the organization and doing a lot of that internal marketing to be able to help build that and, by the time that you need to come out the other side … because it works, it absolutely works, it just takes time, and you got to, as a team, get through that uncomfortable period.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And I think the risk, if you don’t do it well, and this is what happens so often, is, okay, everything looks great and rosy when we’re forecasting, and marketing feels like it’s probably not realistic, but we’re going to go with it, it’s sort of forced on us, okay, and then you get through Q1 and now everyone’s saying, “Okay, we’re already off, right? We’re already missing our deal number. Our pipeline’s not close.” And so then what happens is, by the end of Q2, or it’s six months in, now we’re saying, “All right, well, as marketing, we need to make up the deal gap now,” so you have to basically turn off the brand-building, the demand generation strategies, the true demand generation strategies, move it all towards demand capture.
And now you’ve never seen a return for that and say, “Oh, look at all that we spent on LinkedIn over six months. It was worthless,” because you didn’t actually give it time to play out because you put the pressure that we need this now. And so, again, marketers, and the term you use that I love is leading indicators, right, you need to be clear that these are leading indicators that we are on the right track, and that needs to be part of the story all along to say, “Yes, we do think we can deliver revenue, but it’ll take us a year, and here are the mileposts that we’re going to be looking at as leading indicators to know that we’re on the right track.” Are you ready for a couple of what I call not so rapid fire questions?

Eric Stockton:
Sure, let’s do it.

Jeff Sirkin:
Okay. The first one is what is the most overrated marketing activity? What are marketers maybe broadly doing a little too much of that maybe they should be scaling back?

Eric Stockton:
In general or in this particular economic environment that we’re in?

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah, either, either, whichever comes to your mind first.

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. That’s a great question. I’m going to say things like content syndication are really this false positive, feel-good stuff that rarely produces pipeline, not to be down on content syndication because I think there are really good players out there, especially in MarTech like we’re in, but, ultimately, I think that’s probably a lot of it because, as marketers, we just lean on this thing to make our jobs and our lives easier because we’re hitting this, I don’t know, vanity metric number, or whatever you want to call it, because that’s what’s happening, right, ultimately, “Hey look, our numbers are in the green,” and it’s not marketing’s problem, it’s sales’ problem.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s right.

Eric Stockton:
I think that’s, ultimately, a recipe for disaster, and only because content syndication, to our conversation earlier, gets them so far up funnel, they are not even hardly brand aware, I don’t even know if they’re solution aware, right, in terms of do they even know they’ve got a problem? And there’s ways to use content syndication. I think we try, as marketers, to take the easy route, and, of course, as vendors, content syndication tends to sell the easy route, right? If you’re on a call with somebody like that, they’re really trying to tell you, “These are quality leads and we’ll give you X number of selects and job titles and everything else,” but they’re missing the key element, which is intent. And, at the end of the day, that’s going to trump anything else, any ICP fit, or anything else you do. There’s good ways to use it, but I think, in terms of how you lean into something, where you spend your money and where you spend your budget, you’re going to need to max out basically everything else before you get to that.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. And, again, not to pick on any particular tactic, because I agree, I think anything can be good in the right context, right, but I think content syndication fits into the 2010 marketing plan where it used to be this, “Okay, we know if we get X number at the top of the funnel, then all these percentages … and we’re great, right, and we’re going to hit our numbers.” And I think we’ve seen play out that, to your point, when the intent’s not there, that’s great, you can fill all the rest of it, but if they’re not even barely aware that they have a problem and they’re not ready, then it really won’t matter, and it’s not going to translate into the business metrics you care about.

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. I think the issue for us as marketers, though, is, and this is related, but it really has more to do with the fact that, as marketers, we’re very frenetic creatures, right, we’ve got pressure imposed upon us, and also, at the same time, marketers in general are frenetic creatures, right? We like to throw things against the board or the wall to see what sticks. And, in my experience, focusing on fewer channels, fewer tactics, is the hardest thing to do because it requires a certain level of discipline that is just very difficult to muster, rather than being able to point to all of the things that you’re doing across the 12 different tactics or channels or whatever. And, at the end of the day, I think that creates a certain level of friction and opportunity costs inside the team, right? You’re not giving your best to the things that are actually working the best.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. Let’s flip the other way and spin a positive. What would you say is the most underrated marketing activity? What could marketers or should they be maybe leaning into a little more?

