Talking personalisation with Hannah Stewart, VP Global Marketing at Yieldify

Hannah Stewart is VP Global Marketing at Yieldify, a customer journey and website personalisation software.

Our host Alex Price sits down with Hannah to explore her role at Yieldify and dig into personalisation as they discuss where to begin, what the future could look like and how Hannah runs B2B marketing at Yieldify.

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Full Transcript 

Alex (00:08):

Hi everyone and welcome back to another episode of the FINITE podcast. So today I’m going to be sitting down and chatting with Hannah Stewart. Hannah is currently the VP of Marketing for a personalisation SaaS platform called Yieldify. She’s got lots of interesting thoughts on personalisation of course, but how we use and store data and how personalisation is rolled out across some really interesting use cases, but also how she does B2B marketing herself. 

And also the interesting fact that she’s just taken on responsibility of managing a team of BDRs too. So touching a little bit on sales and marketing alignment and what it means to really have sales and marketing working side by side, within an organisation. So I really hope you enjoy and hopefully catch you at a FINITE event soon.

FINITE (00:57):

The FINITE community and podcast are kindly supported by 93x, the digital agency working exclusively with ambitious fast growth B2B technology companies, visit 93x.agency to find out about how they partner with marketing team and B2B technology companies to drive digital growth.

Alex (01:19):

Hey Hannah, thanks for joining me.

Hannah (01:21):

Thank you very much for having me.

Alex (01:22):

I’m looking forward to chatting with you about all kinds of stuff ranging from your current role through to all the different personalisation stuff you do at Yieldify. But I guess as always a quick intro background experience to date would be fascinating for everybody to hear.

Hannah’s background in marketing 

Hannah (01:36):

Cool, well I’ll try and give you the cliff notes version. So I started my career in agency. I was on the B2C side beginning, so I was at Weber Shandwick for a while and then Nelson Bostok. And that’s where I started working in technology. So I had a number of clients like Samsung and later HTC, which really whetted my appetite for getting into tech.

Alex (01:56):

And was that more on the PR side as an agency or marketing or?

Hannah (01:59):

It was PR. I spent a lot of my time pitching to very unwilling journalists. The first ever story that I had to pitch was all about men’s hair regrowth in regional areas of the UK. So that was really a baptism of fire. And I think that was probably what tempted me to move over to client side after a while. So I went client side about six years ago when I started working for Monetize, which was a FinTech business. It got sold about a year and a half ago. 

And that’s when I moved from the communications side into marketing generally. So I moved into product marketing while I was at Monetize and then went to Yieldify in a product marketing role nearly four years ago, started the product marketing team at Yieldify and then ended up taking over the whole of the marketing function about a year later. So it’s been nearly three years of running marketing at Yieldify, which I think in startup years is like 30 years worth of stuff. Yeah, pretty much, pretty much. And when I look back on all of this stuff that I’ve done and learned in that time, it’s quite overwhelming, but yeah, that’s me in a nutshell,

Alex (03:02):

I’m always interested in people’s education and kind of going into university, any relation to marketing or?

Hannah (03:08):

Like many marketers, literally none. And so I studied history at university, mostly medieval, so it has next to no bearing whatsoever on what I do day to day. But I guess there’s always that sort of translation of things like storytelling and being able to craft narratives that help.

Alex (03:24):

Good communication, good writing skills.

Hannah (03:27):

Yeah. I’d hope.

Alex (03:29):

Lots of time in the library, I’m sure.

Hannah (03:31):

Yeah. Research skills for sure. Absolutely.

Alex (03:34):

How do you look at the agency landscape now having been inside obviously more PR agencies? I don’t know whether you work with a PR agency now at Yieldify or not, but you know how they run on the insides. Client agency relationships in your current role. Does that make you more open to working with agencies less open, how do you view things?

Working with external agencies as a start up

Hannah (03:51):

Very interesting question. I, at present, don’t work with a lot of agencies. I have in previous jobs Monetize, you know, we used to work with a PR agency there. We actually have two at present at Yieldify, I only use one. Part of that is for reasons of budget constraint, and what’s practical for us as a business. But also I think part of it comes from being a startup where things move very, very quickly. 

I find it often quite difficult to be able to take an agency with us on that journey when there’s so much change internally and you’re pivoting and you’re shifting every couple of months, it’s very difficult to keep somebody who’s external to your business up to speed on all of that to the point…

Alex (04:30):

Do you feel you get much more agility from in house?

Hannah (04:34):

Yeah. I mean, that’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to take on an agency in the future. Like absolutely. I would love to do that. Cause there are certain elements of specialism that you just can’t get when you’re trying to do everything in house with a small team.

