Dark funnel future, gut-based marketing, and feature wars | Nick Bonfiglio @ Syncari

February 2, 2023

Episode Description

On today's episode I joined Nick Bonfiglio, CEO of Syncari, for his Data Superheroes series. We get into my predictions for the future of demand gen, the important intersection of data and demand, and how recent shifts in data privacy should impact your GTM strategy. Let's dive in. ✌️

Show Notes

The company I mention that's been forward thinking in implementing a no cookie policy is Thoughtbot. Here's an article they wrote about their stance: https://thoughtbot.com/blog/why-remove-user-tracking

Follow Nick: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickbonfiglio/

Follow Kaylee: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaylee-edmondson/

Learn more about Chili Piper: https://www.chilipiper.com/

Subscribe to Demand Gen Chat

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About Demand Gen Chat

Demand Gen Chat is a Chili Piper podcast hosted by Kaylee Edmondson. Join us as we sit down with leaders in marketing to discover the key to driving B2B revenue. If you want benchmarks or insights on trends in the market, this podcast is for you!

Episode Transcript

Hey, welcome back to another episode of demand gen chat. I'm your host Kaylee Edmondson, And today we're gonna get into an episode where I was interviewed by CEO and founder of Syncari, Nick , Bonfiglio. uh, prior to joining the Syncari team and creating this brand and this company, he was actually the ex-VP of product over at Marketo.

So. Super interesting career and successful tech background. I was very honored to be asked to be part of his data superheroes series, and we get into all kinds of things. On this episode, we talked about my predictions for the future of demand, gen the importance and the intersection of data within demand gen, but also all the changes that have taken place in the last 18 months within data, particularly how I think that should affect your.

go to market Plans and strategy. So let's dive in. So I'm Nick Bonfiglio, CEO of Syncari, And today I'm joined by Kaylee Edmondson who is head of demand, Gen at Chili Piper. So I guess the first question is, uh, tell us about Chili Piper and what does it do? My journey to get to Chili Piper is maybe quite interesting as well. Um, in my first B2B SaaS opportunity, I was working for a really small startup here in Nashville called kindful, which is a nonprofit CRM.

Um, we were so small. I think I was like the 20th employee. there, the only marketer at the time we were, when I say manually routing leads, I mean, a new lead would enter our HubSpot instance. I would take my. laptop. And this is like my first job out of college. I would take my laptop, unplug it from the dock and run over to the sales floor to be like, Hey, who's available right now.

And then whoever raises their hand and I would reassign and route it appropriately in HubSpot to make it think over into our Salesforce CRM. And that's how we were routing leads. And then I got to the point where I was like, I had become pregnant. I was like, I'm getting too old for this. I cannot run from one floor to the other.

while I'm like carrying this kid in my belly. Can't do it. So like we need a solution. And that was like my really dramatic way of finding Chili Piper. So we found Chili Piper stood it up implemented it. It solves all of our problems. It was great. Um, left kindful to go to another B2B SaaS company and saw the same problem happening there, um, with their like internal qualification process, as well as their handoff process.

So Anyways, long story short, stood it up there. a Couple years later, I got reached out to, by a recruiter that was like, Hey, this company insert social proof here is looking for a director of demand gen to run their demand gen team. They've never had an in-house marketing team before. Like, are you interested?

And I emailed the recruiter back and was just like, if this is Chili Piper, I'm down. If it's not I'm out, like I'm not actively looking. Right. now." And he was like, so befuddled by the fact that I knew them based off of their social proof, like just based on their customer listing. uh, he was like, weird.

Yeah. It's Chili Piper [inaudible 00:02:47].

So That's how I'm here. Um, I have this, I think is my first opportunity to go from championing and admitting a product at another B2B SaaS company to like owning a demand gen strategy for that same brand. So it just seemed like such a natural fit that I couldn't pass it up. So that's why I'm here.

