67 percent of B2B buyers no longer prefer to interact with sales representatives when making purchasing decisions. Gathering information online is now the hallmark of the buying process. This is great background for today's interview with Steven Mark Kahan, author of High Velocity Digital Marketing, who has successfully helped grow seven startup companies from early stage to going public or being sold, resulting in $5 billion in shareholder value. Based on his recent $1.4 billion dollar exit with cybersecurity firm, Thycotic, he will share the inside secrets of how to build a sales and marketing strategy that delivers breakthrough revenue growth –in brutally competitive markets, including: •The modern digital marketing strategies he recommends to his clients - that any company can replicate •Easy-to-implement strategies for getting found online, providing the most critical information, and getting buyers to purchase—fast. While the interview is focused on B2B, the advice is equally applicable to B2C, so make sure you tune in! Key Highlights [02:02] Introduction of Podcast Guest, Steven Mark Kahan [04:03] Steven's Journey to Digital Marketing [05:11] Why Steven Wrote High-Velocity Digital Marketing [07:08] The Importance of the Foundations of Digital Marketing [10:01] Ask the Right Questions! [14:06] Strengthening Your Digital Marketing Foundation [18:03] 3 Ways Steven Convince Brands to Invest in Content that Fill In Gaps [22:27] The Analogy of How People Buy Today [24:43] High-Velocity Tips from Steven [28:32] Think About Velocity! [31:36] Final Thoughts [32:42] Connect With Steven Notable Quotes
Did you know that 67% of b2b buyers no longer prefer to interact with sales reps when making purchasing decisions? Gathering information online is now the hallmark of the buying process, whether it is b2b, or b2c. Today, we're going to talk about how you take advantage of that situation with something called High Velocity digital marketing. And I'm going to be interviewing the author of the book of that same name. In this next episode of The your digital marketing coach, podcast. Digital social media content influencer marketing, blogging, podcasting, blogging, tick talking LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, SEO, SEM, PPC, email marketing, who there's a lot to cover, whether you're a marketing professional entrepreneur, or business owner, you need someone you can rely on for expert advice. Good thing you've got, Neil, on your side, because Neal Schaffer is your digital digital marketing marketing coach, helping you grow your business with digital first marketing one episode at a time. This is your digital marketing coach, and this is Neal Schaffer. Hey, everybody. Welcome my podcast. This is Neal Schaffer, your digital marketing coach. Well, today we're going to be talking about b2b marketing. But before you hit fast forward, if you are in b2c, there are many concepts in b2b that are absolutely applicable to b2c, and vice versa. My background, actually professionally is b2b. So I look at them all the same, some are more content and education rich, and other aspects might be more well consumer facing and engaging and entertaining. But nevertheless, a lot of the concepts have overlap. And I think you're really going to love today's interview with the author of high velocity digital marketing, Stephen Mark Callahan, subtitle for his book is Silicon Valley secrets to create breakthrough revenue in record time. Steve is a veteran, he's worked for decades in Silicon Valley with a plethora of b2b brands, and really brings this veteran b2b marketing experience to this podcast that really excited me when I was interviewing him. And I know it will excite you as well, as you listen in. Before we get started. I don't know if you know this, because if you're not on my list, you wouldn't know this. But I recently published a 2023 updated list of my recommended digital marketing tools. This is a beautiful PDF, there's 40 different tools with each one, I have screenshots and best practices and using them and my recommendations based on you know, whether you're looking for a podcasting tool or a YouTube tour or a social media dashboard. So go to Neal schaffer.com/freebies. And you can download that as well as the other free resources that I have for you there. All right. Without further ado, let's jump right into this interview with Steven mark, aka, you're listening to your digital marketing coach. This is Neal Schaffer. Steve, welcome to the digital marketing coach podcast.
Nice to be with you, Neal.
It's an honor to have you my friend, you know, author of The Wall Street Journal bestseller, high velocity digital marketing, I can't wait to get into this book. And you know, how you share what you've learned and how your strategies have helped companies have impressive, you know, billion dollar exits. But before we get to that, Steve, I just want to start off by asking, you know, high velocity digital marketing, you do a lot of digital marketing for a lot of startups, you know, ventures in Silicon Valley? How did this all get started? You have like a corporate background in digital marketing, or where did it all begin?
