Franco Caporale

Introduction

Franco Caporale

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Franco Caporale:
Hello and welcome to the new DemandGen Club Podcast. My name is Franco Caporale. I'm the founder of SaaSMQL, the B2B growth agency based in Redwood City, California. We work with SaaS companies to help them scale sales pipeline and revenue from target accounts. I'm also the founder of DemandGen Club, a community of demand generation professional that I started four years ago as a meetup group in San Francisco. Now we appeal to the community to be more of a virtual group, so we have webinars every two weeks covering different topics for demand generation, including marketing automation, digital campaigns, lead scoring, lead nurturing, et cetera.

Franco Caporale:
But now we are launching this new initiative, which is the podcast. With the podcast, the goal is to interview every week a demand generation executive, so that we can learn their best practices, their best campaigns, whatever process they implement for sales alignment, for account-based marketing, what kind of tech stack do they use, and much, much more.

Franco Caporale:
Since this is the episode zero of the podcast, I decided to start by introducing myself and also sharing a little bit of the learnings that I have from my years working in demand generation. I've been in charge of demand generation now for over 10 years, and I was at companies like Couchbase, Duetto, Apptimize, and Branch.io, all early stage startups, usually post-series A, trying to get to 10, 20 million ARR. So my expertise is particularly focused at that stage, and I see a lot of the same challenges across these type of companies. Today I want to share 10 lessons that I learned in my years working in demand generations, as well as some of my preferences from a process and technology perspective, and similar question I will ask to our guest speakers moving forward.

Franco Caporale:
Today the first lesson I want to share, I call it "focus on pipeline and revenue, not leads". This is very important and is something that is getting better in the last few years, especially since account-based marketing became a trend. But at the beginning, when I started working in demand generation, our goal was only MQLs. It was MQLs MQLs, MQLs. We need to generate leads. I remember one time hearing, "Our goal is leads, it's not opportunities. Just get as many leads as possible into the funnel." And this is obviously a little problematic, because I saw in a few cases where the marketing team was celebrating for reaching their goals and going out to drink and celebrate all together, while the sales team was way below their goals and they were not celebrating at all.

Franco Caporale:
And so this is a very big problem, and it happens because of a clear disalignment of incentive and goals. If the marketing team is all incentivized to throw as many MQLs as possible, especially if MQL is a loose definition of download X number of white papers and be part of this vertical and this type of company, it's pretty easy to do. It doesn't take much, especially if you have a decent budget to throw at it. It's not that hard, but generating opportunities is much, much harder.

Franco Caporale:
I always recommend today, have your goal be in sales opportunities, sales pipeline, or even revenue, depending on how your team is structured, but be very specific of that. You're going to have to measure in a different way. And all of a sudden, you're going to start paying much more attention to the middle of the funnel, where you're going to start looking why these leads are not converting into opportunities, why we have all these content leads and we're not able to generate actual meetings with the right people, with decision-maker from these target accounts.

Franco Caporale:

So your head of marketing, head of demand generation, VP of marketing should only be incentivized and measured on sales pipeline or revenue. It can be a share portion of the overall pipeline or revenue, or it can be in collaboration with the VP of sales. They might share the same goal, and so it doesn't really matter where the pipeline comes from. And it's probably recommended, especially in many cases where you see a lot of antagonism between the marketing team and the sales team.

Franco Caporale:

The lesson number two that I want to share is, have a clear goal and budget expectation from the beginning. That includes having these clear goals with your CEO or with your executive team, with the board, depending on who you report to. But it's extremely important to clarify what you can do and what kind of budget does it take to get there? And then you can have some aggressive scenario. You can have some crazy scenario of what if and very stretch goals, but the base goal should be something realistic.

Franco Caporale:
I see too many times this crazy expectation of generating, I don't know, 5 million in pipeline with 40 grand in budget, and that's obviously not realistic, and it's not something we should ever consider doing. There should be a clear model designed to quantify how much budget does it take to get to X number of opportunities per quarter, X amount of dollar in pipeline and revenue? You should have your funnel clearly modeled this way, so you can show with clear number what you can do and how much it takes.