Alex (04:45):

That’s a really interesting observation though. I think that’s something that when we work with startups and we’re usually looking at them, for us being a good fit is kind of series a series B and beyond where there’s kind of some kind of established nature of process and the marketing maturity around the operations and yeah, just a little bit of stability. Whereas in the earlier stages, that level of things changing like the wind actually makes it hard for us as an agency too. 

Cause I think we just find it really tough to have a team just constantly wrapped around the client, working to every time something changes just being there operationally and commercially too, it makes it really tough to structure something that works for both parties.

Hannah (05:24):

It’s really difficult because the amount of time that you have to spend embedded in the business in order to get to know what they’re already doing, I can imagine from a resource and hours perspective as an agency, that’s not necessarily the most efficient way of being able to spend your time. So, you know, I think in a slightly bigger business in a couple of years time, we would be in a better position to take on some external help in order to do what we do.

Alex (05:47):

Makes sense. So tell us about Yieldify and the platform and how it all works.

About Yieldify and its marketing function

Hannah (05:53):

Sure thing. So Yieldify is website personalisation, and we work predominantly with eCommerce businesses. So across retail, across travel financial services, to a certain extent, to help them implement personalisation on their website, at a much faster rate than any other solutions in the market. We work with about 500 odd clients worldwide. So we’re a London born and bred business, but we now have offices in New York, in Sydney and Singapore as well. 

So really we kind of expanded globally very quickly and have a lot of clients like Marks and Spencers, like Domino’s, like Montblanc. Really with the focus on delivering a fully managed solution to them that allows them to execute personalisation much more easily, much more quickly than any other solution.

Alex (06:39):

Cool. And what’s the journey been for Yieldify in terms of its initial founding? Is it raise money along the way?

Hannah (06:44):

Yeah, so I mean, we were founded six years ago, so Jay who’s our CEO founded the company with his brother and initially the business was working on a sort of performance based model. It was very much coming from the affiliate marketing space in that time, which was very interesting around the time that I joined the business. About four years ago, we were just shifting away from that. So moving on to fixed fee contracts and establishing a really new and stable platform that we then launched just around the time that I joined called the Yieldify conversion platform. 

So that’s really been the sort of transition of a business model over the last six years of moving from something that is quite fast paced, CPA based to something that is a very sort of solid SaaS solution. And I’ve kind of been there for a lot of that transition. It’s been a very interesting journey

Alex (07:30):

I can imagine. And so your role day to day, we were talking before we clicked record that you’ve taken on some more responsibility. So tell us a bit about what the VP of marketing, which is kind of still your job title, but what does it include in terms of the new stuff you’re doing as well?

Hannah (07:48):

Yeah, sure. So I guess up until about a month and a half ago, the VP marketing role was looking after all of our marketing activity for Yieldify. So that is all based in London. My team is all based in London, but we look after the executions in the U S Australia, Singapore, and I have a team of three working underneath me to do that. And it’s everything that you would normally expect from a B2B SaaS business, content, marketing, email, marketing events, digital the rest. 

But as of about a month ago, I’ve also taken on the remit of looking after our business development team as well. So that has extended my team by about another 200% or so looking after all of our BDRs, who again are based in each of our offices worldwide. And the reason for that has really been wanting to have a complete view over how all of our opportunity generation works as a business, whether it’s cold, outbound, or whether it’s working with inbound. 

I think the idea of a really linear funnel is not really how things work in practice. Everything kind of crosses over, everything has to be knitted together, as you’re trying to nurture a prospect to the point where they want to take a meeting. So to me, it never really made sense that these two functions operated separately, they need to be completely integrated together. And so I sort of raised my hand and stepped up to the plate about a month ago. 

And I’ve been trying to gradually work on that integration ever since. It’s a fun and exciting challenge, but I think it’s one that a lot of different SaaS businesses are starting to do. It’s not uncommon anymore for marketing to have business development underneath it’s mantle. So, you know, interested to see how other people have done this sort of thing in the past.

Alex (09:29):

Yeah. I think it’s coming up more and more. We were saying before we started recording again, that I had another episode that we recorded with a Chief Revenue Officer and the whole rev ops subject coming up more and more regularly. 

But I think, you know, we’ve done a FINITE event before on sales and marketing alignment as a whole subject. And I think it’s just something that everybody is starting to recognise there’s massive answers to being better connected. And I think if there’s an umbrella above both of them, then makes sense to manage it that way.

Hannah (09:56):

Yeah, exactly. And it’s also just me being a control freak.

Alex (10:05):

I want to dig into a bit more of the personalisation side of things. Obviously you’re rolling it out for clients and doing all kinds of interesting things with brands that you work with. I guess I’m also interested in how it works for you in terms of whether you’re using it within Yieldify across kind of the rest of your marketing. 