Um, Chili Piper itself, um, is an inbound engagement platform that helps. Demand gen marketers optimize their website conversions from form fill to demo booked. Um, and then on the flip side, we also have an additional product called instant Booker that helps, um, with sales handoff process from SDR to AEs calendars.

Super, super great. I've been, I've been following the company for a while and you guys have just been I mean, on fire chili-wise I guess, but, uh, it's been great to watch you guys grow and, um, and it's a much needed product and. uh, uh Congratulations for that. yeah. Thank you. No, it's been quite wild. I feel like, um, in and of itself, when I joined the company, there had never been in-house marketing before, so they had made it five years, um, with tremendous growth, with a pure outbound sales motion and no marketing team.

So that told me that there was obviously tons of opportunity for further growth, but also spoke volumes about the power of the product. Um, because the grind of an outbound sales cadence is like, Unmatched like any other. And so the fact that they had found that much success with only outbound sales was insane.

Yep. And on top of all that you're, you're the host of your own podcast, demand gen chat. Tell us about how that came to be. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So personally I'm quite obsessed with podcasts and really like to consume information that way. Um, Not so much for business information, but I'm quite obsessed with true crime podcasts.

So any true crime podcasts that's out there, I've probably listened to every episode that they have, but I find it a really effective way to consume information. Um, so my love for true crime podcast kind of grew into a love for business podcasts. Um, and of course, like anything and everything that wonder it puts out is top notch. And Um, it was just like a great way for me as a busy individual in my personal life to consume information. And then I was thinking, you know, there's not really a great, um, community for a demand gen marketer, So it started as a passion project, honestly, um, to just try and cover some of these like 401 level topics that weren't actively being discussed in the demand gen world.

So, um, I always say that, like I went to school for. Technically exactly what I do today, but I didn't learn a single thing in college. That's applicable to my day-to-day work. Right. I'm sure that's the same for you. Right. And so it's like, we almost need like a continue, like a continued education opportunity for demand gen specifically.

Um, just because I feel like our world, especially in SaaS is evolving daily and like my college education didn't help me and isn't helping me at all. Um, so yeah, it started as a passion project and honestly, I just wanted the, a better opportunity to talk to other demand gen marketers in the space. And it's grown into this, You know, really great community that it is today. Um, it's been wildly more successful than we ever imagined it would be. So, yeah, we're actually just looking for ways to actively lean in harder to further that community and provide them with more content that's helpful in their day to day. That's, That's super awesome.

I mean, uh, and since you have your own podcast, I assume that you're trying to stay current on everything that's going on. Are there other podcasts or blogs or things that you, pay attention to? yeah, that's a great, that's a great question. And I think. too, I'm like Personally on information overload. So I'm always trying to like consume and stay relevant.

And for me, obviously consuming other people's podcast is great. So, um, Chris Walker has a really great podcast. It's called state of demand gen. Um, lovely. He puts out tons and tons of content. That's super valid, um, and questions, the status quo, which I support and love. Um, outside of that, LinkedIn is obviously a huge place that I go.

There are tons of really great marketing leaders in the space these days that are very active on LinkedIn. So, Um, Kyle Lacy is one of them. Um, Dave Gearhart of course is one of them. If you're not following these guys on LinkedIn and Twitter, you should definitely go do it. Um, there are a handful of others, but I think those are like the three that come top of mind.

Well That's awesome. Yeah. there's a few that I like too. And I, you know, just to plug a, a friend here, but Jared, uh, from uh, revenue genius, I mean, I like the community. I like some of the content they have coming out, including our own webinar. That's coming out this week. so, Um, cool. Well, uh, could we, uh, talk about data superheroes for a bit?

I mean, just like it was a passion for you to do, uh, your demand gen chat. I mean, for me, uh, automating processes without having a clear handle on your data is almost nearly impossible. So when we started Syncari, it's really about how do we tie the, the workflow with the data automation pieces and with the automation pieces and get that to where people can run the proper place.

