January 05, 2023

Growth Marketing: Attribution is a myth, but you need it


Get ideas for account-based marketing, optimizing untrackable channels, and forming a networking group by listening to episode #43 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast. I had a rewarding conversation with Tate Gibson, Head of Growth, Peak.

Listen now to hear Gibson discuss finding the ‘why,’ knowing the numbers, and understanding where to find growth.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Growth Marketing: Attribution is a myth, but you need it

This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

Our latest guest told the story of how she learned to find the ‘why’ – why a potential customer should act on her conversion objective.

One of the things I really liked about her story – she didn’t only focus on the final ‘why’ the customer should buy the product or work with the company. Much like the sequences of eight Micro-Yes(es) taught in our free marketing course Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages, she considered the ‘why’ for key steps of the customer journey.

That’s just one of the lessons you can learn from Tate Gibson, Head of Growth, Peak, on this episode of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast.

Gibson manages a transatlantic team of seven marketers located in the US and the UK and a marketing budget of $2 million.

Peak has $119 million in investment funding raised to date, with SoftBank leading its Series C round.

Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.

Listen on Apple Podcasts | Listen on Spotify | Listen on Google Podcasts

Stories (with lessons) about what she made in marketing

Some lessons from Gibson that emerged in our discussion:

Understand where to find growth

Gibson joined Comm100 at a time when it had successfully attained a decent volume of mid-sized customers. The team realized that they could compete with more expensive platforms to win larger customers and decided they wanted to try to go up-market. They evaluated the percentage split of their medium and large customers, how many of each they had in their database, and used this to identify the first persona profile of who might be interested in them within an enterprise organization.

Next, they set their goals for what they wanted that percentage split to be. They determined if they won just five of these customers in the next year, at a much higher average order value, it could account for 80% of their net new annual recurring revenue (ARR). A much bigger reward for far less work to win fewer customers seemed very appealing! It was the ‘do more with less’ dream.

They realized, however, that it was going to take more effort to win these larger customers and their marketing tactics needed to change. They employed more of an account-based marketing (ABM) approach to these prospects and used Demandbase to serve personalized ads and landing pages. Each month they’d see which of their target accounts were ‘in-market,’ showing intent for their solutions, and would slightly iterate their approach given the signals they were seeing.

It was important for them to pick something specific (a specific industry, target persona, and then select specific accounts) and run with that for at least six to nine months before drawing any conclusions. In the first year they won one of their target accounts.

They’d also learned that it was important to evaluate customer acquisition cost (CAC) – how much effort, time, and money was put into the ABM campaigns versus more generic ones? Was that worth the return that they got? They found that the ROI was positive for their “one-to-many” campaigns to mid-sized companies and their “one-to-few” campaigns for enterprise companies, but it just wasn’t there for the “one-to-one” campaigns for a very specific, very small target list.

The next time they evaluated growth options to reach their goals, they looked not just at volume and value, but also acquisition costs and how long it would take to win them over.

Attribution is a myth, but you need it

There are lots of ways to do marketing attribution – first touch, last touch, multi-touch, sourced, influenced – Gibson says she could write a whole book on this. After spending lots of time in two different roles painstakingly tracking every possible interaction the prospect had with the company, strictly following UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters and getting mad any time a salesperson used an attachment instead of linking to the content, Gibson realized that attribution is basically a myth.

You can’t possibly track every interaction the prospect ever has with your brand because you’re not always there. If you ask people where they heard of you, ‘word of mouth’ comes up more than Gibson would’ve liked with her carefully tracked sheets. And without asking, you’ll always come to the conclusion that Organic Search and your ‘Book a Call’ form are the best things you’ve got going for you. The term ‘dark social’ has become a lot more popular recently in demand generation.

So give up? Don’t bother tracking it? Not really… at the end of the day, you still need to be held accountable for your contribution to pipeline and revenue, and you still need to make smart decisions about where to invest your resources.

When she was consulting for clevr, they split their tracking into three areas: source, conversion point, and content. That way, they could track which channels were best at sourcing new leads, which conversion points worked the best to compare forms like offering a ‘demo’ vs. a ‘call’ or if a button on the website vs. live chat worked better, and which content was having the most impact at any stage of the funnel, including for existing customers.

This helped them optimize untrackable channels by ensuring they have the best possible content and conversion journey.

They were able to get a full view on as much trackable stuff as possible to make confident investment decisions, and otherwise had to rely on speaking to their customers and Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) prospects as much as possible to learn more about where and how they get their information, then show up there. In this case, they realized that many of their prospects shared information about tech they liked on Reddit and there were some key influencers in the space who posted about it a lot.

They made it part of their plans to invite these influencers to write blogs on their site and co-host webinars with them and encouraged the influencers to share this content with their network.

You may never be able to track all of marketing’s influence, but at least tracking what you can and having solid qualitative data from customers should be enough to prove marketing’s value to senior management (which can be trying at times!) and get at least some of the budget you need to start proving a ‘blended approach’ of trackable vs. untrackable methods.

Find like-minded people you can learn from

When Gibson was in Vancouver, there was a role she stepped into that required a certain level of technical knowhow that her boss at the time didn’t have, so couldn’t mentor her on. She feared she was a little out of her depth, but she also wanted to learn. She spoke to one of her previous bosses, then mentor, about it and she suggested Gibson find other marketers in SaaS who are at the same level so she could learn how to get technically better at it without her boss’s help.

This inspired the creation of the Vancouver Tech Marketing Millennials, a networking group she ran. She invited some peers she knew who were roughly at the same level as her in a similar field and they invited more people they knew. They had a Slack group and originally met up once a month to discuss any challenges or ideas they had.

Eventually, she got companies to ‘sponsor’ the meetups and they’d give a talk on a topic, host the group in their office, provide food and drinks, and then attendees would discuss it in a roundtable afterwards.

The first real goal for Gibson was to find like-minded people who she could learn from – and have a bit of a whine and a moan with about her day-to-day and they’d actually understand what she was talking about. For her, anyway, this has turned into many side benefits. She learned more from speaking with people than she did by reading information and she has learned so much from her marketing friends over the years, including new technology, proven or failed methods, creative approaches, and specific techniques.

One of the most valuable things her marketing friends have given her is an inside track to which companies are hiring, which are good to work for, and which bosses you can learn a lot from. She has definitely dodged a bullet or two by asking her marketing friends what they think of a particular job offer and has also been given the inside track to new roles before they’ve even been posted.

It helps to keep in touch, collaborate on ideas, and commiserate. You never know what it can teach you or when it could lead to your next big opportunity.

Stories (with lessons) about the people she made it with

Gibson also shared lessons she learned from the people she collaborated with:

You don’t have to know your end-destination to progress your path

via Nav Sangha, Director of Demand Generation, Planview

When she was first starting out in her career, she had absolutely no idea what she wanted to do. Gibson was doing a psychology degree and had accidentally discovered that marketing existed during a summer internship at a consumer goods company. The next summer, she was working as a temporary receptionist for her first SaaS company and was bored out of her mind. She was interested in learning more about marketing, so she asked someone in the marketing department if there was any work she could help out with.

Sangha took Gibson under her wing, and she became the marketing intern for the rest of the summer.

Sangha has taught Gibson a lot and was the first to introduce her to a wide range of things a marketer could do within a tech business. She had no idea marketing was so multi-faceted and could mean so many different things. She thinks she was fairly nervous about which path to choose because she “didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Sangha taught her that there are different ways to try new things and get what you want.

