October 15, 2020

Bold, Creative B2B Marketing

Citing a recent virtual event she attended, CMO Latané Conant of 6sense truly believes that, for marketers, “The more things change, the more things stay the same.” Now, a lot of things have changed: no more physical events, no more sales presentations, no more opportunities to bring clients together or close deals via in-person entertainment. So, what stays the same?

In Latané’s opinion, what doesn’t change is the fact that, as always, marketers need to lead the charge with bold, creative marketing that works with changing circumstances to bring people together, create memorable experiences, and help get sales teams to close. For this bold episode, Latané shares how 6sense has captured demand via meaningful, community focused virtual events, why creativity is essential when marketing (especially if you’re marketing to marketers), and how to use ABM effectively without wasting anybody’s time.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • Why segmentation is essential to creativity
  • The difference between a webinar and a virtual event
  • How 6sense creates demand out of virtual events 

Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 210 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:29] 6sense’s Bold and Creative Marketing
  • [10:24] 6sense’s Pipeline Quota Goals
  • [15:10] How to Host an Engaging Virtual Event
  • [27:30] On Marketing to Marketers
  • [30:24] How Marketers Can Create Demand
  • [38:07] ABM Starts with an Ideal Customer Profile 

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Latané Conant

[0:29] 6sense’s Bold and Creative Marketing in 2020

“Great marketing starts with the audience.” @LataneConant @6senseInc #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers. Now, normally when I start an episode, I have prepared. I’ve talked to the guests. We know exactly what we’re going to talk about. We’re ready to really get into a subject right away. Here’s the irony of this situation: nine months ago, literally, February 6, 2020, I had my prep call with Latané Conant, the CMO of 6sense, and we had a really interesting conversation. We were talking about her approach to job interviews where she insists on having her future CEO interview past bosses, of which I thought, “That’s amazing. That’s a really cool thing. We can have a whole conversation on that.”

So here we are, nine months later, like nothing’s really happened between February and September 2020. I want to welcome to the show Latané to the show. Stay with us, because who knows where this is going to go. How are you?

Latané Conant: I’m good, I’m good. I’m sorry it took nine months to get our show done.

Drew Neisser: I’m just guessing you had nothing else to do.

Latané Conant: I’ve just been relaxing by the beach.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. Pretty cool. It’s pretty much like I’ve been doing. Take the time off. And it’s so easy to vacation these days. First, just ground us. Where are you physically right now?

Latané Conant: I am physically in Glenview, Illinois, which is a suburb north of Chicago.

Drew Neisser: I know it, and we’re just starting to see glimpses of fall there. Cool. So, here’s an easy question. What have you learned in the last nine months?

Latané Conant: I was just on a virtual event with Sendoso called Out of the Box, and one of the titles was, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That was what we talked about. I think the more things have changed, the more they stay the same, and it’s a good reset for marketing teams to get back to the basics of what marketing does.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Let break that down a little bit. I want to agree with you, but I also know that there’s no physical events, so we’ve tried to replace them with virtual events. You can’t do sales presentations physically anymore. There are a lot of things that have changed. You can’t entertain clients. You can’t bring them physically together to help close deals. There’s a lot of things that, right now, you simply can’t do that were in the toolbox in February 2020. What’s stayed the same?

Latané Conant: I always have been, as one of our operating partners calls it, an aggressive marketer, but I don’t know if “aggressive” is the right word. I hope that’s not what it is but, bold.

Drew Neisser: Bold. I like bold.

Latané Conant: Bold. And I really put a lot of value on creativity and creating experiences that no one else was creating or could create. I’m a recovering field marketer at heart, and, to me, the best field marketing is just so creative, so detail-oriented, really experience-driven, highly relevant to the audience. It doesn’t really matter the medium. I think it’s cool that we have a new opportunity and challenge to surprise people.

Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about your circumstances. And I love this, you’re talking to a reformed guerilla marketer from way back. Talk to me a little bit of how you’ve applied that thinking. We’ll call it relevant, surprising experiences that you’ve been able to create in the last several months.

