Sales and Marketing Go Together Like PB&JStartup Junkie Podcast
This is a recent interview I did with Jeff Emerine and Matthew Ward on the Startup Junkie Podcast.
Since the days where sales and marketing began, they’ve always been viewed as two entirely separate entities. But why? If there’s a way for both teams to work well together, then why keep them separate after all?
In this interview, I share my thoughts with Jeff and Matthew from Startup Junkie on how sales and marketing can go so well together, if implemented correctly. During this sweeping discussion we covered:
- Marketing vs. Sales
- Technology and Innovation
- Economic Landscapes
- The Human Element
- B2B vs. B2C
- Ecosystem vs. Industry
“I find that most of the time the technologies are real, the innovation is real, the solution is real. It can add real value. So the failure of the company or the startup was not because they promised something they couldn’t deliver, but it’s because they failed to educate the market as to the problem that this invention would solve.” – Mark Donnigan
“Your first marketing hire can make or break whether a company gets off the launch pad, and with how much velocity, and therefore how high they get – or not.” – Mark Donnigan
“You have to understand the kind of power map and the political landscape of how internal decisions and enterprises get made depending upon the size. There’s always an element thereof economic decision-makers and technical influencers and saboteurs, and they all play a role in the whole process.” – Jeff Emerine
“There’s a lot of trench warfare and knife fighting in the early days that a growth-oriented person who turns the crank on a machine is not going to be prepared for.” – Jeff Emerine
“You know, I have found that the more commoditization that the solution or the product of the technology is, the more possible it is to remove a little bit of this human element we’re talking about.” – Mark Donnigan
[00:00:03.210] – Jeff Emerine
This is Jeff Emerine. This is the Startup Junkie’s podcast. This is about those stories for the people that are afflicted with creating the next great products and services that are going to change lives not just in America, but worldwide. We’re going to tell the stories of the next great beer producer. We’ll tell stories of new products and apparel makers. We’re going to tell the stories of those people that don’t accept the status quo and that want to make things better. Welcome to the Startup Junkie’s podcast.
[00:00:35.190] – Matthew Ward
Today, we have the usual co-host here, Jeff Emerine, how are you doing?
[00:00:39.750] – Jeff Emerine
I’m doing great. Happy Friday.
[00:00:41.490] – Matthew Ward
Happy Friday. And today, we have Mark Donnigan from d-Launch, which is a Marketing and Business Growth firm that helps startups. Mark, how are you doing?
[00:00:50.550] – Mark Donnigan
Hey, I’m doing great. It’s great to be with you guys. Good deal. If you could tell us about the lead up to starting the launch. Well, your history was with your career. Great. Yeah, well, you know, like all of us, I think it’s a long, twisted path. It’d be nice when you graduate from college, you know if careers were just kind of these straight lines up into the right.
[00:01:15.810] – Matthew Ward
But they never are. Right. So, yeah.
[00:01:19.320] – Mark Donnigan
So, you know, I’m a sales guy at heart. I worked my way. Speaking of college, you know, worked my way through college, managing a RadioShack of all things, and also just selling electronics. And so, you know, I’m a techie guy, but yeah, I started my career in sales and as I progressed and took on more responsibility and transitioned into management and then went pretty quickly move through retail into selling B2B or, you know, more the kind of business model we might call B2B to B2C, you know, then I began to learn how to manage sellers and you know, what it really meant to, you know, to build a business beyond just being an individual salesperson, you know, with a number. And through that process, you know, I’m a creative. So I didn’t end up finishing my computer science degree, but I started in computer science and then I went to music school, of all things. So, you know, I’ve got this left brain, right brain thing going on, which I guess you could say is why I pretty quickly discovered that, hey, marketing is pretty important, you know, to my success as a personal seller initially and then as I was building teams to my team’s success. And so partially as a function of actually owning marketing or having kind of a Matrix marketing organization reporting into me. But, you know, even stepping back as an individual seller, I really began to understand that it was important that I understood the art in the craft of marketing. And so I made it my business to kind of nights and weekends really begin to understand marketing. And as I started to do that and just began to take on more responsibility in terms of, I guess, bigger roles, you might say. So I had marketing people reporting to me. I discovered that I really, really enjoyed the strategy, the art, and the science of marketing. And so that over years took me on a journey that, you know, is where I am today, where I really focus my efforts and where my superpower is, if you will, is in designing go to market strategy for technology-oriented businesses that are either just beginning to come to market or maybe have just reached product-market fit and are now saying, hey, we know that there’s a market for what we built, now we need to scale up. And you know, how to do that, of course, is always a very interesting challenge. And I’m sure that’s what we’re going to get to talk about today.