The smaller the startup, the more generalist your role will be, and the bigger the company, the more niche your role. You can progress as either a generalist, or a specialist. The former is more likely to become a manager, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get paid more, and managing people isn’t for everyone.

This really widened her point of view on which roles to take and what the next best step would be for her. It also released some of the pressure she had in her head that she didn’t have a good answer for the question, “where do you see yourself in 10 years?” At the time, she decided to stay in a fairly general role because she was still figuring out what she wanted – and she has been following similar advice to find her next best step since.

Find the ‘why’

via Peter Fitzpatrick, VP Payments, Thinkific

Fitzpatrick and Gibson worked on the Payments vertical at Agreement Express. He was the primary Account Executive at the time, and they were trying to crack into the largest payments provider to form a customer and partnership relationship with them. They’d used several different ABM tactics (before she’d ever heard of ABM) to break into the account and build a couple of key relationships.

Anytime they were creating a new piece of content, sales collateral, or touchpoint with the prospect, Fitzpatrick would ask her ‘why?’ Why would they open this email? Why would they fill out this form? Why should they attend this party? She would give explanations of how great they could be for the client, but Fitzpatrick would keep asking ‘why’ until they’d exhausted all possibilities. At the end of the day, they had mapped out all the key personas at the account and what was in it for them – either to be a customer or a partner.

They listed both tangible, work-related benefits such as increased efficiency, but also intangible benefits, such as having more time to spend with their kids. The lists were most robust for the people they’d been able to speak to and ask questions to directly.

Too often marketers preach the features and benefits of what their company sells, assuming the prospect will see the value and buy-into it. Gibson still brings this principle into thinking about the marketing and messaging she is creating – not just for a single account, but for ICP as a whole, too. For instance, if they’re going to be speaking on stage at an event, she thinks, “What does the audience want to learn? What’s in it for them? Why? Why again?”

Know your numbers

via Robin Jones, Principal, Robin Jones Consulting

Jones taught Gibson how important it is to stay on top of your funnel metrics and tie marketing performance back to pipeline generation. Jones had a Salesforce dashboard she opened first thing each morning and it gave her a pulse check on what was going on. She had core metrics she looked at consistently – each of the stages in the funnel, the conversion rates between them, and average order values.

Because she looked at these every day, Jones developed a sixth sense for when something wasn’t right. It could be that a form wasn’t working, or their ad spend had been paused, but she was immediately on top of it, which meant things rarely fell through the cracks. It also meant she always knew how to answer questions around what was working or not working effectively in management meetings.

Gibson remembers setting annual targets with Jones for the first time and how straightforward it was. It was like demystifying something that otherwise might’ve seemed impossible! It was simple enough – taking the final revenue target, understanding how much marketing could contribute to that, working backwards through the conversions and then coming up with your annual marketing plan for how you’d achieve those MQL (marketing-qualified lead) targets.

Gibson watched her use this and their marketing customer acquisition cost to negotiate the marketing budget for the year. Being so data-driven meant it was difficult to argue with. This was night and day compared to the battles she’d seen other marketing departments have in startups to get budget.

Related content mentioned in this episode

Marketing Career: What you need to understand at each step of the job seeker’s journey (even if you’re not looking)

Creating a Culture of Testing: How to defeat the tyranny of best practices

Product Management & Marketing: Surround yourself with the right people (podcast episode #38)

Data Poetry in Marketing, PR & Corporate Communications (Podcast Episode #17)

Online Marketing Tests: How do you know you’re really learning anything?

About this podcast

This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages free digital marketing course.

Podcast guest application

If you would like to apply to be a guest on How I Made It In Marketing, here is the podcast guest application.


Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a tough transcript of our discussion.

Daniel Burstein: And I'll make a confession on the podcast right now and admit to this I am a huge print fan. My career started in print, and I'm still a big believer, not a popular opinion these days I know, especially as we see all the print publications that have struggled around us for the past decade and more. If there's one reason print is struggling, I think it's this, marketing attribution.

Maybe that social media ad isn't really as effective. But you know what? You can track it and you can show a detailed ROI to your boss or your client. So when I was reviewing a podcast guest application recently, this statement jumped out to me and grabbed my attention. Attribution is a myth, but you need it. Here to explain the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson filled stories, is Tate Gibson, the Head of Growth at Peak. Thanks for joining me, Tate.

Tate Gibson: Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here.

Daniel Burstein: So let's take a quick look at what you do at Peak and who Peak is before we jump into some of your really interesting stories. So Tate manages a team of seven, a transatlantic team they have a hybrid setup, and they're in the office some days and they're at home some days if they choose to be. And a marketing budget of $2 million. Peak has $119 million in investment funding raised to date with SoftBank leading its series C round. And as I said, you are the Head of Growth there at Peak. So what is your day like as Head of Growth, Tate?

Tate Gibson: Yeah, so as you said, I do manage Trans Atlantic team, so most of the time for me it's coming in and I'm pretty much in back to back meetings most of my day. I'm communicating with sales, I'm communicating with the rest of the marketing team and the go to market team and managing my team across different time zones. So it's a lot of kind of marketing strategy, figuring out what we're doing with our campaigns, looking at our reporting and advising what we should be doing next.

Daniel Burstein: And let me give you a sense to like so you have a CMO, you're the head of growth, at least briefly, like how you work together, because a lot of the folks we've had on this podcast have had that CMO title. I thought it'd be interesting to get one of these head of growth folks, you know, person on this and you had such a great application. So you got the CMO, you got you like, how do you divvy up and how do you work together? How do you figure that out?

Tate Gibson: Yeah. So we've actually got a Chief Customer Officer, so we don't have a CMO.  So our Chief Customer Officer manages partners, go to market and marketing. So then those are the kind of three main areas that she manages. So my team mostly focuses on sort of the demand generation aspect of growth. And so we do work really closely with the go to market team and the partners team to figure out essentially being that bridge between the product and what the product is and what we want to take to market and the sales team and understanding how to enable them to actually get it out to market and sell it.

Daniel Burstein: Okay, perfect. Well, let's take a look at some of the lessons you learned from the things you've made in your marketing career. I always say that's a kind of a cool thing about working in marketing, haven’t worked in these other industries, I haven’t been an auditor or something like that. But marketing, we make things. And so let's talk about one of the first lessons you learned from making things, and you said, understand where to find growth. So how did you learn this lesson Tate?

Tate Gibson: Yeah. So this is when I was at Comm100. This is the first kind of place that I had this problem to solve and naturally we were looking at different areas of where we could find growth. We were in a highly competitive space and when we assessed the market and looked at what our competitors were doing, we realized that we had the most opportunity in the sort of enterprise space.

So we had done lots of mid-market, had some mid-sized customers and smaller customers, but realized that we could go upmarket. And that was a bit more greennfield for us to get into. So then we kind of evaluated, okay, well, how many of these medium or large customers do we have today and how can we get more? And so we looked at like what our percentage split was at the moment of what we kind of called like Tier A, Tier B, Tier C customers. And then looked at what we wanted that percentage split to be. And we realized that if we kind of set the goal of if we got five of these, you know, well, mega customers, we could have that be 80% of our ARR because they had a much higher average contract value. So that was the goal that we set out to achieve, you know, in the dream, the ABM dream of sort of doing a lot less in terms of your marketing going after these big whales and winning them in order to get a lot more growth. And feeling like that was kind of the best area for us to go into.

