Charlie Liang is the Head of Demand Generation at Lattice, where their focus is to drive performance and engagements with their innovative People Management Platform. Charlie is passionate about everything marketing, including innovation, engagement, technology and data.
Charlie joins host Renee Yeager to share his Top 3 Hacks for Scrappy B2B Marketers, including how to do more with less, build for growth and allocate resources wisely.
“Your tools are your second most important asset besides your people,” Charlie says. “Your initial set of tools can make or break your organization, so it’s important to do your due diligence when evaluating platforms. Dig into customer use cases and ask the hard questions.”
Charlie and Renee also discuss how these strategies help marketers align with sales teams, maximize the sales pipeline and delegate tasks as you grow.Read the Transcript
Renee Yeager: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Top 3 for Tech Marketers podcast. I’m your host, Renee Yeager, and today we are going to be talking about marketing hacks.
It seems like all of the marketers I talk to these days are dealing with more projects with tighter delivery timelines and higher expectations. And when you couple that with more meetings than you thought you could fit in a day, and more travel, it’s really truly amazing what we’re able to get done.
But what if you had some shortcuts and better ways of doing things? Today we’re going to be talking about just that. My guest is Charlie Liang. He’s head of demand generation at Lattice, where their focus is to drive performance and engagements with their innovative People Management Platform.
He’s passionate about all things marketing. Including innovation, engagement, technology, and data. And we’re going to be talking with Charlie today about this top three hacks for scrappy B2B marketers. Welcome, Charlie.
Charlie Liang: Thanks for having me on, Renee.
Renee: My pleasure. Before we get started, if this is the first time you’re listening to the podcast, on each episode we talk with today’s most innovative technology marketers and business leaders about a specific topic. And narrow it down to three focus areas that they feel are most interesting or really important.
And today we’re talking with Charlie about his top three hacks for scrappy B2B marketers. And if you’re ready, Charlie, we’ll jump right in.
Charlie: Yeah, let’s do it.
Renee: Okay. Your first strategy for scrappy marketers is to do more with less. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. So let’s talk about specifically what you mean.
Charlie: Yeah, totally. I think you heard before that I think I want to … a lot of people talk about being scrappy. Most of the time it’s shown in a good light, but sometimes it’s … scrappy can have a negative connotation as well.
So I’d like to define what being scrappy means. I looked it up before I jumped on and there’s really two definitions. And they’re completely different.
First definition is scrappy means that it’s consisting of disorganized, untidy, or incomplete parts. The second definition is that of something or someone having an aggressive and determined spirit.
Now, I think we all agree as marketers we probably want to err on the side of the second definition of scrappy, having an aggressive, determined spirit and being resourceful. Versus the first one.
I do want to … I think everything we talk about today is going to go into those three themes. And, Renee, you mentioned that the first point that we should talk about is do more with less.
It’s a broad topic, but overall I think that we should talk about three things that are underneath that as a marketer. I think the first thing that usually I like to offer up is that you want to optimize your marketing to maximize sales pipeline.
And I think that’s a very important part. But the second part of do more with less is that everyone has a hidden talent, and you should leverage team talents to the best of your ability.
And then the third point is, and this’ll only apply in certain contexts, but you don’t pay when you can get it for free. Right? And you might be surprised what you can get for free if you ask.
Now, I do want to elaborate on those three points, if that’s cool, Renee.
Renee: Yeah. Great. Yeah, I would love to hear.
Charlie: Yes. So I think optimize your marketing to maximize sales pipeline, it’s a pretty generic term. But it’s very important. I’ll give a few examples.
At a previous company, we would spend roughly 50% of time and money on events, 30% on digital, 20% on content and [inaudible 00:04:10]. But let’s say that company, the pipeline 50% of the pipeline from marketing was actually driven from digital.
So if you’re looking at this data and you’re wondering if you should spend more on digital, the answer’s probably yes. So those good to measure your marketing mix, and see what’s directly contributing to awareness of a KPI set, your sell team cares about marketing qualified accounts and things like that.
And see if you can shift around some resources to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Renee: What do you think about talking … well, we know it’s so important for marketing and sales to actually have a relationship. But talking with the sales team too about what tactics accelerate the sales cycle. Right?
