THE SALES DEVELOPMENT PODCAST

The Sales Development Podcast CMOs in Saas Episode 2 Mark Kilens

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Don’t make this one an after thought! Event-Marketing is a new infection idea that is growing new business! Mark Kilens brings his experience from Drift and now Airmeet on how to use the full potential of Event-led-growth right to your doorstep.

What does Event-Led-Growth encompass?

How do we use of Event-Led-Growth in combination with your team?

How do you build structures that AREN’T ambiguous and confusing?!

In-person, post-pandemic, hybrid live & online-events & co-sponsorship events can be tapped into while acquiring new leads, deepening engagement, and relationship building. Ultimately Event-Led-Marketing leads to new revenue.

Event-Led-Growth is:

  • A strategic imperative
  • Going-to & growing-new market places
  • Focusing on product-led growth
  • Data and high-interaction moments with new leads & relationships
  • Maximizing beyond sales-led growth

Event-Led Growth is not just a tactic, but a long term strategy. There is zero doubt you will walk away from this episode having a new perspective on event-marketing and be combining it within your current strategy.

Leave a rating if you enjoy and tell a friend to tune in!

 

Transcript

David Dulany: Hello, hello, hello, everybody. Welcome to another edition of the Sales Development Podcast. I’m David Dulany, your host, and I’m joined today by Mark Kilens, CMO of Airmeet. Go, Airmeet! Yeah. What’s up, Mark?

Mark Kilens: Thanks, David. Man, great to be here. Nice to talk to you again.

David Dulany: Go, Mark! Right? So Mark, we came in contact when you were at Drift, and you’ve assumed the CMO position over at Airmeet. Tell us about yourself. How did you get into that position?

Mark Kilens: Yeah, it’s an interesting story. So, I was at Drift for about three and a half years before I joined Airmeet, just about six months ago now. And we did a lot with events at Drift, both, you know, in-person, pre-pandemic start to bring those back.

After the pandemic, it kind of start to slow down. We did our first in-person event in March 2022. And then we did a lot with online events, both like webinars, the classic, if you will, virtual events, small digital online field events, a lot of co-sponsorship, co-marketing with events.

And like, events were always our top three. It was either number one, number two, number three source of pipeline, every quarter, David, for the company. And the sales team loves them or you know. And I was like, “Hmm, this is interesting.” So then I was approached to maybe join Airmeet to help their marketing, I was like, “Well, I’ve kind of just experienced this for three and a half years, I saw some of that in HubSpot. And this could be something really, really big.”

And my take is I just don’t feel like a lot of businesses might be using events to their fullest potential. We can get more into that, but Airmeet helps businesses, you know, get people to join together, either online or in-person, through hybrid. So yeah, I’m so, so stoked to be at the company now.

David Dulany: A 100%, and what a great opportunity. And, you know, we’re obviously big fan of events, and even we’ve done a blog post with Airmeet on the Wave, the event Wave and how critical it’s been to the growth of Tenbound. So tell us, you know, what is event-led growth in your mind, and how does that work?

Mark Kilens: Yeah, we got to unpack it, right? There’s a lot to it. At the highest level, I’ll say events have traditionally been thought of as a channel or maybe like an offer. Or maybe even worst case, like an afterthought, like, “Heh, we have a big thing coming up. We should do an event for that.” Or like, “Hey, you know, our audience is going to be at this event, maybe we should do something with that event.”

And what I noticed at Drift, and definitely my time at HubSpot, and now, just from a macro standpoint, like, events should be thought of as a strategic imperative that the company needs to use to go to market, right? You have product-led growth, you have like your classic inbound marketing content-led growth, you get the rise of community-led growth.

You know, business these days, and before we get to that, like you have even, you know, really, really like, you know, historical sales-led growth, right? Like, that’s an outbound, right? It’s like traditional outbound sales, right? You know this better than anyone, probably, David. So it’s like you have these kinds of different ways you could grow your business to these kinds of different go-to market motions.

And now, today, a business needs to use a combination of a few of those, at the very least. So what we’re seeing and saying around event-led growth, it’s how do you align marketing sales, customer success in your product team, finance, around the idea of using events as a way to acquire new leads, get deeper into accounts, increase the engagement with your buyers and customers. And grow your advocates through planning out events to build up this wave, this wave of engagement, this wave of relationship building, and at the end of the day, you know, turns into more revenue.

And I think your company is great at this. I will also give a shout out to the OG of event-led growth, David is Salesforce. And we can get more into that, but Salesforce is probably the OG of it.

David Dulany: Yes. Yup, tell me about that. So, and it all makes perfect sense, but I think, do people usually look at events more of a tactic than a strategy? So you sit down, and where do you start when you think about event-led growth?