So we realized that it would take a lot more effort to win these large customers. And we did take a bit more of an ABM style approach. We employed demand base at the time and kind of served personalized ads, personalized landing pages. We looked at which of our target accounts were in market and showing intent for our solutions. And we're sort of approaching iterating as we went, depending on the signals that we saw. And I think what was important for us was to partner with sales on this as well to make sure that the target accounts that we were going after were also the ones our sales team was going after and that we were taking basically all of our efforts were going in the same direction to go after these particular accounts.

And so because it was enterprise, because it was a bit longer of a sales cycle than we had been used to with the smaller, mid-sized customers. We knew that we wanted to run this for at least like 6 to 9 months, ideally a year, 18 months. But, you know, people are impatient and before we started to see if there was like any kind of conclusions or if this was going to be something that would work for us.

So in the end, we did win one of our kind of top five customers that we'd been targeting in this way. But, and one of the lessons that I had from that was that it was still really important to look at customer acquisition cost or CAC. So a lot of effort, a lot of time, a lot of money was put into these ABM campaigns and we kind of looked at this and realized that some of them were generic ones that were like the kind of one too few approach actually work just as well to get some of these enterprise organizations as our extremely bespoke, extremely custom 1 to 1 campaigns for very specific, very small target list and especially when you're looking at intent data to understand who's in-market, who's not in market. That gave us a lot more information about who we should be going after and who we could potentially win, which in the end sort of allowed us to spend even less because we weren't spending all this much money on these individual accounts, but we could still get the same kind of return that we were looking for.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. And I wanted to ask you then, did you use that approach? Sounds like you broke it down into the 1 to 1, one too few, one too many and partly did that approach help you make sure you don't have too many of these whales? Because one thing I've noticed is when you're a small company, when you're a startup, there are certain ways you can give up control, right?

So one way is IPO, one way is to go public. Okay, you're going to give up some control. You're getting funding. Another way is, you know, I think Peak is I don't know if it's gunning for an IPO, but seems like a pre IPO company now as we talked about, got funding from SoftBank. You know,you give it some funding.Well, now, private equity firms, venture capital firms, they have some control.

But when you're a small company and you get one really big or two really big clients, you know, at first that seems like that is a win. That is exciting. But what you've done too is you've handed control over to that company. That company now with 60 to 80% of your revenue and you only have a few of those other small clients, they've got some control over you.

So I love how you took that very data oriented, evidence based approach, broke it down in the end, and were able to tell the team, Hey, here's what's working, what's not with this different breakdown, but also when you talk about the one to one, one to many, one to few. I love how you also didn't go all in on the ABM. So was that part of the thought? Let's have that balance. Let's not have these whales control our destiny?

Tate Gibson: Definitely. And I think from my side, we were  in a space where we had a bit of a safety buffer because we had such a high volume of kind of smaller and mid-sized companies. So we knew that we had kind of a safety blanket basically to fall back on if we needed to. I'd kind of come from an organization that was in the opposite position, which is that they only had 12 customers and they were massive customers. And exactly as you're saying, they had a lot of control. They needed to diversify, they needed to get a little bit more in the market in order to understand both like what their product roadmap was going to be and where they could potentially have that growth at the volume level rather than only like the few customers, the high value level.

So it is about finding that balance of making sure that you have both a good volume and a good kind of whole market that you can go after in a good sized TAM, as well as having a very specific and meaty customers to kind of to keep you going. Because as you said, too, I mean, even if one of those customers had turned and that's, you know, maybe 30 or 40% of your ARR, that's not a good thing.

That puts you in a really tough position. So it's important to have that kind of steady stream of both high volume and yeah, a bit of a safety blanket, good TAM, but also have some of these highlight customers who also are really important for your customer stories. And often brand recognition. Some of these bigger customers are ones that are brand names that people will recognize and elevate your brand as well. If you people know you're working with them.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's definitely an upside. But be careful. It's so tempting.

Tate Gibson: But definitely, yeah.

Daniel Burstein: But it’s like the dog that’s chasing the UPS truck and then it catched it and then you realize, well, they're controlling the payment terms. They're just controlling everything.

Tate Gibson: Yeah, definitely.

Daniel Burstein: But I love this lesson in general. Understand where to find growth. And I wonder how have you applied this lesson for you personally in your own job hunting and career? Because I think that's a perfect lesson. I've written before about the job seekers journey. And, you know, a big part is you need to understand yourself much like the customer's journey where you mapping out a customer’s journey for your brand.

You need to understand that journey for your career and a key part is one of the most challenging aspects is determining your value proposition, right. And part of determining that value proposition is like with a company, it varies based on what companies you’re targeting, what companies you’re focused on. So that can be a struggle for us. I wonder in your career, have you learned anything about like how have you understood how to find growth personally in your career?

Tate Gibson: In my career, let me think about this a little bit. Mm.

Daniel Burstein: Sure. Because I like I’ve said one thing I've noticed, you know, we as marketers, we're so good when there's an outside brand, right? At least for me too like it's like, man, I can, you know, focus on creating the brand, I can figure out who the customers are. I can create this campaign. But then we as marketers, if we're looking for a job or if we're just looking to build our career or look for that next opportunity like you were in your story, it was just like where there's next opportunity for growth for our company. I think we have this bigger challenge where we get out of it and we forget that we need a marketing campaign for us too.

That's why I said like, there's a customer journey, there's a job seekers journey, and in that job seeker journey, it's understand where to find growth. And when you understand that, then you could focus on how can I build my value proposition for where I want to focus, right? And that determines what I'm doing in my current role because what opportunities should I go after? What should I not? What skills do I want to build in my current world? What education and training should I go after? And then how can I communicate that in my resume, personal website, on my LinkedIn, whatever those things are, right?

So when I sit down for that interview, it's just really clear what that personal value proposition is. When I send in that resume, that application I'm building towards where I want to get. So I wonder, so I see you’ve had multiple roles in your career and have you ever kind of taken that approach to, okay, here's where I want to grow into?

Tate Gibson: I think so, yeah. I think for me, part of it has been, as you said, what is that next step that I want to take? What kind of experience do I want to add? But I think also choosing a company that I really believe in their growth journey and I really believe that they have growth potential. So looking at what the product market fit is, what the competitive landscape like, I really consider where the company is going and what their growth trajectory is. And if that's something that I feel like I can be a part of and help contribute to, and then within that, looking at what are they trying to achieve as a company, what is their growth hypothesis essentially that they're all going to get behind? And is that something that I have done before in my career? Is that something that I haven't? And if I haven't, what do I need to do to learn more about that particular area and to progress in that way?

And for me anyways, I find it when I'm choosing next steps in my career, I like to choose things that I haven't done before so I can be trying something different. I like having a new challenge. I like having diverse work and something that's a little bit different. So I like to be able to take some of the skills that I've learned in the past. And then, I mean, even in the example that I gave you earlier of going from a company that had 12 customers to going to a company that had hundreds of customers and sort of flipping that problem on its head and saying, okay, how do we approach this from a completely different angle?