Latané Conant: Sure. First of all, Drew, why don’t I walk you through the week in March that COVID hit and what we went through, and then I’ll talk about what we’re doing more on the field.

I recently released a book called No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls. The next generation of account-based marketing and selling. This wasn’t really meant to be a book. It was actually an experiment that my team and I did together called Project Bold Moves.

About a year and some change ago, we decided that we could create a much better prospect experience because prospects are future customers, but we tend to treat them like dirt. We make them fill out a form so we can get their email so we can spam the hell out of them so we can put them on a leads report so sales then has to cold call. I’m somewhat exaggerating to prove a point, because none of us would say that’s our experience, of course, we try to be better, but the fundamentals of the experience are built on marketing automation technology, which sort of propagates that.

I had this “aha” with my team because I come from customer experience and a lot of us came from a company called Appirio, where we lived and died by customer and employee experience. I said, “Let’s apply what we know to martech and to marketing. We are going to design and really try to create an experience with no forms, no spam, and no cold calls. Those are our values. Does that mean we don’t email? No, we still email. Does that mean we don’t call? No, we still call. But there’s a difference between a warm call and relevant call and a cold call.”

All this, and then later we wrote the book on it. First of all, we defined what we meant by when to use a form and not to use a form, spam versus email, etc. We defined it all out and made these our values. We selected technology to enable this. We organized ourselves around it and we proclaimed to the sales team and the BDR team that this was going to be our process and we were going to prove that we could actually outperform, perform better than we ever had using it, which we did.

Drew Neisser: Can you describe 6sense in 10 words or less for us? Just so the audience knows if they’re not familiar with your brand and what you all do.

Latané Conant: We are an account engagement platform. The core is an account insights engine that provides a ton of data about accounts, both anonymous activity and known activity. Basically, 6sense can tell you things like what your prospect is researching, where they are in their buying journey, who is on the buying team, if they’re even the right account for you sell to, what the next best action you should take is. And then it helps you trigger multi-channel orchestrated experiences. That’s the core of what 6sense does.

Drew Neisser: Perfect. It sounded to me like you all were drinking your own champagne and figuring out how, with these values of no spam, no forms, no cold calls, you’re still using your technology. In fact, you’re probably showcasing it pretty carefully, I would imagine.

Latané Conant: Oh, we went hardcore on our technology and what we believed were tangential technologies. I have a saying, “No segment, no creative.” What does that mean? This goes back to the more things change, the more they stay the same—great marketing starts with the audience. What about that audience? How did you select that audience? What makes that audience bespoke? What would appeal to that audience? In 6sense, that’s a segment. We can slice and dice and look at segments of one account or segments of 2,000 accounts. Our marketing approach all starts with a deep, rich understanding of the audience. That’s the foundation of this project. We ended up proving it and working on a book.

[10:24] 6sense’s Pipeline Quota Goals

“The key is that it’s at a CAC of one.” @LataneConant @6senseInc #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

 Drew Neisser: We’ve got a bunch of marketers here; they know what success sounds like. Describe what successful results really mean to you.

Latané Conant: We have a revenue operating plan, and if you start to unpack that, you layer on all of the inputs that are required to hit our number, one of them being a qualified account at the top of the funnel. So, how do we think about qualified accounts? Another being conversions, cycle time, win rates, deal sizes, all of those things. We made some assumptions about that model and about how we would be able to impact and improve that model. Basically, that’s what we set out to do and that’s what we did and that materializes in a pipeline quota that has to be met every month in order for us to meet a bookings target that’s doubling.

But the key is that it’s at a CAC of one. Just doubling, we can’t just spend wildly. All of our other SaaS metrics also need to be in place to be able to double and have the kind of SaaS metrics that companies want.

Drew Neisser: Now, a CAC of one. That’s language that is used by startups. CAC is customer acquisition cost. If that’s the number…

Latané Conant: Well, really, our magic number is one.

Drew Neisser: So magic number, meaning, I can spend $1 and I can acquire a customer for, essentially, that amount. In my mind, that’s a low number relative to what I hear from other startups where, in order to get more money, they need to have a CAC of three. That’s a good thing for you because it’s a lower bar if it’s one-to-one. Or am I missing something in the math here?