Mark Kilens: That’s a great question. I mean, I think the kind of short answer is yes. And a lot of people think of events as an art, not as much of a science, and they should be both really. Because events, digital, yes. Even in-person gives you a lot of rich insights and data, and you can do a lot with that.

So, you know, from a tactical standpoint, events happens for some type of reason. But if you think bigger than that, right, every business has at least six-month or 12-month, or maybe even a two or three-year plan, right? And you have a strategic plan. And at the end of day, you’re always trying to reach some sort of audience. It could be multiple types of audiences, but you’re trying to identify this audience, and it starts with the, who?

So when you think about who you’re trying to go after, the buyers, and what types of businesses, and how you’re trying to go after them, you want to think first and foremost, how can events be part of that? Anywhere from a small, intimate, no, AMA Roundtable that is highly invite-only that’s either online or in-person that’s very curated to your mega event.

You need to think about how you actually get people to join together to feel and experience the brand, share a knowledge, connect, meet one another, talk to one another, right, experience things together. And I equate this to saying like, look, if you did content marketing or inbound marketing, and you only did one or two, or three big pieces of content a year, kind of like what the traditional event mindset is, you know, you do maybe one or two big events, three events a year, you do some co-sponsorship of events, your content marketing strategy will not work, David. It just wouldn’t work, right?

Probably for most businesses, you need to be more repeatable, more engaged, you’re engaging your audience through your content on a regular basis, and the same goes for events. So I think it’s really an idea that starts with, who are you going after, where does this audience exist? And how can you use now both in-person and online digital events to engage with people that builds up that relationship?

Like you said, that builds up that wave. And then how do you get better at doing that? And then we can unpack, like all the intricacies and the tactics of that, but it starts with, you know, what’s your revenue targets, to who, and how do you use events to go engage them?

David Dulany: Got it. OK. And so let’s talk about the event. So there’s your events that you’re putting on, and I think of– there’s an article that David Sacks wrote, who’s a VC out here about The Cadence of the company and looking at, like a Salesforce is a great example. So there’s always sort of this rolling cadence of, you know, launching a product and doing your QBRs. And then going in, and it just sort of goes on and on.

I also think about, like, Steve Jobs, you know, that, like unveiling something that’s going to blow your mind, which they still do, right? So if as you’re thinking about this, what kind of events are we talking about?

Mark Kilens: I mean, you make a great point. So let’s take an example of, you have an enterprise buyer. We can use both enterprise, but then like an SMB buyer. But enterprise buyer, and you know that it takes about six months to develop that relationship so that the enterprise buying unit, the buying group becomes a customer of yours.

So what do you do over those six months? Right? Like, great, let’s build an event strategy, right? Let’s think about how do we engage those different buyers and people at those accounts, using a strategy that’s going to get them to really feel like we are the right solution for them?

So I would say, look, you got to do a small event. I would do something online, probably, right? And you might do that more targeted at the champions at those accounts, right? And you educate them, right, through some thought leadership. You bring on a customer, maybe, right?

You do a small invite-only in-person events if it makes sense from a regional standpoint, right, for some of those accounts. And you bring on more the economic buyer into that event, right? And you make it an experience, not an event, you actually do something that wows the person, right? Say, “Whoa, like, this is amazing.” And then yeah, like, of course, there’s a relationship building there. But it’s more about the experience, right?

You might do something that’s maybe a little bit more bigger in nature. Maybe you do an online event that is more thought leadership and, you know, a little customer centric stuff, but like, it’s really about like, “Hey, we’re targeting the champion and the influencers at this account. And we’re teaching them a lot of things about X, Y, Z category,” or around this problem and the solution they could deploy, right?

But again, it’s not so product specific. Then maybe you do, at the end of that, like you have your big closing event, a.k.a. Dreamforce, or inbound, right, or one of these bigger events, that’s the user conference for the summit. And you invite everyone there and you do a mini event within that bigger event, where you bring them out to dinner, and maybe network with some of customer references that you’ve lined up, right?

Like, so you do like three, four, or five different things over the course of that six month sales cycle, and you might even get to the point where you do that based off of verticals or industries, because your business is that sophisticated. But that’s, again, one way to think about event on growth from like a strategic go-to market standpoint versus just saying, “Hey, we need to do an event, and we got to get an audience at this event. And we’re going to just really measure it based off of who shows up and you know, how they maybe participate.”

David Dulany: Right, OK. And so it seems like you’re almost creating a feeling or a relationship with your audience. And so they get sort of a feeling about your brand that you really have their back, you’re trying to help them with this information, you’re putting together these events. And even if they’re not in market right now, they start to feel like they’re part of something.

You know, I think that, I just, looking back on Drift and what you did at Drift. And I definitely remember, I got that sweatshirt and I still have the sweatshirt somewhere. I got the hat and everything, and I was like, I felt, you know, that Drift was supporting my journey here in this, you know, the subject matter that you were putting out.

