Becoming a Category KingHollywood Branded Podcast
This is a sweeping interview on category design that I did with Stacy Jones on the Hollywood Branded Podcast.
When working in marketing (or sales!), it’s imperative to work towards becoming the king or queen of your category, as your ultimate goal.
In this interview, I share my thoughts on this with Stacy Jones on her Hollywood Branded podcast. Some key pointers include:
- Sales and Marketing
- Becoming a Category King
- Human to Human (not B2B)
- Finding Your Niche
- Audio Strategy
- The Future of Content Marketing
“I think it’s so interesting, though, with our world now, with more and more companies trying to position themselves with sales and marketing truly is aligned because that’s where success is found.” – Stacy Jones
“And become the king. You literally wrote out you want to become the king.” – Stacy Jones
“There really is no such thing as B2B or B2C. There’s H2H; it’s really just human to human.” – Mark Donnigan
“And what it comes down to is when Steve Jobs announced the iPod and in all the early advertising, what did he do? Did he hold it up and say, ladies and gentlemen, I am so happy to announce and to reveal for the first time, Apple’s MP3 player? No, he held it up, and he said a thousand songs in your pocket.” – Mark Donnigan
“You found your niche. You are going to be it. You are the CRM for the law.” – Stacy Jones
[00:00:00.850] – Stacy Jones
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, the Founder of Influencer Marketing and Branded Content Agency, Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers with a learning platform for top experts to share their insights and knowledge on topics that make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom-line results. My goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy, or money, whether you were doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion. Welcome to marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. Here’s your host, Stacey Jones. Welcome to marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. I’m Stacey Jones. I’m so happy to be here with you all today. And I want to give a very warm welcome to our guest, Mark Donnigan, the Vice President of Marketing at Beamr’s, a global video software technology leader who markets corporate and product marketing, including growth initiatives, digital PR, and events with an eye focused on revenue achievement. And he’s doing a lot of things right as his team’s work has resulted in a four-time increase in industry engagement metrics, a two-time increase in growth and marketing qualified leads, and then obtained customer acquisition costs significantly lower than the industry average. Mark has that rare mine of both a creative and systems thinker, and he’s worked in early and growth-stage startups in the segments of high technology, software, and software as a service and the consumer electronic hardware and services brands. Today we’re going to talk about how successful B2B brands are standing out from the competition and driving sales through marketing approaches and strategies. We’ll learn what’s worked from Mark’s experience, what could be avoided, and how some are missing the mark. Mark, welcome.
[00:01:39.910] – Mark Donnigan
[00:01:40.510] – Stacy Jones
Why don’t we start off and have you share with our listeners a little bit more about what got you to where you are here because you have an interesting background. I have a reckoning.
[00:01:52.000] – Mark Donnigan
I have a very interesting background. So, yeah. So, you know, I won’t bore you with all of the details, but the trajectory of my career, you know, when people say, what do you do or who are you? The usual question. Right. Of course, it’s easy to say, oh, I run marketing or whatever, but that’s really a very incomplete answer. I call myself a business builder, you know, and what that means specifically and how it follows kind of the trajectory of my career and just my you know, what I’ve done professionally is it I’ve always been drawn to to to companies and products and markets where there’s the opportunity to build something new or to or to really enact significant change, you know, so maybe a legacy market that’s undergoing some, you know, some radical shift. And so in that context, you know, I kind of came up through the sales side, not kind of I did. I started in sales. And then, you know, as I progressed and began to lead sales teams, et cetera, marketing was always a component. A lot of times it was because, you know, maybe we were a smaller company, we’re a smaller organization, or I just felt like, you know, that I maybe had some insights and was able to go off and build some assets or to do something that my sellers needed. And so even when I had kind of a full time, you know, head of sales hat on, just as an example, I was always, you know, working very closely with marketing. So whether I formerly had a sales and marketing title or not. And so that’s my connection to marketing. And a lot of that just comes because, you know, I found that messaging is so critical. And so just as I was working with my sellers early on and, you know, we would spend so much time just on positioning and understanding, you know, again, some of this is blocking and tackling of sales. Right. It’s just understanding what are the needs of the client, what’s the needs of the customer and how can we speak to that in such a way that they’re going to buy our product over the other product or solution so that, you know, that just put me on this path. And as I was able to get involved in other interesting companies and do things that were kind of more around corporate strategy and business development, you know, maybe a little bit less directly, sort of responsible for a number, but very much responsible for the success of the organization. You know, that just line me up. Perfect too, you know, to take on a full-time official vice president marketing role. But I definitely am in some ways an atypical vice president of marketing, which I hope that we can get into, you know, some of the. Some of the ideas that I’ve given you to talk about because I think some of the viewers will agree and some will probably not agree, so which will be fun?
[00:05:09.220] – Stacy Jones
Well, I think it’s so interesting and we will absolutely get into all of that. I think it’s so interesting, though, with our world now, with more and more companies trying to position themselves with sales and marketing truly is aligned because that’s where success is found. And so with what you’re doing, why don’t you share and pull back the curtains a little bit? I mean, your team has had some phenomenal success in making some magic happen where you’re getting a lot of customer acquisition at a lower price point by using some of your magic sauce.