[00:04:35.350] – Jeff Emerine
Yeah, we’ll talk about some of that that what I think you would refer to is that go to the market engineering process. How do you how do you do it? I think that would be instructive to a lot of our listeners.
[00:04:46.050] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, I really do like using kind of the terminology of like engineering or architecting, because as much as, you know, it’d be really nice if the marketing playbooks that, you know, that we all learned in business school 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, you know, if it was that simple today. But it just isn’t. And it really does require, first of all, really understanding and defining. It’s not understanding. It’s defining what is the problem that you’re solving? You know, and I find that many, many, especially for a technology-oriented founder or a technical founder, they obviously are heavily oriented around the product and around the technology, around the solution. And that’s great. And of course, you have some idea of, hey, here’s how what I have invented can be used in the market. Here’s how it can bring value. But the part that gets missed a lot and I think, you know, my my my personal strong conviction is, is that the high failure rate of startups is due largely to the fact that not because what was built didn’t work or it didn’t fulfil the promise. I find that most of the time the technologies are real, the innovation is real, the solution is real. It can add real value. So the failure of the company or the startup was not because they promised something they couldn’t deliver, but it’s because they failed to educate the market as to the problem that this invention would solve. And so the first step in go to market is to very clearly define what the problem is that you’re addressing and then to craft a point of view, which is to say here is the problem. Here’s why there needs to be a solution and here’s the solution. And obviously, the solution is what we have, you know, what we’ve invented, what we’ve created, what we’re bringing to market.
[00:06:53.500] – Jeff Emerine
And for and for selling it to enterprises you have to put it in language that they understand has to be in the language of the customer, right?
[00:07:02.290] – Mark Donnigan
Absolutely. Absolutely. And this is why, you know, another area that I sometimes see marketing teams, but even founding teams struggle with is that they undervalue the need to be from the ecosystem. Now, you know, there’s an important distinction here because sometimes especially hiring for sales, you know, there’s the notion of, hey, we need to hire someone with a Rolodex. Right. And the notion is, you know, we have a list of our top 50 or 100 targeted customers. Let’s go find someone who can, you know, with one call, get us in, get a meeting. I’m not talking about that. That’s not what I’m talking about here. When I say Eco-System when I’m talking about is is a really firm understanding of how the constituents both that you may compete with or that you may interface with, but even those who who are outside of, you know what your role is in the ecosystem, how they function, how do they communicate? You know, how what technology trends are they tracking? Are they conservative – and I don’t mean conservative politically – I mean, are they late adopters? Are they early adopters? Are they innovators? How is or where are the winds of the industry blowing? So maybe it is a more traditional, you know, sort of conservative industry, but maybe the winds are blowing heavily so that there are disruptors who still sort of brewing underneath the surface. But if you’re in the ecosystem, you can detect, hey, there, there’s right disruption. Here’s where it’s going to come from. And this perfectly either dovetails to what our product or our solution is or we can partner and we should partner and we should really help amplify this trend. So those are some some some very, very it’s critical to be from the ecosystem and have a command of the ecosystem.
[00:09:14.980] – Jeff Emerine
And you have to be a bit of a behavioral scientist and a bit of an anthropologist. And you have to understand the kind of power map and the political landscape of how internal decisions and enterprises get made depending upon the size. There’s always an element thereof economic decision-makers and technical influencers and saboteurs, and they all play a role in the whole process.