Mark Kilens: Yeah, I mean, Forrester says 27 interactions now, according to 2021 data. It used to be like 15. It’s even fewer like way back, but like they  have now found that it takes about 27 interactions with a brand, a business before someone becomes a customer.

David Dulany: OK. It’s a lot.

Mark Kilens: Yeah.

David Dulany: And so, do you think about what is that feeling that I want to purv– I don’t know how to say it, like purvey to the customer? Even before there are customers, what’s the feeling, you know, that I want to give them so that they– you’re essentially building up trust with audience, even before they’re ready to buy.

Mark Kilens: Yeah, yeah. So this is kind of interesting point you just made. It’s going to take us down a different kind of rabbit hole, maybe, but like, it kind of goes into my idea, something that we use at Airmeet, we use this at Drift as well, which is altitudes of positioning, altitudes of storytelling.

So let me explain. And so first off, how do you land a plane? You land the plane by going through different levels of altitude, 30,000 feet to 20 to 10, to the ground. If you just tried to go right to the ground quickly, you’d crash. It will not be good.

So same thing applies when you try to land a customer, you’re not going to just say, “Hey, become our customer.” Right? Like, “A week later, like we’re going to close you.” Like, it doesn’t work like that, right, in B2B, at least. It’s very unlikely that’s going to work.

So what you need to do is you need to bring them through these different levels. And what I mean by that is it starts with your brand’s promise, your brand’s belief system, the highest level, right? Like, who are you as a brand?

So for Airmeet, our brand’s promise and tagline is “Joined Together.” We help people join together. And you experience this, you know, in Tenbound all the time. You guys have done a great event recently, you’re doing another event, you know, coming up. You embody event on growth, you embody this idea of joining people together for some purpose.

Then we said, OK, that’s great. That’s our, like, absolute highest kind of value. If we had to sum up the whole business in two things, two words, it’s “Joined Together.” Then you’ll say, “Well, how does, how do you do that, though? How do you actually join people together?” You go a little bit lower down in altitude, event-led growth.

So like, you go, “OK, great. We’ll do an event that talks about joining together in a way, we’ll talk– we’ll do events about event like growth.” That’s our Inventions Series that we do right now online, it’s a series of events. But like, we have event like growth now.

Then you bring someone down to the next level altitude. Maybe that’s when you start to talk about your overall product solution, right, your platform, your suite of products, whatever it might be. Then you bring people down a little bit further. Then it’s like, “Hey, let’s talk about like features and benefits and all these other things.” And they’re getting really tactical and specific to your problem, your specific solution.”

Then you bring them down a little bit further. At the very end, in my opinion, is when you talk about customer proof, customer stories, customer case studies. And that’s how you ultimately land the plane. Because you’re having customers validate that, “Yes, Airmeet does help get my prospects and customers together. They do it in a great way. They helped me impact my bottom line. They helped me grow my business. These products and features are great for you.” “Yes, yes, yes.” Time to land. Close, right, close the deal.

So like, every– during each of those levels of altitude, you could do some type of event if you almost think of it like that.

David Dulany: That’s amazing. And I’m just thinking of the turbulence, but I’ve been in sales for too long. So, but it makes perfect sense, you know. And I think it’s, you know, where accompanies, it could potentially look– look, it’s right at the beginning of what is really the belief system of your company, you know, and how does that relate to people out there that are trying to solve problems?

And it’s really, you know, first of all, do a lot of companies think about that? And the second one is, how do you differentiate when you’re selling a software that could be, you know, there could be five other companies that are exactly the same? And again, I keep bringing it back. I think Drift always did a good idea, a good job of differentiating what is essentially, I don’t even say a commodity, but it’s something that could be replicated. But the brand was very in touch with– it had a point of view. The brand had a point of view and you felt like you belonged it in some way, shape, or form.

Mark Kilens: I mean, you nailed it. You need to have your story, your point of view, your belief system. We go as far as to build out our brand archetype, who is Airmeet? Like, we have that defined on paper.

David Dulany: Wow. OK.

Mark Kilens: You know, it’s almost–

David Dulany: The persona of your brand. Sorry.

Mark Kilens: Yeah, the persona of your brand, 100%.

David Dulany: OK.

Mark Kilens: That’s how you put on great events. And I mean, I’ll tell you, I’ll share with your audience, you know, Airmeet, I don’t normally say this because it’s kind of like, it would be silly to say, but we are the creative hero. We are here acting as his creative hero to help other businesses, help them get their audience together. This all we have “Joined Together.” And help them create amazing experiences through the power of events.

David Dulany: OK. So what you’re saying is this avatar, if you will, this persona of Airmeet is a creative hero who’s going to stand next to you, and help you to join your community together in an online or hybrid, or offline event?

Mark Kilens: That’s right.

David Dulany: Is that right?