Daniel Burstein: I like that. And that's the upside of experience. And if you don't have that experience and you're listening, that's the great thing about the How I Made in Marketing Podcast. You can learn from everyone else's experience. One of those other things you learned. I know we have a specific story that you're going to talk about one company, but I love when I asked you where you learned it and you're like, I pretty much learned this everywhere. This is a common challenge everywhere. So I mentioned it when we opened. Attribution is a myth, but you need it. So you want to take us to that kind of maybe one specific story when you were consulting for Clevr.

Tate Gibson: Sure. Yeah. So yeah, the opening to that, I mean, I could talk about attribution all day, every day. This is something I, I nerd out about a lot. Yeah. Because so Clevr essentially we were having to do the same thing that any I think when I said I worked on the side of the organization you're always trying to prove what marketing has contributed you're trying to show how marketing is contributed to pipeline, how it's contributed to revenue, what the ROI is and so attribution becomes really important for marketers in that way.

And I do think that it's important to look at some attribution in order to understand what you're doing and how you're going to set your strategy going forward. So at Clevr we decided to split our tracking into three main areas, which was source conversion point and content. So then that way we could track like which channels we’re sourcing, any leads we could look at, which conversion points actually worked the best. For us is like saying a CTA that says book a call versus book a demo. Which of those is going to be most effective? And then also, you know, is there a particular button on the website that's more effective or is live chat the way to engage people on the site? And then also looking at specific content as it moves through the funnel because we realize that some content is better at capturing demand or kind of top of funnel and some of is better at the sales stage.

So wanting to get a full view of, as you said earlier, that customer journey and what how to kind of optimize for each of those different elements throughout the whole thing. And this helped us because I feel strongly still that there are some channels that are optimized for tracking and there are some that are not optimized for tracking. You mentioned print earlier on, but by doing this tracking for the ones that are trackable, it helped us ensure or feel more confident that what we were doing in the untrackable channels was going to be as optimized and as effective as possible. So if the CTA seems to be the one that's working the best or this message seems to be working the best, if this content's working the best, we feel more confident in our more untrackable channels working effectively in that way.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, that's great. And I mean, one reason why I mentioned print is we've done a national study before, a nationally representative study, and we asked customers what channels do they trust most when making a purchase decision? And the top five were all traditional and the bottom five were all digital, and number one by far was print, newspaper, magazine.

And so I bring that up because, you know, there's I love how you say a blended approach of trackable versus untrackable methods, because sometimes you run that search ad or that social ad or whatever it is and yet you get the click. But you did because, oh, they remembered your name because they saw three different print outs in the Wall Street Journal or whatever it is. And then they're like, okay, now have enoughtrust to click here. And so it is important to have that mix.

 But I want to ask also about understanding improvement and what role testing has played. I think you mentioned a little about demos and calls and some things you did to actually test. So there's the attribution. There's actually testing the different elements to see what works. Because I've written before about creating a culture of testing. And a culture of testing is just a phenomenal thing because you have these certain, you know, as marketers, we have the golden gut. We know we think we know what will work. But as you mentioned in your career, you go from brand to brand. And sometimes things that work on one brand don't work in another, like, you know, short copy, everyone thinks you got to use short copy and it works in your first three companies and the fourth company, you know what long copy works better, and that's the thing that's more effective.

So I wonder, did you gauge in any testing, AB testing, split testing, even just sequential testing, any types of testing to understand okay here's cause when we're talking about attribution, what we're really talking about is where should we invest our channel marketing dollars? You know, what channel should we invest in. Any insights there?

Tate Gibson: Absolutely. Yeah. I'm a huge fan of testing and doing all the testing that we possibly can. I think that marketing is essentially just a series of little mini science experiments and trying to get as statistically accurate information as possible on what's working, what's not working, whether that be for email, whether that be for website optimization, whether that be for your ad spend.

As you said, it is all about making that confident investment decision. And I think I do also want to say I think AB testing and tracking this information is super helpful from a data perspective, but also having qualitative information and speaking to your customers and asking them as well is really important. So I think and as you were saying, I think from all the attribution work that I've done, you're always going to see that organic search is your top channel, but it's like, what does that mean? Why did they search for you in the first place? That doesn't really answer that question.

And even if you ask people and they come to you and you say, well, how did you hear about us? More often than not, you'll hear like a word of mouth or I heard about you from talking to a friend and it's like, well, did that friend see us at a trade show? Did that friend download a guy? Did that friend see us in the Wall Street Journal? Like, how do we actually know where this came from? Which is where I say, like attribution is a myth, but also you need it to help optimize these channels as much as you can.

Daniel Burstein: It’s a bit like being Sherlock Holmes, right? Like you're just back to where it started. And I like the way you say the mix too of the qualitative. Because AB testing and some of those quantitative methods, it's almost like a sandwich, right? Like on the front end. Is that qualitative? Because if you're AB testing correctly, you're testing based on a hypothesis, right? And the qualitative can help you inform the hypothesis and then you get results from that AB test. And so if you tested correctly with that hypothesis, you should know what they mean, right? Because you're like you know, we're testing because we're trying to, you know, prove or disprove this hypothesis. But qualitative can also help on the backend talking to people and then kind of making sense of that data. Have you found that similar?

Tate Gibson: Yes, definitely. And I think similar to what you were saying, too. And I think I heard your previous guest on your podcast, the saying that everyone thinks they're a marketer and everyone thinks that they can do your job. And that's certainly something I've come across before in my roles as well of people saying, Oh no, this should be the email subject line or this should be what the content or this should be thea title of this white paper or this webinar or whatever it might be.

And so using AB tests in this way can also help prove a point. And if there's ever a disagreement for me, either within my team or from external pressures from other teams who are saying that they think we should do things in a certain way, answers always like, well, let's test it and let's see. And we'll try one way. This way we'll try. We'll target one audience with this we will target one audience with that.  We'll see which one wins in the end. And then we can use those learnings about what the certain phrasing is or what the CTA is or whatever that hypothesis is that we're actually testing in that moment to build up over time and iterate that going forward.

Daniel Burstein: That's is a great point. Part of, you know, in marketing, there's always that internal part that sometimes we overlook, we just jump to the external. And you always have two audiences, you have that external audience you're trying to serve, but there's always an internal audience. So that's the business leaders. Or if you're an agency, you know, that's your client. And so I love what you say about also it's to give information when you're AB testing, to give information to someone internally sometimes to prove or disprove what they think you should do in marketing.

So quick story we did a while ago we're trying to, many years ago, we were trying to kind of teach this idea. And so we made some videos very cheesy, but we called it Defeat the Squirrel, and the whole idea was a series of videos. And this boss loved squirrels. And so we do ridiculous things like, you see, there's a picture of him with a squirrel on his desk. And then you hear like a voicemail from the veterinarian who's saying his squirrel is better now and get picked up. And so this team of marketers try to go in in these videos and they're trying to, you know, convince him that, you know, squirrels aren't effective in our marketing. And so they try many different tactics. None of them work a PowerPoint presentation, all these things. Finally, they run an AB test and then they tell them we're losing 70% of our sales from having the squirrel on this landing page. And he’s like I don’t like squirrels, who likes squirrels?  Drop the squirrels.

Tate Gibson: Yeah. Suddenly I don't like squirrels as much anymore.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, not when it's losing me money. So that's great. Well, let's talk about another one of your stories that I love. I love the proactivity of this. I think it's so easy to when we're getting into our career, to follow our boss, our leaders, whoever it is, take whatever steps. But I love the proactivity in this. You said find like minded people you can learn from. How did you do this, Tate?

