Everything your CMO doesn’t know how to tell you with Ryan Bonnici, CMO at Whereby

Ryan Bonnici is a superstar in the B2B marketing community, as he has a knack for telling other B2B marketers the things their CMOs might not know how to tell them. 

He was Forbes’ 26th Most Influential CMO in 2020, has had executive roles at Salesforce and HubSpot, and was CMO at G2 before becoming CMO at Whereby where he is currently. 

It’s safe to say this FINITE Podcast episode is invaluable to B2B marketers wanting to take the next step in their careers. 

This episode covers: 

Listen to the full episode here:


And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here

Full Transcript

Alex (00:06):

Hey everyone and welcome back to another FINITE podcast episode. I am excited today to be joined by none other than Ryan Bonnici. Ryan’s been named by Forbes as the 26th most influential CMO in the world.

He’s been the senior director of global marketing at HubSpot, the CMO at G2, and is now the CMO at video meetings platform Whereby. Ryan is really passionate about great teams, team culture, development, leadership. And so today we’re going to be talking about everything your CMO doesn’t know how to tell you, including giving feedback, building trust, taking risks and dreaming big. I hope you enjoy this episode.


FINITE (00:41):

The FINITE community is kindly supported by The Marketing Practice, a global integrated B2B marketing agency that brings together all the skills you need to design and run account-based marketing demand generation channel and customer marketing programs. Head to themarketingpractice.com to learn more.


Alex (01:01):

Hey Ryan, welcome to the FINITE podcast. Thank you for joining me.


Ryan (01:04):

Hey Alex. Thanks for having me.


Alex (01:06):

Looking forward to talking. We’ve got, I think a slightly different episode today. One that isn’t as focused on like a specific marketing tactic channel, and maybe it’s a little bit more holistic, but also a really fascinating area that we’re gonna be talking about in terms of teams and cultures and all the things that make marketing work. 

Before we dive into that as a topic, I’ll let you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, experience and your current role. I think for many you won’t need much of an introduction, particularly many of our Twitter followers I’m sure would already be followers of yours too, but for those that aren’t familiar with your work, I’ll let you introduce yourself.


About Ryan and his background in marketing 

Ryan (01:40):

Yeah, sure. So I started my career a little bit funny actually. So I started actually as an international flight attendant for Qantas Airways, which is the oldest airline in the world out of Australia. And I was working in, I think the first little business class cabin, met an executive at Microsoft who told me that they were hiring graduates. 

And so I always knew I wanted to be in marketing, but then took some time off from schooling and then learnt a lot about marketing from working at Qantas actually. Because airlines need to really learn how to train their staff, because their staff is essentially the face of the airline and that’s the customer service interaction touch point. And so I learned a lot and maybe you learn a lot of lessons around what companies shouldn’t do because airlines have a tendency to not be great in that space. 

And then yes, I started my career at Microsoft in education marketing. And then I was at The Cool Hunter, which is a global blog, which is still huge today, which is sort of forecasts and looks at all things cool around the world. And so Microsoft and The Cool Hunter were very much B2C marketing, so marketing to consumers. 

And then I took a bit of a left-hand turn and then went into B2B marketing. So did B2B marketing at Salesforce, HubSpot, and then at G2, which is where I was most recently before Whereby where I am now. G2 is very much a marketplace sale. And so I really was excited about the role at G2, mainly because as a marketer, I’d never been able to sharpen my sword in terms of B2B marketing and B2C marketing at the same time. 

And so at G2, you have millions of buyers coming to the site. Marketing was responsible for attracting them with content, SEO, et cetera. And then we had hundreds of thousands of sellers on the other side, and it was really about pairing and matching buyers and sellers. And then you throw in another variable of generating reviews from those buyers of the sellers. It was like a really complex marketing challenge, which I really love.

I have a tendency to throw myself into complex situations, but I really enjoy that. And then after G2 went to Whereby where I am today. And Whereby’s again really interesting. It’s not a pure play B2B or B2C, just because of the fact that everyone in the world needs to do meetings remotely today. And you know, the pandemic really fast forwarded that. So I guess the skinny is I’m Australian and I live in the US now in New York and I love marketing. Like I live and breathe this stuff, so it doesn’t feel like work for me.