No, I really didn't originally, but what I did get the opportunity to do was early on in my career, I went and took the startup route. And of course, working with small startups, if you're running marketing, that means you pretty much get to do everything, because there is nobody else to do it. And so just getting that opportunity, being a sponge just in terms of learning, working with some of great mentors through the years, I just love digital marketing. And certainly the way in which people buy today is they buy based on the research they do online. So if you're going to market today, digital is the way you have to go.
Yeah, with I mean, you're you're preaching to the choir, and hopefully everyone listening is also sort of nodding their head in agreement. So, you know, fast forward, you've done a lot of work. I know this isn't the first book that you've written. It's your obviously your most recent book. But what made you want to write this book hivelocity? Digital mark, maybe we'll start with, you know, your your previous books as well.
Yeah, well, in this case, high velocity digital marketing, I read a survey that was done by McKinsey, where they said that 83% of CEOs expect their marketing to drive most of their company's growth. However, they were not satisfied with the return on their marketing investments. And a lot of sales and marketing leaders, they feel overwhelmed by revenue expectations they can't meet. And this is really impacting companies of all sizes. And fundamentally, the way people buy has totally changed. And buyers now rely on digital content to make purchase decisions. And so it was really based on that McKinsey survey, as well as a survey that I saw by Gartner Group, where they said that b2b buyers only spend 17% of their buyers journey in meetings with sales reps. And so that sort of new level of information parity during the buying process, has totally changed the way marketers have to interact with potential buyers, to get them towards their products and services. And that's why I wrote the book.
That's a really great way to frame and I was actually a b2b salesperson in the 90s and early 2000s. And it's hard to imagine that it's only 17%. Now, compared to what it was back then, which was, you know, as close to 100%. If you take away events, conferences, and some PDFs, maybe, but that that's a pretty amazing figure. So hivelocity digital marketing is divided into two sections, you have your fundamentals of digital marketing, and then you have these, you know, how do you, you know, I sort of think of like writing their tornado and crossing the chasm, these other like high velocity strategies. Before we began the interview, we talked about the importance of sort of the foundations of digital marketing. Can you dive a little bit deeper into that?
Yeah, so let me do that by giving a real, a real scenario that I just had encountered several years back. And so five years ago, I started at a cybersecurity company, that was about 5 million, and revenue, and flatline was company called dichotic. Sort of a weird name without question. But I remember when I started, and I talked with the founders and said, Gee, tell me who your ideal target buyer is. Again, the company is about 5 million. And they said, Steve, come on. Now you're an experienced CMO, of course, you must know that our buyer is the chief information security officer or the VP of IT security. And so I nodded and shook my head said, Yep, got it. Thank you. And then I did what many marketing professionals don't do enough of. And that is, I started to talk with a lot of our customers to find out who in fact, they actually were. And you've got to ask the right questions as well. And so once I started to meet with our customers, I found that that the company's ideal target buyer, wasn't the seaso. It wasn't the VP of IT security. But it was actually the IT admin, it was the techie in the trenches. And they're totally different than those than the CISOs. For example, for them, they wanted super fast, easy, simple, downtime was unacceptable for the systems that they were administering. And so imagine if I would have started out my digital marketing program, targeting the wrong buyer, right, I would have wasted a ton of money, right? And these buyers, they're never going to read a Gartner report, but they will read, for example, reports from their peers, and where they hung out online was completely different. And so I guess one of the core lessons in all of this is beyond just not talking to customers enough. It's really defining who your ideal target buyer is in detail, such that you're able to effectively target your digital programs to them. And then, of course, it's understanding the full context of their world, which a lot of CMOs and marketing professionals actually don't.
Yeah, that's really fascinating. I you know, I work with some startups where their sales might be a little bit limited, but if you have a few million dollars if you have customers, you know, we talk about being a customer centric organization, I suppose that would start with marketing that's going to define your messaging your brand Do your product really everything?
