October 12, 2023

How B2B CMOs Fill Their Funnels

The road from cold lead to engaged prospect can be long, winding, and notoriously hard to trace. But the top of the funnel is a good place to start. 

In this episode, three seasoned CMOs delve into their techniques for nourishing the top of their funnels and the nuances of lead assessment and qualification. Discover the power of impactful content and learn the triggers that send a qualified lead to Sales.

Tune in to hear from our special guests Jeff Morgan of Elements, Andrés Roselló of Cognex, and Kevin Briody of Edmentum.

What You’ll Learn

  • How 3 CMOs feed top-of-funnel (and what’s working) 
  • How to assess and qualify potential prospects 
  • When Sales should step in

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 366 on YouTube 

Resources Mentioned 


  • [4:19] Jeff Morgan: Top of funnel at Elements
  • [7:12] Feeding top of the funnel: Podcast, newsletter, social
  • [12:31] Andrés Roselló: Top of funnel at Cognex
  • [16:10] Biggest top of funnel drivers: Organic SEO
  • [19:56] Kevin Briody: Top of funnel at Edmentum
  • [26:00] What works: Localized content, efficacy research
  • [29:46] Why CMOs love CMO Huddles
  • [33:40] Assessing & qualifying leads: Triggers, scoring
  • [35:14] When does Sales step in?
  • [44:35] Experiments gone wrong, and right!
  • [45:24] Funnel metrics
  • [46:55] Dos and don’ts: Top of funnel marketing

Highlighted Quotes  

Jeff Morgan

“The 3 primary content channels that we’re using to successfully build a top-of-funnel program are a weekly podcast, a weekly email newsletter, and daily social media posts with educational content.” – Jeff Morgan, Head of Marketing at Elements  

“We’re all about speed to lead. Anytime somebody fills out a lead form that indicates that they might be interested in buying our product, our SDR team is calling them within 5 minutes.” – Jeff Morgan, Head of Marketing at Elements 


Andrés Roselló

“The one big “aha” for us is support content. The majority of the traffic in there is from prospective customers; activity in that area of the site is a key indicator for us that they’re ready and we need to jump in.” – Andrés Roselló, Head of Global Marketing at Cognex 

“As we move into a world of more AI-powered search, featured snippets are the results that will be increasingly important across search engines.” – Andrés Roselló, Head of Global Marketing at Cognex 


Kevin Briody

“The brands that are going to stand out are the ones that focus on quality, on providing actual value, and not just well optimized copy. Efficacy research is massive for us.” – Kevin Briody, CMO of Edmentum   

“Do fewer things exceptionally well to drive greater impact. You need to give your team the headspace to be creative and strategic. Focus on the stuff that works and keep things simple.” – Kevin Briody, CMO of Edmentum 

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Jeff Morgan, Andrés Roselló, & Kevin Briody


Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. I’m excited that you’re here to listen to another episode of Renegade Marketers Unite. And if this is your first time listening then welcome. This show is brought to you by CMO Huddles, the only marketing community dedicated to inspiring B2B greatness. And that has a logo featuring penguins. Wait, what? Yeah, well, a group of these curious, adaptable and problem-solving birds is called the Huddle. And the B2B marketers and CMO Huddles are all that and more, huddling together to heat up the coldest job in the C suite. And now that CMO Huddles has three membership tiers, we’re ready to inspire B2B Greatness at all levels. To learn more, check out CMOhuddles.com. Now before we get to the episode, here’s a shout out to the professionals at Share Your Genius. We started working with them over a year ago to make this show even better and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at shareyourgenius.com and tell her Drew sent you. Okay, let’s get on with today’s episode.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers. Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite the top-rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals. You’re about to listen to a recording of CMO Huddles Studio, our live show featuring the CMOs of CMO Huddles, a community that sharing caring and daring each other to greatness every day of the week. This time, we’ve got a conversation with Huddles, Jeff Morgan of Elements, Andres Rossello of Cognex, and Kevin Briody of Edmentum on tackling top-of-the-funnel challenges. Let’s dive in. 

Welcome to CMO Huddles Studio. I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City. The old proverb that every journey begins with a single step sounds simple enough, right? Unless, of course, you’re a marketer, and we’re talking about buyer journeys, then identifying the first step on the journey is the subject of endless speculation and debate. When did that prospect first realize they had a problem that your product or service might solve? And once they realize they had a problem? How did they find your particular solution? Was there a moment of truth that sparked interest in your solution or a series of little triggers? Did they drop by your booth at a trade show randomly? Or had some other activity of yours triggered interest when they were at that trade show? Did they find you on Google? And if so, were there activities that predispose them to click on your content? Or did they just hear about your solution from appear and decide to investigate? Or was it an analyst report? I mean, my head spins when I really start to think about this topic of top-of-the-funnel. And all these things could be happening independently. But fortunately for you, we have three seasoned CMOs here to share how they tackle the challenge of top-of-the-funnel strategically, tactically, and from a metrics perspective. All of our guests happen to be men today, CMO Huddles is not a boys’ club. And just for your reference in about an hour and a half, we’re recording a Bonus Huddle with Dahlia Feldheim, the author of “Dare to Lead Like a Girl,” and we’ve had many episodes where we had three women. So with that, let’s bring on Jeff Morgan, Head of Marketing at Elements, which is a financial planning system. Hello, Jeff, how are you? And where are you?

