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Marketing in B2B: The War Between Science and Art (Episode 124)

Camela Thompson is the Vice President of Marketing at CaliberMind, the leading B2B platform for revenue
insights you can trust.

Based in Seattle, Camela has spent 15+ years in Revenue Operations in the tech industry. She worked at successful startups such as Qumulo, Extrahop, and CDK Global (formerly Cobalt) before proving herself as a customer-first growth marketer.

She is deeply familiar with the pain points that Ops teams face and is passionate about helping Ops professionals
accelerate their careers.

In addition, she hosts CaliberMinds’ podcast, The Revenue Marketing Report, where she produces expert-fueled content devoted to helping B2B Marketers hone their craft.

Previously, Camela ran her own consultancy where she specialized in creating customer-centric brand narratives.
She also served as Chief Marketing Advisor for Shepard Search Partners, Expert Advisor at the RevOps Co-Op,
and volunteers as a marketing coach for under-resourced entrepreneurs through Urban Impact Seattle.

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What you will learn

  • How Camela fell in love with being an Operations Professional (after stumbling into it)
  • The unique struggles marketing professionals are facing right now in a digital landscape
  • How CaliberMind is helping B2B clients with their innovative platform
  • How to simplify and make sense of digital marketing complexity
  • Plus much more!

Transcript

Jeff Bullas

00:00:04 - 00:01:15

Hi everyone and welcome to The Jeff Bullas Show. Today I have with me, Camela Thompson. Now, Camela is the Vice President Marketing at CaliberMind, the leading B2B platform for revenue insights you can trust. She is based in Seattle, which is a beautiful city, I have been there before and even been on ferries in Seattle. Camela has spent 15+ years in revenue operations in the tech industry, in successful startups such as Qumulo, Extrahop and CDK Global before proving herself as a customer first growth marketer. She is deeply familiar with pain points that Ops teams face in the marketing sector and is passionate about helping operations professionals accelerate their careers. In addition, she hosts the CaliberMind’s podcast, The Revenue Marketing Report, where she produces expert-fueled content devoted to helping B2B marketers hone their craft. She used to run her own consultancy where she specialized in creating customer-centric brand narratives. She also served as Chief Marketing Advisor for Shepherd Search Partners, sounds like a bit of SEO in there somewhere, and Expert Advisor at the RevOps Co-Op and volunteers as a marketing coach for under-resourced entrepreneurs through the Urban Impact Seattle.

So welcome to the show, Camela.

Camela Thompson

00:01:16 - 00:01:18

Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:18 - 00:02:00

So what people didn't see is that I didn't hit record initially, but anyway that's okay, we've managed to hit record today and my editors will actually find something when I upload a file. So 120 podcasts and counting, its the first time I haven't hit record before. So we had to start again. So Camela, tell us what got you into operations initially and I believe that you've sort of extended that now because operations is not so many stick up your hand and go I want to be in operations. So tell us a bit about how you had the call to get into operations initially.

Camela Thompson

00:02:00 - 00:03:20

Yeah and as you said I did not raise my hand and say I want to be in operations. I kind of stumbled into it. So starting in university was really clear that I would have a problem picking somewhere to be because I really loved creative and I really loved science and math, specifically statistics, storytelling with data. So trial and error ended, up being a Salesforce administrator and getting into the analytic side and what I found is that there's boundless amounts of creativity you need to tap into as an operations professional in particular in running systems on a very tight budget with our technology startups, figuring out what are the absolute minimum data points you need to be able to run a business efficiently and then figuring out how to manage up and communicate to the executive team in a way they'll listen and influence their decisions about what they do next because what we see a lot of times people feel something in their guts, they've had really strong positive or negative experiences. Those stick in their minds and it's very hard to change minds with data. A lot of times you have to change their minds with stories. So uncovering that in operations, actually it was a pretty good lead into marketing I found.