Mark Kilens: No, that’s– you just nailed it. I mean, like that’s 100% right. And then from there, it’s like, what’s our story? What’s your point of view of that, like grossest part of it, attendee first, putting the attendee at the center of your events. So we got some exciting stuff happening on October 12. So, sorry if it’s already come out. So you know about it. If it hasn’t, come tune in on October 12.

But this is all about how we design our product then, and our products and our suite. So it’s like, that’s the other thing you have to think about. It’s, again, telling that story of what you believe in, why you do what you do, you know, your vision, your mission as a company, all the way through to how those beliefs manifests themselves in the trends and problems you help businesses solve down into then the features you build, how you position those features, the value all the way then down to what your customers have to say about it. So it’s those levels of altitude.

David Dulany: I love that. That’s such a great analogy. And now, I, you know, I’m thinking, let’s flip it down to the BDRs, or the sales reps. And they’re under a tremendous amount of pressure to build pipeline, you know, and to engage with the close, you know, close the deals with these customers, and where do they fit in on this. Because, you know, they just want to go straight to the landing, you know, and you’ve got all this other stuff going on.

Mark Kilens: Well, I think that’s where this idea of integrated campaign is extremely important. And the whole point of integrated campaign is, the first thing you need to do is like, define your ICP, define the audience, and really understand the accounts, the buying units, the buying teams, and the people then. It’s almost these three or four levels, right, that you need to kind of unfold in this idea of an integrated campaign.

So what a good BDR, I think, as your AE does is really looking at that, right? Like, I have a list of accounts, I’m trying to understand this context, and how they would fit into these buying teams and buying units. And how would I go after them with these different messages that we just talked about that marketing is enabling me to do?

So I think BDRs, SDRs, AEs job do get easier when they partner more with marketing, right? It gets pretty obvious. But marketing needs to make it easy for them to sound different, not just better. Because if the only thing that BDR, SDR sends to people is, “Hey, check out this customer,” and do this thing and those customers, it’s like, to your point, that’s like getting close to the ground. You’re landing the plane at that point.

Like, maybe they don’t care about that, like most likely no, like you don’t do that is part of your sequences, at least, upfront most likely, unless you know they’re really that far along in the buying process through some buying intense signal that you’ve picked up on either through your own data or, you know, third party data.

So it’s getting really good at triangulating these things, and it’s easier said than done. Don’t get me wrong. This is way ease– this is way harder than it think– than it sounds. But it’s like, how do I triangulate what the buyer is doing or thinking? And where are they in that, like them landing their own plane? And how do I send them the right message or invite them to the right event?

And like, a lot of the times, what we saw at Drift and what we’re seeing more at Airmeet now, it’s like the sales team should be helping you plan these events. Like, “Hey, you know, I think we have a lot of buyers in Fintech right now. We need to do something with one of our Fintech customers and those buyers, because they’re really in market, but we just haven’t gotten them together to kind of really understand how we can help them, and you know, what makes us different. So let’s just put on one of these events.”

So it’s like, that’s the other thing, you don’t think that you can just… you know, you have to plan for months and months to do these events. You could typically and you should be able to spin up an experience pretty quickly, but the question you asked around like, SDRs, BDRs, AEs, I think it’s really about them giving feedback to marketing, so that marketing understands how are these buyers responding to the messages.

Because, I can tell you right now that like at HubSpot, at Drift, and at Airmeet, we’ve been changing some of our messaging points, some of the things that are in those integrated campaigns, the offers, based directly on feedback from those folks.

And like, I just have to ask my team every week, every month. Your job, no matter where you are in the organization, on the marketing organization, for the most part, is to develop some sort of relationship with someone in sales. And like, you know, there’s very few people where I say, you don’t have to worry about that, like some of our web dev people, some of our designers maybe. But for the vast majority of the marketing people on the team, I expect them to do that, and I will help them do that.

David Dulany: Get in with it. And then, so I’ve got a bunch of questions. So what if they come back and they’re like, “We have no feedback”? So the message is just falling on to deaf ears, or it’s not resonating, what do you do with that?

Mark Kilens: So that’s, I’ve never, I mean, have you ever heard that, David, “No feedback”?

David Dulany: Well, the sales people have feedback always. Yeah, yeah.

Mark Kilens: That point.

David Dulany: But I’m talking about the prospects or the potential customers. If you’re sending out a bunch of stuff and it’s just nothing’s coming back.

Mark Kilens: Well, that’s feedback within itself. If it’s not working, that’s– nothing’s coming back, then you can, that’s feedback saying it’s not working to you, right? In my opinion. So it’s like, OK, we have to change. Something’s broken. So there is, no response is feedback, so that’s that, in my opinion.

David Dulany: OK. And then, where– so I’m a BDR. I work at Airmeet. I don’t know if you have BDRs, but what is a day in the life? Am I just calling people and inviting them to events? Or, am I promoting events, or and you– it depends on the altitude of where the person is, right? And depending on what the message is going to be? But you know, what are they doing?