Jeff Morgan: Doing really great today. Thanks for having me, Drew. I am in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Drew Neisser: Very cool. Okay, just to get started, give us a brief description of Elements.

Jeff Morgan: So Elements is a venture-funded early-stage B2B SaaS startup. And our solution helps financial advisors quickly demonstrate early value to their prospects. So they can convert more of their leads into new clients.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. So in some ways, you’re providing a top-of-the-funnel solution to your customers, which is kind of cool. So I’m really counting on your expertise here. How do you define top-of-the-funnel at Elements?

Jeff Morgan: Interesting thing about that is that we’re constantly trying to explain that we’re not a top-of-funnel tool to our prospective clients and that we’re trying to help them to convert existing leads into new clients rather than like we’re a lead generation service. We’re kind of sitting in the middle-of-funnel, okay, bottom-of-funnel, top-of-funnel, so that might help to define how we think of top-of-funnel elements as well.

Drew Neisser: So for your customers out there, you’re helping them, somebody’s already discovered them. And then now they have to process that and help convert that over time. Okay.

Jeff Morgan: Yeah, demonstrating value to their prospective clients is all about what we’re doing.

Drew Neisser: Okay. Let’s go back to how you define top-of-the-funnel, how do these financial service advisors, or FAs, I guess, how did they find you, discover you? And what do you look at when you think of top-of-the-funnel?

Jeff Morgan: Top-of-funnel to me is where during the buyers’ journey, members of our targeted audience are still unaware or just becoming aware of our solutions. So really, the goal for us at that stage is threefold. So first, we’re trying to build brand awareness with our target audiences. And that includes primarily our ICP, but also industry influencers, prospective employees, prospective investors, to we’re trying to develop credibility and trust with those target audiences. And then the third thing is that we’re trying to help our ICP in particular, identify the challenges that they have that are specifically related to the solutions that we offer, are trying to help them feel a sense of urgency to discover new solutions to the problems that they’re facing. We’re trying to help them associate our brand as a credible source for helpful information. And we’re also trying to get them to feel an affinity for our brand and our mission and our team. 

Drew Neisser: That’s a lot that’s happening, they would be defined as an opportunity, right? So we’ve got awareness, they have to understand there’s a problem. And then they have to understand that you are a provider of a solution and that you’re a credible provider of that. And then ultimately, that you can help them get there. Do you have a sense of which marketing programs specifically feed your top-of-the-funnel?

Jeff Morgan: Yeah, the way that I think of a top-of-funnel program is really all about building audiences. So it’s a way for us to communicate with our target audiences in a one-to-many fashion on a regular basis, where they keep coming back for more. And that way, we can like hit on all those objectives that I kind of mentioned. So for us, right now, the three primary content channels that we’re using to accomplish that are a weekly podcast, a weekly email newsletter, and then daily social media posts that have educational content included in those posts. And growing an audience really requires more, though, than just producing the content. So we really have a bunch of promotional strategies that we’re using to build that audience. Well, we’ve found the most effective way for each one of those to build the audience is really by promoting in the same channel. So if it’s our podcast, we’re promoting our podcast through third-party podcasts that have the same audience as us. If we’re building our social following, then we’re doing paid social campaigns to increase our followers. And we’re partnering up with social industry influencers that have a great social presence. On our newsletter, we’re promoting our newsletter via other industry pubs that have our same audience so that we’re really leveraging other people’s audiences to grow our own. And then we also find that cross-promotion works really well. So we’ll promote our podcast on our social groups will promote our newsletter on our podcast, and all the different ways of cross-promoting with our own audience.

Drew Neisser: One point I’m just going to put a pin in is, so you have all these content marketing, activities, podcasts, emails, social that are all designed to educate, but you have to market the marketing, you can’t just do that and expect discovery so that in a way, the marketing of the marketing that’s the highest level if you will, that’s almost pre-funnel, where you’re building this growing audience. Look, I’ve had a podcast for six years. And I know that podcasts, one of the jokes if you’ve written a book is a podcast, don’t sell books, which is interesting. It’s very hard to sell, but they do a lot of other things. They build credibility and so forth. I know the magic question in the boardroom of which of the top-of-funnel activities we call podcast, email, and social as top-of-the-funnel activities, which help get you deeper into the pipeline. Do you have any sense of oh, well, podcasts is great for this, but it doesn’t get opportunity.

Jeff Morgan: Now. Well, what we found is in our pre-demo surveys, we asked people how did you hear about us, over 30% of the people that have scheduled a demo have also listened to our podcast. And that’s self-reported. I think that the podcast of those three things that we’re doing is probably the most influential in achieving those goals before we start converting them into demos and actual leads. And that’s just because the audience is the biggest there. And I think that we just do a good job of intermixing, our calls to action, and into the beginning and end of the podcast, people eventually find their way to the download form, I guess.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s really interesting. It’s making me wonder, okay, where do I go wrong with the podcast?

Jeff Morgan: Books is different than demos, right?

Drew Neisser: Yes, it’s true. It’s much more of a direct line. So it’s really interesting that the podcast of all those and it makes sense to me in one sense is when someone listens to a podcast, they’re giving you a fair amount of time. And they’re also often doing it when they’re not in the office. They’re working out, and they’re trying to educate themselves. And if you blow it, you don’t get another chance. So you really have to be good at it. And so obviously, kudos to you for having a podcast. Is there anything in terms of the podcasts that you’ve learned? Like, what kind of frequency is your podcast? Just have curiosity?