[00:09:39.280] – Mark Donnigan
Well, they look out for that saboteur. And very and very often, you know, I think anybody who is Soulsby to be and especially sold at technical solutions has a story to tell of a very large deal that was killed by technically the lowest ranking person in the room, you know, and yet when you do a postmortem, you have to say, you know what, it largely was because this person who either got completely discounted because they were the lowest ranking or the, you know, whatever, but because they were a domain expert and because the enterprise trusted them in their role to advise, you know, and they advised against and therefore the whole deal went sideways. And so, yeah, it’s so critical, you know, to map the buying journey, but also the constituents who are involved in that whole buying process, if you will.
[00:10:38.060] – Jeff Emerine
Matthew, jump in there. Don’t let me dominate all the air time.
[00:10:41.080] – Matthew Ward
Yeah, I think that’s something to be really important to our listeners is if I was running a startup, what advice would you give to me for a marketing hire specifically my first one?
[00:10:51.790] – Mark Donnigan
Wow, that is a fabulous question. And really not just because I say, hey, that’s a good question, but this is. So critical, your first marketing hire can make or break whether a company gets off the launch pad, and with how much velocity, and therefore how high they get – or not. And so without defaulting to a whole lot of it depends. And what’s your budget and all the caveats? Let me answer the question more on how to think about it. And then and then let me share some easy pitfalls that I think would be sort of conventional wisdom is that actually, you don’t want to follow. So first of all, you know, your first marketing hire, there’s a couple of paths to go. And one default is, hey, let’s go hire a superstar out of a name brand company. And, you know, and so that could be a name brand company in the particular sector or the vertical that you’re competing in. It might be just adjacent, but this is very natural, especially in Silicon Valley, you know, hey, let’s go hire someone out of the hottest latest unicorn. Let’s go get some superstar. Right. And this can work. But the biggest challenge that you have by taking this approach is, is that very often what gets looked over is, is that that person was a superstar with one hundred people around them. You know, you are a startup of one, meaning the marketing team of one at your first hire, right? And sure, maybe you’ve got a couple of contractors, you know, you have an agency you’ve been working with. So it’s not that there’s zero marketing, but it’s a team of one. And very rarely does that superstar who came out of that big unicorn, you know, that went from, you know, went from 50 million dollars a year in revenue to eight hundred million in three years. We all know the stories. Right. Very, very rarely was that the person who architected the strategy and who had enough of real their fingerprints on the entire marketing model that they can come in and that they can replicate that for you. And so it’s sometimes I’ll say a little bit of bad pattern matching that happens. But this is a really, really common trap, very common trap. And so what ends up happening is you get that person, you have to throw a ton of money at them. You’ve got to throw a bunch of equity at them. You finally get them. Everybody stoked. And then nothing happens and everybody wonders what how could this be? It’s actually not the fault of that person, that person. Absolutely, they perform the role. They are, by all means, often a rock star. But the problem is, is that they are not a builder from a team of one into a team of hundred. So that’s one mistake to avoid.
[00:14:18.540] – Jeff Emerine
There’s a lot of trench warfare and knife fighting in the early days that a growth-oriented person who turns the crank on a machine is not going to be prepared for.