Because you could do … you mentioned events. The sales cycle for a lead coming out of an event could be say it’s a year. But maybe from your video you were able to close that deal faster.
Do you have any thoughts on that?
Charlie: Yeah, I know. It’s … never forget the constituents that you’re serving. As marketers we want … when the sales team wins, then the marketer wins. Right?
I think you hit on a great point. It’s asking, especially in the context of some businesses with longer sales cycles, I’ve been at businesses where sales cycles are longer than 18 months. It’s not just how you get to the first meeting. It’s what you do from first meeting to close.
And also how to accelerate the tactics that have … that people [inaudible 00:05:50] to be successful getting to the close.
Now, you might get to a small sample size and you definitely want to ask more than one top performing sales rep. But I think when you ask five or ten of them, I think you get a good sample of what’s working. And you should definitely do more of that.
Renee: Yeah. I absolutely love this next one you said, about everyone having a hidden talent. I don’t think enough of us do that well.
Charlie: Definitely. Sometimes it’s just good to go around the horn. You spend so much time with your coworkers at work sometimes all you talk about is work just because there’s a lot to talk about.
But sometimes … everyone has hobbies, everyone has previous things that they did before they got to your company. And a lot of times those previous experiences and talents go very far and can contribute.
For example, one of my former colleagues was a wedding planner. And she … before she became a colleague of mine. And she would make these amazing invitations, because that’s what she did for a living.
It turns out the same skillsets that crushed the wedding invitation also applied to direct mail campaigns. So she was able to really fine tune our direct mail campaigns and really make the best impression there.
So you never know where the hidden talents are going to come out and play.
Renee: Yeah. That’s so great. I love that. And this last one about don’t pay when you can do it for free, I would just love for you to talk about that and pick your brain around what you found that’s free and really really effective.
Charlie: Yeah. I’ll do an example. I think the primary example I had in mind when I put this down was that there’s always things that you can do, pay to play for example, content creation. Let’s say a co-marketing webinar with a third party costs you $20,000. And it’ll get you 500 qualified prospects.
Now, you could do the same thing with a partner. You’d have to do a little bit more legwork in terms of the production. You’d have to go pitch that partner to get them on board and come up with a compelling story to tell. But you could also pay zero dollars for that same result. Right?
So really [inaudible 00:08:30] especially in the early days, if your marketing budget is just a couple of million or even smaller than that. You really have to make the most out of your … because $20,000, that’s a sizable chunk to anybody, but especially in the early days. You can’t just throw that around.
So I think especially when it comes to the content, especially when it comes to the events, events is another one where the bill can really rack up to be pretty big. But if you bring in partners, if you have a group of people that you can … companies that you can do events with, that really brings the cost down.
Because now everyone’s pitching in, everyone’s helping promote, and you really create a nice little ecosystem.
Renee: I really love that. And I love sharing not only the budget but the burden too. It kind of frees your team up if you have some other people working on it as well. And everybody benefits in the end.
Renee: All right. Let’s go to your second hack, around building for growth.
When you’re talking about building, are you talking about infrastructure? Are you talking about resources? All of that? Tell me what you’re talking about there.
Charlie: Yeah. Building for growth is important because every company aims to grow. And I think the … there’s three really important things there.
The first thing is core infrastructure. And what I mean by that is some of your tool sets. I’ll go into that in a little bit of detail in a little bit.
But the second most important thing is that you want to align with sales and nurture the relationship. And the third thing is actually one that many people tend to overlook. And it’s the importance of delegating tasks. Especially as you grow.
You want to figure out what you can offload. And I’ll talk about that more in a little bit. But first let’s talk about designing the core infrastructure.
Your tools are your second most important asset behind your people. People are everyone’s number … every company’s number one asset. But tools are arguably a close second.
Especially as you’re deciding the initial set of tools, like your core tools. Like most marketing teams will be using a CRM, they’ll be using some kind of marketing automation. They’ll be using some kind of advertising platform, maybe a direct mail vendor, maybe an event platform.
This group of tools can make or break your organization. So do your due diligence when evaluating the platforms. You want to talk with people you trust, dig into customer use cases. Ask the really hard questions, like everyone loves to focus on what’s working. But sometimes you also want to know what are some of the drawbacks of this platform.
