Episode 25

What Value Do Brand Communities Offer B2B Businesses?

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  • What does “building community” mean for companies, especially in B2B?
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  • Why would a B2B company want to invest the time and money into building a community?
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  • What value do online communities provide customers, prospects and businesses?

Hear about the value of community to startups, and how to apply similar principles to connect customers with each other and your B2B brand.

Before the pandemic, B2B customer engagement typically happened in person during sales calls, meetings, trade shows, demos and more. With the shift to virtual communication, B2B companies must think about how to engage with customers and improve their experience online.

In this episode, we’ll hear about the importance of communities from Mark Donnigan, an expert in marketing for startups. We’ll talk about how to apply those principles to enterprise businesses to connect your customers with each other and with your B2B brand. Discover the trickle-down effects of customer community, from better customer experience, satisfaction and loyalty to drive business growth.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Building community in the B2B space
  • Types of communities that are on the rise
  • Why building a community is a good investment for B2B companies
  • The value online communities offer customers and prospects
  • How to measure that value of a brand community

Watch the Live Recording

Full Episode Transcript

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    Tessa Burg: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Lead(er) Generation brought to you by Tenlo Radio. I’m your host, Tessa Burg, and today’s conversation will be about communities. And specifically, the role they play in growing your business, getting more visibility and engaging people where they’re at today.

    Tessa Burg: So I’ll be hosting today, but we have a big announcement coming soon. We’ll be adding another host next month from a different perspective. So what you’ll hear today will be much in the digital and technology and how we can use those to bring the experience to our buyers and customers. And moving forward we’re gonna start to sprinkle in how does Lead Generation benefit from the content and experience and the copy and the messaging that is so important to how our message gets delivered and how our businesses are positioned. But let’s rewind and get into today’s episode.

    Tessa Burg: Our guest is Mark Donnigan. He has 20 years of experience as a transformative and strategic B2B marketing professional. And his focus is on growth tactics that actually work and produce real results. He has worked with SaaS, software licensing and wholesale companies and retail distribution models, which is perfect for our conversation today, especially from the perspective that a lot of us have had to function as transformative businesses during and post pandemic to really meet the evolving needs of our audience. So, Mark, thank you so much for being our guest today.

    Mark Donnigan: Absolutely. Thanks for having me Tessa. It’s great to be here.

    Tessa Burg: So let’s dive into this topic about community. What does building community really mean for companies, especially those in the B2B professional space?

    Mark Donnigan: Well, I like to just start with my personal behavior. And so I’m gonna encourage everyone listening to just think about how you learn personally about products. And you can think about it in your personal life, you can think about it in terms of a business context. But I think we’d all be really hard pressed to say that those around us and that can be friends, family, in a professional setting, obviously colleagues, other professional influencers that we might look up to or we might follow that is how we discover new things. That’s how we get validation that a product can work for us or maybe there’s even a solution that we’re looking for.

    Mark Donnigan: And so if we just start there and just sort of use common sense, not even any sort of real advanced marketing strategy you say, “Well, wait a second, if it’s coming through our networks i.e those around us, e.g communities, then shouldn’t we be trying to, if not build, certainly be an active member of these groups, of these communities that our products can be discovered in?”

    Mark Donnigan: So that may sound sort of like duh, and like, well, yeah, everybody knows that, and maybe we all do know it and yet how many of us are actually building communities as part of our marketing strategy. And that’s when the wake up call, I think comes like, “Oh, wait a second. Yeah, maybe we should be looking into this.” So that’s where I’d start.

    Tessa Burg: Yeah, and I think that a lot of people maybe take their personal experience for granted. Before the pandemic we were building community, especially on the commercial side physically, like at conferences, seeing people.

    Tessa Burg: So if people are sort of struggling with, okay, if I look at my personal experience, I feel it’s changed a lot. What types of communities should I be looking for or where can I put myself that’s more digital or online?

    Mark Donnigan: Yeah. It’s a great question and we definitely need to spend some time talking about that. Because when you say community, I think the very first thing that a lot of us would think about, it’s like social media. And if you come from a medium or certainly a larger company, then you might even have a whole team that’s doing this. And so it could feel like, “Yeah, check the box we’re already doing that. we’ve got six people over here and they’re our community team and we have a community manager and we run a Facebook group and we have this group and we have that group and yeah, check the box. That’s what we do.”