[00:14:27.750] – Mark Donnigan
Absolutely. Absolutely. And so you could so so we can look at that scenario and say, OK, so that’s just hiring for the wrong stage of the company. But my answer is we need to unpack this a little bit further because it’s a little bit more involved than that. So, then another kind of on the opposite side, if you will, would be a founder, could look at that and say, hey, you know, and a lot of this just comes down to dollars and cents. Right? It’s like, oh, I would love to hire that person, but I can’t afford them. So let’s just go find, you know, the the the most capable person that I can afford. Right. So what ends up happening there is, is that you bring in somebody who is maybe in the earlier days of their career, but they’re a hard worker. They’re smart. They’re you know, you’re able to afford them. They’re so happy for the opportunities. So they come in, they’re ready to go and they say, all right, so what’s our marketing strategy? What am I supposed to do? Right. And now the CEO or the founder who often it comes from a technical background, who is there very often these folks have come out of, you know, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, you know, in other words, they’ve had huge engines around them. They have not necessarily had the marketing exposure. So they’re kind of like, well, well, I don’t know, put more LinkedIn posts up, runs on Facebook, you know, whatever, you know, whatever the playbook is that maybe one of their colleagues or someone in their startup accelerators running or, you know, or just whatever, they read the latest blog post. Well, let’s go do this then. The problem is and marketing fails because you have someone who can execute. You have a bright, eager, you know, they’re a quick learner. So you found someone, but there isn’t a strategy. So here’s the playbook that works best for your first marketing hire. If you can find somebody that you can attract who has built that company, built that marketing strategy from zero to one, meaning that they were maybe they’re coming out of that big brand company, maybe they took it. They were marketing higher, number one. Number two. Number three, they built it to that one hundred person team. But they’re just really, really, really eager to do it again. Then that’s what you need to hire for. But you may need to go even to a consultant or an advisor and you need an architect because if you don’t have the architect and you have a lot of people who can execute, you have executors, then you’re going to be producing a lot of marketing that isn’t going to ultimately build the company. On the flip side, if you have someone who who who is kind of at that senior management level but still had kind of a playbook that was ultimately handed to them and yes, they’re able to scale. So you tell them, hey, we need to hire 10 more people for the demand generation team this quarter will. They’ll get it done and they’ll get it done. Well, they’ll hire 10 good people, but the demand and strategy are handed to them. Then they’re going to fail. So what you want to do in that first marketing hire is you want to either amongst the management team agree that, hey, you know what? Between us, the three of us, there are two of us that actually do have a pretty good understanding of marketing. We’re going to spend time to build the strategy. Let’s go find an implementor. Or you may say, you know, between the three of us, we’re all product people, we’re all engineers, we don’t market, we don’t understand. We have to go find somebody either as a consultant, as in some sort of advisory role or hire someone full time who can build the playbook. And then the playbook can be executed sometimes, especially in the early days, can be executed by contractors or by freelancers, or maybe you’re able to hire some more entry-level folks to initially begin to execute. But without that playbook, it’s going to be tough to win.
[00:19:00.970] – Jeff Emerine
You know, it’s good, I mean, the right people in the right seats, at the right time, with the right mix of contractors outside and inside. And, you know, a lot of it is talking to mentors and advisors and getting good guidance to make sure that you make those right steps, but you made some comments in the past where you said and it’s the same is true for building a culture of innovation, but the idea that demand generation is not isolated to one particular functional group. Talk about that a little more.
[00:19:30.610] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah, that’s something I found to be true. And I don’t actually believe in a demand gen function. Now, if I just thought there would be like, well, you know, this guy living on Mars or, you know, like where’s he from? You know, there’s demand is central to marketing teams, regardless of if you’re a SACE business model or not. What I mean by this is, is that all of marketing today is demand generation. And what I don’t buy into and what I don’t advise the startup founders I work with to do is to carve out a vertical, a team, a function that is here. I’ve got a manager, I have these people and they wake up every day and they do my demand gen now with the B to be buying journey becoming so fragmented demand generation is it gets woven through everything marketing does, it gets woven through the full buyer’s journey. No process is OK. Demand generation did their job. They produced this number of manuals. We’ve modeled that this number of MQL’s a thousand calls a month is going to allow us to meet our number. Therefore, marketing is meeting its KPIs. Hey, yay for marketing two bad sales can’t close anything. And I see way too many organizations that are structured this way, you know, sometimes it can even be flipped, right? Sometimes it can be, hey, you know, boy, you know, sales is making it happen, but marketing is not performing on their employees. The fact is, is that all of marketing and sales is needs to be fully aligned and fully integrated, measured largely on the same things. And it should not be the case that marketing can be meeting its KPIs and sales as not everyone rises together and everyone fights the war together if it’s not going in the right direction. And so in terms of demand generation, yes, there are absolutely functional roles. There are the tactics, there are the strategies of, quote, demand generation. But at the end of the day, if you’re selling a, you know, multi high six-figure or seven-figure software license, there’s a very different demand generation process than if it’s a four ninety-nine a month SAS model where you’re basically trying to get somebody to sign up on their corporate credit card, for example. So the tactics of those two different sales processes are different. But at the end of the day, demand generation is you need in the one model you need a buying committee to somebody to sign off on a seven-figure or a high six-figure annual software license. On the other one, you need probably an individual person to pull out their corporate credit card and be willing to justify to their boss why they’re spending two hundred bucks a month or whatever that is. But so demand generation, the tactics are different, but it’s demand generation. I need a buyer to take action.