How does this platform compare to this platform that I’m looking. They’re both saying the same thing upfront, but to do they really do the same thing?
Really do your homework there, because that homework is going to enable you to scale much better, at a later stage in your [inaudible 00:11:54].
Renee: Yeah. You just made me think about here in our office we have switched project management platforms three times. And it was because every previous version wasn’t scaling with our business.
So to your point, being able to think ahead about what you might need in three to five years is a really great thing. It can be hard, but what … so much easier than having to move off of a platform.
Charlie: Totally. And sometimes it’s hard to forecast where you’re going to be. I know you guys are growing very fast over there. So that could be one of the things.
Sometimes it’s hard to account for that. But definitely I think thinking ahead is always the right approach. And also thinking about … talking about three to five years, what do the different tools that you’ll need at that time, I think it’s very important.
So I think the second one that I wanted to talk about is the alignment with sales and how to nurture their relationship. Right? Sales and marketing alignment is probably one of the topics that’s been around for as long as sales and marketing have been around.
Much has been made of its importance, but little progress, I feel, has been made. It’s easier said than done.
But I think what’s important is especially if you’re a small startup, whether you’re a small startup or a grown up enterprise, it’s important to start off the relationship healthy. And that can be just organically or it can be when there’s a change in leadership. This is a great opportunity to rebuild a relationship, or build it from scratch.
As your business grows, it’s going to … marketing and sales are inevitably going to encounter some bumpy spots. That’s to be expected. But I think one way to mitigate the impact of when those bumpy times come is that you have a strong foundation.
And a strong foundation, what I mean by that, is good KPIs that is able to fairly give credit to both organizations. Sometimes marketing people care more about the KPIs, especially the top of the funnel KPIs. So naturally we’re going to give ourselves more credit.
But if you accurately reflect in your KPIs both marketing and sales contribution to the pipeline, I think you’ll not only gain salesman’s respect, but just overall be better for the business. Because it’s a more accurate reflection there.
Don’t … try to pick KPIs that are not finger-pointing but really can help you isolate any issues in your business and help you take action on them.
Renee: Yeah. Oh, go ahead. Sorry.
Charlie: I was just going to add that it’s good to co-own the metrics, as many as you can. Because that was you can hold each other accountable. And it’s not a kind of one org band.
You can both own the metrics together and you can have success and fail together.
Renee: I think that’s the key. I mean there’s always been this contentious relationship between the two. And big as it gets down to, when things aren’t working, who’s pointing the finger at whom? Right?
But if we can work as a team, and own those metrics together, we’ll have much better success. And a much better relationship too.
Charlie: Yeah, exactly. I think the relationship is key. If you succeed together, and everyone’s giving high fives when sales rings the gong and when they do their write-ups, when they close a deal that they mention marketing, it does go both ways.
I think you really want to foster that relationship. And when the team wins, the company wins.
Renee: Yeah, absolutely.
Charlie: Cool. So the next thing that’s important in building for growth is delegation. And, Renee, I’m going to throw this one back to you actually. I know this was unorthodox, but when did you decide to delegate and what’s your approach on that?
Renee: My approach on that is when I have become the bottleneck, I delegate. But I always look to delegate so that I can grow as a leader in my organization too. And give other people opportunity to lead as well.
So what am I doing today that either I shouldn’t be doing because I should be focused on other things, or this would be a great opportunity for someone to expand their expertise and move into a leadership role. Or the last one is I’m the bottleneck now. I’m not really able to effectively do this and I need to move it out of my wheelhouse to somebody else.
Charlie: I love that. I love that. I think … I don’t remember where I read this, but I read somewhere that you always want to give the project to someone who’s the most passionate about it. And if you’re not the most passionate about a project, doesn’t mean you can shirk responsibility, but it probably makes more sense for someone else to do it. Right?
And I love what you said around the bottleneck. I have kind of a similar approach. If I’m looking at a project or a task, I always ask myself can this be done at least 80% as well by someone else. If so, then I always try to delegate.
I say at least 80%, sometimes it can be 200% better by someone else, versus myself. So I think 80% is the minium there.
And it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do anything, that you can go and drink beers. It just means that you get to work on other things that are also valuable to the business.
Renee: Yeah. You’ve become more of the guide. And you let someone else actually have a learning opportunity. It’s so huge. We need to create those in our company.