    Mark Donnigan: Obviously without really understanding what business results that particular team is driving I can’t say if that’s actually working or if it’s actually achieving the way I define the success of driving real business in terms of community. But I would argue then a lot of cases, it’s basically managing Facebook groups and that’s not what I’m talking about here. Now, I’m not saying that that can’t be a component of it, but let me try and unpack a little bit further.

    Mark Donnigan: So, the industry that I spend most of my time in and really have built my career on is very technical. It’s in the, if you watch Netflix or any online streaming video, which we all do, that’s where I come from and largely selling really niche technology, software and services and products that are sold to really a pretty small number of folks, engineers and a lot of times these people are very hard to get to because you can’t just search on job titles.

     Mark Donnigan: Sure, they might be a senior engineer, yes, they might be a principal engineer, yes, they may have the word video in their title, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s someone that we’d wanna talk to for various reasons.

    Mark Donnigan: So there’s a real interesting challenge because you say, well, how do you reach these people where it’s very fragmented, they’re often sort of hidden away or tucked away in sometimes very, very large organizations? And so if you’re a marketer, how do you get to them? And so it’s a real formidable problem.

    Mark Donnigan: Well, interesting thing happened. I’m gonna give you sort of a case study of what community can look like. And this is a very organic example, which is why I absolutely love it, but it can be rebuilt like a prototype.

    Mark Donnigan: So about six years ago, five or six years ago, a group of these video engineers working for Facebook and Apple and Google, and a lot of small companies in the San Francisco Bay Area began to meet for beers. And it was just a meetup. It was just a meetup and it was just engineers. It was not organized by a company. It wasn’t a grand strategy. It start out with 10 or 12 colleagues and inviting a few friends from another company.

    Mark Donnigan: Long story short, this monthly meetup began to grow and pretty soon they had 50 and 60 people and then they had a 100 people and then they started to say, “Well, wait a second. It’s fun to just get together and talk shop and not be formal, but wouldn’t it be cool if we invited in and we had speakers come?”

    Mark Donnigan: So then they started just kind of taking turns like, “Hey, I’ll give a talk next month.” And then next person, “I’ll give a talk next month.” And these are usually very technical and sometimes kind of, off the beaten path. And they would talk about various, maybe new technologies or things that were just interesting to them.

    Mark Donnigan: Well, what ended up happening? What ended up happening was out of this came a conference. This conference is now 1200 people. Of which these are the… If you wanna kind of air quotes, “the who’s who and the absolute laser focused ICP,” for us marketers of who you would want to talk to at Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Pinterest, go down the list. I mean, if you’re selling into this space, these are the folks.

    Mark Donnigan: And then what has happened is, out of this, a company was born. This company is now a unicorn. And it all started in a meetup that was nothing more than are buyers. And again, I’m trying to relate very much as a marketer because remember, these are the folks that maybe they don’t own the budgets, but they certainly are the influencers in the particular space that I’m in. They begin to self-organize and then as this grew and it grew, and it grew, next thing you know, a company was born out of it, there’s a conference. And of course now at the conference, they have corporate sponsorships, and now there is more of a commercial element to it.

    Mark Donnigan: Now, what’s the learning here? The learning is that there was actually a need in the market because guess what? There was a competing. And I say competing because there was another, a media company that had a conference, had a lot of the same, at least on paper, panels and discussions, but guess what? It was all driven from a marketing perspective, from a, everything was vendors trying to sell something. And these engineers are saying, “We don’t wanna hear from vendors. We wanna hear from our colleagues.” And this is the way that B2B marketing is being just absolutely flipped on its head is that it really is no longer.

    Mark Donnigan: Now, maybe in some incredibly commoditized environments where there’s 150 vendors and it’s literally price and delivery availability, that you’d make a decision on, okay, fine, then this whole strategy probably isn’t for you. But I would argue that’s a very, very, very, very small set of the market if you kind of look at the market.

    Mark Donnigan: And so this whole idea of community is just absolutely upending the B2B process. And it all goes back to, how do you and I behave in even just our personal lives, when we’re looking to make product decisions et cetera. We go to our friends, or we go to our network, we go to other Facebook group, we go to, you know and that’s how we do it. And we carry that over into our everyday work life.

