Cyrus Sussman

Episode 4

Cyrus Sussman

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Franco Caporale:

Welcome to another episode of the DemandGen Club Podcast. I'm your host, Franco Caporale, and today on the show we have Cyrus Sussman. Cyrus is the director of demand generation at Quorum. The software that helps public affair professionals track, change, and report on the policy landscape. Since joining Quorum in 2017, Cyrus has built the marketing department from the ground up and helped the company more than triple net new ARR from inbound leads. His ABM strategy has nearly doubled outbound meeting schedule rate from 9% to 15%. Before Quorum, Cyrus was digital marketing manager at 1776 and Uber. He has seven years of experience in revenue driven multichannel marketing and analytics. So I'm glad to welcome today Cyrus Sussman, director of demand generation at Quorum. Cyrus, it's absolutely fantastic to have you on the show today. Thanks for joining us.

Cyrus Sussman:

Absolutely. It's my pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Franco Caporale:

I would love to begin just with a little bit about you and how you got started with B2B demand generation to then become the director of demand generation at Quorum.

Cyrus Sussman:

Absolutely. Yeah, I would love to talk about my story a little bit. I actually studied communication in college. Wanted to be a writer back in the day, but it didn't quite pan out. I wasn't as good of a writer as I had I thought I was. So I ended up trying to figure out what was the next step for me, and working at a communications firm in PR was actually the thing that made the most sense for me at the time. After a few projects though, I quickly realized that my niche was working on Excel there. I got a couple of Excel projects, learned how to do some pivot tables, advanced formulas, and quickly became a go to person for the digital marketing team. And before I knew it, I was managing multimillion dollar projects for the US department of veterans affairs, a couple of other government agencies.

Cyrus Sussman:

And I built a lot of really, really cool technical skills on the advertising and analytics side. So as I built out more of those skills, started solidifying my place on the marketing side of things and bounced around a couple of different jobs, built some experience with Salesforce, built some experience with databases. And also just having a degree in communications and being able to write halfway decently helped me make a move into the B2B space, both at 1776 and at Quorum where I work today.

Franco Caporale:

And would you say that your current approach is more towards inbound marketing or more towards the account based marketing process?

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah, it's a good question. Historically, Quorum's inbound and outbound functions were pretty siloed. This year we started making an effort to integrate them more with the lead scoring program, MQL based systems, so that our outbound specialists or BDRs are reaching out to folks who are warm, but not necessarily inbound leads yet. I would say as far as the marketing team's focus is concerned, historically we've been heavy on inbound, but we're starting to broaden our horizons. And we're getting better and better at working with the BDR team to really start establishing a strong source of meetings from cold and warmer leads that aren't quite ready to reach out for help, but are interested in learning more.

Franco Caporale:

Nice. Interesting. So this is a question I like to ask to every guest, because I think it's very valuable to hear. What is your current tech stack from the marketing side, and how does that reflect on the sales side as well?

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah, so we've got a pretty robust tech stack with a bunch of different things. We actually just migrated websites two weeks ago. So we previously were on a Jengo based application that was administered by our development team. And we just moved on to WordPress, which is pretty exciting because it unlocks a whole bunch of integration opportunities that we didn't have before. So I'm personally very excited about that. We use all sorts of things for the sales team. Our integration with them is run out of Salesforce enterprise. We use HubSpot for marketing automation and all of that stuff there. We have Google Optimize to do AB testing that we just installed recently. We've got a whole bunch of other ones stacked on there as well, but those are really the key ones. It's where we spend 80, 90% of our time is in those platforms.

Franco Caporale:

What do you use for analytics to track your metrics and results? Do you have a third party platform or is it all done into HubSpot and Salesforce?

Cyrus Sussman:

We use a good bit of Google analytics, but it's done in tandem with Salesforce and HubSpot. Now that I think about it, our BDRs also use SalesLoft as well.

Franco Caporale:

SalesLoft for sales automation. Great. And so tell us a little more about your team, how you guys are structured in the marketing team.

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah, let's see. We've got a pretty wide variety of different functions these days. We've got Teresa focused on coms, we've got the demand generation team, which I manage, which includes me and Satya, who are focused on generating those meetings both inbound to end with the help of our BDRs. We have field marketing, we've got product marketing, some of the standard stuff that you would expect to see.