Tate Gibson: Yeah. So this is, I think at the very beginning of my career, I, you know, I think like anyone, I didn't really know anything. I had a psychology degree. So I was like I had tons to learn from all my bosses and I had some fantastic bosses, which I'm very lucky to have learned from. But it did get to a certain point where I couldn't learn something fairly technical from my boss. She didn't know. And so I sort of thought, okay, well, I need to find other people who are trying to do the same thing as me, who are at the same level as me, who are going through the same stuff as me. And I can hopefully learn from them and see if they have gone through this as well. I personally have always been the type of person who learns best from people and in speaking to people and having conversations, listening to podcasts rather than reading a book or, you know, trying to research stuff online so that's the way that I learn. And I wanted to seek that out.

So this inspired me to get together what I call the Vancouver Technology Marketing Millennials Group.

And I found a few people who were kind of in similar positions to me in the city, asked them if they wanted to meet up and chat about things. I think the first couple of times we did it was basically just have a bit of a wine and a moan about what we were doing in our day to day lives, which, you know, our families and partners and friends didn't quite understand when we're starting to moan about marketing, attribution and sales alignment and stuff like that. And then I started to get in some speakers as well. So kind of reached out to say, okay, if all of us have this common issue around conversion rate optimization or all of us are trying to understand SEO or all of us are trying to understand like email automation and found some experts in these fields who would come in. So sort of like once a month we would get them to come in or they would host us there. We would all go learn from this person and then do a bit of a roundtable, discuss how we could move this forward and it's become like a really great group because well, I mean, I'm not in Vancouver anymore, but it was a great group and I'm still friends with lots of people in this group, and I think that's the main thing for me too, is the relationships that I built with these people. And we sort of started it when a lot of us were, you know, specialists or early in our management careers. And now a lot of people are Heads of VP's, Directors of etc.. So we've kind of like grown and shifted and learned tons from each other through this whole experience. And it's a great way to crowdsource information as well.

So even if you're saying, okay, well, I need a web designer, does anyone know anyone or I'm looking for this, does anyone know anyone? And similarly, you get a lot of opportunities that way as well. So I had lots of open doors for me where somebody told me about a company that was hiring for a role before it ever got posted online. I also similarly dodged a few bullets where I was like, I'm interviewing at this company and people were like, No, no, no, don't interview at that company. Here is all the reasons why. So this is why I think, yeah, for me, having a network and like minded people who can learn from is so important and has been a massive part of my career for me.

Daniel Burstein: Well, I think that ties into your next lesson very well. And in this part, we talk about lessons from the people you collaborated with, right. It’s two key things we do as marketers. We build things and we build them with people. And this lesson was you don't have to know your end destination to progress your path. And I think what you were talking about with your Vancouver Millennial Marketing Group is a great example. But do you also want to tell us how you learned this lesson from Nav Sangha, Director of Demand Generation, Planview . How you learned this from Nav early in your career?

Tate Gibson: Yeah, so I had the pleasure of working with Nav twice, and the reason I wanted to bring this up too is it's something I talk to my team about quite a lot, and I think a lot of people get the impression that they need to progress in a certain way and that they need to have like a goal of, you know, I want to be a CMO one day or I want to be this one day or whatever it might be, and that there's a certain path to get there.

And so for me, as I mentioned earlier, I had a psychology degree when I first started in my career, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I kind of accidentally came across marketing and was working in a temporary receptionist position at a time. I was curious to learn more about it, Nav took me under her wing and then just completely opened up this world of marketing that I didn't know existed in B2B SAS, and I didn't realize, like, how many things there are to know in marketing. It is so multifaceted, there's so many different disciplines and it can be really overwhelming when you're starting your career. Just think about all these things that you need. You feel the need maybe to know so much about. And she kind of showed me the difference between how you can be in sort of smaller companies and be a bit more of a generalist, but you don't have to know absolutely everything. You can rely on networks, you can rely on specialists, you can rely on contractors, kind of help you fill in those gaps of the knowledge. Sometimes people in your team, if you have the capability of hiring, Or you could go down the path of becoming specialist and getting really, really deep into this thing and becoming one of those people who is the experts in that area.

And I think one of the things I didn't know at the time and she kind of helped me understand is that I think a lot of people assume that management is where they need to go or want to go in order to progress. But that especially in marketing, you can go down this path of being a specialist and an individual contributor and in some cases make more money than the managers or the leaders of the teams. And also management isn't for everyone. So I think that's something I encourage my team is quite a lot and there's, you know, some people on the team who are interested in progressing their careers and want to figure out how they go further. But management isn't necessarily the path for them or being a specialist isn't necessarily the path for them.

And it's about finding that right balance of like being a bit of a generalist and knowing lots of different things within marketing or and kind of filling the gaps with the great team or with other people or getting really specialist and focused on what you want to do. But at the end of the day, you don't have to know exactly what you want. At the end of the road, you can just sort of choose this is the next best path for me and or this is the next best path for me and, and head in that direction and just go for the ride.

Daniel Burstein: Go for the ride. Well, I like that, it’s a counter argument to what I was asking earlier about finding a path for growth and you mentioned. So you don't have a marketing degree, no one on your team even has a marketing degree, right?

Tate Gibson: That's right. Yeah, nobody does. It is something that we kind of joke about. I think that a lot of the skills are from everybody on the team are really transferable. And I think that's one of the things I mean, I guess counter to my point earlier, I was saying everyone thinks that they can do marketing. I'll say people with the right approach and the right mindset could do marketing if they learn it and they're willing to apply themselves in that way.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. And I like what you say too about the difference between manager and specialist, because one thing I've definitely seen and learned in my career is also the thing they don't tell you is as you grow in your career and if you go into management, you tend to do less of the thing you love, right? Some people I have met people that love management, they love people and process and all these things. And I mean, they tend to be more the MBA type, but like for me, I'm a creative, you know, writer. that's where I want to grow.

And I remember the first agency I interviewed at the new Creative Director, I was asking him because I thought that should be the path. I asked what's it like to be Creative Director? He's like, well, it's like there's a lot of upside things like, but I don't create as much, you know what I mean is like I'm mostly managing, I mostly deal with clients that don't create as much. And so that's just too a word of caution. If you're like, I am dead set on the CMO role or whatever it might be, Creative Director or whatever, just know, like that could be a very fulfilling role for the right person, but for the wrong person, you're not getting to do the thing you love as much. You're mostly dealing with people and process and client and business and management issues.

Tate Gibson: Yeah, definitely

Daniel Burstein: Which are a  reward, but not for everyone.

Tate Gibson: Yeah, exactly. And I think I know for sure when cause my previous management positions or leadership positions have been in companies that are small enough that I'm still rolling up my sleeves and doing quite a lot of the doing. But in this position, this is the first one that I've been like. I've got a fairly large team. They are all extremely efficient and productive and do lots of things without me and I'm just sort of like, you know, there.

So it was something that I was fairly insecure about when I first started and I was saying to Lauren, who was my boss at the time, and just being like, I haven't been in Marketo in like six months and I haven't done these things, well, is this okay? And she's like, Yeah, this is this is management. It's okay. It's leadership. You're moving on to do different things. You're contributing in different ways to the company. It's all good.

Daniel Burstein: Well, a key point in your career, too, will be when you forget how to do the thing in Marketo or when Marketo has changed everything, or you can't go in anymore. Remember how to do it yeah, exactly.