Mark Kilens: I mean, number one, it’s a lot of research. Right? So if you’re talking more like outbound BDR versus, like, we say BDR for outbound more than SDR for inbound. Inbound is taking in the request, right? It’s a little bit a little bit easier, you know. But still, like, you have to do research and you have to be thoughtful.

Outbound is a lot of research, and it’s a lot of tailored messaging based off of what we’re trying to, what we believe between marketing and sales to be effective, and trying to get their attention to either take some action sign for the free product. Like, go to an event, like ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to get them to do. Right?

Yeah, the perfect scenario is like, “Hey, respond. I want to talk to you.” But like, that’s, you know, that’s like far and few between.

David Dulany: Yeah.

Mark Kilens: We’re just trying to we’re just trying to get the BDRs to get them get the prospect to show some type of interest. Like, for example, I saw some outbound stuff happening this week. I could tell very easily this is genuinely free product signups left and right. And that’s fantastic. So we can talk about that, definitely more.

David Dulany: No worries. All right, Mark. So we gave you a chance, we gave you a chance to get a glass of water, and I’m grilling you here because I’m really interested in this stuff. So, OK. So now, let’s say we took enough time to really, you know, get our aviator down, or our brand persona down. We’ve got the altitudes all the way from high level to, you know, landing the plane. We’ve got the team on the same page about what they’re supposed to be doing. Now, what? What’s next?

Mark Kilens: What is… I mean, to me, this is where then event-led growth and… You know, product-led growth can help a little bit, but it’s more product free trials at that point, kind of, which is the post-sale customer experience side of things.

You got to think what the whole customer experience and journey these days, right? So many people will talk about that. But you know, at the end of the day, an idea that I’ve been floating around in the back of my mind is this thought term called, engagement exposure. Have you ever heard of engagement exposure, David?

David Dulany: No.

Mar: Yeah. So like, I don’t think really anyone talks about it, which is kind of surprising, where it’s like, we all know exposure to our brand, to your business is a good thing. We talked about the 27 interactions, we talked with all those different things, how important it is, but ideally, it’s not just exposure. It’s about exposing them to engagement, exposing your buyer to like you were saying, how do you build that trust, that relationship? And that’s today through interactions and connections?

David Dulany: Yeah.

Mark Kilens: And to do that content, I don’t think gets it done anymore. Right? Content is exposing the brand, you know, the person to the brand, maybe. But is it really engaging them? Maybe. Not too deeply, though. It might engage some ideas with them, some thoughts, it might fire some connections off in their brain.

To get really deep, you got to bring people together. You got to have these conversations. You have to talk to BDR, SDR. You got to talk between prospect and customer. You got to, you know, when you’re a customer, you got to understand how to actually get real value, the value that was promised to you during the sales process at the end of the day.

So what’s next to me is like goes back to this whole idea of like events being a strategic imperative across the entire business, but across the entire customer journey. So I’m doing special events for your customers, you know, doing meetups user groups. HubSpot user group program, some people, I’m sure listening know about that.

You know, that’s been around for like, literally, 15, 14, 15 years, like year one or two when HubSpot was founded. Actually, that was years, sorry, I know exactly what year it was, because I was at that the first one ever. It was 2010, it was year four. So it’s been around for 12 years. HubSpot has been around for 16 years. And they have now hundreds of these user groups that do stuff online and in-person, connecting people together.

I mean, that’s incredible, talk about like one of the best ways to grow a brand and business, and I used to go to these and speak. And now, you know, because of COVID, there are blend, which I think is smart of both in-person and digital. But like, they’re all led by a HubSpot super advocate, HubSpot fan. And HubSpot empowers these people to lead these events. That’s all about community building, you know, HubSpot inbound. And it’s all about teaching people through osmosis, teaching current customers, you know, a current customer teaching other customer how to do something.

So I think that’s, I think that’s a big part of the future, right? It’s how do you engage? How do you create increased engagement exposure pre-sale, which is necessary these days? But how do you increase the engagement exposure post-sale? How do you keep building that wave?

Yeah, once the wave gets to a point of like, maximum height that you can actually surf it, and you’re like, “Yeah, we close the deal. We’re riding the wave.” But you don’t want the wave to like kind of end, right? No one loves like, I mean, you know, I guess theoretically, in science, every wave does end at some point. Think about that, good at this physics, but I would assume. But, like, you know, you want to keep just that thing going and growing. So I think that’s one aspect of it.

David Dulany: Oh my gosh. I mean, I also, I’m on the West Coast, right, so Salesforce is… I could literally see that building from my house. But they have done a tremendous job, I think it’s a case study on exactly what you’re saying. Because, and now, that’s probably one of the biggest dream force, obviously, since COVID, happening right now.