Yeah. And and it's what's so interesting to me is that a lot of times when marketing professionals are talking to those customers, they oftentimes don't ask the right questions, right? And so let me give you some specific examples of what would be the right questions. Awesome. So you're not going to call up your customer and say, Gee, tell me what your muscle problem is. Right? That isn't how you do that. And a lot of times, the questions just so happen to align with the product they sell. But I start by asking questions, for example, around the status quo. And the status quo very much represents that current situation, how they conduct business right now. And it matters because you don't often lose business to a competitor, you lose business to the status quo. Right. And this is when you hear people say things like, Gee, you know, we're not interested because what we've got is good enough. So you would ask questions, like, describe your current process for an insert what you do? What works? What doesn't? How does your team stay on top of that particular challenge and not get overwhelmed by it? What are a few of the tools you currently use? What do you like about them? What don't you like, right? So I always start by asking questions about the status quo, I ask questions about the challenge, what that ideal solution would look like, the benefits that they're trying to, to gain, and then the impact of those benefits, which helps you to prioritize which are most important. And then I always capture that information in a Google Doc, because the funny thing is, is that what are these buyers that you're targeting digitally, they're not looking really for how creative or clever your marketing department is, what they're looking for, is to work with companies that understand them, that empathize with them. And using some of the language that you learn in these interviews, helps to prove that you do exactly that.
Do you find as a marketer, reaching out to customers that they are they'll give you time of day for an interview or for meeting? Is it more of love to take out the lunch? And, you know, pick your brain? Or how do you how do you what's the typical way you approach actually setting up and contacting your customers?
Well, usually I'll go through, for example, the sales team, right? To help broker those meetings, or perhaps a customer success team if your organization has them. But for me, it was beyond just making this an event. It was an ongoing process of speaking to the customers. And I even created my own customer advisory board, where I would go to those customers when I was dealing with a particular challenge or problem. And I have companies of all sizes, in different geographies, different industries, and so on. And so a lot of times those customers, they they loved actually helping us, because they they wanted us to be successful, we were their partners, too. And so it wasn't really difficult getting those meetings. But once I got them, I made sure that that I was respectful of their time, that for example, if I was looking for information that ultimately I would use, I would contact them back and give them credit for the help that they that they actually gave. And and you'd be surprised how just saying thank you how far that actually went in allowing me and giving me the right to speak with them over and again.
So based on this information that you gleaned, took it back to the office, how did you go about implementing those ideas and really strengthening that foundation.
So a lot of it then comes to how you utilize that information to create your your value proposition to ensure that it is differentiated, that you're able to communicate that unique value perfectly to that target buyer. And by that understanding, we were able to do that. So a great example of this was we took a position of simplicity. And this value proposition just with respect to the technology that we offered really resonated with those IT admins. So much so that our big public competitor said, gee, we want to start copying this and they started to and then I knew that our product documentation was about 30 pages long and I researched theirs and I found that their product documentation was over 1500 pages long. Wow. And so then I trained our Salesforce and our partners, and compare their product documentation to the fifth largest novel ever written in human history. And safe to say their simplicity messaging fell flat, and we were able to really go. So it was really how you use that information to incorporate it within your messaging, and then how you also use that information. It which is very important in the content that you create across the buyers journey.
So it sounds like you're almost looking at all of your ticket information, looking at all the touch points, you have both digital and offline, and seeing how you can implement it across the board.
Absolutely. And, for me, what I find is that a lot of organizations, if you look at a simple buyers journey, where you're doing some education, like in a discovery phase, say an evaluation phase, a consideration phase and then purchase, what you'll often find is that a lot of companies have gaps in their content. So the content in some phases, and not in all, and what nothing zaps the velocity out of a high velocity, sales and marketing model, then a gap in your content across the full spectrum of the buyers journey, because you can't really control where those buyers are. But you want to provide content that resonates with them, and is compelling no matter where they are, and helps lead them through the through that buyers journey ultimately to purchase. And I knew that our content was particularly great. Because our we grew our website traffic month in and month out every single month I was with this previous company. But also our website, visitor to lead conversion rate was always above 5%. Which means that our content was compelling, because think about it. If you're like me, you never want to put your name, email phone number, right? Because you don't want to get hounded. Yeah, right. And so that means your contents got to be so good that people are willing to do that. And that is a good indicator leading indicator of the quality of your content and whether or not it is compelling to your buyers.