Jeff Bullas

00:03:21 - 00:04:49

Yeah. So most entrepreneurs operations, are seen as a necessary evil and quite often it's avoided because they don't like that attention to detail. And also there's always been attention. I used to be a sales person first initially after being a teacher. So I got into sales and tech and there's always this tension between sales and marketing, there's gonna be a disconnect. So because basically marketing would say you're not we're not getting enough business from the salespeople and sales people were not getting enough support from the marketing people because they're not giving us enough leads. So there used to be that tension, but in terms of what's happened in the last 20 years as we moved into digital marketing, which is a totally, well, it's not a totally different beast, the fundamentals are still the same. So, and you would have been playing much more on a digital marketing space, wouldn't you in the last 15+ years? Because digital marketing has been around about that long really, isn't it? I'd say. So when did you move from operations, per say, Salesforce and Salesforce is quite a beast, isn't it, in terms of making it sing and dance. So what got you into marketing more? Was it because it was sort of that creative aspect you like? In other words, you mentioned storytelling for example.

Camela Thompson

00:04:50 - 00:06:19

Yes, you know, I grew increasingly frustrated arguing over what I viewed were arbitrary numbers as opposed to these big sweeping patterns I saw that made more sense to focus on. For example, I was in a meeting where we were talking about MQS quarter over quarter, we're talking about four hundreds and there was a big debate about why the number had changed from what we had previously reported the prior quarter by a quantity of five units. And, I just I grew so frustrated with missing the big picture and looking at a website that talked about features and wasn't aligning with what the clients were looking for in terms of problem solving and you know, they want to spend more time with their kids. They want to get that time back. They want job security. And we're talking about cloud based hybrid fundamentals. I mean just all these words that were kind of a word salad. I just grew more and more frustrated and it has a technical buyer. I can't tell you how many times I had male salespeople ask for the technical guy and start explaining to me why I needed the product in a way that was really abrasive. So I finally reached the point where I said, you know, this doesn't seem to be working well for me. Why don't I try my hand at copywriting and branding and see if I can bring something new to the table and fortunately it worked out for me.

Jeff Bullas

00:06:20 - 00:06:25

Because you are quite creative, you were actually written fiction as well, haven't you?

Camela Thompson

00:06:26 - 00:06:27

Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:06:27 - 00:06:33

So what fiction? Little bit of segway here. So what sort of fiction do you write?

Camela Thompson

00:06:34 - 00:06:53

Dark urban fantasy, thrillers, murder-ish, true, not true crime but definitely false crime, very dark stuff. Which is funny because I'm actually a pretty friendly bubbly person. It has to come out somewhere. I guess.

Jeff Bullas

00:06:54 - 00:07:49

Obviously creative because you got basically a story starts with imagination and then you've got to act on and that's called creativity, which means putting pen to paper. So you brought, it sounds like you brought that from what you're doing with operations. So you work for CaliberMind, what do you see as some of the biggest challenge for marketing professionals, in other words going from okay, so we need to get, marketing needs to produce a range of different things. One is, brand awareness is one, then he's like lead generation is another. So in terms of CaliberMind, what you guys do, what's the sort of, where do you fit in the picture in terms of the technology because technology is very important, help you scale. So tell us a bit about, and the process you take customers through, I suppose the best way, so people and listeners can understand, what you guys do and what's important.