    Tessa Burg: I love that example. And you highlighted two big challenges that we hear a lot. You started by saying, they have to get closer to their audience and where their audience is. And then you mentioned, they have to know what’s interesting to them. That’s what brought this community together is they had shared interests.

    Mark Donnigan: That’s right.

    Tessa Burg: The challenge that we see a lot with our clients is, they are vendors. So how do they get involved in the community? Get closer to the audience? Be a part of what’s interesting without selling?

    Mark Donnigan: Yeah. And it’s a very hard challenge and I’m a marketer. I actually came up through sales. So, the roots of my whole trajectory into marketing and marketing leadership and strategy and everything I do today is through sales. And so even to this day, I am wired to go for the kill, to get the deal, to close the deal. And I just have to say that some of it is, we have to just… I think there’s an element of trust the process, of just trust that the world has changed and that the way that we used to be able to structure our marketing campaigns in these beautiful three months cycles, in October, November and December of 2021, we could literally plan the 2022 marketing calendar. I mean, those are the good old days, weren’t they?

    Mark Donnigan: Like we knew fall 2022, what our big push was, and even already kind of had our media plan put together, like in December of 2021. And maybe there’s an industry that still works. I don’t know of one though. And I think if we’re all honest, we’d say, yeah, that doesn’t matter. Consumer packaged goods, it doesn’t matter if it’s foods, if it’s clothing, if it’s, of course those are consumer products but for B2B, it’s moving so fast. And so I think first of all, the key is, we have to understand that the buyer right now, and this is sobering, but the buyer doesn’t need us. The buyer doesn’t need us. And again, the reason why I’d even make that point is that even just 10 years ago, the buyer still sort of needed us. Even though the internet was still very much a thing. We all had websites, you could still do research.

    Mark Donnigan: So you could argue like, how much has really changed in 10 years? You could still buy online a lot of products. You could still fully Amazon, was still Amazon. So you could say, but what’s really changed? But 10 years ago, there still was a little bit of a need to get the buyer involved. If I’m making a really large B2B decision, I need to meet with the vendor. I’m sorry, the vendor, not the buyer. I need to meet with the vendor. I need to meet with the vendor representatives. I need to spend time with their engineering team, et cetera, et cetera.

    Mark Donnigan: Now, with new technology models like SaaS and with Platform as a Service, and with all these self-service product led motions that are happening, like literally an engineer who’s just a couple of years out of college can end up making a key, multi, multi-million dollar buying decision just because they’re tasked to build something, they go off, they sign up with a free account on a platform. They start building a product around it, and then they bring it three weeks later to their boss and to the team and say, “Hey, what do you guys think? This is what we built.” And they go, “Wow, this is amazing. Who is this company?” Next thing you know, there’s this major opportunity for this particular technology provider. And the first time that the buyer contacted the vendor was after they’d already used their product. And that’s the reality of where B2B is today.

    Mark Donnigan: So I think getting comfortable with that is the key to letting down our guard of we always have to be selling, because if we keep that up, I’ll go back to this example. Even though they have corporate sponsorships and they’re pricey too. I mean, like they’re not afraid to ask for real money to sponsor this event. They have a very, very clear, no selling policy. And I’ve witnessed it personally, when you step over that line, boy, they are very quick. And the interesting thing is the community just comes around and goes, “Hey, look, we wanna hear what you have to say, but we’re not here to get pitched. And if you’re gonna pitch, we’re not gonna listen to you.” And so vendors learn really quick. Like if you came expecting to just pitch, it’s not gonna be a successful event for you. But if you came to add value, if you came to participate in the community, if you came to be a member of the community, you’re more than welcome. And guess what happens? You get to talk even more about what you do because people have problems. They say, “Oh, wow, you guys are doing that. Hey, so tell me about…” And next thing you know you’re in an hour long conversation with someone working at a major target company that you would love to do business with all because it just started with, “Hey, tell me about,” and you were there to tell them about it.

    Tessa Burg: That’s a great answer. And you hit on a couple of qualities of community that I think are really important for people to look for. One that, they have that shared interest. And two, that it’s a place and a space where they feel comfortable starting to dig into their problems. What kinds of platforms do you see today that create that space for people to build community, especially online, as still we’re easing into getting back to the physical world?