Mark Kilens: It’s great point. Yeah, I mean, they do a ton of events. And they also, they’re smart, because those events bring together not just sometimes customers, but also prospects. Right? And that’s like super smart within itself. But I do think you need to do special things.

The one thing that I wish more companies did, we will do this at some point is an annual Customer Award Ceremony. Recognize your customers, make it really special. You know, I would say, you know, if you could do an in-person, if you can’t, I mean, you can do it online, but you got to really elevate if you do it online. But like, that’s just, everyone has an ego. So that you can just feed into people’s ego, right?

Like, you could do a quarterly Customer Spotlight Series online, right? And then you do those every quarter, and that builds up to the Customer Award Ceremony at the end of the year. It’s like, there’s so many ideas. So I think that’s the other thing that’s missing, that’s prohibiting people from using event-led growth more and using events more is there’s definitely a skills gap.

We did a survey and study with Forrester like talking to 200 or so, I think it was actually 165, to be exact, marketing leaders. And one of the biggest things they found as an issue prohibiting them from doing more events and more online events, all types of events, though, is a skills gap. It’s like most people know how to do in-person events, but like, that’s the old way.

The new way is blend. The new way is experiences, not just events and content. The new way is, you know, not cocktail parties. You know, cocktail party is fine, but like that’s like so, I feel like 2010 almost, 2015, you know, so. Yeah, I just, I feel like there’s definitely a skills gap, and the data shows that.

David Dulany: There’s so much more. It’s almost, as I think about it, there’s a lot of dots that are going around at a lot of companies. And this really ties together so many aspects of the energy that’s

flowing toward prospects and customers. It’s, the event-led growth is like the connective tissue to bring it into this momentum that you need. And beyond new customers, right? It continues with the current customers. It’s may be even more important. So, I’m so old

Mark Kilens: Oh, yeah. I mean, you folks do a ton of events at Tenbound, right? Like, ton of events, right? Like, it’s all over the place. Like, you… let me ask you this, I guess. Do you believe that each of your events acts as a center of gravity for the company?

David Dulany: Yes, big time. And so, we’ll sit down at the beginning of the year with a blank calendar and have a, like a keystone event quarterly that culminates in the live event at the end of the year. And then a goal of, you know, online events each month that kind of flow into the written articles and the blogs, and then the research papers. And so in a perfect world, we’re not perfect, but we, it should all flow in a pattern that leads up to that big event at the end of the year.

Mark Kilens: Yeah, I love that. I mean, that’s, and your events are a great, probably tremendous source of content for the business.

David Dulany: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s a great point, because it’s a flywheel in that we have the events, and we bring together our community. And from there, we’re learning what the latest problems are in go-to market sales development, just like we’re talking about today, and how they’re dealing with that.

And then we put that into our content, which is then put into the programs that we run from an advisory perspective to help customers with their sales development. So you know, then we invite those customers to come to the event, and around it goes. Right? It’s really, it’s an amazing model.

Mark Kilens: No, I love it. I mean, kudos to you, folks. I mean, you’re very progressive. And what you almost have created to is what really great media companies do. The media companies are probably the best at this, right? Like, you know, they have to do events, typically.

And I think, you know, what, so what’s a B2B business? And we’re saying, “Oh, become a media company, become a media company.” Well, OK. Then if you’re going to become a media company, like you have to do events, and if you do more than just one or two events a year, right?

I mean, it’s like, I think there’s something there within that kind of idea, because I know that’s been floated around– floated out there a lot on the internet these days. But your notion of the event flywheel is pretty spot on. Because what each event also gives you that we can maybe dive into quickly is a lot of data, especially online events, right, digital events.

So people like your SDRs, BDRs, AES, how are you making sure all of your event data, both in-person and online gets back into the CRM, they can see who showed up, who didn’t, what they do, where do they engage? And how can they use that to follow up with? Right? How can they use that research as a way to understand what is someone’s interest and intent level?

Because if they’re pre-qualified on fit, this is a good fit account, you kind of pre-qualify them through your ICP work, et cetera, et cetera. Now, it’s all about like, hey, let’s really use these signals of intent from both ELG, the signals of intent to your product-led growth if you do that, signals of intent through content, signals of intent through maybe, you know, them responding to your outbound, your sales-led growth messages.

So, you know, if you have these three or four kind of really pillar go-to market strategy set up, then it’s about just making it easy for your sales team members to see who and how much, and what are they interested in through this idea of going back to engagement exposure. Because you’re just trying to show the engagement exposure kind of graph, right?

Like, and that’s like in HubSpot’s lingo, that’s kind of like the timeline if you strip away any of those internal activities on the HubSpot timeline, which was inspired by the Facebook timeline, you will see all of these engage– points of engagement, right?