[00:22:50.430] – Jeff Emerine
Interesting, we’ve seen entrepreneurs that have had some degree of success and really understanding B2C customer acquisition and how that works, and then they think, well, I’m going to go sell something to the enterprise, which at times can be a highly consultative sales process. And they assume that all the math that they understood in the algorithms and everything are going to apply. And they’re normally sadly disappointed when they realize it doesn’t. There’s still this process where at some point a sales engineer or closer has got to build confidence with that customer to actually close the door. I’d be interested in your thoughts about B2C versus B2B and how those that the the the the art and science of the difference, I guess. Yeah.
[00:23:35.730] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah, it’s super interesting because, you know, B2B, at the end of the day, all marketing is H2H, is what I like to say. So human to human. And a lot of people are talking about this now. So this isn’t some some some big, major new revelation. But I think it does help frame you know, in some ways, a lot of the B2C motions are the tactics are different. And B, to be it’s true. But at the end of the day, I’m still selling to a human. And if that human doesn’t connect with me as another human, even at the most basic relationship level, I’m not going to close the sale. And this is why I am both very bullish on technology really disrupting the sales process. You know, there’s a lot of conversation about AI and how I can, you know, sort of shortcut like the SDR process. And, you know, there’s even some that are kind of insinuating that we’re heading towards a model one day where basically there won’t be salespeople. You know, why do you need salespeople, the buyers just going to the buyers going to discover us and through all of these really cool tools and they’re going to get all the information they need. It’s going to be custom tailored. Maybe even the solution will be custom configured, like, you know, like it’s just going to be all automatic. And I believe that technology absolutely can make us better sellers. It can improve the sales process. But at the end of the day, it’s a human. And as long as there is a human, until there’s literally a machine who’s making that buying decision, as long as there’s a human, there needs to be another human involved in the process. And so when we think about beat B2C and B2B, clearly the way decisions get made is is very different. You know, B2C, it’s me or it’s me and my wife or it’s my wife, you know, and we basically pull out a credit card. We buy something right. Or we make a decision B to it’s far more complex. But at the end of the day, just like, you know, for if I’m thinking about buying a car or buying anything for just me, personally. So like a B2C type transaction, you know, if I don’t connect, you know, with with with the salesperson, if I don’t connect with the company, which usually the salesperson is that representative, I’m probably not going to buy. I’m certainly not going to buy from that store. But it’s the same. And I think there are very on the business side, there are in my observation, there are very, very, very few transactions where the technology or the service is so unique that even if I don’t really like you, I kind of have to buy from you. You know, there are some. But but but that advantage is not going to last long because there will be a competitor. There will be an alternative. And so knowing that to be true, I just have found that you know, this it’s just so important. And this gets back to my earlier comment about understanding the ecosystem and being a good participant in the ecosystem. And that goes to, you know, attending conferences, attending trade shows not to walk around and get leads, but to walk around and build relationships so that when people see me, they automatically have that. Oh, yeah. That’s the guy I heard speak on this panel. Wow. I like him, he’s pretty sharp! We should go talk to him. You know, and it’s through that, that then I’m creating opportunities to then talk about what it is that my company is selling and hopefully can sell to that customer, that potential customer.
[00:27:43.080] – Jeff Emerine
One quick analogy. It’s the very same way in the early-stage investment space, the job. 2012 came along and people assumed equity-based crowdfunding was going to eliminate the need for all those personal relationships with theses and with angels, and it’s just not true because that may have a part to play. But for the most part, investors invest in teams where they’ve been able to build a relationship and get to know the people. There’s an element of trust and understanding there. And it seems like, as you said, it’s almost the same regardless of who you’re selling to or who you’re trying to build that relationship with. It can’t be automated completely. There’s got to be that personal touch.
[00:28:26.590] – Mark Donnigan
Yeah, I’ll make even a further distinction that I have witnessed time and time again to be true, because, again, I have spent most of my B2B selling time and marketing in very technical, highly complex sales so often where there’s integration required. In other words, you know, we’re not selling black boxes. There’s always it’s a very, very technical sale. And the idea it’s easy to think, oh, well, you know, of course, all this applies if the sales process is a little more business-oriented, you know, and where products can kind of be, you know, you can literally lay out three spec sheets and, you know, you just kind of look at the checkboxes, OK, oh, this one has more checks. OK, we’ll take this one. You know, I have found that the more commoditization that the solution or the product of the technology is, the more possible it is to remove a little bit of this human element we’re talking about. Because at the end of the day, everybody is probably pretty well known. You can look at the spec sheets, you can tick the boxes, say, hey, this one in this price is 10 percent less and OK, we’ll go here. The more technical, the more you need this human element because there’s that much more need to sit down for engineering, to work with engineering, for trust to be built because your solution probably isn’t one hundred percent what the customer needs or wants. And so, therefore, if they don’t believe you as humans, you know that that you will work with them, that you can be trustworthy, that you’re going to deliver, then they’re not going to buy your solution. And so the distinction that I think is also very important for an early-stage founder is that the more technical your solution, actually, the more you need to invest in the human element. And that could be maybe slightly counterintuitive because you could think, well, you know, we’re talking just all bits and bytes and in technologies. So at the end of the day, that’s all they care about. Actually not it’s more to it.
[00:30:46.560] – Jeff Emerine
Matthew, pick it up here, buddy.
[00:30:48.450] – Matthew Ward
Yeah, so to land the plane here and that we’d like to ask all of our guests is if you knew back then when you’re starting your career, what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?
[00:31:00.960] – Mark Donnigan
Oh, well, that’s a great question. I probably would have been even more aggressive than I was. I told the story. I started out as just a start as a retail salesperson, you know, in college and then, you know, managing a retail store and then, you know, so I would be even more aggressive. I would have been even more aggressive in learning the whole business and not just being so kind of preoccupied with, like, hey, I’m just here to sell, you know, hey, I’m just here to lead a sales team, you know, make sure we make our number, you know, but really understanding this whole concept of the ecosystem and how how how the business functions, you know, and this requires in some industries and now today this is easier to do than when I started my career because pretty much all of this is available on the Internet. And, you know, there’s just so many resources to go if you have the inclination to go learn this. But the advice I would give my earlier self is to learn the whole business, the entire business, and to really understand it. That’s great. Where are some areas that our listeners could find you? Hey, so my website is Growth Stage DOT Marketings. So it’s a dot marketing domain. So growth stage dot marketing. I’m on LinkedIn, of course. I’m very, very active on LinkedIn. And unfortunately, my last name is fairly unique, so I’m not hard to find. So Mark Donnigan, just search me on LinkedIn and just shoot me a little note. I get a lot of requests, so just make a little note that, hey, you know, you heard me on the Startup Junkie’s podcast, and then I’ll make sure to accept you. But yeah, I’d love to connect and I’m always available. One of the things that I, I, I really believe in is, you know, you get what you give. And so I’m always happy to talk to you, even if it’s just sort of, hey, you know, we’re thinking of starting a company we just started. We’re not you know, we need some help. We need some insight. I’m always available.
[00:33:21.620] – Jeff Emerine
Mark, thanks so much for coming on. It was great getting to know you a little bit. And you shared some really great insights and some wisdom. And as we talked about, we came on the air. If you ever decide to launch an Irish whiskey or a new dark beer, let us know. We might be able to help.
[00:33:38.960] – Mark Donnigan
There we go. There we go. Well, I’ll definitely keep that in mind, so. Yeah, thanks. Thanks again, guys. It was really great being on the show. Thank you.
[00:33:46.430] – Jeff Emerine
We’re glad to have you. We’ll see you. This has been the Startup Junkies podcast. Thank you for listening. Please read us on iTunes if you enjoyed the show because that definitely helps. And tune in next week for more stories of the startup founders of Today and Tomorrow.
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