Franco Caporale:

And so I want to go back to the metrics, because that's a topic that I'm very interested in. What are some of the metrics that you guys are tracking on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? And in particular, what are those metrics that are reported at the top, at the executive level?

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah, the thing that we're goaled on is meetings scheduled. At the end of the day we're trying to help our sales team meet with folks who can build out their pipeline. So that is the all-important metric that we're marching towards on a regular basis. But we're watching a whole bunch of other ones, including things like demo requests, sales opportunities, conversion between different stages, MQLs, all that stuff. But knowing that at the end of the day, the thing that we're golden and we're really hyper focused on is meetings set.

Franco Caporale:

And that's what you're measured on as well? Your team performance is qualified meetings, I assume. Do you guys have SAL or SQL for that? 

Cyrus Sussman:

So we're not goaled on any of the other metrics. We're obviously watching conversion all the way through the funnel and making sure that the quality of lead that we're sending over isn't all over the place. So it's stuff that we watch. We don't necessarily use SQL or SAL, those terms. But the concept remains the same, we're watching to see how far along they get, whether or not sales does something with them, how it goes from there. So we're watching it, but it's not a core metric, like meetings set.

Franco Caporale:

This is actually a particularly interesting topic because it kind of goes on the handoff process that I know a lot of companies struggle with to optimize. How do you go from marketing to sales? How does a lead or an account flow seamlessly from your team to sales and then potentially back to your team for nurture. So how do you guys structure that?

Cyrus Sussman:

We have a variety of automations in place to try to make sure that we're handing over leads to the sales team at the right time. Our BDR is playing an important role there as well, because they're the ones who are making the calls and sending the personalized emails to try to get folks in the room with our AEs. So it's a combination of different things across both automated systems, as well as human beings checking things. And the end result is generally, we're looking for a clear next step after each meeting that we have. And if it's qualified and good to go, then this day you will take it. But if not, then they'll go back into our lists and we'll see what we can do in terms of keeping them interested and warm and hopefully eventually getting a meeting set again.

Franco Caporale:

And do you use a scoring system in HubSpot to track that, or is mostly done through definition or events?

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah, we do actually use a lead scoring system. It was a long project. We spent a long time working on that lead scoring system, but it is working now and it takes into account all sorts of different attributes across both behavioral traits and demographic traits in terms of what type of person they are.

Franco Caporale:

Awesome. Yeah, this is not something that every company does. And do you have any recommendation if someone has to start with the lead scoring today, because I know a lot of companies tend to overcomplicate it very quickly. So what would you recommend just since you just got through that process?

Cyrus Sussman:

Oh yeah. Keep it simple stupid. Nothing too fancy. I think the thing that kept us from deploying for so long was trying to make it perfect. That's something that I have historically done to a fault. And at a certain point you got to get it off the ground. So you pick a couple of areas to make sure that you're covering your bases. You want to make sure that you're monitoring what they're doing on the site. You want to make sure you understand how well they're engaging with your emails. You want to know a good bit about what their title looks like and how that compares to your ideal buyer and their organization name, but you don't need to get too fancy beyond that. You get some basic rules.

Cyrus Sussman:

I'll always recommend that you don't just throw darts at the wall and say, "I think that this has this value." But rather, take a big spreadsheet, look at all of your contacts in the system, and then understand which traits tend to make someone more likely to convert actually in the numbers, because you'll see some surprising things. In terms of traits that you thought were going to be runaway positives, that didn't really have much of an impact. So what I absolutely recommend is doing some basic analysis and that is why it's so important to keep it simple, because if you're looking at too many different attributes and too many different categories, it's going to be too hard to do meaningful analysis and to get a scoring system that works at the end of the day.

Franco Caporale:

Yeah. I found a lot of companies that get too fixated also on the actual number values of the scoring. Do you give 20 points or 25 points?

Cyrus Sussman:

Oh yeah.

Franco Caporale:

And that also becomes a roadblock to actually deploy the system.

Cyrus Sussman:

Oh yeah. My manager Jess, our VP of marketing at Quorum has a lot of experience with these systems. And I had a fun time working with her on building it out. But in her past organization, they used 75 as their point threshold. And I was like, "You know what, we're going to make 75 work. So these numbers are arbitrary. Doesn't really matter what they are, as long as it's a nice round number that everybody likes." So we liked 75, we made it happen, and it worked well.