So it’s like, ultimately, like, you know, what we saw in my past companies, the more someone engages, the more likely they are to buy, and the more likely they are to retain. Like, stay with you as a customer. So ultimately, it’s like really just the ultimate business metric, like how much are we engaging our customers? I don’t know. It could be.

David Dulany: It’s a really good point. And it just, it takes me back, you know, 20 years to when the whole SDR thing kind of started. And literally, it was just a leads list, you know, in Salesforce. And it was a name, a phone number, and an email. And I mean, to catapult 20 years later, and to have that timeline that’s enriched with intent and is piped into your events, oh my gosh, that would be like a dream come true.

I know, again it’s not, none of it is easy, none of it is perfect, but for a salesperson to have that information at their fingertips, oh, amazing.

Mark Kilens: Yeah, yeah, and [0:36:50] [Crosstalk] No, go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.

David Dulany: Yeah, I was just going to say, I mean, that’s the dream. And if people haven’t watched the talk that you did at our Revenue Alignment Conference, it was awesome. And it’s up on the Tenbound website, that we’re really talking about revenue alignment, you know, across the sort of the silos are fading, really in this kind of environment that we’re in.

Mark Kilens: 100% revenue alignment, go-to market alignment. It’s a lot of people are talking about, you know, just the idea of, it’s not just sales and marketing partnership anymore. It’s the really five teams. It’s got to be sales, marketing, CS, product, and finance. But that’s, those are the five teams. And like, how do you get them to align.

So it’s like, you know, finance essence of support, if you just go back to one of the pillars of go-to market. Say it’s event-led growth, they got to support you with understanding the targets for the next six to 12 months, et cetera, et cetera, then to support the budgets right. And then they, you know, they have to align on pricing and packaging, right? There’s a lot of places finance aligns, right, very, very critical.

But ironically, a lot of the times, like marketing and sales teams don’t talk about, like their partnership with their CFO don’t talk about these things. And it baffles me because that’s the place where I always start. Like, when I first joined Airmeet, my whole thing was like, get really friendly and build a great partnership with finance, even more than sales, initially. Because at the end the day, like finance holds you accountable, and should help you grow the business, not hold you back.

The best finance teams like help you grow the business, and you have this really symbiotic relationship. And then you, as you understand that, is that right? Does the sales team have the same understanding that you do? And is finance educating them?

So like, you know, and maybe that’s just like, hey, that’s obvious market. You can just tell me like, of course, you have to partner with finance. But I just don’t see it being talked a lot about. Like, it’s like, what, what dictates the success of your business so much these days? It’s how you go to market. So yeah, it’s CAC. But it’s also how you price and package your offering.

The pricing and packaging is critical. And I think the key question these days is like, who owns pricing and packaging? And how does that evolve at your business? Because, I can tell you just my journey at Airmeet, and my past two companies before that, that’s like, that ultimately makes some of the biggest differences in the success of your business.

Like, we’re just like, you know, like, you know, it can it can be so instrumental to your growth rate, both on the net dollar retention side and the new booking side, that if you get it really right, it’s amazing. And if you don’t get it right, it’s really like, kind of like, yeah, it’s… You know, you’re going to be way below the 40% growth rate for scale ups after you’re kind of post Series B and C, you’re trying to hit that 40% magic number.

And so much of it has to do with like, I think pricing and packaging, and understanding your customers. And it goes back to that customer centricity, right? It’s like, how do you really understand, to your point? Does this resonate with customers? If you’re not getting any feedback, or it’s like, they’re not responding to the pricing and packaging, it’s like, kind of, that’s what you got to– You’re hearing something without hearing it, right? Like, that’s the signal right there, you know.

David Dulany: Yeah.

Mark Kilens: Anyway, I’ll stop. Because I just feel like there’s just not enough people talk about this type of stuff, for some reason.

David Dulany: No. I mean, I think that, you know, people, generally looking at finance from like an arm’s length almost. It’s like, you have to go ask for stuff in order to be able to do your job. And, I mean, I’m sure there are more sophisticated people than me, think about it differently, like what you’re saying, but it’s sort of an arm’s length relationship.

And then, also, that’s really interesting to think about pricing and packaging, and how important that is to the overall downstream success. So, you know, I think, something to think about for new CMOs is how, where do you start, right? Do you go straight and… the conventional wisdom is, I’m going to go sit with the salespeople and talk to a bunch of customers and CS, and stuff like that. But you start with the finance team, that’s interesting.

Mark Kilens: Well, I definitely, I definitely talked to a lot of customers. I’d say those two that I started with, like, you know, customers and finance, and then I started to build my relationship with sales, too. But like, a good, I think a good CMO these days has to understand the economics of the business, and have to then come up with strong opinions loosely held, because you can be wrong, and you need to change your opinion. But strong opinions loosely held around how you, as a CMO are going to impact the business’s growth, or efficiency, or really, ideally, both.