Jeff Morgan: Yeah, it’s a weekly podcast. And we’re really religious about making sure that it happens every single week. So I think that consistency is one of the things that is really helpful. Also, we will survey our audience occasionally to understand what topics are interesting to them. The demographics are the people that are actually listening – you’re trying to get in the head of the person of your target audience. And if you can speak to them in a way that uses their language and, you know the challenges that they’re facing, and they’re just like, “These guys are in my head. They’re like sitting in my office next to me, they see the challenges that I’m facing.” I’m gonna keep tuning in. Because I know that I’m gonna get some little nugget of insight each time. And that’s kind of how I feel about the CMO Huddles. Honestly, that’s why I keep coming back to him because I get that same experience.

Drew Neisser: The little nuggets. I love it. All right, we’ll come back to both your comments and CMO Huddles, but we’re going to now introduce Andrés Roselló, the head of Global Marketing at Cognex Corporation. Hello, Andrés. Wonderful to see you again. And where are you today?

Andrés Roselló: At our global headquarters in Natick, Massachusetts, just two miles west of Boston.

Drew Neisser: All right, well, we’ve moved from the middle of the country to the east. Maybe you can help educate the folks on what Cognex does for us in that sentence or two.

Andrés Roselló: For Cognex, we empower companies primarily that make things or move things to improve their productivity with vision. So machine vision is a combination of hardware, think of cameras, and increasingly AI-powered software to inspect and identify packages and products going through production facilities. 

Drew Neisser: Oh, okay, wow, your customers, these are big deals that you’re doing. And we’re talking about a lot of factors that go into the sale of Cognex.

Andrés Roselló: Surprisingly, not. We’re a component of the automation space. So if you think about large industrial companies, a lot of investment over the last decades in automated investing in technology, we played a small role in that, which is the vision with an automation capability. So we might have large deals with those automation production companies to be integrated into their larger systems. But many times it’s thought of as an after component. So I have a production facility, production process, have identified a problem somewhere on the line. And vision can help improve that process, maybe I can remove a manual person inspecting the component and use AI-powered cameras to solve for those problems. So in those cases, the buying committee is relatively small, maybe two or three people. And these deal sizes are, you know, in the 25k range. So they’re not the enterprise deal where you’re dealing with the CIO. And then months of negotiation, shorter buying cycles, smaller committees, smaller fine sizes.

Drew Neisser: So how do you define top-of-the-funnel at Cognex? In some ways, you’re a component of a larger solution. Talk about just how you define it. 

Andrés Roselló: It is really that some might define as above-the-funnel, that’s how we think of our top-of-the-funnel. It’s really helping with that problem awareness as opposed to solution awareness or as others have defined creating demand as opposed to capture demand. So in that area, how do we get companies to enter the category to number one, understand and acknowledge that they have a problem or benefit is we’re a 40-year-old company that has high brand awareness and a strong brand reputation in our category. So we invest three times more in R&D than any of our competitors are known as the premium solution provider. And so that benefit affords me, I just need to get people to enter the category and once they get in there, I have some a lot of confidence. But they’ll find us. So it’s really about helping them understand they have a problem. And there are new solutions to it. And that’s a change really recently in our industry, as AI has infused almost every segment of the market and infused our market as well. So over the last two or three years, a lot more AI going into our cameras. And that’s rapidly expanding what’s possible, what are the types of problems that we can solve. And so a lot of the education effort is there, things that were unsolvable, are now solvable, without spending huge amounts of money and time are now solvable with relatively easy solutions that can be set up in days.

Drew Neisser: First of all, it’s really cool to be thinking about this vision area, but I just want to pause. And for those folks that are not at 40-year-old companies who don’t have awareness, I mean, what a luxury to be able to just focus on the problem knowing that you’re gonna get more than your fair share of those folks, once they learn about the problem and understand the solutions, there’s a decent chance they’re gonna find you. Whereas everybody else has to say why they’re better than you. You have that luxury. Given that it’s all about the problem. What are your biggest drivers from a top-of-the-funnel standpoint?

Andrés Roselló: Yeah, it’s organic SEO that primarily in written contact, we’ve tried a couple of other channels, maybe time to take a swing at them again, I know the last couple of years audio and podcast and become a hot topic. But for us, it’s written and video educational top content of what is the category? What is machine vision? What’s automation? How do I improve my production quality, my production throughput, it’s engaging in those conversations that are happening in the market and being finely attuned to the language of our customers. And all of the categories that we play, they use slightly different language. If you’re at a logistics company like Amazon, they use slightly different language than a manufacturing company like Ford, even though they’re talking about similar problems. So we’re really being finely attuned to the way that they speak and the way they think about their production and logistics processes and participating in those conversations with a keyword strategy.

Drew Neisser: This feels like very long tail search, there might only be 200 people searching for “use that machine vision for x”, if that was the language that they used, then you got to create a lot of content, a lot of pages.

Andrés Roselló: We do have a long-tail strategy. But I think of that more in the kind of middle- bottom-of-the-funnel. Once you’ve gotten down to the point of how do I solve a specific solution for a specific type of problem? I’ve gotten a sense that they understand they have a problem. And there’s a really specific need that they’re trying to solve most of what we think about at the top-of-the-funnel, is that really top-level educational of what is the category? What is measurement? What’s vision, what’s automation? These are categories that are much larger than ours, we just play a small role in them. If companies are out there thinking about what is automation? And what are the tools, we want them to be aware that there’s a category that might help them in a new and different way.