Tate Gibson: Exactly.

Daniel Burstein: So I think this next lesson is a great proof point to what you said of, you know, you didn't you didn't have a degree in marketing. A lot of people didn't have a degree in marketing, but if you have the right mindset you can succeed. Because when we think about marketing, we think about sometimes the technical and tactical things you need to know. But you mentioned the key lesson is find the why and really someone with a psychology degree or any degree or just a human being needs to understand if you're communicating a message how to find the why. You said you learned this from Peter Fitzpatrick, VP Payments, Thinkific. How did you learn this from Peter? Is this such a core fundamental marketing lesson, right. It's not Marketo. It's not, you know do attribution, it’s the core to markeing.

Tate Gibson: I would agree. Yeah, for sure. And so he and I were working at Agreement Express together, and we're essentially trying to crack payments. We were trying to get into one of the largest global payments providers in both a customer and a partnership relationship with them. And he took that sort of partner slash sales leader position on it and took me under his wing to teach me a lot about about this. I had the pleasure of being on lots of customer calls with him as well. So I got to actually speak directly to people, hear what they had to say. And we used several different ABM tactics before I even knew what ABM was. But it was all about understanding the relationship and what actually would drive value for them and what would actually get them to be motivated to do certain things.

So any time we were creating a new piece of collateral, whether it be like a sales piece or an email or anything else, he'd be asking me why? So like, why would they open this email? Why would they fill out this form? Why would they attend this party we put on for them? Why would they open this piece of direct mail that we've just sent them?

And each of those different points had to have a very good answer. And if I gave, usually I would give one answer and then he would ask why again? And then I'd say another answer and he'd ask why again? And so an example of this would be, you know, ill let's say we're sending an email out about a particular product that we want them to know about and he'd say, Okay, well, why would they open this email? Or why would they click through to this? And I'd say, well, it's talking about increasing efficiency. They'd want to learn how to increase efficiency. He’d be like, but why would they want to increase efficiency? I'd be like, well, because they want to go faster and do better as a company. He’s  like, why do they want to do that? And I'm like, well, because they want to grow and make more money. He’s like, why would they want to do that?

And then he'd also switch to looking at some of the personal attributes as well. So like, why does this person want to become more efficient in their role, be like, well, maybe they want to spend more time with their kids at home and then being able to look at both the work related, tangible benefits of like if they're going to look at it from their boss that they're going to progress in their career or they're going to like try this brand new thing. As well as some of the intangible benefits of like it's going to make them feel really good or they're going to have more time with their kids. And then being able to speak to the customers themselves. And we mapped out sort of this of this whole account. We sort of said, here's all the key stakeholders, here's all the key players, here's both the tangible andintangible benefits that might be kind of affecting them and that they're thinking about.

 And the more we were able to speak to people then became not just sort of a nebulous like, well, maybe they want to spend more time with their kids. It's like, I know for sure they want to be at Jimmy's baseball game on Tuesday night, you know, like that specific. And then that was a way that we were able to shape a lot of our messaging around what the value was that we were providing to them. So it wasn't us going to them saying our product is amazing and it's the best new thing and you need to come on board because of these things, because our product is great. Which I think a lot of marketers kind of kind of fall into this sense of like, well, our product is amazing therefore everyone will immediately see the value and the benefit. But to keep digging into the why and then why and then why and then why, to really understand all of the different reasons and, values behind why people would be doing this in the first place and then creating a bit of a hierarchy of that and leading with the most compelling, most emotive, often. well, message and language is important.

Daniel Burstein: I wonder based on that, if you have any advice on creating an ideal customer profile and a customer journey for those ICP's. Because the one thing I love about what you said is so we have a free digital marketing course and one thing we teach in the course is like when you're building a landing page, it's not just one page, there's eight micro yeses you have to answer on the page, right? Each of them has a why, like you said. And so when you talk about this lesson, find your why. A lot of marketers, I feel like they go just for the gold. They go for okay, what is the why for our company or what is the why for, you know, our product as a whole. Why you would purchase the product at the end. And if you have a complex sale or especially B2B, I mean, there are a lot more whys you have to get to before you get to that final why the product? So I love how you say what's the why of why someone would open this mailer or, you know, respond to it and like there's that entire journey of finding your why before you get into the bigger why of the product or the company as a whole, which we would call the value proposition, right?

We would say, yeah, there's different levels of value proposition. So I wonder, do you have any advice around that? You know, like as I mentioned, we say there's eight micro yeses on the landing page. Do you have any advice or any tools or tactics you've used for creating that ideal customer profile and understanding the journey for each of customers to kind of communicate out with your team, with the sales force, with a larger company, to all get on the same page around that.

Tate Gibson: Yeah, definitely. I think to your point, what we've seen in B2B SAS is that the buying committee for a lot of these tools has gone from, you know, it used to be maybe like three or four people, you'd have the kind of main champion, main stakeholder they might have to get it signed off by legal and finance, but otherwise that was kind of it.

And now you get these massive teams, you get users involved a lot more often than just the managers. You can't just kind of have CEO buy in. They want to know that the people who are going to be using it day to day think that that's the best tool and rely a lot more on their team's expertise to help in the buying and purchasing of tech.

So I think for us, we when looking at ICP and thinking about these campaigns, we want to look at who on that buying committee is of all the different personas who might touch this at some point, whether it be the person evaluating whether it’ technically capable and has integrations that it needs versus the person who wants to make sure you have the, you know, security and compliance or that it's like financially viable and there's going to be ROI or whatever it might be. Like who on this whole thing is going to be the person who's finding you in the first place and is probably researching this in the first place? And then that's the type of stuff that you're want to be focusing on for your top of funnel.

And then knowing, as you said, that there's these other personas who come in a little bit later in the funnel who are like once you're actually in that consideration decision kind of phase, when they're evaluating other technology, then you start to get into more of like, okay, now we have to bring up that like technical messaging, often more so. So starting out a little bit more with, okay, who's looking after this? What matters to them, what's going on in their world? How do we kind of, as I said earlier, bring this like hierarchy of their needs or their values, what they're trying to achieve and focus on that. The top tier, the echelon, the one that's going to drive the most action and the one that's going to make them most motivated is painful enough for them that they actually need to do something about it. And starting with that and then know that there is kind of these other personas, other pain points, other needs that are going to come up a little bit later on that you're going to have to address at a different stage.

So it is kind of this nice mismatch of mapping out who's all involved in the buying committee. What stage of the funnel are they often involved in? What are the questions they're going to be asking? What are the objections they're going to have? What are the pains and issues that you're trying to solve at the moment? And then how can we create a content for them and a journey for them through this whole thing to get them to realize or hopefully realize the value of this for them and that it's the right fit for them.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I love when you say that. And one thing I've noticed too is some of those early top of the funnel folks, you know, we could call them champions, they're your best salespeople. And so one of the best things you can do is arm them with the information or data or whatever they need to help the final decision maker understand.