It would be good to dig into some of the channels you use and what you find effective, I guess, just at a top level particularly on the B2B side. I guess if possible what is personalisation for you and for Yieldify and maybe how you’re using it within Yieldify.

Effective channels for personalisation 

Hannah (10:37):

Yeah. So I think, you know, answering the question of what does personalisation mean to us? I actually think that it’s not too different from a B2B and a B2C perspective. I think personalisation is just about making something relevant. So personalisation is a very broad spectrum. When you look at it, you can go detailed down to the nth degree of doing one to one personalisation and that’s incredibly resource heavy that can require a huge amount of investment in terms of time, as well as budget. And that’s great, but I don’t think you necessarily need to go down to that level in order to create content and deliver experiences that are relevant and that’s the end game with all of this. 

So I think that applies to what a lot of B2C companies are doing, but also for us in a B2B space as well. So for us, at Yieldify in terms of what I do in our marketing activity, I, at the moment I don’t go down to that one to one basis. We’re not equipped with the resources to be able to do that. But what I’m trying to do is create experiences that are relevant. 

So just segmenting more effectively and just gradually getting smaller and smaller in those kinds of segments that we talk to. Creating content that we can adapt to all of those different personas so that, yeah, sure. It doesn’t have someone’s name on it every single time, but it doesn’t need to, as long as it’s relevant content and it’s a relevant experience, that to me gets the unresolved personalisation.

Alex (11:59):

I think that’s a nice holistic view, but if you take relevance and work backwards from there, cause then you’ve got just a complete sliding spectrum of depths to which you can go. I guess obviously one-to-one is kind of the absolute end, but one that many or very few businesses have actually achieved.

Hannah (12:14):

So few. And this is sort of conversation that we have with our clients a hell of a lot as well, because you know, you see a lot of solutions on the market and they can get you to that one to one stage. But I mean, that might be nine months before you see time to value that might be expert users that you need to have. And the question is what return on investment is that going to give you? 

And one of the reasons why as Yieldify, what we deliver for our customers is unique because we tried to simplify it as much as possible so that you can get that going much quicker and much more easily and still get that return. You don’t need to go to an incredibly intricate level of detail in order to deliver something that feels personalised.

At what point should you think about personalisation? 

Alex (12:52):

I’m interested in kind of the starting point. Cause I think we’re in a world now where marketing’s obviously become a very technical discipline in itself. There’s no shortage of tools and Scott Brinker’s massive diagram of 7,000 logos or whatever it is that gets referenced. So that landscape is kind of growing rapidly, but then some players arguably are consolidating their certain areas of different MarTech tools. What’s the kind of starting point? 

Cause I think, I guess how advanced, or how progressed do you need to be in your own marketing operations and journey and team size and structure to have nailed all of the more traditional things that marketers are really busy doing before you then even have a chance to take a breath and go, now let’s look at personalisation because it feels like it’s one of those things that so much to get nailed first before it’s kind of like the icing on the cake. If you’ve got the resource to do it, is that the kind of situation you find your own clients in? And what’s the kind of process for getting buy in to actually implement and do?

Hannah (13:56):

Yeah. I think thinking from our client’s perspective, the challenge in all of that is that it’s increasingly a consumer expectation that you’ll see personalisation. To some extent the experiences will feel relevant, will feel personalised, which is often in stark contradiction to what they say about wanting to share their data. But I guess that’s another conversation we can have later on. And I think that quite often means that you don’t often have a hell of a lot of time to, as you say, get the basics right before you can move on to some element of personalisation. But I think actually that that’s okay. 

You know, going back to what we were saying about the fact that personalisation is a spectrum, it means that you don’t have to go whole hog into something very intricate, very in depth, straight away, you can start with some very simple approaches and do stuff iteratively. So, you know, with some of the work that we might do for our clients, the easiest thing that you could do with your website is start to differentiate the experience for new users versus returning users. Those are two very broad spectrums, but that’s already an inroad that you’re starting to make that you can do relatively easily. 

And then from there with the level of testing that you might do understand where you need to take that next. So you can do, I think you can start small and work upwards, so you don’t need to have absolutely everything right straight away. Cause like everything with personalisation, as an extension of optimisation, it’s all about testing.

Alex (15:18):

Okay. And so do you typically find that there’s a fairly kind of standard digital marketing manager type role that you’re working within the brands you work with? That’s responsible for personalisation, who’s kind of owning it?

Who is responsible for personalisation?

Hannah (15:29):

Generally. What we find with the clients we work with is that we’re working with the e-commerce directors and managers. So owning the onsite experience is actually really interesting because you know, they’re not necessarily, and it very much varies in the type of organisation, but they’re looking after the onsite experience, somebody else might be looking after acquisition. 