Camela Thompson

00:07:50 - 00:10:19

So I'm gonna give a little background into what I'm seeing people struggle with and then I'll move into the product. But what I'm seeing marketers struggle with, as we mentioned, digital marketing has been around 10, 15 years. Unfortunately, the perception of executive teams is that anything digital is 100% trackable and anybody who's been paying attention, especially lately, we have privacy first design. We have a lot of legislation that we have to be aware of. There's a lot of things getting in the way of marketers tracking things. And also on the B2B side, we're dealing with committees. It's not just one person in an account and everybody thinks that the demand generation funnel and this plinko effect where people are just naturally cascading down in a linear fashion. And B2B buyers are like a bunch of scrolls on skittles running all over the place in and out of the funnel, they lose their budget, the budget comes back. It just doesn't work that way. So what we've done at CaliberMind is we connect all the different data sources and then unify the account and contact. And so you have a continuous timeline, which is super powerful. We're also extremely realistic in how we look at that data. So by that, I mean a lot of attribution vendors in the past have sold attribution as a silver bullet that will tell you exactly what's happening in marketing and like you said, awareness is a huge piece of marketing and a lot of them is word of mouth. And that's something even in our digital world, you really can't track without getting some kind of qualitative feedback, like opportunity interviews or actually talking to the customer. So what we do is we connect to the systems, we unify the data and then we give you an estimate and help coach you through how to speak to the rest of the business on what is and isn't trackable and then give you those data points that you can use to help adjust your marketing. So when a person signs up with us, we talk through, okay, which are your core systems, what do you use for digital advertising, what are the other pieces you use for direct mail and all of these other things you're doing. We connect all those pieces together. We work with people to implement best practices to make sure that data is there to be collected in the first place and then we go from there. So it's a pretty exhaustive but fruitful process.

Jeff Bullas

00:10:20 - 00:10:40

So yeah, and as you mentioned it, you talk about the consumer is like random rabbit running around madly and they come in and I think a lot of entrepreneurs see and it's you, the trouble is the words we use to describe the marketing funnel. It sounds like a linear process.

Camela Thompson

00:10:41 - 00:10:44

It's just not.

Jeff Bullas

00:10:44 - 00:10:47

For me. I call it the Matrix.

Camela Thompson

00:10:48 - 00:10:51

That's fair, That's fair, yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:10:51 - 00:11:23

Yeah. Because you bring them in from, customers come in at different ways. They come in for different reasons. And we're trying to apply science and linear and edges and straight lines to human behavior. And as we know, human behavior is messy because it's humans, it's organic. So what are the different data points you're trying to collate to make sense of it all because basically you're trying to make sense so you can make good decisions to improve your marketing, correct?

Camela Thompson

00:11:24 - 00:11:25

Yes, absolutely.

Jeff Bullas

00:11:26 - 00:11:36

So what is the data points that you think are really important and is pretty typical of and we're talking about B2B here, which is still human to human. But so what are the data points?

Camela Thompson

00:11:37 - 00:13:04

So one of the examples that I've used recently that has helped me tremendously with CaliberMind’s own marketing is we have a web tracker for people who have cookies enabled and we can tie that back to company and persona and I can actually see in a sales cycle which personas are hitting our content in different pieces of material when and the reason why that's been so powerful for me is that we thought we were selling to marketing operations and we noticed CXO VP level or who come in first and then they asked marketing operations to come in and run the process from there. Our web site wasn't optimized for that executive level. We were talking in very technical terms that resonated with marketing operations and we're currently going through a process to change that. But we've already seen tremendous improvements and things like bounce rate time on page and how people are moving around. So we're taking something very, very fundamentally creative in figuring out what copy resonates. So we're still throwing the spaghetti against the wall. But we have a tool now where we can measure the impact and whether or not we need to adjust and make corrections from there. So it's still a total blend of art and science. But I love having that science there to even realize I have a problem so I can go fix it.

Jeff Bullas

00:13:05 - 00:13:14

Right. So you mentioned the term persona. Tell us what you describe the meaning of persona.

Camela Thompson

00:13:15 - 00:13:45

Okay, for me it has a lot to do with position and department, although I would love to hear if you disagree with that. So for me, somebody in marketing operations is gonna care about very different things than somebody who's a CMO. So differentiating between the two and seeing when they come into the sales cycle and what influential points that they tend to pull on. That's really important for me.

Jeff Bullas

00:13:45 - 00:13:49

Is that the customer? Is that what you mean by the persona? Customer persona?

Camela Thompson

00:13:49 - 00:13:56

On the buyer committee. So usually there's eight people there. I want to know who those eight people are and when they get involved.