The thing I like to say A lot Kaylee is that, um, you know, we, we, we have gotten to a point where our tech stacks denote or tell us what plays we can run in our playbook. And what we really want is we want a tech stack that inter-operates, that allows us to run the plays that are in our own playbooks.

And so that's really what the Genesis for data Superheroes has been is how do we get more light on the fact that data and processes are, are the same and they're together. they work together to make stuff happen.

So, I guess the first question I've had for you on the data superhero set is, you know, what do you see as the importance of data to Demand Gen? And, Um, you know, what, what did you wish you more importantly, what you wish you didn't see as a result of the data, things that were going on? Yeah, absolutely. So the importance of data in demand gen, I know that the demand gen world itself is a little bit in a stage of evolution right now. So the way that people define demand gen is quite different, um, depending on who you ask and what stage of growth that company is in.

But for me historically, like my personal career has really been in performance marketing and that arm of demand gen. So Every single thing that I am doing is data backed. And it has never really been supported by like a brand motion, which is obviously the new uh, way of defining demand gen is it's a little bit of performance, a little bit of brand.

Yep. Um, but my own background has always been performance marketing. So every single ad campaign, like down to the keyword is all about data. Um, and of course, like, All that data is very siloed and very disparate, depending of on what campaign you're launching and what platform that campaign lives in. Um, but I think all of that needs to level up to some system of truth or source of truth, um, which I, I guess normally ends up being a spreadsheet, uh, because it all lives a little bit of a different place, unless I guess you're using your product, which seems like that's why you created it in the first place.

It makes total sense. Um, but in terms of. what... I think your secondary question was, what do I wish I hadn't seen? I think, I think, Yeah, yeah, [crosstalk 00:09:44].

... Yeah, I think far too often, there are a lot of like leading indicators in data that aren't captured. At the bottom line, right? That don't end up in your Salesforce ecosystem.

And so it's like, well, you know, your CFO or whoever you're rolling up to looks at it and it's like, well, we don't see it in Salesforce. that means it didn't happen. And the old, my old way of thinking would have 100% agreed with that. But my new way of thinking, especially for us, we're really leaning hard into this dark funnel.

Um, and we're using that to lead our marketing strategy and dark funnel just means it's not super trackable in Salesforce, which is how we operate. today. So for instance, this podcast that we run, um, we run it weekly data for that lives a little bit of everywhere. Um, things that we wish, you know, we wish we could see in Salesforce or in like our ultimate source of truth are, Hey, we heard about you from your podcast or Hey, we're avid listeners, recurring listeners, whatever it is, but that's not how it works.

Um, so if a CFO looks at it, they're like, you need to stop doing all of this. Like it's not making any sense. It's not driving. revenue." But we know that that's not the case. Right. We're building a really strong community around that podcast. And unfortunately it just doesn't map up to leadership and it's like not reportable in the way that they want it to be.

Right. Yeah. Interesting moments, across the board are important to understanding what's working and what's not, and Right.

...it's interesting that people don't don't always have that lens when they're looking at this data. It's, it's been interesting. So look, I mean, a bit, we've both been around demand gen for a long time and we've seen a lot of things.

As they're changing, stay a lot the same, but, uh, over the last decade or so, but how are you seeing things changing in demand gen and specifically around data around demand gen? Uh, if it better. yeah, well, we know that the beginning of this year had a lot of changes in terms of tracking privacy policies, cookie tracking, all of those things.

And so we're now in this post cookie world is what everybody seems to be calling it. Um, and so yeah, with that, like a ton of our data is now. Arbitrarily gone. Um, a lot of our, like when we're looking at marketing data by source, um, a significant percentage, like 60% plus is now coming from either direct or organic.

And we know that that's not the case they're likely coming from paid channels and just didn't opt into cookie tracking, etc, So that. um, bread... whatever bread breadcrumb trail or whatever we're gonna call it is now gone. Um, so a lot of the...


...the marketing that we're having to rely on is a little bit more gut-faced than it ever has been, which is a little scary and intimidating on the front end.