And really the challenge with all of this in terms of personalisation with the website is how do you line up the onsite experience to what somebody experienced on their way to that site? So you’re trying to bring these two different roles together, sometimes aligning that approach. But yeah, generally for us, it’s, it’s the e-com guys and so a little bit more on the UX side than it would be necessarily on the marketing side.

Alex (16:11):

Interesting. And do you find that they usually have buy in and budget from the rest of the business to go and start using tools like this? You know, they’ve just got an e-commerce budget and part of that’s allocated to the overall experience and they’re happy to experiment? Or does it take a lot of, I don’t know how you typically onboard a new client, but is there use cases and demos and give it a try on your site and if it works, they kind of gradually scale up from there?

Hannah (16:35):

Yeah. I think there’s not often a ring fence budget for something like personalisation as yet, particularly I would say in the kind of client that we generally work with, who are more in the mid market, I think it’s a different question when you’re talking to a more enterprise business. So, you know what we’re generally seeing when we talk to a lot of more mid market businesses is they have a level of testing. They have a level of optimisation. They’re familiar with a lot of those tools in that space and they have some budget towards it, but personalisation is kind of the next step from there. 

So there is an education process that goes with it. There is a need to be able to show to the client the potential return that you can get from this. And that is always a really interesting question with personalisation because it can take a lot of money. It can take a lot of time. How are you going to measure a return on investment in very concrete terms? It’s sometimes quite challenging. 

And so that’s usually the case that we have to meet to be able to say, it’s not just a better experience, but it’s a better experience that is going to end up in more conversions, greater average order value or increased amount of leads. So that’s usually the education part.

Alex (17:37):

Which is when e-commerce are usually set up to track that kind of data. And I think most brands are at that level of maturity. They’re probably going to know what those things are, right? So hopefully the business cases start to build eventually?

Hannah (17:50):

It does, but quite often that’s seen through a lens of, you know, some very basic website optimisation. So, you know, this is beyond just doing things like changing the placement of the buy now button. And there’s this thing to like, if you’re going to invest extra money on top of that sort of stuff, extra resource on top of that stuff, what could you then expect to see as an additional return on top of that? So, I mean, it’s changed a lot in the time that I’ve been at Yieldify certainly, and it’s becoming much more established, but I still think we’ve got a little bit of a wait.

The challenges of using data for consumer protection 

Alex (18:20):

You mentioned data. And the fact that people are kind of expecting personalised experiences these days as part of the overall customer experience they have, but equally at the same time, people want to give away less data. And obviously at GDPR recently, and I think we’re in a particularly data aware era now with all the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and new documentary on Netflix about that recently, it feels very topical. I mean it kind of feeds into the question, which was what’s the future of personalisation and how does the consumer view of how much data they’re willing to share impact that?

Hannah (18:55):

It’s so interesting because I mean, some of the, I think that comment that I mentioned before came from some of our own research that we did very recently, we were looking at the travel industry and understanding what purchase journeys were like when people were booking travel online. So trying to understand what they were looking for and personalised experience comes out almost on top of that, but then asking them the same question of what are they willing to exchange their data for. 

So are they willing to exchange their data for things like discounts or early access to things or some kind of privilege or membership, or are they just not willing to share that data at all? And even looking at some of those drilled down segments, like, you know, are we looking at US consumers versus UK. Huge contradictions in all of those, absolutely huge. 

And I think there’s an irony in all of this, that despite everything that has come out very, very publicly about Cambridge Analytica, about the use of data, there is still a little bit of a lack of understanding maybe about how that data is used and what personalisation really means. A disconnect in a consumer mindset about what you give in order to get what you get. So I honestly couldn’t say where I think it’s going to go next, to be honest. I think, you know, we are a year after GDPR. 

I don’t think there’s been a huge amount of suffering in terms of what businesses are able to do and not do as a result. Like, we did a piece of research on this as well and finding the actually for retail in particular, they’ve managed to kind of get their databases to the same level they were before GDPR. So whatever they lost when they had to delete data, they’ve been managed to recoup in the year since. So I don’t think it was the doom and gloom that everyone predicted it to be. 

I mean, it was kind of very much talked about as a cataclysmic event that is going to destroy all of us and that’s proved to be a bit of scaremongering. So really, to be honest, I think we could find ourselves creeping back into capturing more data and that feeds itself.

Alex (20:55):

We’re going that way with a lot of the stuff I perceive anyway, in the way I see people doing things, I don’t know what you think, but have this view that it’s almost inevitable that there’ll be some kind of body responsible for, and I know we’ve got the ICO and different things, which have been around a long time, but almost a group of people responsible, really making clear how data is used and enforcing a whole new kind of visual way of displaying that. 