Charlie: Totally agree.
Renee: Awesome. I love all that. So great. And that all of those strategies will help set you up nicely as you grow, aligning back to your initial hack of build for growth.
So let’s talk about the last one. The last one is allocating resources wisely. And I think this is so critical. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about this.
Charlie: Great. Resource allocation is a very important, obviously, exercise that a company does. Like at Engagio, we … we’re an accounts based marketing and sales platform, so we have this unique challenge of balancing … well, I wouldn’t call it unique.
We have … we’re extra focused on the challenges balancing our inbound effort with our outbound effort. Right? And we’re a smaller company. We’re a three person marketing team, we’re 40 people overall.
So we do need to find the right balance, because we don’t have that many resources. And so right now our inbound versus outbound is approximately 60-40, 60% inbound and 40% outbound. But as we grow as a company, the inbound’s going to be harder to scale. And so we’ll definitely shift more resources to the outbound.
So the three, I think, main takeaways on the allocating resources widely, for me, is that one, it’s important to work backwards from the goal. Two, it’s important to measure your work whenever possible because it helps with the resource allocation. And three, sometimes we don’t have data so it’s important to trust your gut as well.
I do want to talk more about each one of them, so let’s start with the first one. The first one is working backwards from the goal. Resources are going to be scarce. They’re scarce whether you’re a 40 person company or a 4000 person company.
So we just did [inaudible 00:20:22] at Engagio. So we have three levels of OKRs. Basically an OKR is objective key result. I think it was pioneered by Google and it worked pretty well there.
Your job performance is technically not directly correlated with OKRs. And the key about holding OKRs is that you want to get it to around 70% of team ability. So you should be [crosstalk 00:20:47] roughly two out of every three OKRs.
Renee: I have never heard that term before.
Charlie: Oh really?
Charlie: I think it’s still kind of a pretty early stage concept. But there’s a growing amount of tech companies adopting it, and I think we’re piloting it as well, seeing how it works.
Renee: Yeah. That’s great. Okay. Go ahead.
Charlie: But yeah. The other thing is that with OKR, normally you choose probably three to five OKRs with three to five team objectives.
So your overall objectives can be qualitative or quantitative. Like one of your objectives might be get more awareness at the top of the funnel. But then you have three to five things underneath that to … that are quantifiable, that help you … that contribute to getting that umbrella objective.
So one of your key results can be send The Clear, Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing, which is written by John Miller, to a thousand people this quarter. A thousand qualified contacts.
Another one can be put out a new series of retargeting ads. Another one can be send out direct mail packages or campaigns to 300 key stakeholders at your target accounts. Those are examples of key results under the OKRs.
But my point on that is because you have three different levels, you have company objectives … you have company OKRs, you have team OKRs, and individual OKRs. The goal should always be the company, because you’re working for the company, the company should come first. Right?
So with each resource decision, you want to understand if … and ask yourself if it contributes to the greater cause. So you never want to lose sight of the overall company objectives, because ultimately just with your alignment with sales, when the company wins then you win.
So work backwards from the goal.
Renee: That’s great. You’re aligning all the OKRs so they roll up basically. So every activity at the individual level, kind of like a KPI, but every individual activity at the individual level should be contributing to the higher goal.
Charlie: Exactly. Yeah. And then I think that’s a good segue into the second one under allocating resources wisely, which is measure your work whenever possible.
Measuring your work helps you do three things. It helps you finding out what’s working. It helps you do more of that, because once you know it’s working you probably want to do more of that. And then you want to hold your org accountable for everything that it’s doing.
So there’s one important thing. Make sure you have a good way of measuring. Because if you don’t have good data, it’s almost worse than having no data. Because now you’re making decisions off of bad data.
So I actually once heard of an organization where they’re doing their quarterly exercise and they’re going through spreadsheets and someone burned the midnight oil and actually shifted a row in the Excel spreadsheet. And now for one quarter they gave no budget to their best marketing channel because one row was shifted.
Renee: Oh my gosh.
Charlie: Make sure you measure, but also that the data is trustworthy.
Renee: Wow. I feel bad for that person.
Charlie: Well, you know, it happens from time to time when everyone’s taking a look at it. It’s not just isolated to one person. [crosstalk 00:24:42].