So looking at the content, that content that is lacking in terms of the buyers journey, what do you say when you have a client that just has this traditional homepage? Products? Services about us contact us? And they have this huge gap? What do you what do you say to them? How do you convince them of the value of investing in content to fill those gaps?
Yeah. So really, in three ways. First of all, I'll, I'll take I always take it back to revenue and pipeline, right? And so are you satisfied with your revenue growth? Right? I mean, and and, particularly if you're talking to the CEO, more often than not just following that McKinsey study, they're not satisfied with the growth of their company, and not satisfied even more so with the return on their marketing investments. So so that is normally where it starts. Right? Secondly, I oftentimes show examples or share examples of what great content actually is, right? So I open the aperture for what content is and how it can play. So for example, one of the pieces of content that we had that just flew off the shelves, it was called a privilege password risk assessment. Now what this was, was you would come to our website, in this cybersecurity space, right? you'd answer some questions. And then you get immediate feedback, which is what people want, like a Grade A through F, how you doing? Right, and then you get this beautiful report that showed them where they were doing well, where they weren't doing well, and what they should do about it. But then, because we captured their industry, their geography and the size of their business, we were able to then send them an email the next day with the next piece of content, which showed them how they compared versus their industry peers, which everybody wants to know, how do I compare? Right? Right. And so that content not only generated tremendous amount of weeds that ultimately converted to pipeline, but it also fed our social media. It fed our web been ours, it fed our podcast because we had something very unique and compelling to talk about. So I give them examples of how content could actually serve multiple masters to contribute to lead generation pipeline growth as well as revenue, and then the visibility of the company. But then I'll even take it a step further. And so for us with that same piece of content, we would train our sales reps and our partners in terms of every piece of content that when being a great example, and how to follow up, which a lot of companies don't do. So for example, they would learn to then follow up in a consultative manner, where they would say, Well, gee, so what grade did you get? Where did you do? Well, where Didn't you do? Well, would you be interested in learning on how we can help you. And that changed the dynamic of the relationship from day one, because, believe me, we had young pushy sales reps, no doubt about it, and we wanted them to be. But they were viewed as consultative as just trying to help. Right. And so when you start to open the aperture of what content actually can do for the business, how it actually links in for the type of relationship they ultimately would create with their, with customers. But then also, if you're a partner driven business, how your partners who want to be perceived as experts love great content, because that's the stuff they'll use to distribute to their customers to the relationships that they have. And all of which then just helps your business get on a flywheel and grow. And so like when you do that, and then you give some examples of then finally, what great metrics actually look like, as a result of that, and then ask them where they compare, right up and down the full funnel, the full buyers journey, then usually a light bulb goes on. And they're like, Okay, what do we do?
Wow, that it's almost like we talk about content marketing, and you might think of content centric marketing. But this is really becoming a content centric business. Right? really touching across a lot of different parts of the organization and helping, in essence, build the business.
Yeah, and a lot of a lot of these CEOs, they, they, they don't really get it. So sometimes I'll give them like an analogy, like and so like a great analogy that that that a lot of listeners can use could be this one. So I would say, all right, GE, if you're going to go buy a car, what do you do? Do you go to like 10 different car dealers for the unique opportunity to speak to 10 different car sales reps? No, you that isn't what you do. What you do is you Google, you start researching a particular car, you might look at competitive cars, you might go if you're looking for a new car to one of the dealer sites and build that car and and price it out, you'll you'll actually learn what that car should cost you. Right. And so you may know more about that car than like the sales rep does. And that's how people buy today in general. Right. And so then a lot of times for CEOs, they're like, Yeah, you're right. Right. And so then usually the argument that, gee, I need to, I need to personally pay a lot more attention to our content happens. And then the next question they are that they'll typically have is well, okay, so you had great content, but like, how do we figure out what's the great content for us? And then, you know, I answer that question, and then they're ready to go.