And the reason I say visual is because I think the bit that people often, the reason it’s so complicated is that, you know what data you’ve given Facebook, but we can’t see and understand where it’s going and where it ends up and how they’re taking it and doing X, Y, or Z with it and then cross referencing it with something else and then drawing. 

And it’s almost like if there was some kind of standardised framework for visually displaying that, or somehow just making it really clear so that anybody could just be given a diagram of that data from Facebook and just get it. If that makes sense. I think I still have some thinking to do on my own as to how that goes.

Hannah (21:56):

I think that’s really interesting because like with everything that came out around GDPR and what we now have to do as businesses that capture data, is all about having very transparent policies live on websites that anybody can access it.

Alex (22:08):

Which in reality is like a 10,000 word legal document.

Hannah (22:10):

And it’s completely impenetrable. And, you know, unless you have a background in A, law B, digital marketing, you’re not going to understand it. indeed or a history degree, medieval history in particular. It’s not going to be something that is easy to translate. I don’t know. It just, it makes me think that actually one of the interesting questions about use of data and the apprehension around it typically coming up, something like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica is that I think a lot of the fear and, rightfully so, has been about what happens to your data and how does it get shared with other third parties? 

Like I think everyone accepts that, okay, I’m on Facebook, I’ve agreed to share some data with Facebook. A lot of the issue then comes with, okay, who is Facebook sharing that data with without me knowing? And there should be a very sort of clear cut way of being able to show that to a consumer. Because then I think actually saying that I’m capturing your data, I’m using your data to give you a better experience on my site is going to provoke much less apprehension as a result, because people know what they’re getting into if you make it clear.

Alex (23:11):

Yeah. I saw a really interesting talk when I was at South by Southwest this year. A guy who is working with Tim Berners-Lee I believe, I forget the name of it, but I’ll drop a link underneath the podcast episode. Who’s working on a system whereby effectively you are the owner of all of your data and you let all the different tools that you use into that data. 

So instead of how traditionally you would give Google a set of data to give Facebook a set of data, all the other things that you use, and they’d all store it individually, and then you’d use APIs to basically connect them to each other. You become the single kind of owner of all your data and the tools all come via you. So it kind of centralises it. It’s almost like a block chain approach to keeping your data stored centrally and just letting things in. And it was really interesting because then you get native integrations between all of the things that you use. So there’s no need for horizontal APIs to connect between them individually. Everything just comes into you. So yeah, I’m using my hands a lot, as I’m talking, it won’t be useful for people listening.

Hannah (24:21):

And would that then imply that as a user and as the owner of all of that data, you have the means of being able to withdraw it or would you get those permissions?

Alex (24:29):

You’ve got absolute control. I gather that Tim Burner’s-Lee has been using this himself for a long time. Cause he’s got the technical skills to just hack away at himself. But yeah, there’s a whole new platform or product that’s kind of going that way. And they gave some really interesting examples of, you could create a notebook in your note taking tool and say, this is where we’re meeting with Hannah, for example, and because your Google Calendar also had access to that, you would just know and offer to link that notebook with Hannah, or, you know, there’s a lot of interesting connectivity that comes out and working that way as well.

Hannah (25:02):

It’s fascinating. It’s also quite terrifying in its own way. Cause I mean, effectively, that’s almost like replicating your entire digital identity.

Alex (25:10):

Yeah. I think it’s kind of that approach where you can have your online wallet and everything’s stored in one place, but it gives you a lot more control because everything’s just in one in one little hub.

Hannah (25:20):

Yeah. And that level of transparency I think is, you know, there’s obviously a reason for it. I have no idea how many cookies I’ve agreed to on different sites, for example,

Alex (25:31):

Anyway, I’m sure we could talk about data all day. I’m keen to dig into how you actually do your own kind of B2B marketing stuff at Yieldify I guess. You’re working with some big brands who must’ve come across you somehow events, across all the different channels that you use. Are there any kind of standout things that you think are worth mentioning things that worked really well or even really poorly for you in the past?

The B2B marketing strategy at Yieldify 

Hannah (25:52):

Oh yeah. I mean, there’s, it’s interesting because of how much, I guess has changed in the last three, four years about how we do marketing at Yieldify. And I think that’s not anything necessarily unique to us, but a lot of the changes that are happening in the market, I think a case in point for this kind of thing is trade shows. For example, you know, as Yieldify, we’ve sort of done the rounds of a lot of things like e-commerce trade shows in the US and in the UK and in Australia and really over the last year and a half, I would say we’ve seen a lot of them decline in the value that they give us.