    Mark Donnigan: That’s right. Yeah, so the platform question is a really good one. And if you have a budget and especially if you have a big budget, there’s all kinds of extreme examples of what you can do. So let me try and paint the spectrum because even if you have a budget getting just the executive sponsorship, even if you’re lucky enough that you say, “Well, I actually could carve off or peel off a couple million bucks to go do this initiative.” Okay, that’s fine. You’ve got that money. It’s at your discretion. But boy, even if you have a really big budget, like couple million dollars is a lot to put against something that’s brand new that might require the organization to acclimate to.

    Mark Donnigan: So I argue that we all probably need to start small. And so here’s what it can look like. I love podcasts. Now, not just because we’re on a podcast right now. But podcasts are first of all, quite inexpensive to do. Now, they require as you well know, Tessa, a lot of human resource in capital. So there’s a tremendous amount of just work that only humans can do. So even though the actual “cost” in terms of equipment and services and all is, is very, very low, there is some work required to pull them off and do them well. But a podcast is an amazing place to start because it allows you to start creating content. And in a lot of cases, repurpose content that you’re already creating. And then this audience that begins to form around the podcast is really the seeds or the founding pillars of your community. And I have some great examples which we can get to if you’d like about again, how podcasts can be built.

    Mark Donnigan: But so you can start with a podcast and then you do something like you say, “Hey, you know what? We have a podcast and okay, we’re only getting 500 downloads in the first week.” And someone in the organization says, “Well, that’s nothing, like we need to be producing 1500 leads a month.” MQLs or SQLs or whatever the terminology is that someone might use. So like 500 that’s nothing.

    Mark Donnigan: Well, hang on before we just sort of like throw out the podcast because of that. Then you say, you layer onto that and you say, “Okay, now podcasts is really great. And we know that we’ve got this highly engaged audience. We know they’re our ICP, because if you design the podcast correctly, you’re only gonna just by self-selection get those people that you wanna talk to.” So we can talk again a little bit about what strategy is there to make sure that you’ve got the right listeners. So you’ve got your 500, but you say, but now how can I engage them? Because one of the downsides of a podcast is, “Okay, I’ve got these 500 downloads, but I have no direct way to engage them.” Maybe they come sign up on my website. Maybe they’re on our email list but maybe not. They might just be on Apple podcast listening, or Spotify or wherever.

    Mark Donnigan: So then what I have done that works very, very well is you create a LinkedIn group, you could create a Facebook group, but I would argue for B2B most LinkedIn groups are more effective. Now what’s super interesting and I’ve experienced personally is that the LinkedIn group will grow and scale faster than the podcast. And then next thing you know, you reach this tipping point where all of a sudden people are joining the LinkedIn group. They don’t even know that it’s associated to a podcast and it pulls them into the podcast. They get value and all of a sudden you have this virtuous value circle that’s going around.

    Mark Donnigan: Now, you say, “Okay, Mark, that sounds really great if my monetization strategy is to try and build an audience and monetize the audience, but you haven’t really talked yet about how I’m getting leads and how I’m teeing up meetings for my sales team, which at the end of the day that’s what we’re all here to do as marketers.” So let’s talk further about what this really looks like.

    Mark Donnigan: So here’s the thing about community is that when you have it, sales just is easier. When you don’t have it you are always stuck in the, we’re fighting for meetings. You listen in on the sales calls and the sales calls are just one account exec after next saying, “I’m still trying to chase that guy. What’s happening with this one? You know this guy now he’s gone dark on me. I’m still pushing this person. Oh we can’t.” And it’s the usual sales talk. When you have a community all of a sudden the sales meetings go more like this, “Yeah, so I was able to get him on the phone. Yeah, I chase him a little bit. We had a meeting. You know what the first thing they said is? They love our podcast. And you know what the first thing this person said over here is? Oh, wow they actually heard about our product because somebody had referred and they saw a clip, or they joined the LinkedIn group and they saw our post and that caused them to reach out.” And it’s this kind of anecdotal feedback that begins to come into the market. Because again, these buyers are talking, they’re moving amongst themselves. They no longer need us as a vendor, but they still are transferring information. Where’s it coming from? It’s coming from, “Hey, I have this need.” And then someone else says, “Hey, I just listen to this really cool podcast episode. I heard this person talk about… Maybe you should go check out this company.” And that’s how it gets built.

    Mark Donnigan: I said I would paint kind of the easy and the middle and then the more difficult in terms of. So you can get started like a podcast, literally just you can get started tomorrow. I mean, that’s how easy it is. It requires dedication. I already said, it’s work but it pays tremendous dividends. Now, you then extend that further and you say, “Well, what if we have this… We have our podcast and we’re regularly producing content and we’re adding value to the ecosystem. Now, let’s layer on to that an event.

    Mark Donnigan: Right now kind of virtual would probably be what it is, but hopefully very soon we’ll be able to get to some sort of a physical event. And so now what could that look like?” Well, that doesn’t have to be a conference. What if, as we begin to build our community, we go into the three major cities where our target customers are. So again, in my space, in video technology, it’s the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s Seattle, it’s Los Angeles, it’s New York City, and there’s Austin, Texas. And of course these all are tech hubs, right? So, some of it is like, “Well, yeah, they’re major tech hubs.” But you could go into these cities and you can say, “Hey, guess what? We’re gonna do a meetup. Sounds familiar, right? We’re gonna do a meet up of video engineers. We’re just gonna meet at this bar for happy hour, we’re gonna meet here, meet there. We’re gonna have a nice little dinner, everyone’s welcome. Come check it out.”

    Mark Donnigan: But what you do is you produce content that then can be repurposed. So maybe you invite in your CTO, for example, who happens to be a good speaker, who maybe has developed some super interesting technology in their former life. Or in other words, you want a hook that’s outside of just your solution. You do not wanna show up and say, “Hey, we’re gonna spend 20 minutes talking about our latest widget.” People may still come just because it’s an expensive state dinner, but believe me, they’re gonna take nothing away from it. They’re not gonna go tell anybody about it, it was just a free dinner. But instead you bring in an industry expert, or you’re bringing somebody that this audience would be like, “Oh wow, that’d be super cool. I’d love to hear more about what that person’s doing or that company or whatever.” And then now you’ve got content.

    Mark Donnigan: Now you can begin to repurpose that, and again, your channels feeding it back into the community. So now you’re posting back into your LinkedIn group, now in your email list, now you’ve got this fabulous content, “Hey, check out this short video clip about this major figure in our industry talking about how they were a part of building this technology, which enables all a streaming video today, okay. People want that. That’s adding value. And again, what’s the cost for that? A couple of airline tickets for the staff, maybe a dinner, maybe a happy hour. So what, you do that for like five grand. And yet if you go to these major cities and you’ve got even 25 people representing 10 or 12 or 15 major companies that you’d like to do business with, wow, talk about, low customer acquisition costs.

    Tessa Burg: Yeah, I know. That is really true.

    Mark Donnigan: It’s super, yeah. And then you kind of continue on the spectrum and you go to an example that I absolutely love, and it’s a cybersecurity company called Recorded Future. And Recorded Future’s the name of this company, they’re in cybersecurity. And I’m not from that space, but I’ve spent my whole career in technology so I certainly know about this space. Cybersecurity is hyper, hyper competitive. The marketing investment is huge. Marketing teams are huge. It is. It’s doggy dog in that space. It is really, really, really tough. And even if you are very well-funded, but you’re sort of like number two, number three, number four, it’s like being a CRM vendor trying to compete against Salesforce. There’s just nothing we can do to compete.

    Mark Donnigan: So Recorded Future has faced this challenge and they said, the CMO said, “What do we do? You can only shout so loud. You can only buy so much advertising. You can only bang the drum of more brand, and eventually it’s gone. We can’t compete.” So he did something super interesting. He said, “If you’re working in the space of cybersecurity and staying up to date on the news and what’s happening in the space, in the ecosystem.” When I say news, I mean in the world of cybersecurity. “Is something that’s very important to you because you wanna know about new threats, you wanna know about new research has come out. I mean, so you’re probably daily doing Google searches or looking for some information. What if I built the portal that the entire industry went to?” So guess what he did?