Jeff Bullas

00:13:56 - 00:14:00

Okay, So you're talking about fairly complex, high in sales?

Camela Thompson

00:14:00 - 00:14:07

Yes. So usually over 50k. You've got a long sales cycle. That's typically 60 plus days.

Jeff Bullas

00:14:07 - 00:14:16

Right, okay, right. So we're not talking about someone like just one person making a buying decision from one company you're talking about?

Camela Thompson

00:14:16 - 00:14:21

Yeah, I wish because that would make my job easier.

Jeff Bullas

00:14:22 - 00:15:30

So because you're doing that collecting, that's easier to connect if you've got sort of like you're trying to target a persona in a particular market place. And that's just one decision maker. You have to collect a fair bit of information about them, don't you? To be able to say this fits the persona we think is our sweet spot. Yeah, because you're gonna go, well, she's gonna, buyer is gonna be, she works professional services. She owns $200,000 a year. She comes from a developed country. She has two children, a cat has a mortgage and she's married for example, or has a partner. So that's sort of like, and I have heard personas use just being used as well. That's a little bit the sailors are just, is that typical person. But some people start to use more things like psychographic, in other words, what other problems you're trying to solve as well. And you try and attach that to a persona. Like what their pain points. Why are they buying this?

Camela Thompson

00:15:31 - 00:16:12

That's exactly what we're trying to dig into and the way that we try to get, well it's multipronged, we do a lot of interviewing. We do a lot of discussions but we also can see what content is being consumed. What keywords they're using, how they're actually making it to the page. So there's a lot of detail we can get in what they're interested in and what draws them in initially. And that can help us answer some of those questions about pain points and what are we trying to solve. Because a lot of our content is thought leadership based, it's not about the product. So we can get into what's motivating them to make a change in the first place.

Jeff Bullas

00:16:13 - 00:16:24

Right. So it's just thinking about that you come to your website, can you track what search term they used to come to or is it you can actually from Google?

Camela Thompson

00:16:25 - 00:16:25

Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:16:26 - 00:16:31

Right, okay. So what's the tech involved in that? So that's Google's data.

Camela Thompson

00:16:32 - 00:17:20

So we connect directly to Google Analytics and a lot of this is dependent on cookie exception and all these other pieces. So we use Google Analytics but we also pair that with a web tracker that's javascript that's installed on the site and it puts the first party cookie on that person's browser to identify them. What that allows us to do is actually capture what they've clicked on or what they've searched to get to the page, the referring URL and then stitch that together throughout their interactions for that day. So we're not dropping that, they came in through paid search after they clicked to another page that's actually persisting throughout that day. And then the next day when they come in via direct, that persists as well.

Jeff Bullas

00:17:20 - 00:17:26

So you're collecting data from paid search. Not organic search?

Camela Thompson

00:17:27 - 00:17:51

Both, all of it. Yeah. So that was an example. But the web tracker is, it functions regardless of where they came from, but what it's doing is it's capturing where they came from. And then because we tie back to Google Analytics and they track terms and other pieces of information, we can actually stitch that all together.

Jeff Bullas

00:17:51 - 00:17:56

So you're taking a lot of noise and distilling it to making a lot of sense?

Camela Thompson

00:17:57 - 00:17:59

Yes, that's the goal.

Jeff Bullas

00:18:00 - 00:18:27

So if you engage with a customer, what's your typical process? So for my edification as well as for listeners is what would be your process in engaging with a client that is a B2B and they're buying a solution that's over $50,000. So that's typically what you're targeting. So how would you onboard them and then what is the process from that? Just at a high level.

Camela Thompson

00:18:28 - 00:19:29

Right. So the first step is determining which systems we need to pull data from. So what do they have already pushing into Salesforce? Can we leverage information that they already have in a single point? So we don't have to connect to a bunch of different points. Within the first 2.5 weeks, they have access to attribution reports that are on par with our competitors, we connect to their CRM and marketing automation platform within the first 24-48 hours. And then beyond that, it can be up to eight weeks of our time, it's four hours per week of their time, determining where their common data flaws are and how we should set up fixing it. For example, if they have a proliferation of duplicates, we can actually fix that and push the fixed information back into their core systems or if they have a bunch of records that should be converted onto an account. So you have continuous history, we can actually do that for them. So that's what takes a bit longer time.