Latané Conant: Well, the whole thing about the magic number is, it depends on your stage and it also depends on your industry. If it’s too efficient, then actually what the magic number would say is that you’re not investing enough…if you subscribe to that.

Drew Neisser: Got it. If I were to summarize this, you put your own product and theories to test, it worked in the sense that you hit your target of delivering pipeline which turned into revenue, and you did it at $1 value that met the goals of the company. Is that a fair summary?

Latané Conant: Correct.

[15:10] How to Host an Engaging Virtual Event

“A webinar is a form of content. A virtual event is where you actually get to know people and there's an experience.” @LataneConant @6senseInc #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: We’ve talked about how you know where you want to go, but what did you do?

Latané Conant: Well, here’s what was interesting. We’d written the book and the whole idea was—actually, before that, we wanted to do a CMO breakfast roadshow. We started that. We had field kickoff, which is my favorite week of the year, and then immediately after that I got on the road and I was hitting three or four cities a week, doing CMO breakfasts talking about this project. We hadn’t launched the book yet. But basically, I was sharing the results of No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls.

I’m traveling all around the country and one is in DC. I get out of it and Sydney Sloan is cancelled, the SalesLoft conference, and all these things are getting canceled. I’m like, “Oh no. We’re gonna be toast.” I got home; the team is freaking out. You cannot go on LinkedIn without seeing some BDR or SDR get shamed for trying to sell and doing the outbound motion. We have a very heavy outbound motion, so everybody is just totally panic stricken. I’m panic stricken. I don’t know what to do and everyone’s saying, “You have to sell with empathy, and you can’t do any automated outreach.”

I’m like, “Guys! We have to sell with empathy! We can’t do any automated outreach!” Then we took a pause. It was like a Thursday or Friday, and we were like, “You know what? Everyone just do nothing. I just need to figure out what’s going on. We’ll get back to you on Monday.”

But what was interesting is, when we came back together, everyone was like, “We don’t do automatic emailing. We sell with empathy because of our process, which requires you to know that they’re in market, it requires you to understand the ICP fit, it requires you to know the keywords they care about.” All of the things that we put together, it’s like we’d been preparing for this.

We could just kind of keep rolling on, which was really interesting. That was that. And that was the more things change, the more they stay the same. I would say, from a creativity perspective, then it became, “Okay, we were doing these breakfasts. We’ve got a bunch planned and we’re not stopping.” Literally that Tuesday—I was in DC on Thursday, came home, the next Tuesday was supposed to be in Boston—we had Uber Eats breakfast cards delivered to people’s houses. We just did the breakfast virtually, but I was like, “We’re not going to talk about this Project: Bold Moves thing. No one cares. Everyone’s freaking out.” Again, back to knowing the audience, let’s talk over how we’re doing.

We got on and it was about 30 CMOs and we just all started jamming on what’s going on. No slides. It was literally being together, workshopping and talking about what was going on, and people were like, “Can we do this again?”

Then we did it again and we invited the crew that came to Boston to the one that we did in New York, and then they were like, “Let’s do this again.” Every Friday now, I host a coffee talk, one on the east and one on the west, with Matt Heinz, who’s my partner in crime on it. We crowdsource at the beginning of the week the most relevant topic, so what is most relevant right now, this week? We covered Black Lives Matter. We’ve covered pivoting a big event to virtual. We’ve covered how budgets have changed. Basically, the most relevant topic gets voted to the top.

Matt and I scramble around and find an expert or someone to facilitate and share an experience to kick it off, and then it just goes. It’s now 500+ CMOs. We have a bunch that want to join, who continue to join every week. We get about 100 across the two coasts consistently. It’s now a Slack channel, it’s a content hub. People have been so awesome about sharing. Christina from MOZ had a huge virtual event and she did a postmortem on it and shared every detail—what worked, what didn’t work—with this community.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, because we crave learning, we crave shared experiences, we crave collaborating with peers, so it’s just a matter of facilitating that.

Drew Neisser: Very cool. Do you have another example?