Alex (26:27):

So there was a point at which maybe it was really much newer and new to the market?

Hannah (26:31):

Yes. And I think a lot of this is a symptomatic of the fact that we’re in a maturing industry. So, you know, e-commerce 10 years ago, this was a very new space making all of those connections was an opportunity that was only available in certain spaces. And these trade shows were hubs of those sorts of connections. Whereas now it’s a much more established market in terms of being able to hear new ideas, meet people. There are so many different venues for that sort of thing in person, but also online as well, which diminishes the value of attending a trade show.

Alex (27:01):

Yeah. I was going to ask if the market is maturing and there’s more awareness of personalisation. Does non-branded search, SEO effectively become more of a thing for you? I think Dougal’s recent figures were like 72% of B2B research starts with a non-brand, which for me, I mean, that’s a huge and quite generalist statement, but I guess we’re at a point now where there are, your user personas are sitting in front of a computer going, I want to know about personalisation. So they’re typing into Google.

Using an effective content marketing strategy 

Hannah (27:30):

And you know, like we’ve ramped up a lot of our search efforts over the last year to do that. And what has driven a lot of that is just an increase in content marketing. So we publish a hell of a lot of content. A lot of it is just specifically geared towards search engine optimisation, to get that top of the funnel traffic.

Alex (27:49):

Is it all written internally?

Hannah (27:51):

We outsource a little bit, but as I’m sure a lot of people would empathise with, it takes almost as much time to edit that as if you were writing it from scratch. But yeah, we’re lucky for the fact that we have a huge services team at Yieldify, so they’re all subject matter experts. So we have a vast amount of intellect and resource that we can go to, to get content out of them. We just make it sound nice afterwards, we wordsmith it. So, we’ve got experts in like travel retail and we often, you know, tap up our clients for a lot of expertise as well.

Alex (28:26):

I just find there’s always so much knowledge inside our clients, but the marketing team are just like hammering them to get stuff out of them. And they’re just too busy to write a blog post or share ideas. I’m always interested in if there’s a particular technique for extracting content?

Hannah (28:40):

One of the things that we quite often do, particularly with our clients is we’ll just do interviews over the phone. So, you know, having a relatively short question set, do a phone call, which we then record and transcribe and it saves a lot of the back and forth, and we try to maximise any opportunity where we get a client with us to kind of basically cut content in lots of different ways. 

So we have a lot of our own events, for example, where we’ll have clients speak at them and then we’ll turn that kind of presentation into content that we then publish, or maybe even potentially a webinar as well. So, you know, we’re taking that one piece of thought leadership from them and spinning it out in three or four different ways to maximise all the touch points.

Alex (29:21):

I think that’s why I love great content so much is that you can just, you can milk it for years potentially. Like if you create something that’s truly evergreen, you’ve got all of your social content taken care of, you’ve got all of your demand, any LinkedIn ads or whatever else you’re running, everything kind of just feeds from it. So I think we’re going to see a bigger trend in our clients, as well as just investing more in like a big bang piece of research driven content that they can then get partner quotes and partner with people on and do events around the opportunities.

Hannah (29:50):

And I think it’s interesting that you say research driven, cause that’s something that we’ve started doing in the last six months or so, like really investing in original research and that has seen great return.

Alex (30:01):

I think it’s just the ultimate form of inbound content because it feeds everything, but it really does position you as the hub of the community, as a thought leader, that’s kind of the perfect way of doing it.

Hannah (30:11):

It’s perfect for PR like, unless you have, you know, a big news story around a product or a client it’s very difficult to get a headline unless you’ve got something completely original.

Alex (30:19):

Yeah. So then you can do PR and then you can do content marketing, which effectively is links, which helps us SEO. Like it just literally feeds everything.

Hannah (30:24):

It’s beautiful. It’s almost like it’s an integrated strategy. One of the fun things that we’ve actually just prepared and is going to be launching imminently is turning a lot of our research into interactive tools. So for example, we’ve just done a piece of research about how different eCommerce businesses are preparing for black Friday in peak season. So, you know, what are their strategies going to look like? How far in advance are they preparing? How long they’re going to run their campaigns for. 

So we’ve got a huge data set, which obviously we can present in a report, press release, all the rest of it. That’s very nice. But what we’ve then done is created a benchmarking tool. So effectively as another e-commerce marketer, you can go in and effectively answer the questionnaire yourselves, but it’s going to spit out answers saying, okay, you’ve said that you’re preparing two months in advance. You should know that actually 77% have already started preparing. 

So there’s something that I guess is an element of personalisation in many ways of taking what is a potentially generic set of research and making it hyper relevant to whoever is actually engaging with it. So we’re going to be launching something like that early next week. And I’m really excited to see how it goes.