Franco Caporale:
The third lesson that I learned is, I think, very important, and is build a machine and stop doing one-off campaigns. Everything should be about your system and your machine. This machine goes from when you're driving the initial traffic, or even earlier than that when you select your target and your niche and you create your messaging. Everything should be aggregated into this model, and so you're pushing traffic at the top, you are converting the traffic into leads, and you're converting leads into opportunities. And then you have a handoff process that goes to your sales team. They qualify, they reach out, they have a demo, and then maybe they closed, lost the opportunity. It goes back to nurturing. Everything is one closed loop system that you can always refine and make it better.

Franco Caporale:

Even if it's a very rudimental system, it's still better than no system. It's still much better than just doing some campaigns, hoping that the numbers start trending in the right direction. So start off with a system, make it as simple as possible at the beginning. Maybe you only have one channel that is driving traffic to your assets, to your website, and then you turn it into a more complex one. You add multiple channels. Maybe you have a larger sales team and you have to create this handoff process. Maybe you have an account-based marketing strategy to implement this, together with your inbound strategy. So this system can become very, very complex, but start from a basic one at the beginning and have something that you can measure.

Franco Caporale:
When you start optimizing this system, this is lesson number four, always start from the sales portion. Always start from the bottom. When something is not working, you don't want to start from the top of the funnel and see why people are not coming to your site or what else can you do there? Because at the end, the problems are all obvious at the sales side, so you always want to start seeing, are there opportunities moving past the different stages? Are they moving past the demo? Are they getting stuck in proposal? Is all flowing as it should? And then start looking backwards and start seeing why we're not converting that initial meeting into a second meeting or a followup, why we're not able to convert initial leads, initial interest into the meeting, and so on and so forth.

Franco Caporale:

Sales is what you want to always start, and work with the sales team to figure out what kind of problems there are. Are you driving the right targets? Maybe you need to refine that. Is the message misaligned between marketing and sales? Is the handoff process correct? All of these challenges can show up pretty clearly in your model, and so when you start from the sales, it's much easier to solve them and then move to the next one, to the next one.

Franco Caporale:

Lesson number five is, only measure the important metrics. For important, I mean those metrics that really move the needle for your goals, for the sales team goals, for the company goals. I have seen plenty of times where you have a dashboard that has like 40 different metrics, and you're measuring everything from click-through rate to conversion, which is great, to pipeline, and then email open rate, and a ton of different stuff, which is great. You always want to keep track of those things, but you should have a dashboard with five or six metrics at the most. Those are your main KPIs, those are what you want to track. And avoid everything that is just vanity, but you're not taking any action. You're not optimizing, you're not changing anything on what you do, and so you shouldn't be keeping track of that.

Franco Caporale:
As a followup to this lesson, that's lesson number six, which is, not only avoid the vanity metrics, but also avoid the vanity campaigns. For vanity campaigns, I mean all of those programs where you're trying to create something cool. Maybe it has a cool design, it sounds cool, everything looks very interesting, but it doesn't really move the needle for your goals and for your pipeline generation for your leads. It just looks pretty neat, but that's it, so you want to avoid that. And I see a lot of marketing teams spending months and months creating cool workflows and using a lot of dynamic personalization that automatically personalizes the content and the name and all of this, and it is just kind of pointless and definitely not worth spending months and months working on it.

Franco Caporale:
So make sure that all the campaigns that you run have a clear goal that should relate back to your main KPIs. If not, maybe you shouldn't spend time doing that. Even in my own career, I spent too many months working on campaigns that I knew from the beginning, they were just really good looking but not actually moving the needle.

Franco Caporale:

Lesson number seven is to be very clear with your attribution model and don't overcomplicate it. Attribution for B2B, especially for a long sales cycle, can get very complex, because you have multiple decision makers, you have to calculate for a lot of different touches, both online and offline, and then you have to figure they're out how you want to present that, how you want to aggregate that data.

Franco Caporale:

We've done a webinar. If you look on demandgenclub.com, there is a webinar specifically about attribution, but there are different models. You can have first touch, last touch, multi-touch, W model. Whatever it is, be very clear, keep it simple, and be consistent with that model. Have something where you track what campaigns are driving results and which campaigns you should probably not invest more money. That's your number one goal.