Latané Conant: Another example, which kind of surprised me was, you know, the book launched. I had this vision of going on this awesome book tour in July and hitting every cool rooftop bar.

Drew Neisser: That would be fun.

Latané Conant: I love a good rooftop bar in the summer. I’m like, “Perfect. The book is coming out in the summer. We are going to go to every awesome rooftop thing, launch the book, it’ll be so fun. It’ll be great.” Well, again, that’s not happening.

We were trying to figure out how to create energy. How do we make it cool? How do we make it like a VIP experience? What we ended up doing was picking a group of VIPs, mostly our customers and influencers, and they all got a cocktail kit delivered to their house. My husband and I, we hung out in my kitchen and showed them how to make the cocktail. I talked a little bit about the book, why we wrote the book, just to kind of give them the why behind it. But then we actually had a concert.

We had Michael Franti give a personal concert for these VIPs. He did such a good job. It wasn’t like just watching some random concert. He did it for the book. He did it for 6sense VIPs. He really took his songs and tied them back to concepts in the book. Everybody was so into it. We were all dancing in our kitchens and Slacking, and it was just incredible. It was so much fun. People still want an experience. They want to be able to get up and listen to live music and dance and bond and all those things.

Drew Neisser: Very cool. In both examples, you’re gathering people. You’re bringing something to the table. You’ve talked about the Uber Eats and the drinks and so forth as a gift and a thing to bring people together. I wonder, in all of this, what you think the biggest lesson for you has been as a result of these experiences?

Latané Conant: Well, I think it’s interesting because it’s easy to think a virtual event is cheaper or easier, and while you don’t have the big heavy trade show tax, which is awesome, it takes a lot more creativity and coordination of effort. My field marketing team is busier than ever because the details matter and the details are what differentiates a webinar from a virtual event.

That is the difference that’s important. A webinar is a form of content. A virtual event is where you actually get to know people and there’s an experience. I think that’s what marketers need to really think through and understand. We’re participating in a lot of the virtual quote-unquote “trade shows and events,” and it’s more like content syndication. Thinking of it more like content syndication than like a trade show, I think, is how you have to get your mind around it and also set your expectations around what you’re going to get out of it and where it’s going to play in your funnel. That should dictate how much you pay for your sponsorship and things like that.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I’ve been to many virtual events and they have been painful. You’re competing with email and typically, email wins, with a couple of exceptions, one of which is Michelle BB’s. I don’t know if you know her. She was on the show from Skillsoft. Her event was actually really good, and I really enjoyed and got a kick out of it. But the production values were amazing. It was so different than some of the others that I just, I felt like they’d figured it out. And then when you talk to Michelle, you learn that she had 123 different people working on the event over a seven-week period, and they put a lot into making sure every aspect of it was a great experience.

Latané Conant: It’s harder to make it cool. It’s easy to do webinars. We can all do webinars, and it’s okay to say you’re doing a webinar. But if it’s a virtual event like, “Giddy up!”

Drew Neisser: It’s always harder to be a little more creative. It’s always harder.

[27:30] On Marketing to Marketers

“Creativity does stand out and it also somewhat attracts marketers because they want to see what you're going to do to learn for themselves.” @LataneConant @6senseInc #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

 Drew Neisser: One of the advantages or disadvantages that you have is that you’re marketing to marketers, and marketers are a creative group of people. They tend to really appreciate creativity when they see it. Do you think that is helpful for you here and an important part of what you’re doing?

Latané Conant: I think there are two things that we have been very thoughtful about in terms of marketing to marketers. The creativity, which you mentioned, that it is appreciated, and we get to push the envelope on it. We have to because they’ve seen it all. They’ve seen every swag catalog. They’ve seen every event pitch. They know it, so creativity does stand out and it also somewhat attracts marketers because they want to see what you’re going to do to learn for themselves.

What was your customer advisory board like? I’m going to take notes because I want to be part of your CAB, don’t get me wrong, but I also want to maybe pick up some tricks along the way. For sure, that has been an important aspect of 6sense’s brand. Our philosophy is to push the needle and be bold and that’s just who we are.