Drew Neisser: I’m thinking about SEO and organic SEO. You know, I was at Forrester conference and the CEO and his opening remarks said, “Google will die.” He didn’t give a timeframe. But he said Google will die. And it certainly got everybody’s attention. And they sat up I think that the timeframe may be longer than he wanted anybody to believe there. But nonetheless, search is going to change. And I’m wondering how, if at all, you’re thinking about G? Well, if search is changing ChatGPT is the new search engine, how does that impact your strategy?

Andrés Roselló: Analysts have a knack for being provocative in certain areas. Certainly, George does. And at Forrester, we have been looking at it being is taking a leap ahead as it relates to kind of AI-powered search results. Google is fast follow, we’ve been playing around with some of their demos that they’re sharing to groups and one learning that we’ve had from that. And I think it’s always been an important topic to try to land the snippet or try to land that spot. And I think that will be increasingly important as we look at the types of results that the search engines will be providing back. It’s less about the list and more about curating a response and giving that response to you. I think what had been important before of can we show up in the top page that still matters. But more importantly, can we be the answer to the question? And I think as we look forward to the kind of ChatGPT AI-powered search response, the answer to the question will matter a lot more. And so focusing on the type of content and the structure of the content that will afford us that spot. 

Drew Neisser: For better or for worse, there’s going to be a fair amount of what we’ll call it, flooding of these tools to train them. And that’ll be another area that will be interesting. I think it’s both controversial and one might call it opportunistic, but we’ll see how that shapes things as well as these machine learning language models. How are they going to learn, right? Well, they’re going to probably learn for brands. All right, well, very cool. We’ll come back to this but let’s now welcome Kevin Briody. CMO of Edmentum and star of episode 29 of the predecessor to this show Renegade Marketers live. Hello Kevin, welcome back.

Kevin Briody: Thanks, Drew. I love being characterized as the star of anything.

Drew Neisser: So yeah, there you go. So where are you today?

Kevin Briody: I am in Greensboro, North Carolina, my home office, we’re actually headquartered out of Minneapolis. But really like a lot of companies since the pandemic went remote first, so we’re all over the place.

Drew Neisser: All right, well, now we sort of moved south in our geography. So give us a brief description of what Edmentum does.

Kevin Briody: So Edmentum is a K-12 learning technology company. We do digital curriculum, assessments, professional instructional services for about 6 million students, 400,000 educators. We work across about 11,000 schools, districts, and other educational institutions in all 50 states and worldwide.  

Drew Neisser: Very cool. And that’s funny because we’ve moved from automating factories and warehouses to now how do we automate education in some sense. You’ve got end users of students, and you’ve got teachers who need to implement this. And then you’ve got school districts who I imagine have to buy it. What’s top-of-funnel look like for you? 

Kevin Briody: Well, it’s interesting for us because-top-of-funnel, I mean, there’s a big distinction between our typical user and our buyer. Our user is obviously the students. But in many ways, we consider our primary customer in terms of who uses our tools and really what our company is built around whose lives we’re making better is the educator, the teacher, to some degree. Our top-of-funnel is connecting with those teachers and those educators and making sure that what we’re putting out is relevant to them and we’re showing up when they’re thinking about how they approach helping their students and connecting with their students. But then, our buyer is very much typically people in what we consider building level or school level administration, like principals, assistant principals, folks like that, or more often people at the school district level. So the top-of-the-funnel for us is making sure we’re connecting with people who are either buyers in the superintendent’s office or people who are part of their buying group, influencers, which are very often the teachers as well as other people in the administrative office there.

Drew Neisser: In some sense, everybody has the same goal, which is to educate better, but the teacher, if they are embracing it, that’s a good thing. And obviously, they can say I want this. And then the educator says, well, we don’t have funding this year, but maybe next year. How do you build and get to that audience?

Kevin Briody: Well, I think for us, our buying group, traditionally, it’s a pretty diverse audience, it’s pretty broad as well. So a lot of people who have influence in those purchase decisions. And certainly, when we’re talking in the United States, in K-12 education, there’s a political element to it – superintendents report to school boards, so budgets are driven that way. So there are different factors there. But it’s really to your point, it’s for the different audiences – from a marketing perspective, it’s finding ways to speak to their particular needs and pain points. You mentioned about like, “Well, we don’t have budget this year versus next year.” You know, we live in a highly seasonal buying cycle, the vast majority of decisions around contracts and RFPs and purchase decisions are really made in a pretty tight window in our industry that takes place in the United States, and really late spring, early summer. Right in the midst of where we are now. So for us, top-of-funnel is connecting with those people who influence those buying decisions year-round to make sure we’re top of mind as they’re doing that early research, as they’re poking around and trying to understand how different vendors can solve some of their needs. And then also making sure we’re right there, top of mind for topic consideration during this really critical buying window.

Drew Neisser: So I’m imagining, so we have the steady stream, and then it’s April, and it’s like, these folks must be inundated by everybody else who understands that they’re buying right now. And again, at that point in time, they’re no longer top-of-the-funnel, right? Because in theory, they may or may not be in the process of buying, they’re certainly going to buy something.