So the third thing is kind of contrary to the measuring work. Sometimes you just don’t have information to go off of. Like at Engagio, we actually guinea pig a lot of things. We’re account based everything company, so we’re at the cutting edge.
So a lot of the times we’re pioneering and trailblazing. So we don’t know what works or what doesn’t. Never be afraid of trusting your gut.
I was looking each way, at the talk of Shawn Ellis who’s the CEO of [inaudible 00:25:19], a few months back. And he mentioned this awesome idea that I’m still trying to get our company internally to do.
Basically the company would give … everyone at the company would submit ideas, and the marketing team would test three ideas from a pool that the company submitted, each week. And then they would iterate pretty quickly because pretty soon you have a lot of ideas.
But they would test three a week. And then if it stuck, then they would continue doing it. And if it didn’t stuck, if it didn’t stick, they would do some other tactics.
I [inaudible 00:26:02] that and a group mentality, multiple cuts are better than one. And then you also want to understand who’s ideas are working and give them more benefit of the doubt.
Renee: So great to bring perspective from across the organization right? Because you might have folks that are talking to your customers and they’re getting really unique perspective direct from the customers.
And then you may have people that are more on the marketing or research side, and they’re seeing trends coming that you need to keep in mind. So I absolutely love that, of bringing in ideas from all over the business.
And then testing them like that is just excellent. And really giving it a go, because too often everybody brings ideas and nothing happens with them. So it’s just … and that’s really motivating for the employees too.
Charlie: I think you hit on a great point. It’s … actually one of the people that you work with, I think, at Gentry, told me this. He would always say ideas are cheap, execution is everything. And I could not agree more with that.
It’s all about how you execute. Because you can have the best idea in the world but if you don’t do anything, then it’s still just an idea.
Renee: Yeah. Or even understanding how you’re going to execute it. Because you wouldn’t even bring that idea if you didn’t feel you could effectively execute it. And I don’t think people think it through enough sometimes.
Charlie: Yep, I totally agree.
Renee: That’s awesome. I love that.
So let me ask you this. What are your thoughts on how to know when to invest in something new, like a trend, or to hold back?
Charlie: You know, this is interesting. I actually spend a lot of time on LinkedIn asking these kinds of questions. I’m actually going to defer to I asked this very question a couple days ago on LinkedIn. I’m literally pulling up my LinkedIn right now and I’ll give you the answers.
Renee: Did you really? Oh my god.
Charlie: I really did.
Renee: That’s amazing.
Charlie: Mine was more around sales development and when to test methodology. But I got some really really good answers on it, and I do want to read out some of them. I tend to agree with most of them.
So a lot of people do … I’m just going to paraphrase. A lot of people do research on LinkedIn. They also talk to their peers and other marketers and STR leaders on what they’re excited about and demoing. And they trade ideas back and forth.
One person said that they reserve 20% of their time and effort into testing new ideas and seeing what sticks. And also that same person said that early adopters are usually open to sharing ideas and tactics because they know executing is the hardest part. I couldn’t agree more with that.
Renee: Yeah. Wow, that’s great.
Charlie: Yeah. And then there’s another person said that process is very important when you’re testing, because you could … I think it’s the same concept as we just talked about. Look at the content people are putting out and talk with your peers and go on community forums where this kind of stuff is being discussed.
Make sure you test your own tools and processes as well, because sometimes it’s you just trust yourself more than other people testing it. Because you might have a different methodology. And continue the conversation and really do your research.
But I always like to personally hear at Engagio, I always like to test at least one tool, or at least take one demo, every single week. Because marketing and sales people, there’s so much tech out there and I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to make our team here, both our marketing and sales team, more effective.
Renee: Yeah. I mean with all the resources available to us now and being able to bounce ideas off of people and get feedback and do that research fairly easily, I think it’s pretty … you can make some pretty safe choices in terms of what you’re going to try. Right?
And I loved your 80/20. We counsel our clients that way too. As marketers, we should have an explorer mentality always. We should be looking at the next big thing. What can we do? What can we do to increase our effectiveness?
And to do that, we need to try. Right? And it needs to be okay. To fail. But if we can take calculated risks, we’re much better off and it’s easier to do that today.