    Mark Donnigan: He instead of hiring three or four content marketers, he hired four journalists from the space and he built a website called The Record. And The Record is now in just like nine months. It’s only been, I think they launched it in about April of this year of 2021. Maybe it’s March, somewhere around there. Is now like the number one destination for cybersecurity news and updates and all of this in the industry. And you go to the website and it says, “The Record.” And I think it says, “Hosted by…” I think it just says, “By Recorded Future.” So there’s a reference to the name, but as you look through it, is not heavy branded. They’re not putting banner ads on every article, every blog post. You would just think, “Oh, they’re just the sponsor, right?” No, they own it. This is their property. But what they did was they went and hired and of course they had the budget to do this, so I’m sure that it probably had to pay some good money to be able to hire these folks away because these were people were writing in cybersecurity for publications.

    Mark Donnigan: So, because again, if you’re gonna build an audience, well you have to have great content. So he knew he couldn’t do it just by kind of going and finding some product marketers in the space and saying, “Hey, I want you to write a whole bunch of articles.” Like no, we need a journalist, because that’s what this site is. And this has been an amazing, amazing strategy for them. And, he’s on record. Yeah, The Record. He also has done a lot of podcasts recently talking about this whole strategy. And so I’d encourage, if someone really wants to kind of lean into this, go check out what Recorded Future is doing with The Record. And that’s kind of on the other side where you hire a team, you build a website, you actually build the portal for your industry. And there’s other examples too, that I can give, but I think those are good ones to start with.

    Tessa Burg: I agree. I think those are some really solid stories and something that is woven throughout is the type of measurement that’s appropriate for measuring your community. So it’s not about the MQLs or the SQLs. In order to get to the bottom of the funnel, the way you measure is through feedback, how are people rating your content? Are they sharing it? Are they downloading it? And really looking at that more organic behavior to tell you how well are you doing in gaining visibility with the right people? And are you a part of what they find interesting and what they’re looking for to help solve their problems? And I think that’s different for a lot of B2B marketers who always ask like, “How many leads is general, how many leads?” But if you get those middle metrics really good, you can tie it down to MQLs and SQLs.

    Mark Donnigan: Absolutely. And this is also where sales and marketing alignment really helps because… And I witnessed this personally. So when I started my podcast strategy with a company that I was leading marketing at, it was late 2018. And I had a really great relationship with my boss, a CEO and Founder of the company. And I remember going to him because I knew that he’d have a positive reaction. But I know some marketers will hear this and be like, marketing leaders and be like, “Oh boy, if I propose that to my CEO, he would like kick me out.” But I went and I said, “Hey, I’ve got this great idea. I wanna do a podcast.” Now we had already talked about it and so it wasn’t like he was kinda like, “Oh, podcast.” He’s like, “Oh yeah, we’ve been talking about.” And he loves podcasts. So it wasn’t that that was like novel, but I said, “There’s a twist.” He’s like, okay. I said, “I don’t wanna brand it with our company. I’ll find a way to say like sponsored by or something. It’s not that Imma totally hide. And of course everyone can easily find out who.” I was a little bit known in the space. So people knew who I worked for.

    Mark Donnigan: But I said, the point is that I don’t wanna lead with the company. And in fact, I wanna be so bold that we’ll even bring on our competitors. We’ll interview our competitors. And in other words, I want it to be like the water cooler. So I want it to be a place where I’m hosting the conversation. And just like, we go to trade shows and we’d stand around and talk to our competitors. And of course they’re trying to get information from us, we’re trying to get information from them, but we’re being all friendly, “Hey, how’s it going?” But it’s about value. Number one, the purpose is about value.

    Mark Donnigan: Well, without even flinching he said, “Mark, I totally trust you, go for it. It sounds great. I get what you wanna do.” And so that’s what we did. And so now almost 70 episodes in and even though I’m not working day-to-day with the company any longer, I’m actually still co-hosting that podcast for the space. And we have almost 70 episodes. And, and here’s what’s super interesting is about six months in to the podcast and we probably only had at that time 15 episodes or something. So it’s not that we’d been at it for a real long time. And at that time we’re probably only getting 200 downloads in the first week. Now think about what I just said, how committed you have to be to do a podcast. You’re only getting a couple 100 downloads in the first week. You’re not even talking about the company. Now, again, it wasn’t costing a lot of money in terms of dollars and cents to do it, but it was requiring a tremendous amount of… I was editing for a while myself. I mean, I’m the VP of marketing like why should I be editing podcasts?