[00:05:46.000] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah. So first of all, you know, just so that everybody understands the context because, you know, I’m sure your viewers come from a wide range of of of markets and business model types, et cetera. So to B2C, B2B I’ve spent really my entire career in B2B, even though I have worked in, you know, you might say kind of B2B to see, you know, where for a period of time we were selling physical products to retail stores in the music business who were then, of course, selling like guitar amplifiers and equipment and recording studio equipment to, you know, to obviously a consumer. But really, everything that I’ve learned and it is coming from that is to be doing business with another business. But the first comment that I’ll make is that there really is no such thing as B2B or B2C. There’s H2H; it’s really just human to human. And this is one of the things that even not too long ago, I had to really come around to really understand what that meant, because I found even in my own thinking, you know, I would kind of fall into this, oh, that’s a B2C strategy. I’m B2B. So that’s not going to work for me or I’m going to completely ignore that. Or, you know, it’s almost like I just had these sort of blinders up. And, you know, as complicated as like the sales process is that that I am in now where we have a multi-year sales process, it’s not uncommon for there to be twenty-five decision-makers. And the way that the B2B process works today, you know, it used to be you always were looking for the buyer and there generally was one person who ultimately would make the decision. You know, the B2B sales process has always been somewhat fragmented. You know, there were there was kind of a team of folks, but there was always one. I believe that in at least the markets that we’re in and I think in a lot of industries that saying in the case anymore, that literally any member of, you know, in our case now and not everybody has as fragmented a process, but, you know, up to twenty-five people, even somebody who’s not connected in any way to the budget has the power that they can kill the deal. So how do you get a sale closed in an environment like that? And this is where the H to H the human to human, where at the end of the day you have people who are doing business with people. And this is where a lot of my strategies that I think we’ll talk about have come from is just how do you get in front of people so that even that quote-unquote least significant person, but who has a say who very well could kill the deal or certainly could slow a deal down, says, you know what, I like these people. And you know what? I actually think their products are pretty good. Hey, I think we should take a look at it. But it’s your decision, OK? You know, to get that is, you know, in some cases what we’re looking for, because of the opposite response. Well, I don’t know about it. I’m not sure I think we can do that. And all of a sudden, you have a whole deal, a million dollar deal that gets turned sideways because of that. So so the first thing is this age to age, I think that is just essential. And if you approach marketing that way, it actually simplifies things a lot.
[00:09:33.650] – Stacy Jones
And so with that approach, is it that you are harnessing inbound marketing to try to do education mainly so that you’re not trying to just do a mass canvass and you’re getting top of the funnel and you’re creating something that’s more meant funnel before you’re getting down to that true buyer or how are you approaching it?
[00:09:52.130] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah, so, you know, I, I think, again, everybody’s environment is different. And, you know, I know that some sales processes can be pretty tightly defined in a funnel where you can pretty clearly say, hey, we have steps one through eight. And, you know, yeah, there are a few steps that you might be able to skip or they can go out of order. But pretty much these are steps and you have to complete them or else a deal is not going to happen in our experience. We certainly have gates. I think a more helpful way to think about it that I found anyway is to think in terms of gates, not so much like a funnel or steps, because what happens is if we define the marketing process as a funnel and it steps one through eight, right. Then you end up building processes to address a step. And the problem is, is that we are not in control. And that’s one of the things that marketers have to learn today and recognize. And it’s humbling, right? Because I like being in control. I don’t know about you, Stacy, but I kind of like being in control. But we are not the buyer, the customers in control. And the buyer is going to enter our funnel wherever they well please. They are going to interact with us as they please. And the days of the vendor being able to sort of force everybody, you know, or literally force everybody into a process like, well, let me set up a call with you first. You’re going to talk to this person and then we’re going to qualify you. And then you’re like like if someone’s still executing that playbook, they’re losing. I mean, I don’t that sounds kind of harsh, but it’s reality. They may not know they’re losing, but they’re losing. So. So, you know what I like to think of is in terms of gates. Now let me talk about my process. So we have a very technical software product. It’s not a SAS solution. So it’s something that our customer has to take and then integrate into a workflow. So it requires engineering on their side. The very first gate that we have to clear is a validation that our process does what it does.I mean, that our product does what it does, that our software basically works the way we say it, say it will. Now, how we get to that can sometimes be a very direct path. We can have effectively maybe one or two meetings. There’s a phone call with a certain set of people. And we generally always know who those people need to be. And then they say, great, let’s get a software evaluation license agreement in place, you know, and send us the software. We’ll run it through our tests, will ask you if we need help, and then we’ll give you an answer. And then we know from there what happens. But that’s a gate, for example, in our process. And so, you know, for the listeners, for the viewers, everybody, you can already think in terms of, OK, we have maybe two gates, maybe three great gates, maybe six gates. You know, if it’s a highly regulated market, there’s going to be more perhaps maybe you only have one gate. But the point is you have a gate. And then what I have done is oriented the marketing function and the sales support function around these gates. So if I know, for example, in