Alex (31:33):

Yeah. Because what about personalisation? I mean, I know you’re obviously e-commerce focused, but are you using bits of the platform on your own website? I think you use HubSpot, right into marketing automation.

Using marketing automation for personalisation 

Hannah (31:43):

Yeah. So we use our own technology on our site to do quite simple things. You know, like if we have traffic from the US or the UK, we’ll have different messages that might point them towards events that are happening in their location, or particularly on key pages of our blog say that are related to product announcements or product updates, we’ll have CTAs that then take someone to a demo just depending on what the URLs are. 

So it’s quite a simple way of being able to redirect those customer journeys, but we do also use HubSpot’s chat functionality as well, which I think has improved massively since I first started using it when it was first launched. So that’s been, that’s been a useful tool for our business development team to be able to engage.

Alex (32:26):

As in live chat on the website?

Hannah (32:28):

Yeah. We’ve started, we have some basic bots as well, that triage the conversation, qualify it a little bit. And then as soon as it gets handed off to a real life BD, there’s a certain level information there. So they know how to handle that conversation. When HubSpot first launched that functionality, and it must’ve been at least six months ago, the bots were not very good and I stopped using them, but they’ve since done a lot of work to it as far as I can see, which has made it much, much better.

So now I have slightly different bot conversations and rules depending on where that chat appears on the website. So if someone’s engaging with a case study, it’s going to ask slightly different questions, to whether someone has just landed on the homepage to be able to take that conversation.

Alex (33:08):

Yeah. We’re a HubSpot agency partner and my man at HubSpot said that their CTO, cofounder is like, chat bot is his absolute focus. To the point that they almost thought apparently he was going to sell HubSpot and start a chat bot company, apparently that he was so fixated. So I assume that the progression of the chat bot functionality is coming right from the top.

Hannah (33:29):

I mean, you know, I feel like it’s the latest trendy thing. So I don’t know whether that’s down to Dharmesh or not but good for him. I actually read a really interesting LinkedIn post from him today, which I don’t know whether I should say it cause I’m about to laugh at it, but it was his big thought for the day that he was saying that the term flexible working was not something that’s truly reflective of the fact that, you’re still available, but you shouldn’t be separated by distance. So is there a better way that we can turn this? So he was talking about the term geo flex.

Alex (34:04):

Only a CTO could come up with a term like that. Interesting. You mentioned too that obviously you’ve got offices, was it Sydney, New York, and Singapore. Which I think in itself has interesting challenges just in terms of managing. Are there people on the ground there doing marketing? Or is everything centralised, but then how do you work with workers?

Leading a marketing team across worldwide locations 

Hannah (34:25):

Everything is centralised. So the marketing team is always in London and I think that’s been a conscious choice for us. Like whenever we’ve grown the team, because we’re a very small team. So we’re not in a position yet where we can say have a global hub team sat in London, but somebody who is just responsible for the U S or somebody who is just responsible for Australia, we’re not at that scale yet. So that’s why it’s still kind of been kept in London. 

But in order to make everything work, you know, we just have very close relationships with sales and BD teams out there. Hence why it’s kind of made sense for me to take on the BDR remit because when it comes to things like executing events, we’re relying on basically other people to carry the stuff. 

But it does mean that I often take trips out there whenever necessary, but we also work with a lot of partners as well, which has been particularly helpful in the US. If a partner has got marketers on the ground, then we will do as much as we possibly can remotely. But we know that we’ve got an expert who can help make sure that things run smoothly.

Alex (35:26):

Let’s finish by talking about that and the new BDR responsibilities. I guess, how’s it gone so far? What are the challenges that we’ve talked earlier about sales and marketing being a hot topic. Account based marketing to some extent falls under that. But yeah, I’m just interested in the overall top level view so far. How far in are you?

Hannah (35:47):

Just over a month. Where do I start? I mean, I think for me it’s been good so far, cause we’ve always had a really good relationship with our BDR team,

Alex (35:56):

Which I think is a kind of ultimate starting point. Right?

Hannah (35:59):

Exactly. Like it’s not something that I can say we’ve always had a Yieldify. You know, there’s not always the perfect relationship between marketing and sales, but we have that now and it’s been massively beneficial. I hope to both sides, certainly to myself.

Alex (36:10):

So no need for like trust building exercises where they fall back into your arms blindfolded or any of that kind of stuff.

Aligning marketing and sales 

Hannah (36:15):

Yeah. They invite us out for drinks and everything. They took us to crazy golf. I mean, wow. But so, you know, we had a good starting point when I first started to get involved with BDR and really a lot of the exercises for me over the past month have been fact finding. So, you know, the team essentially in a nutshell have not had a manager for a little while. And so for me, it was an exercise in, okay, what processes do we have right now? What’s going on? What’s everyone doing? 