Kevin Briody: Yeah, if we’re not already on their radar, in their consideration set by this time of the year, it’s going to be hard for us to really get in there. I mentioned it’sseasonal and it goes back to what you said – when we think about top-of-funnel it’s about putting out content or running events or whatever the tactic is that speak to their needs at that moment. For example, when back to school rolls around, we know a big challenge in the United States has been teacher shortages. What can companies do to support schools and districts as they wrestle with, how do we have gaps in our teaching schedule? Or how do we reduce some of the burn and churn on individual educators? That’s going to be very top of mind in the fall as schools kick back in or at the start of second semester in January. So it’s about finding ways to connect with them year-round but in context of what their particular pain point or need or worry is at that exact moment. So as I mentioned, it’s a very seasonal calendar for us very closely mapped to the school year. It’s just about staying top of mind and in front of them year-round so we’re well set up for this critical second-quarter buying season.

Drew Neisser: Is there any, from a tactical standpoint, something that is working better than you expected in terms of top-of-the-funnel, sort of making sure that these are such difficult things to measure, but making sure that when we get to the buying moment, they are aware of you they understand the solution, and you’re on the list? Is there anything that sort of from the top that starts the conversation off really, really well?

Kevin Briody: It’s perhaps not surprisingly better, it’s just it’s a tried and true tactic – Andrés did a really nice job speaking to the power of organic and the value of really good content marketing. I’ve been a big fan of content marketing for years, I think it has a lot of potential power. And a lot of companies, particularly in the B2B space, make a ton of use of it. A lot of it is in our industry, particularly in the US domestic market. Education is highly, highly local, it’s really 50 little countries, who all have their own policies, their own needs, their own pain points. There are some shared needs that they have, like I mentioned, teacher retention, and shortages is a big challenge or learning loss or things like that. But the nuances of it, and how we might help are highly local. And so a lot of what we do, and where we’ve seen good success is trying to put out good content, good research, different things that will resonate for their potential local needs. So as they’re searching for that, they find us we show up well, and we can get them into the top-of-funnel and get into that consideration set. So it’s a tried and true tactic, so it’s nothing earth-shatteringly shocking. And a lot of times organic, and SEO can be a bit of a slow burn effort. But we’ve seen a lot of success there. And I think it’s something we’re continuing to focus on.

Drew Neisser: So I’m just sort of wrapping my mind around thinking about, even within 50 states, if we said those are 50 different countries, even by county, they could be different countries, and the way they think about and solve their challenges, and what kind of challenges that they have. So there’s so much noise at the top-of-the-funnel for almost every brand, there’s a lot of people that visit the website, they check out a piece of content, they may or may not sign up for a newsletter, right, any way that you found that you can sort of separate. This is funnel material.

Kevin Briody: The earlier conversation you had just had, you mentioned, you know, the hot topic on everyone’s mind and marketing of generative AI and ChatGPT. And the impact that’s going to have on SEO, for example, we’ve been seeing for years, but certainly with ChatGPT is just exploding, it’s just flooding the zone with low-quality content, there’s so much noise, it’s gonna get a million times worse over the coming months and years as people, the tools get better. As people start to embrace it more, the brands that are gonna stand out are the ones that focus on quality. They’re the ones that focus on providing actual value, and not just well-optimized copy. And I think it’s really speaking to how we’re answering the critical question. So for us, it is about talking about efficacy research and impact research our customers, they’re not selling something as much as their work is affecting the lives of students. They need to know what they’re doing, the tactics they’re using, the tools they’re using, actually works. And so efficacy research is massive for us. And that’s the kind of content people are looking for. It answers your questions. That’s how you stand out from the noise, you got to focus on real substance and quality. Maybe it’s optimistic, but my belief is that’s the kind of stuff that will continue to rise above.

Drew Neisser: I think you’re right. It’s funny, we are running a test right now partnering with a content specialist. And it’s running on renegade.com, where we have content human only, human and bot and bot only content to see and we’re doing a lot of it over the next month and a half to see which wins. And already there’s pretty clear indication that the human works better, which is obviously reassuring to a lot of writers out there. But I think the other point that you make the efficacy research, the difference. That’s custom research that you have that no one else has that can educate the market. And I want to just make sure that that’s different than a blog post. That is a significant investment. And I think what you’re going to see is big content pillars like research are going to be the things and then where AI will come in is taking that research and turning it into lots of little iterations. It’s still original content, but you’ll be able to use that faster in a lot of different ways. 

Alright. Let’s take a minute and talk about CMO Huddles which we launched in 2020. CMO Huddles is an exclusive community of over 100 highly effective B2B CMOs who share, care, and dare each other to greatness. One CMO describes Huddles as a cross between an executive workshop and a therapy session. And given how hard things are getting out there who doesn’t need a little reassurance that they’re not alone? Everything about CMO Huddles is designed to be a force multiplier, helping you to make faster, better, and more informed decisions. Since no CMO can outwork this crazy job, CMO Huddles is here to help you outsmart it. 

So as it happens, Jeff, Andrés, Kevin, you’re all in Huddles one quick question, are you on the therapy side or the executive workshop side?

Jeff Morgan: I’m on both as well, I like the therapy. And I like the tips and ideas that I get from all the other awesome CMOs.

Drew Neisser: If you have a specific example of something that happened in either attending a Huddle or reading a report or something that’s really specifically helped you on that challenge.

Kevin Briody: I’m a little bit of therapy and workshop, I think it’s a great environment to kind of hear from people who are dealing with similar challenges, and know you’re not alone is also useful. A good example I would have is without throwing a vendor pitch out. But one of the challenges in our field is when you need a new vendor. How do you sort from the noise, we’re marketers, we get all the inbound marketing tactics against us as well. Huddles actually has got a great Slack channel, there’s some good advice going back and forth on well-vetted vendors in different spaces, we found a great production partner for a particular project that we needed through a CMO Huddle recommendation from about two or three other CMOs, who had already used them as well, at the risk of inviting spam. That was a really helpful thing.