Franco Caporale:

Yeah. You can make a thousand, it doesn't really change. Right.

Cyrus Sussman:

Doesn't matter. Does not matter.

Franco Caporale:

As long as everyone agrees.

Cyrus Sussman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Franco Caporale:

Cool. So another thing that I'm really curious to know is, what is, if you have to mention one or two, your top lead sources today? What is really working for you guys?

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah. At the end of the day, we're a B2B business. We love search. We love organic and paid search. It's the right buyer at the right time. A lot of these other channels are interruptive. You might get the right person, but they might be watching cat videos, who knows. But with paid search and organic search, you know it's the right person, and you know that they're looking for help at that moment. So that's where we see a lot of success and spend a lot of time focused on.

Franco Caporale:

And how do you know that this is the right person? Because you might get someone, especially in search, that they have the intent, but maybe their company's too small, they don't have the budget, it doesn't meet all your qualification criteria.

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah, no, absolutely. And we do get people like that at the end of the day, but we can monitor over time, quality as a function of how well that channel converts. If we are seeing 10 to 20 a week or 10 to 20 a month, whatever it is. And of those, we generally see about half come through the other end. If that conversion number, that conversion percentage doesn't move around too much, then we can be pretty confident the quality is good enough to make it worth it. Especially if we're doing a cost per opportunity or cost per further down the funnel kind of analysis, where we're making sure that we're only paying for things that turn into actual pipeline.

Franco Caporale:

So that's what you use as a comparison metric, is obviously value of the pipeline and revenue, but also the cost, that opportunity cost per meeting or some of those metrics.

Cyrus Sussman:

Absolutely. Yeah. We don't really put a whole lot of stock in cost per click or even cost for demo requests, to be honest, because it's just too high in the funnel and you can't really get a good read on what the quality is there.

Franco Caporale:

And that kind of leads me to the next question that I always ask, which is probably by far my favorite topic, marketing attribution. So I would like to understand more, what models do you guys use? The first touch, last touch, use multi-touch, some different model. And how do you track that from lead all the way to opportunity and revenue?

Cyrus Sussman:

Oh yeah. This is a fun one. I mean, at the end of the day, as I mentioned, I built out a lot of the systems that we have today. So as a result, they're semi decent, mostly crackpot methods that barely work, but work well enough that we can continue doing the job. So there's a long way for us to go in marketing attribution in particular. But I think the basis of it is that we're most interested in the last touch that leads to that meeting. That's the one that we can watch the most closely, it's the easiest to attribute, and it's the one that gels the best with all of our different lead sources. So we spend good bit of time optimizing to that, knowing that first touch, all these other things, are important at the end of the day. But it's a little bit harder to report on some of that stuff in this environment. Especially with the fact that you got multiple leads for account, account based marketing is not easy, all that stuff.

Franco Caporale:

Yeah. So you keep an eye on first touch, but your main optimization is focused on the last touch.

Cyrus Sussman:

Yep.

Franco Caporale:

Great. Yeah. Perfect. That seems very common, especially for companies selling into enterprise or the high range of mid market to really try to go after the touch. Especially when it becomes really complex sales, it's hard to try to manage multi-touch or different algorithms to track the different values or every single touch.

Cyrus Sussman:

Absolutely.

Franco Caporale:

Awesome. So I want to go back to talk about campaigns a little bit. So besides the standard lead sources that you guys rely on, on a monthly basis, when you look at campaign, so a single effort that you tested, or maybe you put together. What is the most successful one that you run so far that really, you ran this campaign and really drove a lot of results, maybe more than what you expected?

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah. I have to say, Satya on my team did an incredible job running a campaign around the COVID-19 pandemic back in April. And she just drove eye-popping numbers for that one. I think it was a combination of really excellent execution on her part in terms of a great prospect experience overall, in terms of the webinar and the experience leading up to the recruitment campaign, all that stuff. But I think the other thing that really worked well about it is the timeliness and the value.

Cyrus Sussman:

This series went up right as a lot of public affairs teams were focused on how to get a slice of that COVID relief bill tie, and didn't quite know what was the right way to do it. And we ran a webinar series on all the different ways that public affairs teams can use software like Quorum to achieve that goal. And we just saw an unbelievable response, just huge numbers, huge engagement. And that was really, really cool to watch. It was nice to see, and it was also nice to know that at the end of the day, we were helping a lot of these organizations figure out their plan, and in the middle of an unprecedented time.