Tate Gibson: To help them sell internally. Exactly. Yeah. And so often, you know, you can say you can and often especially in big organizations, they don't always know what hurdles or what challenges they're going to come across in trying to sell this internally so they could get super excited about your product. They could love this, and they're like, this is going to be game changing. And then it's like, okay, how do we convince your boss that this is game changing? How do we convince, you know, the security guy that we are going to pass all the clearances? So it is about kind of arming them and saying, okay, here's the people you need to go speak to internally. Can you introduce us? Here's some content you can bring to them to get them on board and yeah, that can have a huge impact as well. I think I've seen the mistake too often of where you get in touch without a champion. You have a relationship with that single champion, but that was the only touch point you have within the organization. And then if that person leaves or they go on sick leave or something happens, then instantly their opportunity is gone. And so having this multifaceted, multi different touchpoints within the organization and showing value across different areas is like really saves deals as well.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah. Well, especially when you're asking sales to forecast in the CRM and they're like, Oh, this is going great, this is great. Like they don't even understand the whole buying process on the end of convincing this one person. But and I want to ask along the lines too. So now you're in the artificial intelligence space, right? Peak is an artificial intelligence company. And so when it comes to that, artificial intelligence is such a newer and emerging and I think misunderstood technology. So what role does also just flat out education play in helping them understand if it's the right fit for them. Because I'd imagine on the front end of things you're getting the more technical people that are like really rolling up their sleeves and wanting to get involved.

But as it gets to the decision maker level, those decision makers AI is a buzzword for them. They don't even understand, you know, what's in the black box and what magic is it going to do and how is it really going to affect things. So what role like when you're in such a maybe bleeding edge new technology like artificial intelligence, what role does just flat out education play in getting people to kind of get up to speed and especially at a business level where they just, you know, might not understand it?

Tate Gibson: Yeah, it's huge. And I think we’ve kind of split out the way that we think about marketing into two main areas. It’s the people who know exactly what they want and are educated around it and are fairly mature in AI, which has its own kind of host of messages and approach to it. And then there's people who don't know what they want, maybe are feeling the pain but don't even know that there's a solution out there for it. Are like, absolutely not aware of it at all. And so that one takes a lot more thought leadership in the sense of educating, as you're saying, about AI in general, about how it can be applied to their particular role and how it can be applied to business. And one of the things that Peak focuses on is like the commercial application of AI and showing outcomes for a particular business.

So one of the things we've seen as an issue often is that we have in organizations, they have the sort of commercial business leaders who have an end goal of how they're trying to progress the company, whether that be optimizing their supply chain or effective running effective marketing campaigns, whatever it might be. And then you have a very technical some of these companies have data science teams who are trying to run their own machine learning models, but they're not always fully communicating with each other. And so the Peak platform kind of helps to  bridge that gap between the two of them and show how this very technical machine learning side of things can drive these effective commercial business outcomes.

And so it's important not only to educate the commercial business leaders on the technical aspect of AI, but also to educate the technical users on how to communicate their value to the commercial business users as well.

Daniel Burstein: That's great because I mean, working in, you know, B2B SAS and tech marketing stuff, there's just so much buzzwords.

Tate Gibson: There's a lot of suspicion around. I like it. So it's a tough, yeah, so I think a lot of people have marketed AI and then been burned in the past and that's why again, like driving real, showing real results, having real customer stories is so important to validate that this is a real thing.

Daniel Burstein: Yeah, well, because when you're marketing something that has become a buzzword of sorts, or maybe there's a better word to call it than buzzword, trending, I'm not sure. Like a one hand you feel like, oh, that's to our advantage, right? Because now this is something everyone's interested in and there's demand building up around this when maybe before people didn't know about it. And that's great. But on the flip side, as you're getting to those business decision makers, you know, the more we hear those words buzzwords, the more we become skeptical. So I think that what you're talking about and how you're breaking down that education is very sensible, like, yes, there are going to be people who are already at a certain level of depth of knowledge of AI and a certain interest in it, which is great.

And then there's other people where they have to understand the business outcomes, because I've seen so much in, in B2B and SAS where there's so many times where it's like there's all these buzzwords used. And I've gotten to some of these landing pages and it's like, what does this company even do? You know we’re a scalable cloud, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah AI machine learning, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. And it's like, what does that even do?

Tate Gibson: Yeah, yeah.

Daniel Burstein: Business outcomes,Okay.

Tate Gibson: It was it. Yeah. It's interesting. We also ran in the same way because I think a lot of companies are just at different stages in their AI maturity. We ran a study this year and so a lot of what we think about in terms of AI mentioned it, it drives commercial outcomes and we think that that's really important for decision making. And so we sort of call the type of AI that we enable is decision intelligence. And so we ran the survey looking at tons of different companies across the like around the world in all these different industries to evaluate where they're currently at with their decision intelligence, how they're using data AI to make decisions within their organizations.

So now we have a decision intelligence maturity report so people can go through and read that and figure out like where they are in their journey and therefore kind of what their next step should be towards getting into a place where they're a little bit more AI or data literate.

Daniel Burstein: Maturity, that's a great takeaway for anyone listening who's in any sort of leading, kind of bleeding edge company. We used to run those reports too, for like new, like social media marketing. We had our social media marketing maturity  just to help readers understand, okay, where are we along the terms of social media marketing? So I think that's a great takeaway for everyone.

But something else you mentioned about decision intelligence data very applicable to marketing. We hear about data driven marketing all the time. One of your next lessons is know your numbers, right? So it's, you know, when I started in and marketing, advertising, as I said, I started as a copywriter. I started before many tech things were out. It was a very creative oriented, you know, field to be in. Of course, you know, you still had to make money at the end of the day, but my gosh, have the numbers become important? So you said you learned this from Robin Jones, Principal, Robin Jones Consulting. So how did you learn this lesson?

Tate Gibson: Yeah, so I had the pleasure of working with Robin at Comm100.  She was the CMO there, and she taught me how important it is to stay on top of funnel metrics. She was obsessed with her Salesforce dashboard. She had a Salesforce dashboard that she logged into every morning. She had a spreadsheet that she went into all the time. And because she had such consistent pulse check on this. And we had a good enough volume that you could actually tell when something had changed. She developed this almost like sixth sense when something wasn't right, and so she could log in in the morning and be like something that's not right. A form's not working. Our ads must have been paused like she just knew. Everyone look for where there's something broken or where something is not happening. And we were able to go in and fix it right away, which meant that a lot  didn't fall through the cracks. And she also knew enough so that when you're in those management meetings, people are asking you, how much did marketing contribute to this or how was the effectiveness of this campaign? Just to always know the key metrics that were important to be able to communicate to other people within the business and other leaders, especially with sales and the CEO.

 And I think also there was someone earlier on your podcast as well who said this that you don't always have to know the answer. So it's knowing what are the key metrics that you're going to have to know so that you're on top of it and that you're knowing what's working, what's not working. But also, if someone asks a more obscure metric, you don't always have to have the answer to that immediately. And you can sort of say, okay, well, let me get back to you. I'll go ask someone on my team. That person lives and breathes this day to day, and then there's different people on the team who wouldn't know their metrics day to day.

So the content person, for instance, would be like, I know already what is the top performing blog that we had this month? Or the ads person might say, I know already, like which our top PPC ad is this month. Like, I just am familiar with that so that we could make decisions quite quickly as a team by staying on top of these things. And I think also having such ingrained knowledge and being so close to the numbers all the time, it makes it very obvious for you when there's a change in conversion rates or in volume or in something else and makes you understand what you think you can predict that you could get.