    Mark Donnigan: But we just kept at it. And the VP of sales came to me, my colleague and he says, Mark, he said, “I can’t give you any data.” He said, “I can’t even tell you that I closed a deal because the podcast, but here’s what I can tell you. The podcast is the number one marketing activity that you’ve initiated since you took over marketing.” And I was like, “Well, what the…” I mean, on one hand, I’m like, “So I like part of what you said, but I don’t like the fact that you actually say you haven’t closed the deal. But tell me why, I mean, that’s great to hear, I’m happy.” And he said, “Mark, here’s the difference.” He said, “Whereas before we’d get on a call and the company was pretty well known in the space.

    Mark Donnigan: So it wasn’t that they struggled to get meetings, but there was always that initial kind of dance back and forth, like tell us what you do and prove, prove that we should listen to you, meaning the customer, the buyer is kinda…” He said, “And now we get on a call and almost invariably, the first thing they say is, oh, we love your podcast. Oh, I listen to your podcasts. Oh, by the way, I really love this episode.” And he said, “Mark, you just cut through everything that previously it would have taken maybe more meetings or whatever.”

    Mark Donnigan: And that’s so tough to quantify because you tell that story and we’re so used to both as marketers and then executives to wanna take everything back to a metric. And there is no metric for that. And yet to this day, and the reason why they’re still running the podcast and I’m fortunate enough to still be able to co-host it is because it’s our number one marketing activity. And it just works. It just really, really, really works. And so that’s fun when these start to really connect to real business, because obviously that’s what we’re here for. And again, as I stated early on, I’m a salesperson. At heart I’m a sales person so I’m always trying to take it back to, but what is the business result? How much revenue we driven? And these activities drive revenue, they really do.

    Tessa Burg: Yes. I agree. And I think all marketers can relate to wanting to be more valuable in getting that fantastic anecdotal feedback and evidence from the sales team that what they’re investing their time and energy in is working. That is a great story. So Mark we’re at the end of our time. Thank you so much. We’ve definitely covered a lot of ground. I think some things we can state as core themes are, you can’t create community without effort. And the effort needs to be intentional and really focused on the softer qualities of what your audience is for. What’s important to them? What’s interesting? How can you help solve their problems without selling? So, I am really excited for everyone to hear this episode. How can people reach you or hear your podcast if they are interested in learning more?

    Mark Donnigan: Yeah, well, my podcast is pretty geeky. But if you’re in the video space or interested in the video space, it’s TheVideoInsiders.com. So just The Video Insiders, that goes to the website. We’re on all of the podcast platforms. So you could certainly check that out. And then my personal website is Growthstage.Marketing. So just Growthstage.Marketing, and you can learn more about what I do.

    Tessa Burg: Fantastic. Well, thank you again for being a guest. And for everyone else, if you’re interested in hearing more episodes from Lead Generation, visit Tenlo.com, that’s T-E-N-L-O.com. And you can subscribe or download our podcast from Apple podcasts, Spotify, really anywhere that you listen to podcasts. And Mark, you gave us one great idea in here about starting a LinkedIn group. A episode a couple, or maybe this week’s episode I can’t remember the one right before this suggested that we give away 10 little mugs to anyone who has an awesome topic idea.

    Mark Donnigan: All right, I’ll take one.

    Tessa Burg: You have a great idea for our show, please come to our website, enter it in the chat we’ll use it. Or join our new LinkedIn group that is going to be launching now in a few weeks. But thank you, Mark so much for being on the show and we’ll be talking to you soon.

    Mark Donnigan: Awesome. Thanks Tessa, is great to be here.

Mark Donnigan

CMO at Growth Stage Marketing

Mark Donnigan is the CMO at Growth Stage Marketing. He designs and executes marketing programs and go-to-market strategies that build markets and establish disruptive innovation companies as a category king. With 20 years of experience as a transformative and strategic B2B marketing and business leader, Mark understands what’s required to succeed in today’s winner-takes-all market.

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