Alex (04:11):

Awesome. I love that story of getting into marketing because I think I should keep a tally, but of all the marketers I’ve had on the podcast, I think we were on like 60 something, 70 odd episodes. Now I think I can probably count on one hand how many actively studied a marketing degree and then went straight into marketing. Did you go to uni and study marketing?


Ryan (04:34):

I majored in psychology, marketing and international business. So I always knew from the age of 10 that I wanted to be a CMO, which is another really odd thing about me, but yeah. So I definitely always knew that. So maybe I’ll add to your one or two hands of people that you can count, but I then took a bit of a segue out of it. Cause I wanted to earn money to then buy a house when I was younger and then came back to marketing.


Alex (04:59):

It’s fascinating at 10, because, I think most kids wouldn’t even know that companies have a marketing department.


Ryan (05:05):

It’s really, really odd. And a lot of people have asked me about this. Like there was no one in my family or friend group who was in marketing or advertising. So I don’t even know where it came from to be honest. But I think back then I just fell in love with the idea of Madison avenue and advertising campaigns and the creativity of it. 

And then funnily enough then went more into actually like the B2B side of marketing, which is much more data-driven. And then I’d probably say in the last five years, I’ve really rounded out my skills on the data side and the science side with the creative side. But yeah, I was definitely a marketer early on in my career who thought it was all about numbers as opposed to all about creativity. And I think obviously it’s somewhere in the middle.


About Ryan’s current role at Whereby 

Alex (05:52):

Yeah, absolutely. And tell us a bit about, I mean, you’re the chief marketing officer of Whereby. Tell us a bit about the role and the team that you’ve got at Whereby and how that’s structured and how big it is and those kinds of things.


Ryan (06:02):

So I joined Whereby at the start of the year and the marketing team was just a handful of people and Whereby, obviously has seen quite significant growth through the pandemic, given their platform is akin to Zoom, Google, Meet, Teams, et cetera. But just much more user friendly. 

And so when I joined, they were already on a tear and then it was really about seeing how could we then keep that growing and build kind of the systems so that we can keep growing outside of the pandemic essentially. And so very early on there was just a handful of folks, there was a director of product marketing who was doing everything as is the case oftentimes in startups. 

And so we brought in a director of content and brand to really focus on the top of the funnel, run some big brand campaigns, as well as build out organic traffic through content, because we’d never really had that. Like we weren’t ranked, we weren’t ranking for important keywords, like Zoom alternatives and video conferencing and things like that. So built out that function top of the funnel. 

Then we built out the middle of the funnel with a director of growth marketing who built out growth marketers under him, email marketing, lifecycle, et cetera. And then again, product marketing obviously is adjacent to that. And then a director of marketing operations to actually then start to build the infrastructure to then make all of the rest of the marketing team and the company successful. 

It’s only been about six or seven months now, really. So it’s still early days, but it’s been a wild ride so far. And I think this space is just so ripe for innovation and there’s a lot of companies now that are actually trying to really innovate upon what the bigger players in the space are doing. Cause I think we will realise now that it’s not video meetings that aren’t productive, it’s just meetings in general. 

Most people don’t know how to have effective meetings. And so if you can teach people how to have more effective meetings and that involves setting an agenda, making sure that you keep certain things on the agenda and move certain things to another time, give everyone a space to talk. Sometimes don’t even have video on, we do a lot of audio calls through Whereby. 

But yeah, that to me, there’s so much innovation that can happen there in terms of how meetings happen. It’s less about technology in my mind and more about actually setting them as a structure and framework for meetings and then technology can help you be even better, right? Through live transcription, live note-taking live action items. There’s so much of that.


Alex (08:29):

Yeah. Awesome. We’re going to be talking about, well, I think we gave this episode a vague title of everything your CMO doesn’t know how to tell you, which I’m not sure how extreme we’ll get and how much we’ll push those.