Jeff Bullas

00:19:40 - 00:20:04

Okay, so basically work out which technology they're using and then you clean up, then you connect that all to CaliberMind and then you, once you connect that all together, you then start collecting data and then you start cleaning up the data. And then from that you start producing reports, is that correct?

Camela Thompson

00:20:05 - 00:20:05

Correct.

Jeff Bullas

00:20:06 - 00:20:08

So what were those reports look like?

Camela Thompson

00:20:09 - 00:20:55

So because we collect so much data, there are a lot of options at a high level. We have an executive dashboard view that shows you total pipeline bookings, what marketing contributed and what the key sources are that that came from. Whether it's in person events or form downloads or demo requests, we have that all broken down. Then we have reporting that specific to functional group that goes into more detail. For example, content marketing, a content marketer can see what the top pieces are in, which personas and industries are interacting with those content pieces. So they can understand whether or not what they're producing is resonating with their intended audience.

Jeff Bullas

00:20:56 - 00:21:22

Okay. So in terms of persona, can you, are you collecting information that says, so we think we're targeting you know persona A. But our buyers persona A plus one or B. Does the data tell you that as well?

Camela Thompson

00:21:23 - 00:21:56

Yes. So provided the information existable, what I mean by that is as people visit the site and provide their information. Are you enriching it? We still need those data enrichment tools to come in and provide additional information. Provided you are doing that, yes. we tie everything back to the account and we can say we understand you thought it was this one person interacting but we're seeing an average of eight people interacting with any sale. And here are the typical personas that do that.

Jeff Bullas

00:21:57 - 00:22:01

So what are some of the biggest challenges you see for your customers?

Camela Thompson

00:22:03 - 00:22:25

Being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data that's available to them and then learning how to translate that into next steps. I think because so much of what we do is digital. We're producing a huge amount of data all the time and it can be very hard to know what to tackle first.

Jeff Bullas

00:22:26 - 00:22:45

So what are some of the results that you help, but initially they aren't overwhelmed but your idea is to take them from overwhelmed to making sense of it and feeling they're in control.

Jeff Bullas

00:22:54 - 00:23:33

So what you guys do in CaliberMind is essentially take all this noise and as we said and turn it into making sense of it. So we're talking about reports as well. So, and also I think we're talking about personas in terms of do you identify and refine through the journey reports that, and getting to testing where you actually find that the son you thought you were targeting is actually quite different or is different. Does your system help you do that?

Camela Thompson

00:23:33 - 00:24:22

Yes, absolutely. So what we've noticed is a lot of companies are reliant on data entry and Salesforce from sales people to tell them who the personas are. When we can actually see who's interacting, we do a lot of myth busting. So we're looking, we know who the primary point is with sales that's pretty easy to get to. But understanding all of the people going to your website to do research, all the people on the buyer committee, all those people involved in the ultimate decision that's really key. So knowing for example finance or IT hits your website at the end of the sale. Probably looking for security review and ROI calculators. If you know that you can get in front of it and actually create the content they're looking for to create less friction in your sale.

Jeff Bullas

00:24:23 - 00:24:50

Yeah because part of what we're doing is we've just launched a new product premium newsletter, monthly subscription. And whenever you start a marketing enterprise you're actually, no matter you can you can research and survey to the cows come home. But the only truth is what the customer does. That's the ultimate point of truth. Are they buying or they're not?

