Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 261: Q & A Scott Horn @scott_horn
By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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This week’s show is called “Does Paid Search Ever Work for Enterprise B2B?”. My guest is Scott Horn, CMO at several SaaS companies.
Join us as we discuss a little bit about Brisket Camp, paid search working in a scalable way for B2B, the difference when thinking about paid search as a marketing and revenue leader, and how to start to educate your organization and leadership on a different way of thinking about paid search channels.
Listen in now, read below or watch the video!
Matt: All right, welcome everyone to another exciting episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. My name is Matt Heinz, I am your host. If you’re watching us live on YouTube, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, we’re all over the place today, so thank you very much for joining us, checking us out in the middle of your work day, appreciate that very much. If you’re watching on demand, thanks for checking us out. If you’re listening to the audio portion of this through our podcast feed, thanks so much for downloading and subscribing. You can find every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, past, present, future, at salespipelineradio.com. We are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing every week and we couldn’t do it without some great partners, without great guests, obviously, but also without great partners.
Very excited to have Sendoso as a sponsor of Sales Pipeline, Radio this fall. They’re doing some great work, folks. If you’re not using Sendoso, if you’re not really… I mean, think about the idea of, and I know Scott will talk about this in a little bit, the fact that we’ve become so digital focused that our digital channels are clogged and saturated, really it’s the human connections that make the difference. And the brands that really embrace that physical virtual and hybrid strategy, are the ones that are building meaningful connections and growing their revenue. We’d definitely encourage anyone who wants to explore that idea further, Sendoso just completed their Connected event. It’s available on demand now. You’ll have the opportunity to hear from people that are employing that hybrid strategy to make human connections as well. Some really great content, Sendoso does a fantastic job with it, so check it out, sendoso.com/connected-2021 and we’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well.
All right, very excited today to have our guest, Scott Horn. Scott is a multiple time CMO, CRO, has worn many hats. We’re going to blast some holes today in the idea that paid search works for B2B. But we’re going to start this conversation and I apologize in advance to the vegetarians listening, we’re going to start with a little Brisket Camp, because I know, we do have, there’s this whole… First of all, at Heinz Marketing, we have a very strong sort of foodie subculture. We talk about food and drink, supply and demand on a regular basis. We have a healthy number of barbecue enthusiasts supply and demand in our B2B circle as well. And I don’t think many people even know that Brisket Camp exists. So, fill us in on how awesome this is and why other people should check it out? They can go after me on the wait list, but otherwise, other than that.
Scott: There you go. So, to Matt’s point, I’m a brisket aficionado. I never lived in Texas, but I think it’s the best barbecue there is, all due respect to the North Carolina and Kansas City contingents. So, Brisket Camp is put on by the Texas Foodways Association and it is a two day camp dedicated to the science and art of smoking brisket, Texas style. And it’s taught by three people, three professors at Texas A&M, so you fly out to College Station and two of the three are like the leading meat scientists in the world, so they actually haul a carcass in, they show you how to saw it, you learn about what woods to use, what grade of meat to use. You eat a lot of brisket, so I will admit as much as I love brisket, by the time the last meal rolled around, I was like, “I don’t think I can eat brisket after eating brisket for two days straight.” We also had a six-time world champion Chuck Wagon cook, cook for us, which was kind of amazing, in a vintage 1800 Chuck Wagon. So, if you’re interested, Texas Foodways is involved in preserving the history and traditions of Texas, they even do a Texas wine thing. They also have a barbecue camp and it’s easy, pretty inexpensive, you don’t have to be from Texas, I’m not, I’m from Massachusetts, and you can sign up easily, Texas Foodways, and then you enter in a lottery. The funny thing about it is, when they went through the class, they there were all people… Literally, one person there, his grandchild was being born and he decided to go to Camp Brisket instead.
Scott: We all started laughing. He’s like, “My daughter-in-law’s in labor with the grandchild and I’m here, because I’ve waited five years,” because it can take five years to get there. When I told people I got in just through sheer chance my first year, I thought I was going to get murdered by all the Texans there. But it is a blast, you get to meet some of the leading pit masters, highly encourage it. It’s usually in January, but due to COVID, we got to do it in July and yes, College Station, Texas, in July is a tad warm, but totally worth it. Highly recommend it.
Matt: Yeah, for those that don’t know College Station, the home of Texas A&M University. Not very far away from Houston, so basically think Houston weather in the middle of the summer and that’s probably what you had to deal with there. You had me at meat scientists, that sounds pretty interesting. And I will say, as a very amateur sort of pit master myself, there are far easier cuts of meat and dishes to make than brisket. Brisket is very difficult to do well. All the conditions that you have, all the variables to think about, anyway.