Drew Neisser: That’s awesome. No, I appreciate that. Andrés, Jeff, anything in terms of specifics that come to mind where Huddles has been helpful?

Andrés Roselló: You know, Drew, my conversations with you had the opportunity to catch up with you for 30 minutes and get your thoughts, which was half therapy session and half executive guidance. You’re a really brilliant marketer, and you have a ton of experience, just having that access to you has been a great benefit to me.

Drew Neisser: As long as my wife isn’t hearing this episode, that’s fine, because she definitely worries about my head being able to fit through the door on the way out, but thank you Andrés. Awesome, let’s see anything else, Jeff? 

Jeff Morgan: I just say on the therapy side, for me, one of the things that opened my eyes was I attended one of the Huddles that was for people in transition. I’m not personally in that mode right now in my career, but it made me realize that I needed to spend more time on my personal brand because for all of us, that day will come. Investing now is gonna make it way easier. And so that was like something that lit a fire under me that wasn’t there before the session that we had where we talked about using ChatGPT was particularly helpful from a tactical perspective. And in sharing many of the insights I got out with my team, we’ve been more effective since listening to that session. So I’ve taken away lots of great stuff.

Drew Neisser: I really appreciate the three of you and the comments. I’m gonna make one note, Jeff, on the transition team. Yeah, we’ve been supporting CMOs in transition for three years. And you’re absolutely right. One of the things that I have noticed is that CMOs don’t pay attention to their personal brand till they’re in transition, which is way too late. So we did spend an entire month on personal branding. And we actually have another individual coming in, I think, towards the end of the month talking about easy ways of doing it. All right, well, if you’re a B2B CMO who can share, care, and dare with the best of them, check out CMOhuddles.com. All right, let’s get back to this conversation. We’re in top-of-the-funnel. And we talked a lot about and we’ve talked about content, and SEO as the big driver there. And I’m boring, just keep moving along and maybe get down-the-funnel a little bit. How are you assessing and qualifying and I don’t even want to use the word leads because I know leads are bad term and Huddle land. Now we don’t even want to talk about marketing qualified leads, we just want to talk about opportunities. However, they got to get from where they stopped the top-of-the-funnel to an opportunity. Can you talk about any fast track mechanisms that you might have in terms of qualifying or behaviors that you might see that say, oh, okay, that’s real. And I know it’s going to be vary by your market. But Andrés, you could speak to that.

Andrés Roselló: Since we invest so much in content and those digital channels, we spent a lot of time looking at what are the digital behaviors. And how does that translate? Or how can that inform where folks are in their buying process? And the one big aha for us is support content. Initially, we thought well support content is for customers. And once they’re a customer, they might go in there and download the CAD files or the installation guide and those bits but what we found is that the majority of the traffic in there is from prospective customers. And as they get pretty close to their buying process within two weeks, they start digging into those areas and downloading those guides and educating themselves on if I buy this thing what’s it going to take to install it, how long is it going to take? What support do I need? What tools do I need? What integrations might I need? And so activity in that area of the site is a key indicator for us that they’re ready. And we need to jump in.

Drew Neisser: That’s so interesting. And I want to pause on that for a second because they’re ready to embrace. And they’re really going through a process. And I think some companies may not anticipate that, they think, okay, well wait for the sales call. I’m thinking about Brent Adamson and buyer enablement. That’s exactly what that is, in an unexpected way. Right? That should have been post-sale. But no, a smart buyer is thinking through the experience. So I’m wondering, Kevin, or Jeff, do you have a similar trigger, that’s helping you identify the wheat from the chaff so to speak.

Kevin Briody: Mine is a little bit more anecdotal at this point, I’m driven by the data. But it’s support content to the extent for us, we’re operating a platform with a set of tools that have to operate in a pretty tightly integrated environment, most of our customers have a broad set of single sign-on tools, third-party platforms that are already in. And the last thing they want to do is add complexity to that we’ve got some content up on the site that’s really designed to support content around integrations and interoperability with these other platforms. But that’s something we’re pulling forward into more of our marketing content because we’re finding people that go into that, which is a good indication that we’ve passed some mental threshold for them that we’re now in their consideration set, and now they’re digging in. So I think it’s a good example, you know, as a marketer, you like to think you’re brilliant, you’ve got your high-funnel content, your mid-funnel, your low-funnel, and you look for those triggers. But I think it’s really cool to sometimes see those weird behaviors that maybe you weren’t expecting. And then that’s a great indicator of people who are a little bit maybe closer to purchase decision than you thought.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I mean, certainly no one is going to look at a manual or an integration thing if they’re not seriously considering buying, which is kind of awesome. And, Jeff, before we move on from that you have anything that you’ve seen in your sort of funnel that’s similarly indicative of a real opportunity versus, you know.