Charlie: Exactly. Exactly. And there’s a much ado about the shiny object syndrome. And it’s not to say that you go out and test everything.
But check [inaudible 00:31:27]. If two or three of your peers are talking about it and they’re excited about it, then it’s worthwhile to test. But don’t go and test everything and every acronym that vendors will try and throw at you.
Charlie: And I’m saying that as a marketing vendor.
Renee: That’s great. I always ask a bonus question on these interviews. And my bonus question for you is what is your favorite tech marketing trend right now?
Charlie: Yeah. That’s a great question. About a year ago, I gave a presentation at Marketo’s summit, their annual conference, about account based everything and what is [inaudible 00:32:13] and how you get to account based everything [inaudible 00:32:18].
And in doing so, I realized that account based marketing is more than just marketing. Like marketing’s only half the equation. It’s probably less than half the equation. You really have to work with your sales team and your sales development team to titrate the accounts.
Especially when you have longer sales cycles. Especially when you have … I think the average people involved in the deal is 6.8. there’s some studies that came out that said that.
And you can’t … it’s no longer just one SDR pings one person and just trying to bang down the door in [inaudible 00:32:57], him or her, 15 times. That type of approach is going by the wayside.
You really have to take a holistic approach and understand who’s talking and really be calculated in your communications. I really think the number one trend for sales and marketing right now is account based everything.
And that involves marketing working together with sales development and sales to land and expand the accounts that matter the most to the organization.
Renee: I couldn’t agree with you more. And having those custom, and custom is probably not a great word to use, but having those very relevant messages to what we call that circle of influence. The people who may not be that decision maker, but they’re having a say in whether you get the sale or not.
And speaking their language about what’s important to them, it’s just so critical. And it’s not easy to do. But the way people are … the customers are buying today it’s critical that it happen.
So I think that’s just excellent.
Charlie: No, I think … and one more thing I think in a strategic kind of messaging is people … the bar for prospecting and for content is getting higher and higher.
So companies are expecting you to already have the data. They expect you to already, from that first meeting, they already expect you to understand their problem. So I think it’s very important to come to that meeting prepared and have the content and really understand their pain points right off the bat so you can make the best usage of that time.
If you do that, that’s really going to help you get ahead of the curve and position yourself better. Put yourself in a better position than your competitors, or other people that might be pitching them.
Renee: Yeah. I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were talking about it used to be that sales was really the holder of information. So to learn about a product you would have to talk to a salesperson.
And now that’s just so far gone. Your customer is often more educated, sad to say, but sometimes more educated than your salespeople, in certain ways, about what they’re looking for the product to do.
So changing up that whole sales process and role of sales to be more consultative and more about creating confidence with the customer is so so important. It’s really really fascinating how it’s all changing.
Charlie: Right. And it speaks to the power of the content that you put out, and the influence. Arguably this is [inaudible 00:35:36] influence in your sales cycle as the sales rep himself or herself.
Renee: Yeah. Yeah. Well that’s good.
Well, Charlie, this is such a great conversation and I just want to thank you for being on and sharing your fantastic insights and hacks with our listeners. And I’m sure they’ve gotten a ton of value out of what you shared with us today. So thanks.
Charlie: Yeah, thanks for having me on. And I just logged on to your website and I love that video that you have in the background. The big idea you mention is joy and you have this awesome confetti everywhere. I really like it. I think we’re going to have to talk after this to see how we can do that.
Renee: That’s our team. And we had a blast doing that video. And we wanted to convey the notion of as technology marketers it’s hard for us sometimes to think about bringing joy to customers. But that is what people are looking for. They’re dying for it.
So if you can point out those moments of joy in your product, or the experience in working with you, how much of a differentiator that can be. So thank you so much for the feedback. I love it.
Charlie: I think it’s great. It looks like you guys are having a lot of fun doing marketing over there.
Renee: We are, we are. Who doesn’t love marketing, though? Come on.
Renee: Well, if any of our listeners have a question about discussion today, you can ask a question on YeagerMarketing.com and we’ll make sure that Charlie gets it. And we’ll also include some information about how you can connect with Charlie in the show notes.
Thanks, Charlie. And thanks everyone for listening.
Charlie: Thank you so much for having me on, Renee, and Yeager.
Renee: Thanks, Charlie.