Yeah, well, so we keep trying to get time to talk about Brisket Camp, so I figure why not just on live radio, let’s just do it right now and just have our private conversation, so hopefully other people can get in line after me on the wait list for Brisket Camp. One of the things I think that, in all seriousness, I sort of said, “Hey, let’s get you on and talk about this,” is, I mean, there’s a lot of different angles we can go. We’ve only got probably 15 minutes left or so, but to talk about search and B2B.
And I’ve been in the camp for a while that the more enterprise your sale is in B2B, the harder it is to make search work. And I’m not talking about SEO, SEO is a different strategy, but I’m talking about sort of paid search and getting paid search to pencil out well in a scalable way for B2B. Talk about your perspective on this and what you have learned.
Scott: Yeah, you bet. So, a teaser for the end. I have found one person who is a good friend of mine, who actually believes that they’ve made paid search work, but I will describe the conditions required and he had a technology vendor recommendation as well. So, as Matt said, I’ve tried paid search for enterprise mid-market B2B at multiple companies and if you’re a marketing leader out there, just kind of virtually raise your hand if you’ve had this situation. You go into your CEO and your sales leaders and you’re all excited and your agency is with you, and you’ve done paid search and you actually go look at the leads you’ve got, and you get to see, and I actually had this happen once, firstname.lastname@example.org or Fred Flintstone at flinstones.com. And you’re like, “Oh.”
So, I liked paid search, at least in my experiences, it’s like you’re buying a scratch lottery ticket. And by the time you get to scratch the lottery ticket, I have another analogy I use, by the time you get to scratch the lottery ticket, it could be zero, it could be five bucks, in the rare case, maybe 100 bucks, but you’ve already paid the money, they’ve gotten it. So, what I’ve found is, paid search, whether it’s Google or Bing or anything else, it’s really a tough, tough place to go. And a few concrete things, number one, and some of this is going to sound obvious, but I ran into it all the time is, make sure your organic conversion works first. I mean, paid search is a later strategy in my opinion, you add it after your organic conversion’s working, you’ve optimized your landing pages, you’ve made sure your content’s there.
But even there, I think, paid search, if you’re, I’d say, below a million bucks a year in paid search, it’s really tough to make it work. And part of that is the options, in most cases, that Google or any of the other search engines give you for are targeting are really limited in B2B context. You can do time of day, day of week, device, you can do gender and age level, but that’s about it. I mean, I can’t target Matt Heinz at Heinz Marketing, just, I can’t. So, I’ll pause there and we can talk a little bit about it, but I’m a fan of organic like Matt. I think organic’s great. We can also talk about paying for competitive keywords, which I personally think is nuts, unless it’s one case. It’s just, it’s a money transfer to Google. Thank you, Google.
Matt: Yeah, and does the answer to this question change if you are focused primarily on just generating marketing leads versus focused on generating pipeline impact? Because what I’ve heard from a lot of people is, “Oh no, I can still reach my audience on paid search,” but then I think the nature of the higher abandoned rates that come from paid search, the fickle nature of some people that’ll search and then go back and then aren’t very focused, I think lends itself to a lower quality prospect, let alone your inability to do the targeting you’re talking about. I think it proposes a challenge now, is there a different… I’ve got a couple questions, first, is there a difference when we’re thinking about this as a marketer versus a revenue leader? Start there.
Scott: I don’t think there should be, but I think there sometimes is. I mean, we all know this. I mean, marketers, the sales leader wants the things that are going to become opportunities, so they care about quality. And as marketers, for the sales leaders on here, you’ve all been in that situation where you’re getting into leads and nothing converts. You can’t even get them on the phone. That’s not good. Now, one argument that I’ve heard made is, “Well, if you want to get your sales team or your SDR team all of that, it works.” But if you’re getting people who aren’t in your target market, I mean, what’s the value of that? You’re not really getting a ton of value.
So, I mean, the one place I think search potentially can work and I have not experienced this personally, is I did speak to somebody a couple weeks ago. One of the things that Google lets you do, if you have a target account list defined and you’re doing account based marketing and [inaudible 00:10:35], and you’re spending enough, you can load that into Google and then only advertise against people on the list. Now, I haven’t dug into it enough yet to know, and I doubt it, can I say, “Hey, I want to reach the CFO in my target accounts, or am I just getting somebody in the target account?” But the person who said it to me said they were spending, it’s a large, well known technology provider, they’re spending a million bucks a year plus on search. They’re also using LiveRamp. [inaudible 00:11:10] is using LiveRamp data platform, but the reality is, and this is a public company, unless you’re a public, large company, that’s not the situation most of us face.