Jeff Morgan: Well, I love the idea of support content I hadn’t thought about. So we’ll test that out. But the way that we’re doing it is that I would say if there are specific assets, it would be pricing page views or pricing page requests, you might want to link to our pricing page because I think we have kind of a unique way of trying to swap contact information for access to our pricing that I hadn’t seen before. So that’s really good. And webinar attendance is always good, because we use webinars as kind of our middle-of-funnel content. So we’re pushing people into that. So those are two good triggers. But in addition to that, we also have a pretty robust lead-scoring program. So we’ve got an ICP score, and we’ve got an engagement score. And we put those together in like what we call a matrix score. So we can sort every lead in our system based off of how good of a fit they are for us how likely they are to buy, versus how engaged they’ve been in our content and our social media programs. And that has really allowed our SDR team to have a great prioritization list for outbound calling, and to move people through the buying cycle from an interest stage into an actual buying funnel.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, well, definitely linked to the website. And the pricing thing is funny, I was reading TrustRadius just had a new report on buyer behavior, and they’re calling it the Self Service buyer going all in on that, and pricing pages are really important, and there’s just no doubt about it. This notion of really anticipating every single thing that potential a real buyer would want to go through and understanding that seems both obvious and profound at the same time, and I really appreciate, Andrés, your insight there. The other thing I was thinking back on is in a previous show, one of the Huddlers shared the number of little demos that they offered, and it was a lot. And so whatever your personal experience and need. And I’m thinking again, with the educators, the end user, they’re going to want to know, what’s this experience going to be like? How hard is it for me to use and so the closer they can get to the product that might matter. Okay, so when they identify themselves, so Andrés we’ll go back to your example of, they’re looking at the manuals, how important is speed at that point to like, that’s off the chart, they’re ready, is that the moment where your salesperson really needs to be calling them and how important is speed in this one?

Andrés Roselló: It matters, to probably a minority of our customers speed matters. So if you think about production facilities, something broke something went wrong. For those customers. It’s DEFCON 5, they need to get solved this week. I have the benefit again of inheriting a large SDE or lead development team within my marketing organization. That team’s responsibility is to be that first touch and do a lot of that outreach, our general sales cycle so we do about 30 days from a lead or campaign member who an opportunity and about another 30 days from opportunity to close. So the windows generally aren’t that tight, except for that minority of customers where there’s urgency, but our SDEs are that first touch point. And when they see those kinds of motions, they’re flagged, and they’re the ones doing the outreach.

Drew Neisser: Got it? Well, I have to say that if we had the entire CMO Huddles community, they would be jealous right now, Andrés of that two months from raising their hand to close, so many folks have a year to two-year sales cycles right now and they’re getting longer. Any other comments on speed Kevin, or Jeff? 

Jeff Morgan: We’re all about speed to lead with what we do. Anytime somebody fills out a lead form that indicates that they might be interested in buying our product. And usually, that comes in the form of either a pricing request or an actual demo request, our SDR teams calling them within five minutes, there’s a lot of research around that showing that if you call them within five minutes you have a 90%, higher likelihood of actually getting in contact. I’m like really into speed delayed, and I push it really hard with our sales team and try to make sure that we maximize the opportunities that are raising their hand.

Drew Neisser: It can be very frustrating. But go ahead, Kevin.

Kevin Briody: I was just going to build off that I think that is critical. I haven’t used the phrase speed to lead but I’m gonna steal that from my team. Now. I think it’s critical because you know, if you have a prospective customer or someone in the buying group and influencer, they’re doing the research, they’ve reached out to you, they’re probably on four other competitors’ websites doing the same, someone’s going to get back to them first, someone’s going to spark that conversation. And it may not be the definitive thing but for us partnership, we’re not just a vendor, we’re a partner, that sort of language is a huge part of our brand. So that responsiveness is where it starts. Speed is not just for tier-one prospective large clients. But for everyone who might engage with us, you got to get back to him super fast and start that conversation.

Drew Neisser: Every element of the experience defines what the expectations of your customer are. And so in Andrés’ example, it’s like, Oh, these are manuals that I can read and get value out of and they’ve anticipated all my questions, or Kevin, the speed of response is an indicator that you will be responsive when they buy it. So yeah, it’s interesting to be thinking about that. And this is where the integration of marketing and sales become so important. I think it’s just makes the job so complicated. All right, you’ve done your job, you built the funnel, you got into sign up, look, their demo, and yet, you can’t stop right. It just makes me curious how you, and Andrés you answer the question your BDRs do that. But how do you make sure that the organization is set up to respond at the speed that, you know they need to have?

Andrés Roselló: Really setting the expectations for the experience of the brand. And this is a critical touchpoint, maybe the first touchpoint that you’ll have with them. And if you’ve done a great job of setting up expectations that we’re a responsive company, you can trust us, we’ll be here. That just immediately took my head to, can we deliver on that expectation through the rest of the customer journey? Gave me a little bit of anxiety, but I think a huge opportunity for a company to differentiate itself in that way.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, no, it’s true. I think about that a lot. First, CMO Huddles is we set expectations, and then can you deliver on those at every step? I’m curious. In this, we’ve talked about some of the things that you all done to build top-of-the-funnel and things you’ve done that indicate at least that they’re real versus fake. Are there any things that you thought would work, an experiment or perhaps, that you tried, that worked really well, or something that you tried that just didn’t work at all?