That's a great analogy. And I'm a little bit more old school, I will actually go to car dealers and ask for brochures. And they'll all say we don't carry it anymore. It's all online. And then when I go online, I often find third party sites, present the information in a more consumable way in an easy to understand way, then even the dealer site. So just goes to show you that the importance of content there. Absolutely. Yeah, I'm curious. So we talked a lot about the foundations of digital marketing. I think, until now, there's just a bunch of advice that I think every listener can take back to their organization and try to improve things from the high velocities. And obviously, we want everyone to buy the book content. But are there one or two, you know, high velocity tips based on your experience that you think are the most valuable or that most companies miss out on? Or any other? You know, strategic advice you can give the listener?
Yeah. So I'll give you two pieces of advice. Right. So the first one is, is that you got to be great on Google. Right? And you could buy like 300 page books or bigger on becoming great at Google where you're where your your head will be spinning. And so for For us, like, this is how we became great, right? There's some of the technical things you got to do for sure. But what we did was we understood what those coveted keywords that are phrases that our buyers were searching for, there are tools you can use to find out or and we asked our customers all the time. So when you're buying, like when you go to Google, what do you search on. And we kept a list of those coveted keywords. And what we would do is our SEO expert, whenever we were creating any content, website content, or other content, even like the one I had mentioned, the risk assessment, we would always have our SEO expert meet with that content creator, before we would start. And then again, after we would start to make sure we weren't missing some opportunities to incorporate properly those words or phrases. And then of course, make sure that it is exposed to Google. So it could be scan and you know, just that process alone, consistently over time enabled us to punch far above our weight than our competitors, that would be one. Secondly, turn your website into a lead magnet, right? A lot of websites aren't, here's a couple of ideas of how to put a Get a Quote button on the top right of your homepage. Like I give that advice. There's one company that I work with, it's like $80 million company. And the CEO, every time I talked to him is like that's like our highest converting thing we do. And it's just thankful. Right? Offer upgraded content. So for example, we had a known as like a for dummies book like a pan for Dummies at this dichotic. And then we would pop up the experts guide, right? Because maybe like you feel like you're the next level. Make sure you're offering enough validation and proof. You know, social is without question the new word of mouth. And last thing I would just say lead magnet is that people are looking at your website on on your on their phone. And a lot of websites that might seem great on a Mac might not be so on your mobile right? And so you really need to be looking at your website. Is it responsive? Is it fast? Right? Are you are you exposing the key messages and content quickly? Right. And, and a lot of organizations don't pay enough attention to their mobile experience. Those are a few of the things on that second area of turning you turning your website to a lead magnet.
You know what I find in probably Steve, you have similar experiences that and I've worked with some pretty niche b2b software companies. And when you do the keyword research, you realize that there's really little competition for a lot of really niche even for b2b. So there's just so much opportunity if companies would read your book and realize that potential
now 100% Right. And again, I mean, you got to be great online, if you want to consistently grow revenue for sure. And and Google is key.
Yes, Steve. So before we wrap up the conversation, just want to ask you. So you know, you've talked a lot about the b2b side of digital marketing of content. I'm curious if you've worked with b2c companies, and or what your opinions are of this same advice for consumer facing brands?
Yeah, I do. Like I work with both b2b and b2c. And what I find is, is that it's a lot of the same concepts apply, right? And so there's a company that I work with that has a b2b business and a b2c business in their particular product. And a lot of these same principles apply. I mean, in the quicker you convert your digital base content in maybe in the b2b, it's, it's leads into paying customers that your reps are closing, maybe B to C, it's right into your E commerce, right. And I would say also, that a lot of companies don't think about velocity, right? And they are tracking velocity. And time is money. And the single metric that reveals the most about time and money is velocity. But it's commonly overlooked, and it's rarely managed. It's something that businesses b2b or b2c need to be paying more attention to. How do you go about tracking velocity? Yeah, so I mean, we would track velocity. We knew that, for example, in our last business that a lead ship convert into an opportunity in 15 days, we knew that opportunities would convert to deals like and knew the exact days and that the end to end were 66 days and So, because we track velocity, and I could see what's coming in, and we would track that time frame. And without that, we would have struggled to build a super rigorous model that could literally predict what we needed to drive in terms of leads, for example, to ultimately hit our revenue target, right. But by knowing the velocity between the core stages not getting too granular, there's some organizations that look well, because if you do that, you'll just drive yourself nuts like a lead to a MQL to an SQL to this that, like, that'll drive you nuts, right, but just the major buckets, track the time, it will be amazingly revealing to you and it will help make your business ultimately far more predictable.