If you’re a series A, B, C, D private equity and you’re spending even 10,000 bucks a month, you’re just kind of buying scratch lottery tickets, is the way I look at it. You don’t know who you’re getting and what, so I’m not a huge fan of it. And the problem is, a lot of CEOs I’ve run into, since they see a lot of other people doing paid search, they’re like, “Hey, marketing person, when are you going to do…” And it’s like, you’re sitting there trying to explain, “I can’t tell you what we’re going to get on it.”
Matt: Yeah. So, if I’m thinking about this in terms of most efficient marketing channel of getting some response or getting some engagement or demand, if you’re focused on a certain ICP, paid search can be a challenge. But what if it’s a highly inefficient channel from a percent of target account, the right level, but that small percent of people that do come through are really, really valuable, right? And does it justify the efficiency of the channel overall, if you’re looking at both at what it matters in terms of conversion, as well as in the body of work for that paid search versus other channels that you’re running as well?
Scott: Well, let’s talk about that, because I think there’s a couple ways to look at it. Number one, obviously ACV matters. If you are spending, I’ll call it, five to 10 bucks for a paid search lead against an ACV of six figures. Okay, you can spend more money than you could have, it’s a $5,000 sale. The other thing is, obviously time and sales cycle matters, because one of the challenges is, and I’ve had this conversation with multiple search agencies, is if you’ve got a long sales cycle, a lot of times you find yourself in the scenario and sales will do this too.
We think this is going to convert. You think it’s going to convert if you’ve got a 12 month sales cycle, well, you’ve spent 12 months of search dollars before you figure out, “Holy crap, nothing’s converting.” Probably actually more than 12 months, it’s probably more like 18 months, because you’ve had six months of not converting, not converting. So, I think that matters as well. I mean, again, I go back to, I always start with organic in conversion, because the thing I’m trying to prove is okay, my offer, whatever I’m offering, whether it’s a trial, a demo, some piece of helpful education materials, I’m reaching the kind of people, they’ll come and… I’m putting aside the whole thing should be gated or ungated or conversation, that’s a different conversation. Well, let’s assume you’re gating, where you’re trying to get a [inaudible 00:13:56]. I’m trying to prove that at least I’ve optimized the landing page. I don’t have 27 fields, not confusing. The offer’s interesting. Then once you get that, at least you’ve eliminated part of it because at least, Matt, the conversation I’ve found myself in a lot of agencies is, they’ll encourage you to keep spending to get your cost per click down. And they look at, “Am I getting conversions, like opportunities from real people I hear about?” Well, that’s a later stage problem. And I’m like, “Well, wait a second. It doesn’t matter if it costs me 10 bucks or two bucks for a click if it’s still some 13-year-old high school student.”
Matt: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that’s part of the thinking I’m trying to sort of debunk or sort of the challenge here, right? Is that like, “Hey, this is focused on digital marketing, you got to think about conversion separately.” And I’m like, “No, they’re all part of the same thing.” And I think part of this is also saying, “Okay, let’s take this out of just paid search and say, we’ve got multiple channels, if you’re doing enterprise sales, you’re going to have to create valuable touch points with people in the buying committee, multiple times across multiple channels to build trust, credibility, engagement.”
And so, to look at one of those channels at one point in time and say, “Is this too much or too little to spend,” is a really hard question to correctly answer versus saying, “How much am I willing to spend to generate a qualified reciprocal opportunity with this company?” That’s a much bigger number than you’re willing to spend on a click somewhere, right? So, I could go back and say, “If only 2% of the clicks I get from paid search are useful, if those 2% help me get the deal, if they help me get a lead that got something…” The economics is more interesting to look at, the further down the funnel you get versus at those tactical channels.
Scott: Yeah, I think that’s right. I mean that begs another whole comment, which we can talk about in a second, of attribution, because that’s definitely what I’ve been explored since I have some downtime. My take on it is, I’m not against digital channels. I actually have found for example, and I’m not trying to endorse any of these, I’m just saying, I’ve had good success with LinkedIn, the variety forms there. I’ve had pretty good success with Display Advertising if we’re targeting the pubs. So, a few rules apply. Number one and you’re kind of making the point, you got to know your audience. I mean, it sounds dumb, but who’s the buyer? What’s the buyer’s journey. Where do they go search? What problems are they trying to look for? You got to figure all that out.
Then secondly, you got to look at, “Okay, what am I willing to spend,” to your point, on this? And then I think you’ve got to look at all your channels in terms of what converts, so what are conversion rates effect? I just saw a post earlier today from Chris Walker on this, Revenue Collective, which I thought was really good on, okay, look at your channels by conversion, look at your cost, and in fact, ideally you put cost and conversion together and say, “What’s the cost of a converted lead in that channel?” And you’re right, maybe you got to reach somebody, but you’ve got a lot of options to your point earlier. You’ve got direct mail, whether it’s Sendoso or something else. The issue I have with paid search is just that, unless you’re spending at scale, the targeting options are so limited. You just have no idea. And in fact, that’s the inherent problem in paid searches.