my business that the first gate is performance. So one of the things that we focus very heavily, heavily on, one of our main selling value props is our software performance. And it’s very important for these very, very large services to know where it could literally mean half as many compute instances, computers running on like HWC. And that’s a very big deal because you’re paying, in some cases, millions of dollars to run these large computing centers. So, therefore I will produce content, or we will produce specific studies, or provide data. You know, I am a little bit negative on white papers, but I am not negative on the fact that I’m negative on white papers as being like the magic vehicle, that, hey, let me send you my twenty-five-page white papers and see how great my product is. Absolutely worthless, at least in our business. But where there is value is to have a well-written technical document that contains the information, the answers to the questions that I know need to be answered at that gate. And so that’s what we’ve really focused on. So one of the things, Stacy, is that we actually started a podcast ourselves, and our podcast and we were talking about this before we started recording is an audio podcast. We actually don’t even do video. And yet we talk about video. Right. And so you think, wow, that’s super weird. But what we have found is that it gave us a very nonintrusive it gave us a new avenue to speak to our market to for them to see us as thought leaders, for us to interview, in some cases, even our customers. We’ve had our customers on. We’ve had our partners on. We’re very non-Scelzi. It is, in fact, only at the very end do we say sponsored by Beamr Imaging. You know, obviously, people know me. They know our CTO well enough. So it’s not that, you know, the industry doesn’t know who’s putting this on, but it is not a heavy branded thing. This is not a branding exercise. This is not a look at how awesome Beamr is. This is a communications vehicle that gives us a touchpoint so that we can maintain contact with the industry without, you know, without just flooding, with, you know, ultimately kind of irrelevant or information that they don’t need or don’t even want to know.
[00:16:23.380] – Stacy Jones
And you’re able to establish your expertise in the field while doing so and create content that can be repurposed in, oh, so many different ways to keep on ticking.
[00:16:32.980] – Mark Donnigan
And by the way, isn’t this exactly your strategy?
[00:16:35.700] – Stacy Jones
It is. It is.
[00:16:37.360] – Mark Donnigan
So, yeah. And, you know, we don’t have to spend time building up the value of a podcast, but, you know, at least in in in our industry and, you know, given that we’re in the video, you know, in the video niche, et cetera, it’s it was slightly counterintuitive. Now, interestingly enough, our podcast has been going for a little over a year. And in fact, we just put out our fortieth episode, which considering that that’s a run rate of, you know, about one every 10 to 12 days know was or I guess now I guess it was. Yeah, we’re about every couple of weeks we’re almost a year and a half old. But anyway, it’s, you know, it’s really doing well and it’s now getting copied. So, so other it’s like, hey, we need to podcast too. But it’s great, you know, it’s but it’s not a bad thing. And it just shows that that that communications mechanism is resonating and there’s a need for the actual content. That’s where it’s being. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. I think, you know, and I stated this earlier, but I just can’t say it enough that the client is in control today. The customer is in control. And so, you know, part of our job as marketers is to understand what their needs are and then and then meet those. You know, obviously, it’s our job is as a commercial company, you know, to bring a product. But as marketers, it’s our job to do the same 100 percent.
[00:18:14.050] – Stacy Jones
So, just like how you came to this podcast more prepared than anyone I’ve ever met?
[00:18:19.720] – Mark Donnigan
[00:18:20.430] – Stacy Jones
Oh, yeah. I mean, listeners that outline took ten minutes, or so. Yeah, just want to let you know that Mark sent over an outline. There were bullets, the big ideas and I want to make sure you have the platform to get across them. Yes. And you know, one of the things that you started with was an explanation and understanding of how you can win at B2B marketing or H2H market.
[00:18:45.610] – Mark Donnigan
[00:18:46.960] – Stacy Jones
Right? And become the king. You literally wrote out you want to become the king.
[00:18:51.460] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah, that’s a well, that’s what we all want, right?
[00:18:56.200] – Stacy Jones
Right. Let’s dive in there. How do you do it? How do you become the king or the queen of your category?
[00:19:02.740] – Mark Donnigan
Both. Both completely. Absolutely valid. So yeah. So there’s a concept that is not completely new and I want to give credit where credit’s due and there are many people who develop this. So, you know, again, if someone’s listening and saying, oh, but there’s this other person who’s done a lot of work in the area, I know there are and either I just don’t know about them. But Christopher Lochhead is one that he wrote a book called Play Bigger with some of his partners. So he has some co-authors as well. But Play Bigger came out like 2016 if I remember correctly. And he defined this process called category design and category design is is is really simple to understand. And, you know, I think almost I’ll start with an example and then I’ll explain what it is. And then and then just the high-level steps as to how you execute. So let’s think about the Apple iPod. Now, you know, I think everybody is familiar nowadays, I don’t even, in fact, I don’t know. I think Apple do they even have an iPod now? I don’t know. The iPod is kind of the iPhone. But we all remember when the iPod was, everybody had an iPod. Right? And what’s interesting is I think most people are well aware that Apple is not the creator of the MP3 player. They were not the creator of this category called portable music player, which was the category that they dominated but at the height of Christmas 2006. So, this is really the height the iPhone remember just came out in 2007 and so you know, iPods were still very big and people were buying them through like maybe 2010, 2011, maybe 2012. But, 2006 was really the height of it. Apple during that Christmas season had seventy-two percent of the entire market. Yes. Seventy-two percent. Every single music player sold the iPod consistently. Seventy-two percent. Now, do you remember Microsoft’s solution and remember their player?