And if you have a CRM, like a Salesforce, the data is all there. So it's not absolutely that's not all
there, you just need to and what I would do is, I would usually get dashboards built in Tableau. So I would have it all presented, right from Salesforce exactly the way I wanted to see it. So every morning, I could get up and I knew at a glance, I didn't need a big marketing ops staff. I had everything right in front of me.
Right, right. Yeah. It's amazing how easy it is to pull those things together with a tool like Tableau these days. So, Steve, any other advice that we might have missed? As a preview to your book?
Yeah, no, I would say that it's, it's what I would say, really, at the end of the day, and this was something that we were we were talking a little bit about, is that there is no silver bullet, right, just in terms of what you need to do to get great revenue growth that often is the fundamental principles. Like for example, if you're talking to customers, knowing the questions to ask, all of which I have in the book as an example. But knowing the proper metrics to track which I also explain, and I define those metrics, a lot of times people are confused by what they are what they mean. So you can pick out what's most appropriate to your business. It's the fundamentals. It always is. It's in sports. You hear that a lot. But in marketing, you need to hear more of it.
Yeah, amen. Couldn't agree more. Steve, thank you so much. So obviously, the name of your book, high velocity, digital marketing, Silicon Valley's secrets to create breakthrough revenue in record time, foreword by David Meerman. Scott, another great author, also been a guest on this podcast. Can you let our listeners know where they can go to find out more about you? Sure.
Of course, my book is available anywhere you would buy books online, but on my website, which is be a startup superstar.com.
While great domain. Awesome. Well, Steve, thank you so much. Best of luck, and I can't wait to have you on the show again, when you have your next book out.
Thank you for having me, Neil. All right. I
hope you enjoyed that interview as much as I did. You know, it's funny, after we ended the interview, we were talking and, Steven, you know, he mentioned what I have also found to be the case is that when we both work with clients, we find that a lot of the issues really come down to the basics, the basics of digital marketing. And I refer back to that, well, I guess pivotal point in my career as a marketer, when I published the age of influence back in March of 2020. And all these companies reached out to me for help with either influencer marketing and or social media marketing. But I realized that what they needed probably more than that were core digital marketing programs, or more effective digital marketing programs, around SEO, around content around pay per click, or email marketing or marketing automation or social scoring or just understanding the buyers journey in the digital funnel and really optimizing and all these different steps. So that is what really prompted me to become your digital marketing coach. And it is what fuels me in writing my next book, no updates for you yet, but I am already in contact with one publisher, which I sent an initial book proposal to so hope to have exciting news for you. Hopefully not too distant in the future. We're working on a lot of things here at Neal Schaffer headquarters. So anyways, thank you so much for listening in. If you haven't, I sincerely hope you hit that subscribe button. And if you're a longtime listener, I would be so honored if you could take a second to give it a five star review on Spotify or Apple podcasts and more than that, you know to write a really quick one or two sentence review. It would mean the world to me it is why I do what I do. That is my only ask and you know if the timings not right or you're busy, I get it. But the net Next time you have time, well just remember your digital marketing coach, especially if you thought that even one of these episodes has really helped you, your career and or your business. All right, I'm gonna stop yapping. This is your digital marketing coach Neal Schaffer signing off. You've been listening to your digital marketing coach, questions, comments, requests, links, go to podcast dot Neal schaffer.com. Get the show notes to this and 200 plus podcast episodes, and Neal schaffer.com to tap into the 400 Plus blog posts that Neil has published to support your business. While you're there, check out Neil's Digital First group coaching membership community if you or your business needs a little helping hand. See you next time on your digital marketing coach.