So then you really have to understand everything to like gross margin levels. You have to understand your gross margin. You have to understand, of course, CAC. You have to understand retention. You have to understand all of these things that go into, you know, your business’s health today, but then your business’s health in two years.

And you have to understand, like, you know, if you’re on the VCs, you know, if your business is taking VC money, or it’s not Bootstrap, you have to understand, like what those people are thinking now. But they could be thinking in six or 12 months, too. Because you’re kind of always, in some ways, chasing kind of the next round, if you will.

If you have those ambitions, and that’s the way you’ve set the business up. So like, you’re just, you know, as a CMO, you have to do that. VP of marketing, I think it’s a little bit different, right? Like, it is different, in my opinion. But yeah, I mean, Latané, like, you know, the CMO of 6sense says this so well. She calls herself the Chief Market Officer, not the Chief Marketing Officer.

And I think she’s spot on, on that. That will probably become, you know, she’s evangelizing that. She’s got something there that’s big, and I do think that’s going to become much more prevalent over time, where you’re helping the business navigate the market, not just doing the marketing.

David Dulany: OK. Yeah, what’s the difference? What, how do you– tell me more about that. What’s the difference?

Mark Kilens: Well, it’s kind of like the stuff that I just said, right? It’s really understanding the market holistically, really having a strong sense of your competitors, your businesses, you know, economics, your go-to market, you know, what you’re trying to do, where you are different, where you’re not different, where you’re better.

And you’re trying to craft an overall buying customer experience journey, so that throughout all of those different interactions that someone would have with you, you’re maximizing the value that a customer would deliver for your business. But it also in return, you’re maximizing the value that you will deliver it to them.

So a tangible example of that is, can you align your pricing and packaging to their most important value metric? So, you know, for example, you could say at Drift, one of the ways you could change Drift’s pricing is we’re only going to charge you based off the number of conversations you have with the buyer.

Because, at the end of the day, the number of conversations are the leading indicator to collecting more email addresses and booking more meetings. So can we just price based off the number of conversations your business has with the buyer, versus maybe the ways they price, you know, they price now, which I don’t believe it’s like that. Right?

You know, with HubSpot, the classic example is contacts. We’re going to charge you for the number of contacts you have in our database. And there’s some flaws with that. But like, at the end of the day, like it was about lead generation, right, and turn those leads to pipeline. So the more contacts you have, theoretically, the more value you’re getting. So we’re going to charge you for that.

Yes, because then there’s situations, you import things, and you have old contacts, and they’ve worked on that kind of writing some of that stuff. But how– that’s just one example, right? It’s like we’re CMO, we’re trying to really align what the market cares about, your customers care about, and like what’s going on in the market to then how you would change something in your business to directly impact its future growth potential, or today’s growth potential.

David Dulany: Wow, that is, that’s a lot to think about. It’s got to be one of the hardest jobs out there, you know, in our industry, because you really have to– going all the way back, you have to understand the art and the science, and have a blend of that, and still be able to get a lot of things done, so.

Mark Kilens: I mean, I think the best– you make a good point. So the best CMOs are entrepreneurs.

David Dulany: But the entrepreneurs are unemployable.

[Laughter]

Mark Kilens: I, maybe that’s…

David Dulany: Oh, there’s, some of them are. I don’t know.

Mark Kilens: Yeah. I do feel like the best and most…

David Dulany: It’s like from my own experience.

Mark Kilens: …are super curious, are always trying to come up with big ideas, they know how to operate. And maybe I have to qualify them. And maybe like, I’m not trying to make this sound, you know, mean, or anything in any regard, but like, the best CMOs are successful entrepreneurs, right? Like, so.

David Dulany: That’s OK. That’s a big difference.

Mark Kilens: So, I don’t know. I could be wrong there. I’d love to know what you think, folks listening, like, come at me on LinkedIn and Twitter if you disagree or agree. But, because to your point, like the CMO needs to think, I think, today, the CMO does have like, they got to think about sales, they got to think about finance, they  got to think about all these things. So it’s, yeah, it’s not easy.

David Dulany: Yeah. Well, I mean, they’re lucky to have you over there, Mark. So I think they made a really good decision. If they’re asking for my opinion, so…

Mark Kilens: Oh, you’re too kind.

David Dulany: Oh, congrats on the roll. And, you know, thanks for coming on the show. I just learned a ton. I’ve got two pages of notes. And I think we need to get you back on again to dive into more of this stuff.

Mark Kilens: No. I mean, my pleasure. Thank you for having me, David. And thanks for being such an amazing customer. We’ve loved working with your team, and yeah, I mean, cheers to all of your future events! I mean, you know, check out the Tenbound event. You folks listening, won’t be disappointed.

David Dulany: Definitely. And we’ll get over to Airmeet as well, get on the newsletter, make sure that we’re connected there. And Mark, thanks again for coming on.

More Appointments. More Pipeline. More Sales.