Ryan (08:42):

Let’s push the boundaries though, let’s go wherever we want to go.


Alex (08:45):

I’m up for it. I think we were going to talk widely about teams, cultures, really building a great team. I think it sounds like you do some innovative stuff at Whereby. I think you’ve obviously had a lot of experience and it sounds like things that you’ve brought with you from the B2C side of things, maybe over to B2B and anyway, we’ll get there. 

I guess the starting point was going to be really around building the teams to begin with and building out marketing functions, the hiring process, really what you look for in candidates. Tell us a bit about how you start. That sounds like you’ve been pretty busy hiring at Whereby in the last few months.


What should you look for when hiring a marketer? 

Ryan (09:17):

Yeah. I would say probably hiring and hiring good people. What’s more important than the hiring component is probably, and I feel like there is often a lot of contention around this, but I think that is categorically the most important thing for any marketing leader to do, regardless of your type. 

If you’re a marketing manager and you’re hiring a coordinator under you, a director hiring managers under you, that is categorically the biggest marketing hack you can do, is to hire really good people. And I see this all the time with inexperienced managers, directors, even VPs sometimes that they don’t really understand. They have this burning need, they’ve been doing all the things and they’ve just gotten the head count approved and they’re like, yes. I’m hiring someone, someone can work for me now, more people can work for me and they just set the bar too low. 

And I think that’s just ineffective. If you haven’t done a lot of interviews with candidates and if you haven’t worked with A++ marketers, you just don’t know what good looks like. And so I think that’s probably the biggest thing. And so whenever I am working with folks under me and helping them hire people, typically they get frustrated at first because immediately all the candidates that they’ll bring through to me, It’ll be no. And I’ll tell them why, why the candidate wasn’t right. 

And then really quickly, they start to get a better baseline of what good looks like and what they should be looking for to get that. And so what I’ll often do is have my direct reports who are hiring and the hiring recruiter join me to listen to how I interview so that they can see the questions that I ask for and the things that I’m looking for when I’m assessing them. Because you can tell pretty quickly in the first 10 minutes or so if someone is right for the role.


Ryan (11:02):

So I think just the hiring process is just a huge one for me. And I have like a template that I use in Google docs , which has a pretty structured format for where I go and I take it and I can share that with you afterwards, if you want to add that into the show notes or something so folks can download it. Just remind me afterwards, cause there’ll be a few things like that that I can reference. And it’s really structured. 

It’s very much case-based and I find with marketing, you don’t need to force them down any particular path. The real skill in interviewing is just not taking the surface level thing that the person says to you and making sure you go deeper because typically the folks in marketing are just talking fluff, they can’t go a little bit deeper. So I’ll give you an example. 

So if I’m interviewing a social media marketer, actually this is irrespective of their role, but typically the most important thing I want to know is, what was it that you were brought into your company to impact? Not to do, like social media is the doing, impact is ‘my goal is to build a flourishing community on social of brand advocates’. And then I would say if they said that to me, I’d be like, why do you care about having brand advocates? And if they’re like, well, brand advocates are good for my brand. I’m like, okay, you don’t know about this. 

But if they said to me, what we have found from our research is that brand advocates on average refer one new customer to us every month. We can track through attribution software that the more people that follow us, the more referral traffic we get from Twitter to our website and Twitter traffic to our website converts at X percentage. So if I can double my Twitter followers, then I can double the amount of people that are coming to my site from Twitter. And Twitter is a great source of high converting traffic for us. Again, this is just an example they don’t have to say exactly that. 

And so it’s all about connecting things back to revenue at the end of the day, right? There’s some things that you can’t measure that tie back to revenue and if that’s the case, that’s okay, but you should know that and you should say that and you then should at least give indications of the best approximate way to measure those things. 

So measuring, if I’m hiring a brand marketer for example, I’ll ask them again that same question, like what were you brought into your company to impact? And if they say to me to increase our brand awareness, I was like, okay, cool. How do you measure brand awareness for your company? And you will find really quickly, most people can’t really go into that. Which is just so sad. 

If you’re a brand marketing professional and you don’t know how to measure it and if you just give up at that point and say it’s really hard to measure brand awareness, but you know, we do a study once a quarter to measure it. I mean, that’s pretty poor. And so to be honest, you should be doing a brand study using tools like SurveyMonkey and other things like Google if you have a bit more budget. 

But there’s so many other ways to measure brand, right? Like you could be looking at direct traffic to your website, comparing Google trends of your brand name versus your competitors brand name and seeing the search volume of your brand name growing faster than theirs. If you’re increasing your brand, the conversion rate of your website should improve at a time because more people trust you when they come to your site and are more likely to convert. 

There’s so many things and those things are all kind of interrelated with other things, which is why it’s really hard to give a definitive cause and reaction, but you can still directionally help yourself get there. And that’s why I just think so many marketers go wrong. They just can’t go those few levels deeper.


What do you look for in a junior marketer? 

Alex (14:44):

And in terms of like, if someone’s a social media coordinator or pretty junior, at what level are you looking for those signs and signals that they’re starting to get the commercial aspect of their role and tie it back to revenues? Because obviously at very early stages, you might expect that someone really junior isn’t thinking that way. But obviously as you rise the ranks…


Ryan (15:07):

They may not be able to connect the dots as well as when they’re a junior. I think in those instances, what I am looking for though is someone that’s like, not just happy with the status quo and wants to know like, like they might be feeling frustrated that they can’t connect the dots and then I can then work with them in connecting the dots. 

And so in an example, if it was a social media course and they were exhibiting that, then I would might ask like, yeah, I get it. It is really frustrating. It is really hard. What are some ways that you think you might be able to connect the dots to show directionally that what you were doing in that space is helping our bottom line? In an interview I’m not looking for rehearsed content, right? I’m looking for them. I want to see their brain work essentially. I want to see them problem solve because if they can’t problem solve on the fly, and I know sometimes an interview can feel high pressure. 

And in those instances where they might not know something, I’ll say to them, I’m not looking for the perfect answer yet. I’m trying to understand how you think about this. So take a break, pause for a second and just think about it. Like what would be some ways, let’s just pretend you and I are a manager and an individual contributor right now and we’re working together and we’re having a meeting and you are trying to think this through, let’s just do that. That’s all I want from you and so that’s important to me. 

And then they might feel frustrated and not be able to connect the dots to revenue. And then I would want them to say something like, you know what, maybe if revenue is your goal and that you’re trying to drive towards it, maybe this isn’t the best role for doing that. And then that opens up a really interesting conversation, right? Because that shows me that they’re not putting themselves first. They’re putting the business and the businesses needs first. 

And then that might be where I then say to them, actually we have a really large revenue organisation and that team is really focused on revenue. And so that’s not necessarily the goal of the social person who I’m interviewing, but I still want us to be able to connect the dots in some capacity. And that could just be community growth, for example, or active community growth. I don’t want them to be buying followers because it’s pointless. 

So I think at a junior age, they don’t need to be able to necessarily connect the dots, but you want them to be able to think independently and critically about things. And I’ve hired a bunch of really great junior candidates that might be their second role or so, but they’re just so hungry to learn and they read everything they can online. They listen to everyone doing interesting things in the spaces and they’re constantly sharpening their sword and they’re not happy with what they’re doing and they want to do more. And that’s the energy and the Gusto that I’m looking forward to typically.


Alex (17:45):

Yup. Listening to the FINITE Podcast is what they’re doing.


Ryan (17:49):

Exactly. Exactly.


FINITE (17:51):

The FINITE community and podcasts are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.


Alex (18:11):

The team is up and running and underway. I think culturally being able to give feedback, being able to challenge team, move them forward is pretty key. We can talk about different ways of doing that, particularly in the kind of remote working era. And I think lots of people listening may have on boarded or had new team members joining. They haven’t even met in person fully remote remote teams. How do you give feedback and challenge and kind of start to drive that team forward?


How do you give constructive feedback that drives a team forward? 

Ryan (18:37):

So I break it down into two tracks really. So if you are building your team and you are one of the first marketers and you are building it out, this is really easy because if that’s something that you care about in the interview process, the people that you will hire will care about that. 

So I care about feedback deeply and I only hire people that do that. And so when I think of my one-on-ones with some of my most junior direct reports that I hired at Whereby, they constantly ask me every single one-on-one, what can I do to get better? How can I help you? What are your challenges, Ryan? I’m doing my spit thing, but I want to help you solve your challenges even more. 

And so if you’re building a team, the biggest feedback hack is to not even need to worry about feedback, it’s to hire people that need it themselves, because then they come to you asking for it versus you needing to give it. Now, if you’re joining a team and you’re inheriting a bigger team, it’s a little bit harder, right? Because you don’t know if the people that were hired feel that same way. 

And so your job as a leader is to demonstrate that feedback is really important. And I think the best way to demonstrate feedback is important is really by, there’s like two parts to it. When you’re in this ladder track and I think the first is you need your team know that you care about them deeply. So not just about the results, but the relationships that you have with them too. 

Because it’s really hard for someone to be on the receiving end of feedback if they don’t know that the feedback is coming from a good place. And so I think the most important thing in that ladder track is really to focus on how do you build trust and relationships with these people? And you do so by, when you have one-on-ones taking notes about like their family and their friends and what they’re doing on the weekend and actually remembering that, and then genuinely caring so that when you see them or when you know that they’re going through a tough time, you can reach out.

And those little moments help reinforce to them that you actually care. Like you’re not just here to be their manager, but you’re here as someone that’s there for them professionally and personally. So I think that the most important part of giving feedback to people that you haven’t hired necessarily, is building that trust. And you don’t need to do that as much when you’re hiring the people yourself. I think because there’s just an inherent bond that you build with someone when you hire them, because you are imparting trust in them by hiring them. If that makes sense. 

And so there’s just a relationship factor that you can’t really put your finger on. So in that second track, once you have built trust with people, I think then you need to challenge them directly. And so whenever you meet with them, just ask them for permission to give them feedback. So if you’re in a one-on-one or if you’ve just finished a meeting with someone, awesome. Stay on the line a little bit longer, or let’s say it’s a group meeting, whoever was running the meeting, just be like, Hey John, Jess, James, can I chat to you for a moment, just really quickly. 

And then ask them just directly like, would it be okay with you if I gave you some feedback on that last meeting? And permission is really important because, not that if they say no you shouldn’t give them feedback, you still should. But it’s more about you’re asking for permission around the timing, right? Cause you might not know what they have going on in their life. They might be just having a really shit day and feedback is not what they need on a really shit day. 

So you ask them for permission and then if they say yes, then you give them constructive feedback around what you saw, what the behaviour was and then how that impacted things. So I love to use an SBI model situation behaviour, cause it pulls emotion out of it. It pulls subjectivity out of the feedback. 

So the situation might be like, hey John, thanks so much for agreeing to allow me to give you some feedback. I’ve noticed over the last few weeks in our weekly meetings, that’s the situation I’m setting that I’m setting the context for them. And then I now go into situation behaviour. I’ve noticed that you have a tendency to always ask the person X their opinion, and you oftentimes don’t ask person Y their opinion. And then we run out of time and then person Y never gets to impart their opinion. 

And so then I would shift to impact. So I think what’s happening when you’re doing that is it’s signalling to everyone in the group or it could be signalling to everyone in the group that you prefer this person’s opinion over others, or that you’re maybe like less open to everyone’s opinion, which will be less effective in terms of how you manage this team long-term and how you build relationships with them. And then you just stop there and wait and see what they say, right? 

And when you break it down into situation, behaviour and impact, it pulls out the emotion out of it. Cause you’re not saying you’re a bad person, you’re a bad manager. It’s like in this moment regularly or one-off event, this is what you do. And this is how I think it isn’t serving you best. And so it’s all about helping them. And so I think by doing that with these folks that you haven’t hired, right? You’re showing them that you actually do care about them and you’re giving the feedback to them.

And in the least kind of, I was gonna say offensive, that’s not the right word. In the least defensive way actually. Cause you know, feedback, we all say we want to receive feedback, but it’s hard to not get defensive, you know? And so I think that’s a really important piece. And then I think just by doing that over and over and showing that when they give feedback to you, you take it on board, that’s the best way to really build that culture in your team.


Alex (24:06):

Yeah. It was just the one. Because even as a manager, giving that candid feedback can be quite an intense thing to do. As a manager myself, I know that I feel like I have to be in the right mindset to even have that conversation so on both sides it’s quite a brave candid conversation.


Ryan (24:25):

And you know what I think, that probably tells me Alex, that maybe you’re not doing it enough. Alex, may I give you some feedback now? But hearing that probably tells me that maybe you’re not doing it enough. And I think the reason why it can be uncomfortable to some people is that if you think of it as this big formal thing that’s going to offend someone and then you’re not giving it enough, your energy is going to be totally wrong with it. 

And so like just how I said, I’m giving you feedback right now live on that thing. The way I try to think about it is I give it to them to live in the moment, in private always. Well I guess this is semi-private cause it’s private right now, but maybe not later, and then I think it teaches them, and it makes it for you more observational as opposed to this big, scary piece of feedback, you know? 

And I think once you just get into the habit of doing that, it changes it. And it’s less about like in a one-on-one, you’re not leaving it to the very end of your one-on-one after you’ve talked about all the tactical things and you’re like, Alex, can I give you some feedback? If it’s live, it just doesn’t feel as hard, I guess. So it’s more like, you’re just observing what you’re noticing and connecting the dots for the person.


Alex (25:47):

Yeah. I think you’re right. It’s all about consistency. And I think it’s also about getting into the habit early on. Especially if it’s a new hire, it’s easier. But as you say, when you’re inheriting a team, it can be a bit different.


Ryan (25:58):

And an easy way to do that that I find is like, cause oftentimes I’m in meetings with more than one person, so I can’t do it live necessarily and I’ll be in back to back meetings. So I will basically just like when I’m in a meeting, I will start a giraffe Slack message to the person with basically a few notes on what I observed and the situation, the behaviour, the impact. I probably won’t finish it, but I’ll really quickly do that while it is happening, live in the meeting. 

And I won’t send it to them cause I’ll want to refine it. Cause typically I’m just like blurring out quickly from my brain. And then later when I have a break, I’ll refine the message and then send it to them and say, Hey Alex, in that meeting earlier today, I just wanted to give you some feedback if that’s okay. You don’t really need to ask for permission when it’s asynchronous in my mind, just because of the fact that like the person doesn’t have to respond to you and I’ll make that clear in the message. 

You don’t need to get back to me on this, sit on it, think about it, let’s chat about it when you’re ready. And so I’ll just find that I have lots of these little feedback threads open in Slack and I won’t even remember about them until the next time I go to message you Alex. And then I’ll see, oh, I have some notes there because Slack does a great job at saving your drafts everywhere. And then I will refine it. So that’s the best way I’ve found to do it because otherwise I’ll just forget if I don’t take the initial step to write a few words down. 


How do you encourage risk-taking in B2B marketing? 

Alex (21:17):

Yep. Makes sense. And I guess moving the conversation on a bit, but the risk and ambiguity that can come with B2B marketing I think you’ve experienced in the B2C world. You talked a bit about that divide between the more brand creative led marketing and the more data driven marketing and realistically all marketing, but every company has to find this balance somewhere in the middle. 

I think we debate in nearly every B2B marketing conversation event, conference, whatever, this creativity versus data where we put them at odds with one another instead of accepting that we need a balance of both. But inevitably I think it’s perceived that in B2B there’s less risk taking, less bold ideas. People are more cautious when compared to the B2C consumer side of things. 

And I think a lot of that can start at the top, not even with the CMO, but even above that in terms of CEO, CFO, others on the C-suite that might not be open to taking bolder ideas. But how do you get a team ready and open and in the mindset where taking some risk and ambiguity is acceptable and okay or even encouraged?


Ryan (28:21):

Something that I’ve definitely had to think a lot about in my career because for me, risk and ambiguity just comes very naturally. I am just a natural risk-taker. I have a really high tolerance of risk and I would think of it as calculated risk, but for others that might be reckless risk. 

But I think for me a big part of it is I’ve had to think a little bit about where that came from and try to diagnose that within myself to better understand it. And I think what I’ve learned now is that it was interesting because you mentioned the science side and then the creative side. I think the best way to take risk and maybe the risk component is like the creativity component and making it like doing a big, bold, interesting campaign or investing in something. 

But you can’t really do that effectively unless you understand the science, right? So B2C brands are typically really good at taking these big creative leaps because of the fact that they have really robust systems for measuring it by. So they’ll do incredible market research and focus groups and they’ll understand what their target buyer cares about, where they’re going, what they’re doing, what they love. 

And I don’t think B2B marketers have as great of an insight into their customers. And I think there’s a bit of a differentiation. And when I say B2B, in the sense, if it’s a B2B sales led approach, go to market where marketing is generating and passing it to sales, the problem is marketing doesn’t own the end to end conversation with the customer. And so there’s typically like a big gap in your knowledge set. 

And that’s why it’s so important for those kinds of B2B marketers that have a sales go to market mindset, to spend time with sales regularly, do sales calls to understand the questions that their prospects are buying. Now, if you’re in a product led growth B2B marketing model, where the website is sales and people start using you for free, then I’d say marketing can control and own and be informed by more of that lifecycle, if not all of it. 

But it becomes really important to spend more time with your product team and understand the analytics of how people are using the product. And that was a problem that I found at Whereby really quickly. We have amazing product analytics in terms of how people use the products, but we knew nothing about our users, right? 

And so that was a marketing mistake. It was a bit of a marketing and product mistake, but when someone went into the product signup flow, we weren’t asking them questions about how many employees are at your company. Like how do you plan to use our tool? How many meetings do you do a week nor were we enriching data with tools like Clearbit and g2.com and other tools to enrich those questions without needing to ask them. 

And so we had all of this great usage data, but we couldn’t connect it to them. We couldn’t say, people in 10 to 20 person companies have a much higher retention rate than people in one to 10 person companies. We just knew like, oh cool, this is a cohort of people that retain really well, but we don’t know why, because we don’t know their demographics. 

And so I think in those instances, it’s really important for marketing to be really close with product and really understand making sure you’re getting the right firmographics before they go into the product so that you can then connect all of the behavioural data with that. And I think once you know that then you can start to be really creative and really bold in your marketing. 

And I mean, a few ways that I keep myself sharp on that front is I go to Cannes Lions every year, which is the creativity awards in the south of France where they give awards to the best advertisers. Brands are doing really creative and interesting campaigns. And I find for me, I want to say that’s like 95% B2C marketing versus B2B. 

But for me it’s really important because I can start to pull themes and trends and ideas from B2C and then adopt them into the B2B world. And I think that’s where not enough marketers in the B2B landscape spend enough time in B2C and it’s actually really easy. You don’t need to go to Cannes Lions. 

You just need to become an observational consumer. And what I mean by that is, when I walk through the street, when I ride my bike, when I’m on social media, I am being marketed to right by lots of B2C. And if you can stop yourself in the moment and notice when you were looking at an ad or a post by a B2C company and then analyse, like, why am I looking at this? And I’ll typically screenshot or save links to all the good ads and posts that I see on my phone. 

And that’s kind of my database of ideas and things. And then I will use that to inform the types of campaigns I run in the B2B landscape. And then I think the more you do that, and then I’ll share those links into Slack with my team and be like, I got this creative campaign. Look how good this ad is. This the video for this ad, it just pulls you in in three seconds and got my attention. How can we think of doing that kind of format for our ads? 

And so I guess what I’m doing then is like teaching my team how I notice these things. So they then can do it themselves. And I think it’s better to teach your team how to fish versus fish for them. So that’s kind of my approach to this. And I think by doing that, you’re helping them take bigger, bolder bets with their marketing. And then you also want to let them know that like, it’s okay if these big bold bets fail, let’s just work out. 

We need to make sure we’re doing enough consistent things so that if a big bowl bet doesn’t work out a way that won’t hurt us dramatically, we’ll still hit our goal. So like the big bowl bets are supplementary to the core marketing that you’re doing. And then as you can start to build up a core marketing to hit your goals more and more than you can take bigger and bolder bets because you’ve built that compounding engine.


Why should B2B marketers stay away from benchmarks and best practices? 

Alex (34:12):

What about in the world of best practices, because we’re talking about big creative ideas here, but in B2B there are just so many businesses as usual, best practices. And I think it can be quite easy to just fall into the day-to-day and just drive everything through best practice and yeah.


Ryan (34:31):

Hey, best practice I don’t hate you. I just hate that word. That phrase. No, I think it’s just so overused. Like if I hear someone saying that in an interview to me that is a red flag, because if all you care about is best practices and going and reading what everyone else is doing and the other word that just kills me is benchmarks. Like, I’d look at what the benchmarks of my industry and compare. There’s nothing worse than that in B2B.

Like there’s just too many variables that affect these sorts of benchmarks and make them inapplicable to your business. The moment you sell to a different segment or your product is slightly different, the benchmarks just don’t work nor do best practices. And so I think just doing best practices means you’re a very, very, very mediocre marketer. 

I feel very strongly about this just because they should just be called the bare minimum practices really, is what they are. Everyone should be doing those things, but that’s not the best, that is just the auto standard. And so if you pride yourself by being at best practice, you are like literally below the mean. And so I think I sound like such a dick when I say all of this, but I really just think that marketers need to move away from that. 

And those things shouldn’t be things that they’re proud of. That is just the bare minimum. Like, yes, we should all be doing those things, assuming that they work for our business, but then it’s like what you do above and beyond that, that is going to differentiate your brand and help you drive exponential growth. They will not do that because the phrase itself means that everyone else is already doing those things. So your lead nurture track is not going to be really any better than your competitors. And so, yeah, sorry. I have mixed feelings there.


Alex (36:23):

I’ll take the last two minutes and just play that daily to people. I think you’re bang on. I think I agree completely with that. I mean, if everything is just best practices, as you say, it means you’re one step behind the competitors. Everybody else is already doing it, you’re not standing out, it’s just usual. So it makes sense. We’re pretty much out of time. So I think we’re going to wrap there. I don’t know how we’ve been through 37 minutes. We could keep talking.


Ryan (36:51):

We can do part 2 at another point, Alex.


Alex (36:55):

I think we can get another one scheduled, but thank you for sharing everything. I think there’ll be lots there that, whether you’re a member of a marketing team or a manager or CMO or anywhere in between, I think good insights and thoughts. And you’ve definitely challenged my thinking on a few things. I’m going to get more consistent with my radical candor feedback. Once again thanks for joining Ryan and for sharing.


Ryan (37:17):

Thank you so much for having me, Alex. Thanks everyone. If you want to connect and follow me on social to anyone listening, I’m just @Ryanbonnici across all of the social platforms.


Alex (37:26):

Awesome, well we’ll drop some links underneath, and also that framework will be useful. So thanks again.


FINITE (37:34):

Thanks for listening. We’re super busy at FINITE building the best community possible for marketers working in the B2B technology sector to connect, share, learn, and grow. Along with our podcast, we host a monthly online events, run interview series, share curated content, and have an active slack community with members from London, New York, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Melbourne, and many more to strengthen your marketing knowledge and connect with ambitious B2B tech marketers across the globe, head to finite.community and apply for a free membership.


Related Posts

Older Post

Sales and marketing alignment for B2B tech & SaaS companies

Newer Post

Behind the scenes of SurveyMonkey’s rebrand with Karen Budell, VP of Brand Marketing at Momentive