Kevin Briody: Yeah, I’ve got an example where, you know, I’ve been in this role for about a year and a half now. My previous company I was at I was in a similar role for about four years in that previous company was very research-driven organization with a well-established thought leader brand. And as a result, webinars were hugely powerful for us major audiences. Certainly, we benefited webinars as a channel, you know, took off when the pandemic hit as an unfortunate byproduct of people not being in the office or attending in-person events. But even before that massively powerful channel for us in terms of top-of-funnel in terms of driving engagement. When I came here, it’s a fundamentally different company in a different market with different challenges and a different reputation and engagement level with our audience. And so we did some experiments on thought leadership webinars, we still do them, we still find a lot of value the recordings for on-demand to add value in depth to our, you know, email campaigns or whatnot. But that was an early experiment when I first came on board and tried to bring a tactic from a previous company that didn’t work as well as I thought it would. And it was simply because we’re at a different position. And our audience was expecting different things from us as a brand. And so it didn’t quite pan out as well as I thought, again, still experimenting with it, but it was something that was high hopes, and had to temper that pretty fast.

Drew Neisser: It’s interesting, and I’m just thinking about AI again. And since you are still doing them, there’s really now so many tools available that sort of slice and dice and re-use that content. So there may be value later on down the road, even if it’s not as immediate. Assuming that topic in general was of interest, anybody else had something they tried? That didn’t work as well. 

Jeff Morgan: Well, I have one that worked that I was surprised worked. I was highly skeptical of doing an email newsletter that was based mostly on curated content. I just thought no one cares about curated content. There are so many different ways to get content these days, I can’t imagine that this could be effective, but we decided to test it anyway. And we have found that it’s not as effective as our podcast, but it’s probably our second most effective top-of-funnel, audience building, and audience-engagement tool. We’ve got tons, pretty high open rate, and lots of clicks. And that’s a great way to score our leads. It’s been way more successful than I could have ever hoped. And you don’t have to put a lot of effort into curated content, it’s just finding the right stuff. And make sure it’s in line with what your target audience wants. And especially with ChatGPT, you can write those summaries really quick, easy to execute lots of values.

Drew Neisser: Amazing. Well, and I think the key part there is that you’re curating based on your local knowledge, industry knowledge. So whoever is doing the curating is demonstrating that what we’re talking about, with ChatGPT is not original content, but augmentation, making it faster. It’s your stuff, and then adding value to it. All right. Well, I always on the show, say what would Ben Franklin say? I think what he would say is this is the age of experiment. Because even though there’s a lot of things that are tried and true, webinars worked at one place, but didn’t work at another. Real quick, any metrics, that measuring top-of-the-funnel, and how you’re getting better at it.

Jeff Morgan: Audience size. 

Drew Neisser: Audience size. Okay. And just that’s we’re talking reach at that moment, relative to your total ICP? What percentage of that are you getting? Great, Kevin, Andrés.

Kevin Briody: I would say, we use a similar basket of metrics as probably most do, for us, it’s starting at the top and just an engaged metric within the target segments that we care about. So it’s pretty straightforward.

Drew Neisser: Okay, Andrés.

Andrés Roselló: Organic traffic within that area of channels, we’ve been finding a lot of success with video being a driver. So, YouTube as if you just think about YouTube as a search engine. And thinking about putting your content there, we’ve been pretty successful in or invested a lot more in that type of content, think about all the content, all the communications that we want to deliver, and constantly asking ourselves, could this message be delivered more effectively, efficiently via video?

Drew Neisser: Got it, video. All right, amazing. A lot of wonderful tips in this and top of the funnel, let’s do a quick summary. Maybe one do and one don’t. For me, each of you when it comes to top-of-the-funnel marketing, and we’ll start with Kevin.

Kevin Briody: I think that the do and the don’t is focus, especially top-of-funnel, there’s a broad temptation that, that next channel, one more tactic, one more campaign, that’s what we need to do. And there’s a real risk of defusing your impact and then overwhelming your team. You need to give your team, the headspace to be creative and strategic, and focus on the stuff that works. So really, just relentlessly focus and keep things simple. So you can be more creative and strategic. 

Drew Neisser: I love it, Jeff.

Jeff Morgan: I’d say, do focus on consistency. In terms of like audience building, like, I found the most important thing is that you got to do it, build an expectation around the frequencyof the contact with your audience, and you have to deliver well each time. I really agree with Kevin in terms of not spreading yourself too thin, like focusing on one or two things that really seemed to work well is better than like doing 100 different things that are all because there’s a lot of possibilities, but only certain ones are going to be really resonate with your target audience.

Drew Neisser: All right, avoiding the peanut butter effect, the big theme, Andrés.

Andrés Roselló: Thinking about with a mind towards organic search and traffic thinking about that featured snippet. So that’s a Google term about how do you land on that spot. But I think as we move into a world of more AI-powered search, that’s the kinds of results that will get delivered. And so thinking about creating the content landing in that spot, that featured snippet, I think will be increasingly important across the search engines and trying to deliver content that answers that whether that’d be in written form or video form doesn’t matter. But that kind of response to questions and I think for the don’t for me, if I can pivot to that area would be the vanity metrics. When I started that was a lot of law. we pat ourselves on the back and we got to 8.3 trillion impressions on something. And we found it didn’t matter. There wasn’t a lot a high correlation between that and what we were trying to deliver to the business. So take that stuff off your dashboard.

Drew Neisser: I love it. It just reminds me I think we’re gonna need to do a show just on SEO and the future of SEO. So but thank you for those. All right, well, thank you, Jeff, Andrés. Kevin, you’re all great sports. To hear more conversations like this one and submit your own questions while we’re live. Join us on the next CMO Huddles Studio. We stream to my LinkedIn profile that’s Drew Neisser, every other week. 

Show Credits
Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out renegade.com. I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!