[00:21:27.770] – Stacy Jones
I, I remember there and I Rich-Phillips time so I think Philips had that and Philips had a line. Yeah, absolutely. A lot of lines and there were a lot. And all of a sudden everyone just took a step back. And then they were like, we can’t, we can’t compete.
[00:21:47.600] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah, they can’t compete. Well OK, so Microsoft came, came, you know, Microsoft said, hey, you know we can compete here. And they came out with a product called the Zune. You know, I should have looked this up. I don’t I want to say maybe it came out in like 2001 or 2002. Somewhere in there – I may be off. But anyway, so so the Zune came out. Right? Now, I think about it would have been 2000 anyway. Forget the timetable. The point is, Microsoft came out, and let’s go back to Christmas Season, 2006. Apple has seventy-two percent of the market. Microsoft finished with a resounding 2.8 percent of the market, 2.8. And this is Microsoft. And by the way, the Zune, by all rights, had features that the iPod didn’t. You know, you could argue various points were better. Was it? You know, but the point is, is that this was not a bad product. And of course, we all can think of dozens, hundreds of examples of where you can look at a market. You can say there was a better product, but it lost, you know, and why is that? And that’s because of category design. And what it comes down to is when Steve Jobs announced the iPod and in all the early advertising, what did he do? Did he hold it up and say, ladies and gentlemen, I am so happy to announce and to reveal for the first time, Apple’s MP3 player? No, he held it up, and he said a thousand songs in your pocket, a thousand songs in your pocket. Now you think about going back then, you know, you had portable CD players, you know, which you wouldn’t exactly carry around like a thousand CDs. It’d be crazy. You had, you know, of course, thousand songs. That’s not a thousand CDs, but hundreds of CDs, let’s say so. So what did he do by saying a thousand songs in your pocket? He defined a problem, first of all. So the problem was, hey, I want to carry more music with me, you know, like I want to carry my whole library. Like, I don’t want to just carry like two or three CDs and have to manually change them or, you know, or whatever, you know, or a couple of cassette tapes like the Walkman, you know, going back 10 years earlier. You know, I want to carry around my music library, OK? That was a practical problem. So category design and the message here is that he was not marketing and Apple did not market an MP3 player, a cooler, slicker, neater, you know, whatever music player, MP3 player, you know, whatever it was a thousand songs in your pocket. And so the first step to category design is to define a tangible problem. And, you know, it’s easy to, you know, sometimes if we’re already in kind of well-established markets, think, well, you know, like everybody already knows what we do. Right? But in my experience that with very, very few exceptions, you can find something that you can define. You can put a label on that is that is a unique twist or a unique presentation that will cause someone to lean forward where previously they’re like they’re just hearing all these marketing messages and they’re just going in one ear and out the other.
[00:25:27.560] – Stacy Jones
And tactics, too. It works for service businesses, as well.
[00:25:35.560] – Mark Donnigan
Oh, 100 percent. And in fact, service businesses, I think almost this is in some ways easier to do because, you know, you can say, you know, a couple of years ago I had a roof put on my house. Right. You know, and so I had, you know, a parade of roofers come through to give me quotes and everything. And you know, the roofer that I ended up hiring, it’s not that he really has done this exercise, but. But you know what? He was more than just a roofer who would bring a crew out and replace the tiles on my roof. You know, he explained he made it seem like he was a fabricator, you know, who was going to deliver a different roof than the next company. And yet the reality was, who knows, maybe it’s even the same guys. I don’t know like I don’t really know how some of the stuff works. So the first is you need to define a tangible problem. The second and this is really, really critical for category design, is it? You name the problem and you have to name it and but you have to be sure to put your solution at the center. So you know what’s interesting, going back to the iPod, Apple iPod example is a thousand songs in your pocket. Now you say, but that’s not really naming a problem? But, it is if you think about it.
[00:26:59.350] – Stacy Jones
You’re tethered to your music otherwise.