And trying to find those points where we can move step by step incrementally, into slightly coming into line. You know, this is one of those cases where you can’t change horses right the way through the race, we’ve got targets to hit. We can’t revolutionise everything overnight. So understanding what differences can we make week one, week, two, week three in order to make some change while still keeping ourselves on track. 

And it’s been fascinating. It really has because it’s not only working with a different team with different goals, but the difference between marketers and their mindset and BDRs and salespeople and their mindset is in many ways, worlds apart. You’ve kind of got one group of people who are very much target and commission-based one group of people who aren’t and the motivations that come out behind that are just really interesting to see play out in real life.

Alex (37:34):

Yeah. Do you think the BDRs understand what marketing is and recognise it as being necessary? Or do they have the view that actually, even if marketing didn’t exist, they would just hit the phones and LinkedIn message and they wouldn’t actually need marketing.

Hannah (37:49):

There’s somewhere in the middle. Cause I think they do understand what marketing is for, but what I’ve been finding to be the place where more education is needed is just the detail and the intricacies of that. Particularly thinking about what we talked about at the start of this conversation of the fact that the funnel isn’t really linear. Like it’s not as if a lead is going to come through from marketing and it’s straight away going to turn into an opportunity. Boom, done. 

There might be a content lead that comes through from marketing and it might need a long term nurture by a BDR and then they might need to be invited to an event and then they might need some other piece of sales, enablement content. So it’s not as if that handoff just happens for me to be, it’s constantly being passed back and forth and you have to work. And those are those bits of education that I’m trying to sort of work into our processes now. 

So kind of getting people thinking that we aren’t two separate teams, but we actually worked one strategy. So there’s a lot of detail involved in that. And a lot of spreadsheets and getting to know tools like outreach, which has been loads of fun.

Alex (38:55):

Yeah, I think one of my favourite, often when we kick off a big new project for it, tech client on the B2B side, we will have a questionnaire, which is like a sales and marketing alignment one and the amount that we get and we send that to the sales team, kind of with the intention of the feeding back all of the things that they need from marketing, all the things that they need on the website, URLs that they need to quickly be able to send prospects to all of the things that marketing actually sometimes just haven’t even realised that sales need or would make sales more effective if they had. 

And it’s my favourite bit of an entire project almost. It’s just finding out all these things, which we then just feed back into the top of the funnel with marketing and suddenly like that question now in itself almost achieved some degree of alignment, but then you give everybody the resource, they need to go and achieve what they need to do moving forward.

Hannah (39:40):

Absolutely. I mean, I wish that I’d started doing this exercise a lot sooner, to be honest, because even simple things like thinking about how our BDRs work and where they effectively live day to day in terms of software has been eyeopening. So our team use outreach. We use Salesforce as our CRM. I use HubSpot. 

So what I’d been previously doing when we had, let’s say a campaign like a content campaign, I would be pushing all of those leads into a Salesforce campaign and then quite easily send over the report to the BDRs being like, here are your leads, they’re all assigned, off you go. Whereas realistically seeing how they work day to day, they don’t engage with Salesforce that much, they live in Outreach. That’s where they are. That’s what they do.

Alex (40:24):

Are outreach and Salesforce kind of natively connected quite well?

Hannah (40:28):

Yeah. So we’ve ironed out some of the kinks. But Outreach, I think is a good tool. It’s a good product. So what we started doing instead was actually using Salesforce almost like as the middleman using outreach and building cues and outreach based on content engagement. So building cues for things like content downloads, building cues for case study views, building queues for website views, or like a follow up, it’s not a workflow like a sequence, but this is just, it’s a lead to queue the leads. 

So here’s everyone who’s engaged with this. As soon as you’ve qualified them, they move off of that list. And so, different cues basically signifying different touch points and that is basically where they live day to day. So I’ve put the information in front of them that is relevant to how they work rather than what I just thought they should be doing as a marketer. So I think it benefits any marketer massively to just really get stuck into the BDR process.

Alex (41:25):

Cool. It’s been a pleasure talking. I feel like we could keep chatting for hours but we’ve got to draw a line at some point. Thank you so much for giving up your time. We’ll see you at a future FINITE event.

Hannah (41:35):

Absolutely. Thank you.

FINITE (41:38):

Thanks for listening. We’re super busy at FINITE building the best community possible for marketers working in the B2B technology sector to connect, share, and learn. Along with our podcast. We host a series of events here in London, so make sure you head to finite.community to subscribe and keep up to date with upcoming events.

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