Franco Caporale:
And then you want to also show the results that marketing is generating. That's not just to show off or for vanity, it's very important to show results, because the closer the demand generation and marketing is to revenue and to actually generating results, the more budget can then request and you don't have to fight against sales to get more budget, because you're clearly showing the correlation with the budget and the results. The only way you can do that is if you're tracking attribution.

Franco Caporale:
I normally see two types of bad scenarios. It's either the companies that overcomplicated their model, so after a while it almost gave up to track because it's becomes too complex. It doesn't really make sense anymore. Or there's companies, they don't really track anything. Maybe you're spending 30 grand a month on LinkedIn ads and Google AdWords and all of that, and you don't know if that budget is turning into actual opportunities. Maybe you can see the clicks, you can see the leads, but you don't know down the funnel in your CRM if those leads are actually turning into opportunities or they are influencing opportunities.

Franco Caporale:
So be very clear from the beginning and keep it simple. Just track at least last touch. If you have a long sales cycle, at least track last touch. If you have a short sales cycle, less than three or four weeks, then maybe first touch becomes more important for you. Always have that in mind.

Franco Caporale:
The next lesson I want to cover, and it kind of touches back on the attribution, is that it's not marketing versus sales. I'm particularly passionate about account-based marketing and aligning sales with marketing, but when you put them against, you actually generate a lot of issues. And I've been in the situation where you're trying to play a contest on who generated that specific opportunities or who should take credit for a deal that closed, and that makes very little sense. In my opinion, marketing demand generation is there to assist sales, to take them and generate that initial meeting and take them after the first stage. And then sales' job is to close that deal, together with marketing, where demand generation marketing can assist by providing more content and doing more touches.

Franco Caporale:
But you shouldn't have sales against marketing at any point in time, and particularly on trying to take credit. You can have your marketing team share the same goal of sales, and so don't try to pinpoint where specific opportunities came from. Also, because in many cases, there is no such thing as a marketing originated opportunities or a sales originated opportunities. When you have enterprise companies as a target and you need seven, eight, 10 decision makers, where did the opportunity originate is not very clear, but you need to have both marketing and sales driving that opportunities forward, and so don't make it that type of contest.

Franco Caporale:
The next lesson, lesson number nine, is, from a demand generation perspective, always manage short-term and long-term goals. If you only think short-term, you're going to do a lot of campaigns that generate that initial pipeline and maybe even deals, but maybe those deals are not what is best for the companies. Maybe they churn very easily, because they are smaller targets, so you've closed a ton of mid-market small businesses, and then they churn the following year. What is best for the company is when you have a good balance.

Franco Caporale:
Also, there are channels that can help you generate opportunities faster, but then you need to keep feeding budget every single month. Think, for example, any digital ads. As soon as you turn it off, whatever results you were getting disappears. If you think more on, for example, SEO and building content and overtaking the strategy and working on Quora and all of the different content marketing channels, that takes a long, long time. It's not something you're going to have in a quarter. But then once that machine started working, you don't turn it off just by shutting down the budget. It's still generating leads for you. But that's a long-term approach, and that's why you need to balance the two. Same for PR. Any more intangible channels that you can work on are harder to measure, they don't produce results within a month or two, but they're also very important.

Franco Caporale:
And finally, my last lesson is, always diversify your demand generation channels. Don't get stuck on one or two specific campaigns or channels just because they're working well for you. It's great. You should scale them up as much as you can, but continue testing new channels, new ideas, new types of campaigns, both online and offline. Experiment and always have some budget assigned every month for testing. Just something new. You don't expect anything coming out of that budget, so it's not going to be taken out from your main budget where you need to deliver your quarterly goals. Have, for example, 5, 10k a month, depending, 3k a month, whatever your stage of the company is, to test new things. You might going to find a new channel that really works, that you didn't know about, and now you want to scale that as much as possible.

Franco Caporale:

And with that last lesson, I'm going to close the first introductory episode for DemandGen Club Podcast. Please stay tuned. Every Thursday, we're going to release a new episode. Our first guest speaker will be Be'Anka Ashalou, and she's the director of demand generation at Propel. So please go on demandgenclub.com. You're going to see the link to every new episode of the podcast, as well as your favorite podcast platform. Please stay tuned and check the new episodes every week. Thank you, everyone.