[00:27:02.050] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah, exactly. And and and all of a sudden now, like a thousand. Wow, that’s a thousand songs like, you know, like and most people are not walking around thinking, oh my library consists of nine hundred and eighty-three songs and I just bought a new album. So now it’s like they’re not thinking that way but they think like, oh that’s a lot of music. Wow. If I’m in the mood for rock, if I’m in the mood for country and pop, I probably could have that in my pocket. And then now I whatever I’m in the mood for, I can listen to it, see. And so you define it. And then now how does someone like Microsoft. Or Phillips or, you know, or the Rio or any of those early three, you know, guess what, they were all marketing by capacity, you know, one gig, one gig, you know, 256MB. You know you remember. Right? How they’re measured and the consumers just sort of looking they’re like, I don’t know, which one should I get? I don’t know. This one’s a little ten bucks more. I guess it’s better. OK, I’ll buy that one, you know, and then Apple comes in and they’re like, double the price or even triple the price. But they say a thousand songs in your pocket and you’re like, of course, that’s what I want, you know? So, the first step is to find a tangible problem, the second is to name the problem, but find a way to put your solution at the center of it. And this requires a lot of work. I mean, this is not you know, as we can see, it’s easy to just sort of talk through. But this is what’s making marketing so fun today, in my opinion. And then and then the third step. And again, all these micro-steps are part of this. But the third is whenever you are communicating with the industry, you’re communicating with your customers. You are talking on your website, you are sending out email, communication, any external communication, press releases, trade show, whatever. You’re always referring to your company and your product, wherever feasible in light of the category. Now, it could mean that you’re literally calling yourself, you know, the founder of, you know, the category. But that’s kind of, you know, nobody likes a company. Just talk about themselves. So that’s kind of the weakest way to do it. But, you know, it’s better than just sort of saying, what do you do? Oh, we make pipe fitting machines for, you know, like, OK, you know, like you in eighteen hundred other pipe fitting machine manufacturers, you know, or whatever. So so by doing this, what ends up happening is, is that you are carving out space where now in time, and if you do your job well in time, the industry will begin to refer to you as the basis of comparison any time they look at a competitor. So the beautiful thing is that you can think now like a little more modern-day example. And let’s just stay with Apple, the iPhone. OK, so Apple simply took their iPod dominance and what did they do? They now are the category king of smartphones. Now, you know, I know that some will say, yeah, but, you know, some manufacturers sold more unit quantity. But when you look at what really matters, dollars, profit revenue, ie, Apple absolutely trounces. Absolutely. Just decimates the nearest competitor in the smartphone category. And why is that? There isn’t a soul that doesn’t walk in to look at a new Samsung. You know what the new Q 20. Whatever the new iPhone is, who doesn’t have on their mind the iPhone 11. OK, I mean, look at some other phone and where they are comparing it to the iPhone 11, the new, you know, whatever the new iPhone is, whatever. And so this is the key to category design and then becoming the king. And the message is and the reason why I love especially the iPod example and throwing out those numbers is that going back to the book Play Bigger and Christopher Lochhead and the research that he and his partners put into this, they found that pretty universally, regardless of industry, the category king takes upwards of seventy-six percent of the entire revenue of the whole sector. Now, if that doesn’t just blow your mind like, you know, and so what that means is, is that if we as marketers are, you know, are playing to win, there really is no choice but to become a category king. Now, someone’s going to say, but what do you do? Not everybody can be the king. And I’m in a space where, like, you know, like, OK, I’m you know, I’m in the CRM market and their sales force, like you’re telling me, I need to, like, you know, be bigger than Salesforce. Like, of course. Of course not. But you know what about defining what about going in and saying we are going to target our CRM both in terms of product capabilities, but market position. We’re going to define a problem for law firms and we’re going to become the category king of CRM in this particular area so that if you are a law firm, we have seventy-five percent of the entire legal market. Is that an interesting business to you? And I think most of us would say, yeah –
[00:33:04.040] – Stacy Jones
– I’ll take it!
[00:33:06.470] – Mark Donnigan
Exactly. So this is something that I think chief executive CMO, executive leadership team’s founders, it doesn’t have to be only if you’re in a startup. In fact, I think it’s it’s certainly applicable if you’re designing, if you’re starting from scratch and you’re building a business from scratch like a startup, you’re in a new market. But if you’re an established market, it’s not too late to really think very carefully about how you can build a category that you can dominate and you can win.
[00:33:43.640] – Stacy Jones
OK, that’s awesome. That’s a really good insight, yeah. OK, so taking that a step further. The next area that you wanted to dive into was all about demand generation marketing.
[00:33:59.580] – Mark Donnigan
[00:34:00.690] – Stacy Jones
Yes, because you found your niche. You are going to be it. You are the CRM for the law. Now, what are you going to do to actually level that up?
