New year, new opportunities! In today’s complex and dynamic business environment, marketing will continue to go through a massive shift in 2022. What’s in store for us marketers? We can’t do better than asking two marketing leaders who are at the forefront of innovation in driving product growth and demand. Get their tips on achieving higher ROI and accelerating adoption.
Let’s meet our experts
Chief Marketing Officer at Solo.io
VP Marketing at Kasten by Veeam
Q1. What do marketers in the tech industry need to prioritize in order to deliver predictable pipeline growth with customer acquisition? Retention and customer experience are all important in the mix.
Before you start to prioritize, you need to understand your bookings strategy. How much of your pipeline is coming from new customers? How much from existing customers? Is marketing going to focus on new customer acquisition and sales on account expansion and if so, what support does sales need from marketing for account expansion?
Assuming marketing is going to focus on new customer logos, the next step is understanding the phases or stages that prospects go through from unaware to SQL (sales qualified lead) is important as well as what defines a SQL.
So what do you need to prioritize, the actions that drive the most SQLs with the least amount of time and effort? Since the vast majority of SQLs get to this state via multiple activities and engagements, figuring out the most efficient path is always challenging.
If you want to deliver a predictable sales and marketing pipeline, you need to understand your market extremely well: Who are your target personas and how will they be using your product? What are the challenges they are trying to solve for each particular use case? What are the benefits and value you are bringing to the table, and how will you enrich your customers’ lives or make their lives easier?
If you know why you are selling your product to someone, and how that product will meet their needs, everything else falls into place. That knowledge will guide product development and positioning, help you hone your marketing efforts to reach the right people at the right time with the right messages, and make it much easier to convert leads to sales.
Q2. How do you see lead generation vs demand generation? In your opinion, is the traditional MQL (marketing funnel) dead?
It all depends on how you define the funnel and the MQL. At Solo.io, the marketing model is to drive awareness and engagement with prospects and at some point identify the best prospects for sales to connect with. If we call these prospects MQLs, the goal is to have a mix of people of both inbound (prospect requests meeting, demo, pricing, etc) and outbound (rep should attempt to contact because of the activities the prospect has engaged in).
The other aspect we are looking at is the environment for each prospect. Do they have the right skills, experience, and pain points that we consistently see with our customers? This isn’t the traditional BANT qualification, but more of an environment rating that correlates to closed-won deals.
In summary, it definitely isn’t a funnel that prospects dutifully march down or fall out, but rather a process of maturity that can take days or months to even years depending on each individual person.
Demand generation equals lead generation plus nurturing. When you drive demand among people that are not in your database, that is lead generation – you are generating interest to convert prospects into marketing qualified leads or MQLs. Once the leads are in your database, you begin to nurture them to drive demand for your product or service. Lead generation plus nurturing is the traditional framework for the marketing funnel.
There are a few elements of traditional marketing that won’t go away. One of them is the marketing mix. The marketing mix is as old as marketing is. And that means that everything you do in marketing is connected. No matter how much we evolve our methods by leveraging technology innovations and new channels, having a strong marketing mix will remain a key element of a successful marketing strategy.
The same thing goes for the funnel concept – it is never going away. To be visible within your market, you have to win the hearts and minds of your target audience – including people who know nothing about you – get them into your database, and nurture them until they are ready to buy. The funnel concept is simply a visual representation of that process. What is changing is that marketers now have at their disposal an array of new technologies that help to make that process more direct, calculated, and effective. For example, lead scoring wasn’t really implemented 20 years ago when I first started in marketing, and now it is widely used to help marketing and sales teams prioritize and focus their efforts as leads move through the funnel.
Q3. Why do you find it important to offer hands-on product experience to help your prospects and customers to see your product in action?
In today’s selling environment, lots of hyperbole is used to describe the benefits and features of a product. But the way these features are implemented can vary dramatically. Many buyers today don’t want to read about a product or technology or just get a demo, they want to experience it for themselves. They even become suspicious if you can’t provide this hands-on experience because they feel you may be hiding particular attributes about how your product is implemented.