If you think about it, I’m putting an ad out there, they click on it, okay? My money goes to Google, or the agency to Google. Now, maybe they fill out the form, maybe they don’t. If they don’t fill out the form, okay, I have no idea. And then if they fill out the form, maybe it’s a good lead, but sometimes it’s not. Especially, by the way, for anybody out there who has a website where you’re taking non-work emails, stop, stop, unless you’re selling to consumers, stop. It’s B2B. And my issue is that you have to pay a lot of money for what is a known set of limited targeting options to figure out, “Hey, is this thing working?” That’s why I think there are other channels that give you more, like LinkedIn, for example, gives you much better targeting options, in terms of reaching your ICP.
Matt: We just went right into the deep end, right away at the beginning of this episode of Sales Pipeline Radio with our guest, Scott Horn. Started a little bit with Brisket Camp, but then dove into paid search channels. We’ve just got a couple minutes left here.
You referenced earlier like the board and the CEO seeing other companies doing things and saying, “Why don’t we show up on search?” We know Google did some research earlier this year and it showed that only three to 4% of board members have direct marketing experience in their past. So, looking at these things and saying, “Oh, yeah, we should be here. Why aren’t we doing this? Why do I see our competitors doing this?” Maybe your competitors are spending money in a foolish way. Let’s not chase them, just because they’re there. How do you up level that conversation? And if you’re a CMO and you’re at the seat of the leadership table, that’s one thing. We’ve got a lot of people watching this that don’t even necessarily have that seat yet, so how do you start to educate the organization and your leadership and your board on a different way of thinking about this?
Scott: Yeah, so I think you’ve got to start with, I call it the ideal customer profile or ideal account profile and the buyer’s journey conversation. And that starts with linking arms with sale. This is one where sales and marketing, you’re in the boat together. And it doesn’t matter if you’re CMO or not, you can sit down with your sales leaders and say, “Okay, look, I want to help us understand together what makes a good account or not? What size account?” I mean, there’s a whole bunch of questions you can ask and I’ll just give a few in the interest of time. Is it based on headcount? Is it based on revenue? Is it based on vertical industries? Is it based on geography? What problem are we trying to solve? Is there one economic buyer? Is there a buying group?
So, that’s the first thing. Then it doesn’t take a lot. You can do six to eight quick interviews with actual customers or prospects and just ask a good series of questions. Like, okay. if they’re a customer, what’s your top five problems? Where was the problem that we’re solving for you on that list? How did you decide it was a problem? Was there a trigger vent, and so on and so forth. I think CEOs want to hear that stuff. I think boards want to hear that stuff, because you’re coming in with actual customer data, you’re having a conversation and the other thing is, I think just simply explaining to people how search works. I think a lot of people don’t get the fact that, “Hey, they click.”
There’s nothing that prevents anyone from clicking. We’re kind of trusting Google or Bing or whoever to actually put the thing in front of the right person, and let’s talk about that, and then, okay, what happens if somebody who’s not the right person clicks it? We’re still paying. I mean, display advertising is somewhat the same, but at least with display advertising, I think people have gotten used to the idea till the whole third party cookie thing, that you can actually get better targeting. But you’re also right, Matt, a lot of these board members, CEOs, first of all, they’re not marketers. They’re seeing other people, they sit on other boards where marketers come and say, “Yeah, we’re doing paid search.” And don’t hang around for, “Okay, let’s see the results from paid search.”
Matt: Right. Oh man, we can talk about this forever. No, we’re about out of time here today. I feel like we’ll have to do a part two on this, because I imagine there’s a lot of people that disagree with us. We’ll have to get someone in here that is on the pro B2B paid search side. And I figure we’re onto something, if you’ve got people that start to disagree with you or bring in something else passionately, so.
Scott: Can I say one thing on that?
Scott: I actually went out looking for people to disagree with me. If you disagree, please show up with concrete suggestions on how to make it work, because I have yet, other than the one conversation I had with one person, when we did a post on this a few weeks back, I had a bunch of people pop on there and go, “Oh my God, search is great.” But nobody said a single thing about how they were doing it and how well it was working.
Scott: So, please show up with evidence.
Matt: Good point. Awesome. Well, Scott, thanks very much for joining us.
Scott: Thanks, Matt.
Matt: Appreciate the conversation as always. Thanks everyone for watching another episode and listening to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks, as well to our sponsor, Sendoso. So, check out sendoso.com/connected-2021. They’ve got some great content on demand from their recent event. We’ll see you next week on Sales Pipeline Radio.
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