[00:34:13.680] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah. So, you know, one one of my observations is that and I am not, you know, negative sort of the growth hacking. You know, it’s become a whole sector. Right. A whole category. There are conferences, there’s you know, there’s SaaS platforms all-around growth, you know, growth hacking and demand generation marketing. But my my my strong belief is, is that all marketing today is demand generation. That unless you’re blessed to work for Coca-Cola and God bless you or American Express or United Airlines or you know, you know, a big board of literally a fortune, one hundred, the brand-building exercise is just not the way where marketers should be spending their time and attention. The markets too noisy. There’s just too much competition for attention. And so all marketing is demand generation. Now, what’s interesting about that is that this gets then into the whole discussion about ROIC and measuring ROIC and, you know, so demand generation, on one hand, is awesome because the idea is, hey, we’re investing a dollar and we’re getting two dollars back. You know, where we’re generating demand. It’s very measurable. It’s very quantifiable. We know if our team is doing their job or not. We set out these very clear KPIs. And that’s and that’s all good. And those things are needed. And you do need to know where you’ve been, so you know where you’re going and all that. So this is not to say I’m not a marketing leader that doesn’t believe in measurement. Not at all. But there is there’s a big difference between, you know, between optimizing only for ROIC and and and and designing for ROIC. So, you know, I like to say that not everything can be measured for ROIC, but everything should be designed for ROIC. And so when I’m talking about demand generation cutting across the entire marketing organization, what I’m really referring to is, is that the entire marketing team, however big or small that is, you know, whether it’s one person working with with with, you know, maybe an agency or a couple of outsourcers, whether it’s two or three people or whether it’s 20 or 30 or 50 or 60 or whatever, that demand generation cuts across everything. So if you are primarily if you’re in a bigger org and your fund, but your function really is more around content development, you know, then then it’s incumbent that as you’re writing even those blog posts, you know, that are not overtly sales, that you have a very clear strategy or picture as to how does this fit into how we drive, how we drive, demand, whatever that looks like. It might be some sort of direct response. That’s, of course, the most kind of direct way. Right. But if it’s B2B, you know, there you know, it’s not direct response. I mean, you just don’t call it to go. Yeah. You know, I’m ready to license that software for a million dollars a year, you know, like like that. That’s not the sales process. So but again, we talked in terms of those gates. And so there the demand generation is more driving towards what gate am I again, to use the idea of if I’m writing content, if I’m a content writer, you know, how is this serving to drive someone to clear the second gate in our process? You know, just as an example and you know, this, of course, puts a new demand. What I found on marketers, because now obviously you have to be being good at your craft are just table stakes. But now you have to actually understand the ecosystem. You know, you need to understand what’s the environment that our buyers are in, what are the trends, you know, what’s happening in our industry that you know, that I should be speaking to that that that maybe our product addresses, but maybe not. But by speaking to it, we’re showing that we understand, you know, we’re kind of good citizens of the industry. And so this whole notion, you know, it’s maybe slightly ethereal in everybody’s environment. And the way that their teams are built, of course, will mean that you know, integrating demand generation through the entire marketing organization might be very cut and dried. It may really be how it works today. But I’ve observed, especially in SaaS companies, that, you know, there tends to be like the demand generation team, you know, and and and all the markets demand generation. That’s really the point that I want to make.
[00:39:34.880] – Stacy Jones
That makes sense. Yeah. And it all is driving to basically what you’re talking about, cornerstone content that you have something that you’re building and. Every every building block, every blog, every podcast is helping move in the direction of getting people actually to that cornerstone to get them through that day and to start having them contact you, ask more questions, or continuing opening gates.
[00:39:59.210] – Mark Donnigan
That’s right. Yeah, absolutely.
[00:40:03.800] – Stacy Jones
And then you had a take in regards to how the CMO is an essential role. And I think you phrased it as a business conductor to work in tandem with the CEO and the product team manager, sales team, and all these others. I mean, you are literally orchestrating and building and driving and making sure that they not only do the wheels not fall off the bus, but the bus is going in the right direction with the entire rest of the fleet that you.
[00:40:34.910] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I really love the word conductor and I’m a musician, so maybe that’s where it comes from. But, you know, today’s it is more exciting than ever to be a CMO or marketing head or VP of marketing, you know, whatever the title. But for someone who’s carrying the primary responsibility for marketing, leadership, and marketing direction for a company, it today is like the best time. I mean, it really is. And yet it’s super interesting to me that and I don’t know if this is sort of industry-specific or if the trend is getting better, but certainly, a lot’s been written about how the tenure of CMO’s is shorter than almost anybody in the C suite. And I’ve even I think I saw it not too long ago, you know, like kind of 18 months, 20 months as kind of an average tenure, which is like not good. You know, if that’s really true and I can’t recall if that was industry-specific or, you know, where that number came from. But the point is, is that it’s it is well known that, you know, CMO, the CMO chairs, kind of perpetually rotating. And the reason why I say that this is the most exciting time to actually be sitting in that seat. And I have a little bit of a theory. And of course, I have no you know, every organization is different. People are different. So, you know, in no way am I trying to label why, you know, why