First of all, the market has evolved with the visibility of freeware and the increasing popularity of open source. People are not buying anything that they haven’t already tried out. Years ago, the Proof of Concept (PoC) was the only way prospective buyers could get their hands on a product before buying it, and it was a costly, time-consuming process, especially when it involved hardware.
To do a PoC at all was a risk – you had to know that there was a high potential for the customer to buy. Today, it is easy to provide a free trial and allow people to test drive your technology, which provides much greater scalability.
The more people you can try out your technology, the more potential sales. It is also an opportunity to collect more feedback from users and leverage their input to refine your product. Getting feedback from your first couple of dozen paying customers is going to be good and valuable. But imagine getting feedback from hundreds if not 1,000s of free users early in your journey – you can improve your product rapidly.
Another point is that in the era of social media, you have an opportunity to grow organically at record speed, as people share their experiences with your product and become advocates. As a marketer, it is your responsibility to ensure users are free to promote your product and create a good relationship with them by building trust and credibility. It is also important to understand that you are not losing anything by allowing people to try your product for free. For example, say you offer 10 trials for free, and it costs you $10,000. Later, five of them become customers who each spend $50,000 as they scale over time. That is a huge ROI.
Q4. What’s your view on product-led growth?
Product-led Growth is very important to our sales and marketing model. We have many initiatives in this area including increased access to online labs so people can experience our product without installing and configuring it in their own environments as well as building educational classes and certifications.
Product-led growth is an important strategy for Kasten, which is why we are investing in our community team by adding key roles that will help us expand our open source initiatives. One of the roles we are adding is a Developer Relations Specialist, who will be responsible for working with both paying and non-paying users to collect feedback and understand how the product needs to evolve. This information will help shape the product roadmap. As we incorporate their feedback into our product development lifecycle, we can more accurately meet users’ needs and deliver a product that solves all their pain points. That is really the definition of product-led growth.
Q5. Why do you find a platform like Instruqt relevant to marketing to engineers and developers?
Developers and engineers are often the most cynical audience when it comes to marketing and adopting new technologies. They rely heavily on endorsements from people they trust or personal hands-on experience. Depending on what you are selling, providing a hands-on experience to a developer can be quite hard because of the environment your product needs to run in and the supporting systems and integrations required. With Instruqt, you can quickly provision the required environment and give a prospect a tailored experience. The prospect is hands-on with your product without having to spend significant effort to install and configure your product.
At KubeCon in May this year, we generated a lot of leads: folks with an interest in Kubernetes and our Kubernetes backup product. We also had many interesting conversations with people over Zoom and we learned that many people are in the learning phase when it comes to using Kubernetes. But a lot of those folks don’t have access to Kubernetes clusters, so they would either have to make a significant investment by building their own home lab, or get their company to sponsor an environment for them in AWS or Azure.
As we saw a lot of people try our product in an instructor-led lab, rather than build their own cluster, the idea grew to develop a full-blown Kubernetes learning platform, using Instruqt. Our users get hands-on experience with Kubernetes – installing and building apps in the platform – and backing up those applications with our technology. Not only are they learning about our product, but they have access to a library of learning materials for everything Kubernetes.
In the future, we plan to use Instruqt to prepare people to become Kubernetes-certified through the official Kubernetes certification program. We also plan to enrich our labs with third-party technologies through our partnership program. What we are doing with Instruqt helps us get on the radar with people in our target audience. Even if they are not at the point where they need a backup and recovery solution for Kubernetes, when they are ready, they will already be familiar with our brand and our product. The model is in perfect alignment with our goal to provide value to the Kubernetes community, and at the same time, help us drive interest in Kasten K10.
The virtual labs make this initiative unique: learning.kasten.io is not another YouTube channel, not another blog. It is the most comprehensive Kubernetes learning platform that provides real hands-on labs on top of the more traditional assets.
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