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. That’s a great question. I think it depends on what stage you are in, but, in general, what I would say, I love what we were talking about before where most of the great content that we create is a tree falling in the woods. Nobody ever sees it, nobody ever experiences it, and it’s great stuff. You invested all of this time and effort and money into building it and then nobody sees it. And so, ultimately, even if that content was created two years ago, and it’s still a really good piece and it’s still evergreen and it still answers the questions and all you have to do is dust it off a little bit and then put it in front of a way, a channel, to be able to amplify that content and push it out and push your message proactively instead of reactively receiving it, I think is really the thing that we’re missing right now as marketers. And, ultimately, we have an opportunity to be able to take assets that we’ve already invested in and make better use out of them.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yep. I love that. Yeah, create once, distribute forever, but we should absolutely be putting just as much, if not more, effort into the promotion, into the amplification of the content as we do on the actual building of it. I couldn’t agree more.

Eric Stockton:
Yeah. I’ve gotten that question a lot from marketers recently, where they’re saying, “I’m going to get my budget cut next year. Content, obviously, is one of the first things to go,” and so, well, my comment to them is, “If you still have content that’s really working, then let’s use it in a better way, in a more effective way,” is that eye-opening, I think, experience for some of those guys.

Jeff Sirkin:
For a lot of companies, and I used to do this analysis, is, if you go and look at what your most popular blog posts are, right, the oldest form of company content, you’ll find that there are just these evergreen ones that are 10 years old that still drive the most traffic, right, and, to your point, nobody thinks about that. They think of it as, “Oh, that’s old news.” No, people still care. There’s still a value for it. It’s a lot more evergreen than you think. And so I think, to your point, yeah, maybe the right answer is maybe let’s not focus as much on building new content, but dusting off the stuff we have and repurposing it for today’s channels and putting it in front of people where they can see it.

Eric Stockton:
Yeah, and we’re doing a site redesign now in our own organization and one of the comments that I’ve made recently is, “Hey, look, yeah, we’ve got these other articles that are doing great from an SEO perspective, and we’re getting a ton of traffic and it’s great, we should continue to use it, but then there’s all of this other content that actually enables the buyer decision-making process and helps the buyer journey that’s never seen the light of a day and is really good content. We should actually repurpose that. We should do some other things with it.” And so we’re doing that over the next few months.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s great. And then what resources, books, podcasts, newsletters, what out there in the world would you want to recommend to our audience?

Eric Stockton:
Don’t Make Me Think, and this is an oldie but a goodie. I don’t know how many people have actually read it anymore. It’s like, gosh, I don’t know when that thing was even written, back in 2006. That’s craziness. And I remember when this thing first came out and it was one of those books that just completely changed my perspective on being more buyer-centric, right, and thinking the way that I would want to either read something or consume something or buy something, and so this is probably one of those books that I think probably needs to be on anybody who’s doing marketing, or is an entrepreneur as well, an agency owner, any of those, would be beneficial.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that, and I haven’t read it, so it’s first on my list right now.

Eric Stockton:
It’s a really good book. Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s great. And then, finally, where can people find and connect with you on social media?

Eric Stockton:
LinkedIn, like we were talking about. Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. That’s probably the easiest way to do it. Just DM me, I’m pretty active there.

Jeff Sirkin:
Fantastic. And we’ll have Eric’s LinkedIn in the show notes as well. Eric, thank you so much for being here today and thank you for sharing your story with us.

Eric Stockton:
Yeah, this was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.

Jeff Sirkin:
I really enjoyed my conversation with Eric. I love his perspective on ensuring marketing is seen as a revenue engine and how to create new marketing motions to align with how prospects want to buy. I’m also secretly jealous of the test-and-learn approach he’s taking. That’s the fun part to me. 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 full text transcripts of our episodes on our website at sirkinresearch.com/podcast. Thank you for listening and I hope you’ll join us for a new story next week on Long Story Short.

 

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