maybe someone didn’t last long in a role or, you know, or whatnot. But I thought I have a theory that I think is founded and that is that executing the and I like to call it the, you know, kind of the business school playbook, which 15 years ago, 10 years ago, maybe even seven or eight years ago, was the role. You build a team, you know, there’s a management function of just making sure, you know, like you said, the wheels aren’t falling off the bus, that every department is doing their job, that you know, and interfacing with the executive management. If you’re in a public company, then, of course, there’s probably you know, there’s a strong public-facing persona to the role and all that kind of stuff. But it’s all sort of. It’s sort of. A little bit cosmetic, I’ll probably get totally shot at by somebody for saying that, but bear with me is what I’m explaining. It’s a little bit of cosmetic. You know, you had the product head who ultimately was designing and is driving the product direction and then maybe product marketing reported the CMO, maybe not kind of depending on the organization. It’s engineering-driven or whatnot. And again, there’s kind of all these silos. Today’s CMO is in an incredible position where they’re empowered by the chief executive to work cross-functional across the product. Across sales, not necessarily leading sales, although maybe in some organizations, the CMO also has primary revenue responsibility or by leading the sales function, but certainly working in very close tandem with the sales leader and working obviously in very close tandem in coordination with the chief executive and the executive team to really chart the entire course of this demand generation engine of this powerful force that is being built. That, as we said earlier, buyers no longer are are are are are willing to come into our process like we have step one. That’s where you start. Sorry. You know, start there. And the buyer says, no, I like step seven. That’s where I’m at, you know, and in the CMO is in this incredible position to look at the industry and look at the inflections in the market, look at inflections and in the business climate, you know, technologies that that that are relevant to them, to their industry, to their product, to whatever their core businesses, and to really be the conductor of all of this. And it’s exciting for, you know, for someone to be sitting in that role who really is a builder and who is interested in kind of doing more than just hiring the next better agency or negotiating the next better deal or, you know, and so it’s my strong feeling and observation that I think what we’re going to start seeing and I believe we’re already seeing is a different CMO’s coming into the role from a more diverse background, maybe even from backgrounds that were not through typical marketing progressions, not to say that they aren’t marketers, they need to be marketers. The other thing that’s also interesting in this is that I think there was a role in the past or a place for somebody who legitimately was leading this big marketing organization, maybe in charge of spending 50 million, one hundred million, two hundred million dollars a year, you know, huge budgets. Right. Both on advertising spend and whatnot. But who actually had never, never really been practitioners themselves. And now you’re seeing especially from where I sit in technology there, I can’t really think of any CMO who isn’t a serious practitioner. Yeah, it doesn’t mean they do all jobs well, but you know, who probably came up in awe or has just grown their individual capability to be able to be an excellent writer, be a very good presenter, have a very strong strategic sense, understand business strategy, you know, be able to be an analyst, be able to step back and say, hey, is this the right direction? You know, are we going in the right direction rather than kind of saying, hey, you know, you guys tell me what you want to do and I’ll build a campaign for it, you know, which previously was kind of, you know, it’s kind of how a lot of boards functioned. Right. You know?
[00:47:04.670] – Stacy Jones
It’s 100 percent true. And the fact is, I mean if you’re going to be a leader in today’s climate, we all have so much access to education. Right. There’s so much out there, haven’t you? And you need to have someone at a company who’s a leader who’s able to inhale some of that education, and he’s driven to educate themselves. But then also someone who is that special beast who can light people up and get them to do their jobs while you still have an understanding of what they’re doing. And that’s the magic. Yes.
[00:47:38.840] – Mark Donnigan
Yes, yes. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that’s it’s so true. And there is magic there, you know, because it’s easy to talk about, you know, in an in a conversation like this, it’s very different to, you know, hang up on this call and then go execute. But, you know, I think you can feel even, you know, my enthusiasm and, you know, you started by giving kind of a bit of a nod to, you know, my slightly unconventional sort of parachuting into you know you know, we’re not a large company, so I’m not trying to overrepresent, you know, the team or the scope of what I’m working on today. But, you know, to certainly parachute in. You know, we have serious investors and we’re doing some some some good work. And, you know, I did come a little bit nonconventional conventionally into ahead of marketing role. And yet, you know, it’s one of those cool things about careers, right? You know, if you sat down to design it, you want to design it, but then, you know, necessarily the way it happened. And yet when you look back, you say it happened perfectly, you know, and so just where you know where we are today in terms of what the needs of the market are and given, you know, given my personal progression and things that motivate me, it’s like it’s lining up beautifully. So.
[00:49:03.710] – Stacy Jones
Well, Mark, you are absolutely the conductor of your own symphony, so congratulations on that. Well, thank you.
[00:49:09.560] – Mark Donnigan
Thank you. And you know, Stacey, thanks so much for inviting me on. This is really, really amazing. And keep up the good work as well. And I enjoy, you know, the diversity of the interviews that you do is, you know, is really great.
[00:49:24.620] – Stacy Jones
Anything that interests me you know. So I’m one of those people who is very educational based. And so if it’s a topic that sounds interesting, that could potentially benefit my company or the clients I work with, I am very eager to just dive in and explore it a little bit more.