So we did our annual target setting and it was the first time I'd done it in such a data driven way. And  I was shocked at how straightforward it was. Like before it would say, okay, well marketing has got to reach this target in terms of marketing contributed pipeline or revenue. And we'd sort of say like, we have no idea how we're going to get there? You know, we can sort of say we're going to run these campaigns and we think maybe it'll drive this many. But we'll hope for the best. And like, maybe we'll get there in six months then maybe like, maybe we'll be on track. Maybe we won't be. We'll see. But for her, she had this, you know, at Peak we call a backward sales plan. But essentially looking at like, okay, this is the pipeline. These are all the different conversion rates leading up to the funnel. Therefore, this is the number of like MQL’s or leads that we need to hit. And what are the campaigns that we can drive? What are the different channels and tactics that we can use to drive those MQL’s? Are we going to be falling short? Are we not going to be falling short and doing a forecast of that as well?

And then that's something that I've employed now to look at. Okay, I've got my forecast that I update on like a monthly basis based on performance from the past. And then also looking into how we're tracking week on week or in accordance with that forecast so that you can get to a place where marketing is also reporting to sales within about a 10% accuracy of what pipeline we're going to be contributing that month, that quarter that year. And that becomes really invaluable in your relationship with sales and the trust that you need to build with sales as well. And then being really clear also about what budgets you need. So if you say, okay, well, we can achieve this amount of pipeline for this cost, this customer acquisition cost, then therefore, if you're saying that our pipeline targets are going to be this, this is how much budget we're going to need and this is what we're going to be doing with it.

It makes that whole annual planning process much easier when you're on top of your numbers and you have all this information ready to go. And it makes it a lot more difficult to argue with in terms of when you're when you're fighting for budget, which marketers often are, especially in these hard economic times.

Daniel Burstein: I like how, you said use customer acquisition cost to negotiate the budget for the year. But let me ask you this. So, I mean, data obviously so helpful for all the reasons you said, but one of the things I found is sometimes data can blind us if we don't understand the numbers behind it. Like I've seen these high level dashboards. You can’t really understand what the numbers behind it mean. And to give you one quick example. You know, we talked about AB testing before. I've written before about, you know, how do you know you're really learning anything from AB testing? Because you have to understand also things like statistical significance and validity. And so just because you see a result, it's so weird to us, but we'll see this is 20%, this is 10%, 20% better ,sometimes it's not because of statistical significance.

And I remember doing a case study, I was interviewing this marketer who was so excited about this lift he got, and then when I dove in, it's like the split with like 100 each in his email list are 200 different. It was very small.  I was like, well, that's probably not a valid test. It could just be random chance. And so you get so excited about the number, but you don't understand what it means. So I see you nodding your head like working with Dashboard. Like what do you do to make sure? Okay, I really understand the numbers below this and what this is actually telling me. And I'm not just, you know, unintentionally blinded by like, oh, that's a nice looking number. It's up or down, whatever it is.

Tate Gibson: Yeah, I think there's two parts to what you're saying. So one is, is on that you know, I mentioned that when we were at Comm100, we were lucky enough to have the volume that made sure that these dashboards were as accurate as possible. So exactly what you're saying there in terms of having a statistical significance and knowing what was trending, what wasn't trending. When I'm in organizations where we don't have the same volume. And so to your point, you it could be a difference of, you know, if you get one through or not one through, it could be like we had 70% of our goal or we had 0% of our goal depending on like what you're trying to get to. And in those cases, I think that's when it becomes a lot more important to look at a longer rolling average rather than looking at a narrow period of time.

So whereas in some companies, if you've got like a fairly high volume funnel, you might be able to look at it on like a daily, weekly, monthly basis and make some good decisions off of that. If you're in an organization where the volume in your funnel is a lot smaller, you're probably going to need at least a 12 month rolling average in order to get any kind of insight over what that funnel looks like and what the conversion rates like actually should be. And just because one month it was 13% in the next month it was 67%, that doesn't mean anything. It's like important to look at it over a period of time. So I think that's one.

And then the other piece is on understanding what's actually going on in those dashboards. And I think that's where it comes back to some of this attribution stuff for me. So similarly, you know, and if you're looking at, okay, you've either got like a high volume or you've got like a rolling average over a longer period of time. But what is actually driving those numbers? And so maybe this is a little bit specific. I'm not really sure. But for me, as I mentioned yeah so having the split of like different content, different channels and different conversion points. And then setting a forecast or like an expectation for each of those in a given period of time. So you might say like, okay, for this particular event that we're going to we think we're going to get this many MQL’s this many SQL’s, etc., and then looking at that to the like campaign level, to the channel level, to the content level of like is this driving what we predicted it would drive on a monthly basis.

So like we said that we thought this particular report was going to get this, you know, I don't know, let's say like 100 MQL’s in the month and we thought 20 of those was going to come from search. We thought 20 of those was going to come from this content syndication that we did, whatever it might be. First of all, did that content piece drive what we thought it would? Second of all, do these channels drive it? We thought it would, and if not, why not? And looking into that next level of information to really get a sense of what's working and what's not working. So I think the other thing that you don't want to get into is saying like, oh yeah, we overachieved our actual target for the month. So like everything's fantastic or like we overachieved our pipeline contribution for the month, so everything's fantastic. Where it could be that one of your campaigns just massively overperformed, which is great, but it could be that like five of your other campaigns has massively underperformed.

And so making sure that you're looking into that next level of information to see to see what's working and what's not working so that you can, you know, tweak what you're doing going forward. And I mean, if one's really overperforming, if you could get those underperforming ones up to a performing level, maybe you're going to overachieve your targets overall. So it's always looking into the next bit of detail to see how you can optimize then and improve.

Daniel Burstein: I think that's a great example to tie together the conversation we had today Tate. But before I let you go, let me ask you and we talked about all the many different things it means to be a marketer from getting into that data and attribution to being proactive, working with your peers to learn things, to just, you know, starting from a psychology degree or all these other folks on your team that don't even have marketing degrees to getting into marketing and finding the why for the customer. So if you had to break it down just directly to our listeners, what do you think in your opinion, what are the key qualities of an effective marketer?

Tate Gibson: So I think that curiosity is really important and some critical thinking to that. So I mean, I said before that I feel like marketing is basically just running a series of science experiments. So it's being curious about your customers and what matters to them. It's being curious about data. It's being curious about, you know, your team and their worlds and both professionally and personally and making sure your team is functioning effectively and everything that's happening with them.

I think it's about being open and willing and eager to try new things and learn because in marketing, especially in the world of tech and AI things are constantly changing. So constantly being willing to rip up what you've done in the past and try something brand new and be willing to accept that something you've done in the past might not work in the future. Being somewhat skeptical about the results that you get with like a real focus on data and the voice of the customer for that like qualitative side of things.

And I think that tenacity to just like keep going, you're going to have many, many failures and you're going to have many, many wins and just like seeing the success in those incremental gains is important. And I think the other thing that we didn't really touch on tons but is storytelling as well. So both finding the why for your customers on the market and being able to tell that story externally from a marketing perspective, but also storytelling internally and being able to explain, you know, the dark arts of marketing to leadership and to non marketing roles and explain like how, how this combination of creativity and data forms this unique field.

Daniel Burstein: The dark arts of marketing. Well, I mean, I think you gave a perfect example of storytelling this entire podcast . So thankyou, I was fascinated listening to your stories and so thank you for sharing all your lessons for us today.

Tate Gibson: Thank you so much. It's been so much fun.

Daniel Burstein: Thanks to everyone for listening.

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions