How a data center company mastered the science of B2B marketing
Marketing scientists are increasingly the norm in B2B. These individuals know how to stand up a demand generation engine, one that can drive leads into a nurture stream and track them through the sales pipeline. The reward is what many in the industry call “net new logos.” Contribute enough of these new customers at a reasonable acquisition cost and you are a company hero.
One such individual is Joshua Leatherman, the CMO of Service Express, a company that maintains data centers. When Leatherman arrived 8 years ago, it was a traditional sales-driven organization with a limited marketing infrastructure. Today, marketing contributes 70 percent of the new logo pipeline—about as good as it gets. Letterman attributes success to a disciplined process, responsive sales teams and a revenue operations unit that sits between sales and marketing, providing a neutral source of actionable data.
What came first in building Service Express’s demand gen machine?
The top priority was, first and foremost, getting a website that was optimized for form fills and lead conversion, which we did not have at the time. Second, it was getting a CRM that worked for us. We had a homegrown system at the time, and it was an electronic rolodex for our salespeople. If you truly want marketing and other teams to be on the field helping the sales team, you really need a system that integrates well with martech, other sales technologies and one where sales and marketing can mutually contribute to the buyer's journey.
How did you start to drive leads to the website?
Our primary competition is the original equipment manufacturers, the big guys, and there's very little awareness that there is a company like Service Express or a category of companies out there that do what we do. If you took North America and put all the third-party maintenance providers together, we would we would be less than 7 percent of the total addressable market. The first thing I wanted to do was work with the team to build valuable content that we could share and educate our buyers with. We didn't want to just spam them with e-mail, so we built content and then we leveraged our marketing automation system at that time to create a strong outbound marketing program that got the content out there.
What do your teams look like?
We had a top-of-funnel problem and knew if we invested a little bit in demand marketing, we could front-load the top of the funnel and help the sales team out since they were having a difficult time following up on the leads we gave them. They weren’t sure which ones were good or bad. After learning that our prospects are 800 percent more likely to pick up the phone if we call them within five minutes of the lead coming through, we created a sales development team to field those inbound leads and a revenue operations team, which is sales ops and marketing ops rolled into one.
How do you manage your tech stack?
We have a very robust technology stack. CMOs are spending more money on technology than anyone else in the organization but, too often, marketing teams are responsible for the deployment, implementation and integration of those systems when they shouldn’t be. So, we have a dedicated rev ops team that is, as I like to call it, Switzerland. When sales and marketing are fighting in a healthy way about the quality of leads or a process, the revenue operations team objectively looks at the systems and the data. They have a dotted line of responsibility to me and to our chief revenue officer.
How do you choose your technology?
One of the most important functions of our rev ops team is the idea of this solutions architect. We try it before we buy it. Once we articulate the need that we have, they are responsible for going out and finding the best solution for sales and marketing. We've got a robust tech stack of probably 20 or so technologies—sales enablement tools, cadence software, pipeline management and deal management tools. Technology is only as good as the quality of data that you are using behind it, so our revenue operations team also focuses on qualifying that data so that our sales development, sales teams and marketing teams don't have to.
What are some of your key metrics?
When we started, the metric for success for us was number of meetings scheduled. How you measure people is how they're going to drive performance and fill their days. That was a great place for us to start but we had to move the ball because we found that we had great people who ended up scheduling lots of meetings with unqualified people. We had to start looking at how much qualified pipeline those meetings were driving to the sales team instead.
There are two different ways we use numbers. There's the way we look at numbers to drive our business and to execute on strategy, and then there's the way we use numbers to report up to investors and the executive team. A lead from one channel is going to be very different than a lead from another channel, so we have to simplify it for our audience and understand and recognize that we have multiple audiences that we're speaking to.
How to you simplify messaging for investors?
At the end of the day, I want to be able to articulate to my investors that, if they give me $1, how many dollars in pipeline am I going to be able to give back to them. How many dollars in monthly recurring revenue am I going to be able to give back to them? We know our lifetime value, we know how long we keep customers, and we're able to understand how we can say to investors, if you give me a dollar, I'll give you this back in pipeline.
How did you get marketing to contribute 70 percent new logo pipeline?
I attribute all of that to the alignment we have with demand marketing, the follow-up we get with sales development and the checks and balances we have with our field sales and inside sales teams. Every single prospect or customer in our CRM has a systematic way that they progress. No one can progress through and get lost in a black hole and that's so important because, in a silo, marketing hands off to sales and somebody gets lost in that funnel. Our rev ops team ensures that every account, every prospect, has an owner. It starts in marketing, goes through sales development, goes through to our sales team. Sometimes we win them, sometimes we recycle them and send them back to somebody else, but there is always an owner and a next step in that sales funnel.