Camela Thompson

00:24:51 - 00:24:51

Yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:24:53 - 00:25:49

So yeah and that's a real challenge. And then you go and then you end up sort of in this I'm having it. Now. We're trying to work out okay we're going to target these two personas to help us in our guidance or the messaging. We want to make sure the messaging goes from the add to the sales page to them signing up, they can become lead or are they a buyer? And isn't making sense. And if it makes sense in setting the right paying points well then voila you're gonna make some money. So it's not that simple really. But it sounds like it but the challenge is getting that messaging right through. It's sort of we think of as humans as a funnel as we said before, but people come, they read something, they go away, they might come back and you can't see that often.

Camela Thompson

00:25:50 - 00:26:23

Yes. Yes. Yes. Which is why I love having this technology personally as a marketer because you know a lot of our customers, they go from the company thinking they influence 20% of the deals to 80%. And that's because we can actually see all of those touches and say actually it took 20 marketing touches before they could even get to sales. And here are the five people involved before then being able to point to the data is kind of proving out we already suspected as marketers. This isn't an easy job, we know that. So yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:26:24 - 00:26:52

And I think the challenge a marketer is trying to make the journey as simple as possible, even though it's messy and removing friction points. So for example, one of the challenges we've had is, and even when they brought the product that keeps stop churn, because churn, to reduce churn is also a sales marketing job as well. So if you're getting 20%-30% churn rates every month, you're in trouble.

Camela Thompson

00:26:53 - 00:26:54

Absolutely, yeah.

Jeff Bullas

00:26:54 - 00:27:37

So if you're delivering a product such as a newsletter is to make sure that people stay. That they can read it easily. They don't have to do too many clicks, one to buy, two is to consume the information and content. So it is messy and sometimes I feel overwhelmed just going, oh God. But the thing is the only way you learn is by doing, in other words, you can say, okay, can we A/B split test, can we just change the headline? Will that make a difference? But if you change two things at the same time, you don't know which is working, which isn't. So digital is great, but boy, it can be overwhelming.

Camela Thompson

00:27:37 - 00:27:40

Absolutely, I agree with you. 100%.

Jeff Bullas

00:27:41 - 00:27:57

So, just to wrap things up then, what are some of the biggest challenges that you guys solve? And we think we've touched on some of them just to sum it up and then how can people contact CaliberMinds and yourself if they want to have more of a discussion?

Camela Thompson

00:27:58 - 00:28:56

Absolutely. I think the number one thing I want marketing leaders to walk away with is the ability to speak intelligently to their board in terms they understand. So if they can, they can prove what's working and what isn't by actually opening up sample accounts and getting buy in from the rest of the executive team. It turns that we always joke that the board meeting, the quarterly board meeting is that quarterly interview to keep your job. It makes having a conversation with executive leaders who think in very linear, you know, funnel terms much simpler. So that's, that's the biggest thing I think we solve is the ability to speak intelligently about the data and defend what you're doing. And I don't think many tools out there can do that. To find us CaliberMind.com. I'm [email protected] And you can also catch us on The Revenue Marketing Report.

Jeff Bullas

00:28:57 - 00:29:30

Well, thanks Camela for revealing the messiness of digital marketing and getting to the truth of digital marketing's complexity. But what's great is you guys are about distilling that noise into reports that make sense and deliver results that help people grow their businesses. So thank you very much for your time. Sounds like your journey has been a bit messy writing fiction along the way. Is that a side hustle?

Camela Thompson

00:29:30 - 00:29:37

Not anymore. It's not a very profitable side hustle for those of you considering it.

Jeff Bullas

00:29:37 - 00:29:50

Okay. Number one tip: don't write fiction as a side hustle because it's, I know writing a book is always like, will this be a hit or not. And it's really difficult to know.

Camela Thompson

00:29:50 - 00:29:58

Million titles published a year. You know, your odds aren't very high, but you can still try it.

Jeff Bullas

00:29:59 - 00:30:05

Well. Sounds like you enjoy writing, but thanks very much for your time, Camela and it's been an absolute pleasure.

Camela Thompson

00:30:05 - 00:30:07

Pleasure is mine. Thank you so much.