Franco Caporale:

That's awesome to hear. I'm glad that, even in this period, you guys were able to pull something that really worked.

Cyrus Sussman:

Oh yeah.

Franco Caporale:

Which is actually very hard, especially, and I would like to hear from you a little bit on. Because I know a lot of people in demand generation, they always struggled to get webinar registrations. And so what was the key there to really drive the high number of registrations for a webinar? Did you guys use any particular channel, was it all internal lists, how did that work?

Cyrus Sussman:

It's Satya, she's the secret sauce. At the end of the day, she's good at what she does, but I think some of the channels, she's heavy on email. We've used a good bit of email sponsorships at times, but I think it's really just knowing what your audience looks like and what's going to get their attention and what they're interested in. And I think we've gotten good at it over time. And Satya knows how to talk to you and knows how to use subject lines that are attention grabbing. And I will say technically one thing that helped a lot is we started using HubSpot landing pages back before we migrated websites, we're now going to be able to do this on our normal website. But those HubSpot landing pages offered us the opportunity to have auto-filled form fields for users who have previously been cookied.

Cyrus Sussman:

And that was something that wasn't possible before. So that has a huge impact on your form completion rate for people who end up visiting that page, because they don't have to type in that info. And it goes from being a thing where they have to type in their name and address and all that stuff to not only they don't have to do the work, but also a reminder that, "Hey, we already have this info for you, so it's not even like you're giving us new info." And that had a huge impact on form completion rates. So we implemented that earlier this year and that definitely helped as well.

Franco Caporale:

That's awesome. Yeah. I had the same experience with the form. Obviously the longer the form, the smallest the conversion rate.

Cyrus Sussman:

Oh yeah.

Franco Caporale:

Auto-completion is really key or at least reduce the number of fields if you're not able to pull off the, the auto- completion.

Cyrus Sussman:

Absolutely.

Franco Caporale:

Instead, on the other end, on the opposite side of the spectrum, what was your least successful demand gen campaign? Like something that maybe you test it, you wanted to try, it didn't work out at all and you wouldn't do it again. And it doesn't have to be a forum, it can be maybe in a previous company.

Cyrus Sussman:

Oh man, where to start. There's a lot of those. I know it's tough to say, because it's sometimes hit or miss. You'll run one sponsorship and you'll get 10 meetings and two opportunities from it, and then you'll run it again two months later and then you'll get nothing. That's I guess the beauty of marketing is there's a human element to it. At the end of the day there's a bunch of people on the other end and sometimes it works with people and sometimes it doesn't. So when I think of specific examples of flops that stick out in my mind, we spent a lot of time doing content marketing for a lot of my early time at Quorum and it had great engagement.

Cyrus Sussman:

But at the time it just didn't really drive pipeline. And I don't think that we really had a grasp on that until a good deal later. So it has the nice side benefit of building us an avid following of people who were interested in our content. And I guess that helps a little bit down the road, but in the moment it was pretty frustrating because the amount of work we would pour into this stuff and we would just get no demo requests, no meetings, no nothing.

Franco Caporale:

And those were blog posts, or other pieces of content?

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah, these are data reports, blogs, again any kind of stuff around what's happening in Congress or state legislature.

Franco Caporale:

Got it.

Cyrus Sussman:

And again, we drive big, exciting buzz around it and then have nothing to show for it when it comes to sales. So that was frustrating, but I'm sure we've had certainly worse mistakes, but that's the one that comes to mind just because of the amount of work we put into that kind of stuff.

Franco Caporale:

Yeah. Maybe that was not even a mistake. It's just content marketing takes such a long time to see the effect. And in general, tech companies don't have that patience to wait.

Cyrus Sussman:

That's probably a better way of framing it. Yeah. That's honestly, I think that's honestly the truth. 

Franco Caporale:

Yeah. Someone else will benefit from that in the future.

Cyrus Sussman:

That's fair. That's absolutely fair.

Franco Caporale:

That's awesome. So I could keep talking, but I want to, for the sake of time, make sure I ask you at least two or three more questions. In particular one that is always controversial, and I, I really like to ask. Do you think that the SDR should report under marketing or under sales, and why?