I would say, though, the other maybe more important aspect is marketers can sniff bull. They know bull because they’re spinning their own stuff, so one of the things that we’ve also been very, very thoughtful about is being very practical, less theory. Very practical about how to get things done—you called it drinking your own champagne—but we’re the “prove it” people. We will prove it to you. I don’t advise doing anything that I haven’t done myself. That’s really important. Most of our thought leadership content originates with something that we have tried and tested.

We’re not going to write about it unless we’ve taught tried and tested it and customers have tried and tested it and it’s really a best practice. That’s a big part of what I would hope you’d experience when you work with 6sense. That no bull, very practical, not theory. We’re in this with you. We’re doing it with you. Testing, learning. And it’s totally fine to admit when things didn’t work because you learn from your mistakes.

[30:24] How Marketers Can Create Demand

“Understanding the audience's pain and falling in love with your problem and positioning to the problem…That's creating demand.” @LataneConant @6senseInc #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: I’m curious—as you’ve done these, as you call them, CABs (customer advisory boards) and these the breakfasts—I can hear the “Missouri” [i.e. the “show me” state] CMOs saying, “How did this pay out? How were you able to migrate these people from the breakfasts to business?”

Latané Conant: I want to answer that question, but I also want to challenge what you’re calling a “Missouri” marketer. I think brand trumps demand every single time and an investment in brand pays off over and over and over again and has a multiplicative effect throughout the entire funnel and lasts a lot longer. The easiest way to quote-unquote “create demand” is to get a database and spam a database.

If that’s what you’re about, and that’s how you want to measure your success, I am not for you. That is just not my game. I come from sales. I was a GM before and I had a $280 million practice that I was responsible for. It’s not that I’m not very financially oriented, I just think that some of the performance-based marketing metrics are ridiculous.

Drew Neisser: Amen to that. You’re a CMO, you have CEOs and CFOs who give you budgets. How do you create the link from brand, which we all know and appreciate—salespeople understand brand when they go in and they work for a company that nobody’s heard of versus a company that not only heard of but welcome into the door. They get it right away when they see that difference. How are you selling the brand notion and whatever measurement of that is versus the demand which, in theory, in a world of digital marketing is really easy to show?

Latané Conant: It’s easy to show numbers that don’t make any sense, yes. I would say, again, because I’m a recovering salesperson—I have a revenue ops function that works across me, CS, and sales. Together, the three of us build our plan. Throughout that plan, there are assumptions about different stages in the funnel, different conversions, cycle times, average selling price (ASP). The reality is any smart executive knows that moving the needle on ASP is way more significant than a bunch more MQLs. Moving the needle on competitive win rate is a lot more significant than a bunch of MQLs. Moving the needle on cycle time, more significant.

The key is understanding all of those assumptions and then understanding where you need to be, and marketing influences every single piece of that. I wouldn’t compare, for example, the book launch to a trade show. They’re very different, so it’s making sure that you understand where this fits in that operating model and what I’m trying to do, and then what plays are getting applied.

I talked about no segment, no creative. Also, every segment has a business objective, and that’s what it starts with. The business objective may or may not be top of the funnel. The business objective might be win rates. It might be upsell, it might be renewals, so every single marketing play that we do starts with the audience and a business objective. Then we measure—did we hit it or not? But my team plays across the entire revenue model.

Drew Neisser: There are a couple of things I just want to highlight. One is this notion of marketing, sales, and customer service all planning together, which is admirable to say the least. But it also sounds like you all share the same metrics and one source of truth when it comes to data, which also makes sense.

What I think is so interesting is, essentially what you’re saying is, cycle time and win rates can be influenced heavily by brand, so those things which are harder to measure than, say, demand. As you said, we can spam the hell out of people and create demand, but you’re not necessarily going to impact win rates or cycle times with that kind of approach. Did I just blend a couple of thoughts or does that hold together?

Latané Conant: That holds together. I also believe that there’s demand creation, which is understanding the audience’s pain and falling in love with your problem and positioning to the problem. That’s creating demand. Assuming you have a good problem, assuming you really solve a good problem that’s real, if you actually have good data, you can light up and see who has those problems.