[00:49:39.380] – Mark Donnigan
It’s awesome. I’m the same way. I’m the same way. So what is your podcast about? So it’s called the Video Insiders and it’s extremely niche. We are. So the industry that I’m in at the moment is video technology. And we actually if you watch Netflix, you are most most likely, depending on the device you’re watching, on watching our software. We do what’s called video encoding. And so if you think of it this way, you know, producing a high-quality video, you can you know, you don’t even have to be technical to kind of, you know, get the understanding that the files are really huge. To capture the quality and to stream over the Internet is awesome. As know, all of our devices are in as fast as the Internet is, it’s it still much, much, much, much, much, much slower as in like a hundred times less bandwidth than what these you know, the pristine full quality is that gets captured. So our software is the software and video encoders. Take this really large file, make it nice and small so it can stream but preserve as much of the original quality as possible. And that’s what we do. So so the video inciters we interview, like, for example, the Super Bowl just happened and the Super Bowl was a really big event in streaming video because it was broadcast it was streamed in for so very high resolution and also with a technology called HDR High Dynamic Range, which when you see, again, it was beautiful about some of this stuff is you don’t have to understand anything. Technically, you just see it and say that looks awesome, that looks better. And that’s exactly HDR. So we just interviewed with the broadcast consultant who designed the entire workflow end to end from the camera to through all the production chain, all the way to distribution on your smart TV, for example. So that’s what we do.
[00:51:56.980] – Stacy Jones
So that’s great. Okay, but you don’t do it on video?
[00:52:02.000] – Mark Donnigan
No. So, it’s funny. We don’t do it on video. And of course, on the one hand, it’s like, wait for a second, it’s a video show on audio like that. Totally doesn’t make sense. Believe it or not, it’s a little bit practical but more strategic in terms of why we don’t do video. You know, the practicality video just introduces that extra level of, you know, production and and and then, you know, for us, you know, it’s always a little bit of a fight of, you know, again, going back to that authenticity. Like on one hand, you know, as I mean, you know, I think this is you know, it’s like I’m clearly not sitting, you know, in a small studio apartment somewhere, you know? So it’s like, you know. But is this professional does it present in the way that, you know, that we might want it to or need it to and so that all those things come up? Right. When you talk in video and we talking audio, it’s a heck of a lot easier, you know, so so we decide to do that. But the practical so that’s kind of just the, you know, a little more you know, it’s just a decision. Right. But practically, we’ve had a lot of people say they love it because on Commute’s in the gym, the audio podcast is is is kind of preferable, you know. So whenever, you know, I’ve kind of mentioned like, yeah, we’re thinking about doing video or no. It’s like, well, that’s cool. You know, I might but, you know, it’s like I’m only going to listen to the audio. So.
[00:53:36.160] – Stacy Jones
So that makes sense. Well, it’s now it’s the whole you have to create it in as many ways as possible so that people can come to you how they want to come. Right.
[00:53:45.440] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah. And also our objective knows our market is very tightly defined. This is not relative to the public. I mean, it is a public podcast, but, you know, a broader topic. It’s a very small, small, small niche market. And so even though we are you know, it’s not like we think we’ve reached everybody, not by any stretch, but it’s not you know, we’re not monetizing the advertising. I’m not trying to get it’s for a very different thing. It’s a B2B market strategy. And so it’s you know, it’s demand. It’s a demand. It fits into the demand generation bucket. But just like the outline, what we’re going to talk about, you know, it’s just my personal opinion is and it’s backed up with, you know, experience. And, you know, I think there’s a lot of other people who are kind of in the marketing world coming along and saying, yeah, you’re right. You know, the days of looking at marketing campaigns and as silos and as functional blocks, you know, like, oh, we have our content creation team. Oh, we have our you know, we have our demand gen team. Oh, we have our growth hackers that are kind of a part of them and you have all these functional blocks. There are some organizations that I think, you know, that’s still valid, and that and that way of working works. But in startups, in fast growth, when you are in very dynamic environments, I like to call it the Glengarry Glen Ross. Environment. You know, it just you can’t approach the world that way, right? And so, you know, in some cases, there are tactics that need to be implemented for a period of time and then and then they shift, you know, and it’s not because they didn’t work, but, you know, the market has shifted or where the audience is or what the industry is thinking about has moved. You know, and if everything’s built-in these silos or in these functional blocks, like, well, my content team, I’ve got three writers that I keep busy. So we’re cranking out white papers so nobody’s reading them. So. All right. You know, I hope you like your white papers because they’re not doing anything for you. You know that most industries today.
[00:56:13.930] – Stacy Jones
Well, Mark, thank you so much. And now for our listeners, if they and viewers if want to find more about you, I know you’re on LinkedIn. Can you share a little bit of insight on how they can do that?
[00:56:25.600] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’m very easy to find on LinkedIn. Fortunately, my last name is not so common. So. So, yeah, just search for Mark Donnigan and I’m sure you can link up in the show notes there, Stacey, but to my LinkedIn profile, and really that that’s where to find me. I live and breathe and sleep LinkedIn. And you know, it’s just a wonderful network and I have a really strong network there, so I’d love for you to join me.
[00:56:54.880] – Stacy Jones
Perfect. That sounds awesome. And then for all of our listeners today, thank you so much for tuning in. Really appreciate it. And I look forward to chatting with everyone on our next podcast.
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