Cyrus Sussman:

It's a never ending question. We've done both at Quorum. My boss, Jess, our VP of marketing does an excellent job of managing our BDRs right now. I think that it takes the right leader. Jess is absolutely the right leader, and I think it works well for us here at Quorum. I can also see why it wouldn't necessarily work well at all companies. So it is certainly an awesome way to make sure that the marketing team feels more brought into the overall goal of generating pipeline. And that the SDR team and the BDR team feel a little bit more equipped to do their jobs well. To have that marketing support, to be part of that broader system, and I think there's a lot of benefit to it.

Cyrus Sussman:

I will say that it is tough just because there's a lot more to marketing than just meetings. Whereas the BDR teams oftentimes are hyper-focused on meetings and just meetings. So it does make it tough. And if you don't necessarily have the right leaders in place, it won't work as well. So the system we've got right now is that the BDRs report up into marketing and it's working pretty well for us, but it's not for everyone and you can build success from what I've seen in my career so far, you can build success both ways.

Franco Caporale:

So in your case, all the BDRs report into marketing?

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah.

Franco Caporale:

So do you have them divided into inbound and outbound or they do a little bit of both?

Cyrus Sussman:

No. So we've actually built systems to auto allocate inbounds to them whenever possible, based on territory. So based on what type of organization types they're chasing down, we've got some data in Salesforce that helps us auto-link without any human input. And then when not possible, we automatically allocate evenly across the BDR team. So they all split the inbounds and the warm leads together.

Franco Caporale:

Very nice. And so that leads me to another question on the sales side, is how do you maintain that sales alignment that is necessary, especially when the BDRs are under the marketing team, and then you have the sales rep account executives. How do you guys stay aligned in terms of goals or activities programs? Do you have any cadence or any process in place like that?

Cyrus Sussman:

Hard work. It's hard work to communicate at the end of the day. So we're working, we're doing our best to make sure that we're staying pretty closely aligned. We have a weekly meeting with our sales leaders and we're always trying to make sure that everybody knows what's going on with each other so that we can support each other more, at the end of the day, which is the goal. So I think when it comes down to reports and things like that, there are certain accountability metrics that we report out as a team, and there are certain accountability metrics that the sales team reports out. There's always room to improve, sales and marketing is one of the harder types of relationships that are known to the professional world. It's always been a tough one. So if you're able to have that foundation, the rest of it gets easier. But building that I think is a crucial part of being able to get better alignment between those two types of teams.

Franco Caporale:

Nice. Very nice. Thank you. I love this answer.

Cyrus Sussman:

Thank you.

Franco Caporale:

And so before I leave you today, I would like you to share with us one marketing or demand generation hack that you did and it worked out really well and it was very profitable then maybe we can try as well.

Cyrus Sussman:

Yeah, there's all sorts of little serendipitous ones that have popped up over the years. One of my favorites that I just kind of didn't expect much out of was newsletter sponsorships. So we ended up sponsoring a newsletter here in DC that, it seems like it aligned well with our buyer personas. But I was thinking of it more as a brand play than anything. And it ended up spitting out, what was it, five, six, seven demos, and a couple opportunities out of there. And it wasn't that expensive. And it was a one shot sponsorship. And we spent a little bit of time working on the creative for it, but it was really exciting to see that thing go off and just all the meetings come in.

Cyrus Sussman:

So it's tough to replicate, we've tried that a couple of times since then, and haven't quite gotten the same results, but I think it's less of a hack and more of a perspective, which is that you got to diversify and trust that in the long run, you don't want to have all your eggs in one basket. It's just like investing your stuff financially. And you don't want to be too reliant on one channel or one particular thing. And if you're constantly testing new things and if you're trying different channels, sometimes when your reliable channels end up sucking, something else will step up and help you out. And we've seen that pan out a couple of times, and that was a good example of it. But it was a fun campaign to see it work so well.

Franco Caporale:

That's awesome. I agree a hundred percent on the diversification of channels, which obviously involves testing many, many things that might fail as well, but that's necessary

Cyrus Sussman:

Exactly.

Franco Caporale:

Perfect, yeah.

Cyrus Sussman:

Exactly.

Franco Caporale:

Yeah, that was really fantastic to have you today Cyrus, thanks again for joining us.

Cyrus Sussman:

Thanks so much Franco, I really enjoyed it.

Franco Caporale:

Thanks again. Thanks everyone.

Cyrus Sussman:

Have a good one.