Then you’re not really creating demand, you’re actually capturing demand which sounds like a nuance, but that’s the mode that we operate in. A big part of what I’m trying to do is understand the problems that relate to what we do, light those up in our ICP so we can see the accounts that have problems that we solve, and then it’s about being very focused on targeting them, not just anybody.

Drew Neisser: All of it makes sense and I’m with you.

[38:07] ABM Starts with an Ideal Customer Profile

“ABM is just as much about who you don't spend any time on as who you do, and it all starts with having a great ideal customer profile.” @LataneConant @6senseInc #RTU #podcast Click To Tweet

Drew Neisser: I’m wondering if these problems changed for your customers or your prospects in the COVID era. Let me show my cards on this in having talked to so many CMOs. Right now, the world is bifurcated into cloud economy and everybody else. Cloud economy companies either initially were in the business of business continuity or are enabling digital transformation, which has accelerated well beyond anything. And then there’s really everybody else, and I described this world of the CF-No, who’s basically looking at every possible purchase as “Will this either drive revenue today, or will this cut costs?” One or the other. This is a sort of wartime mentality of preserving capital at all costs. I’m wondering, over the last nine months since we last talked, have the pain points changed at all for your customer base?

Latané Conant: The pain points have become a lot more urgent. One of the biggest things that we do is talk about preventing a gutter ball because we showed you not just your ICP, so who are the best accounts to sell to? The ones that are going to convert the fastest, have the biggest ASPs, renew, which a lot of people don’t understand, unfortunately. That’s huge right there, to be able to use AI and big data to show you who is your ICP.

Drew Neisser: By the way, what does that acronym stand for? ICP.

Latané Conant: Ideal Customer Profile.

Drew Neisser: And ASP? Because not everybody knows these.

Latané Conant: Average Selling Price.

Drew Neisser: Thank you. I’m sorry I interrupted you, but I know that…

Latané Conant: No, this is so important. If people take nothing away from my nonsense, it’s about the ideal customer profile. A lot of times people think ABM is about going after accounts and sending direct mail and doing all that. ABM is just as much about who you don’t spend any time on as who you do, and it all starts with having a great ideal customer profile.

We then not only tell you your ideal customer profile—because Drew, you can be a great account for me to sell to, like amazing. You fit every criterion, but you’re not in market. You don’t care. I don’t want to waste a lot of time on you right now, so we tell you your in-market ICP, your I-ICP.

What this allows you to do—and this is why CFOs love it—is they say, “We’re going to take the majority of our marketing and sales engine, which is expensive as hell, and we’re going to point it at the places that are most likely to buy right now.” I know it sounds like it makes so much sense. It does, but we didn’t have that capability without the data and the AI we can provide to marketing and selling teams. Then you’ve got 40% more pipeline, 75% increase in conversions, 40% bigger deals, 50% better win rates.

Drew Neisser: All because you’ve narrowed the target. You’re only talking to the people who are ready to buy. That’s pretty logical and it makes sense. You’re not boiling the ocean; you’re just targeting a very specific fish with a very specific need. I know we could talk for a long time, but our one reality of COVID is that my listeners’ commutes are short because they’re gone.

I need to wrap up. I look at this episode, and there were so many interesting themes. One that came through loud and clear to me was that the need for creativity is driven more so than ever by the current situation. You have fewer channels, but you can be more creative in doing it. That’s driven by an understanding of your target audience, and again, the narrower the target, the easier it is to find an insight to appeal to them.

The use of technology to help you find that target is where 6sense comes in, in terms of using the magic of that, and there is an opportunity. I thought the most interesting part of this was, here is the CMO of a company whose core strength is finding the data and helping you analyze it, and yet she’s talking about brand. I think that’s so interesting and so profound and I want to end the show on that because if you think you can be a successful CMO and only focus on the demand side regardless of the economy, you’re probably only doing half of your job. Latané, thank you so much for being on the show.

Latané Conant: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Drew Neisser: And to all my listeners, thank you as always for listening.

Show Credits

Renegade Thinkers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio Production is by Sam Beck. The show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes like this one, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the best B2B marketing agency in New York City visit renegade.com. Until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.