But I think once. um, Once all these shifts that continue to happen, the marketers that are like really good marketers that understand their audience and are close to their customer base are gonna be the companies that rise above the rest. And I think that, um, Obviously like cookie tracking, will have tons of iterations, I think for years to come.

And so the people that can just go ahead and like ditch the cookies all together, and lean in to good marketing without a million tracking pixels all over the place are gonna be the companies that ultimately shine in the long run. Um, and aren't so dependent on these guardrails that we've been kind of allowed for the last five to ten years.

Yep, yep. our, our head of demand gen Aubrey Morgan has a blog that she's got on syncari.com That talks about this very topic, but one of the questions I had for you was if you had, you know, it's got some advice in there, but I'm curious to hear what your advice would be to people that are gonna be going through this change.

Yeah, I think for, so there there's another company too, and I, um, oh, I should have looked them up before we chatted because now they're of course like losing, I can't remember the name of it. There's another company that, um, I've been following their head of marketing on LinkedIn for a couple of months.

Now they've actually adopted no, they're not tracking. at all. They've already just looked in, and completely committed. Right. So I think if like, I don't know if I could give a word of advice and we even aren't yet following it ourselves. So this is like a word of advice, to listeners, and to myself that like the faster you can lean in and move towards that model, I think the better off you will be.

long term. It's gonna be like very risky. Um, and like a lot of trust in the system and your demand leaders or your marketing leaders in general. Um, but I think in the long run, it's like, it will put you light years ahead of your competitors. If you're the only ones that are doing it. So like, Yeah there's [inaudible 00:14:02]... Oh sorry. no, you're good.

I was just gonna say it's like ditch it completely the faster you can, the better It's, it's very interesting, 'cause I'm seeing that, um, you know, That doing a strategy like this, where you're, what you just talked about, I think is gonna lead to, you know, leading into what really is predicting your business. And I think it's gonna help remove a lot of the noise that we all get mired in with all the stuff that comes in from all these different channels and all these different signals that we're trying to pay attention to.

it's gonna make you focus on, like, this is an important thing I need to know about, because this is what's actually getting people into the door. and, And I just, I view it as a potential positive impact to refocus demand gen on the things that matter. So, um- yeah, I agree with that. And I think too, like something that kind of stood out to me recently and I made a post about it on LinkedIn as well.

where it's just like, There's so much noise, especially in software, like, and especially towards this audience, right? If you're targeting rev ups, or demand gen marketers like that audience in general is very peppered with other advertising from all like B2B marketers, 'cause these people are most often the people that own the process and own the budget.

Right, right. And so they are crowded with stuff. And like one of the easiest ways for you to stand out above the crowd is like going back to brand and back to like valuable. Premium content that actually matters. Cause like, when I think about my inbox today and even yours, I don't even wanna imagine what your inbox looks like.

But when I imagine just my inbox, it is filled with so much crap and my statement and like my epiphany that I came to one day was just like, I don't even really care like what your subject line is. I don't even look at it anymore because there's so much stuff that comes into my inbox. All I'm looking at I'm just skimming for names. And so like, if your name shows up in my inbox, I'm like, "Oh, I don't even care what the subject line is. I'm gonna open it because I know it's valid content. Whereas all this other stuff is probably just like an outbound cold sales email. Yeah.

... Uh, And so I'm just gonna delete it. And so I think it's like leaning into that in your inbox, but also leaning into that, like for your entire go to market strategy is gonna be so important.

Mm-hmm [affirmative]. So, what do you say if you don't want any more emails about, do you need more leads or anything like that? right. Like stop sending me that like any salesperson that's listening to this podcast right now, please stop sending me emails, asking me if I wanna buy your list because the answer is like bars No hard. No, I have never bought a list. I will never buy your list. You know what I mean? If you had like your number one leadership tip that you've you know, learned along the way or picked up along the way. What would that be? Oh, a number one. Leadership tip. Um, Something that I do, especially, I don't know how I'm sure most people are still working entirely remote these days or maybe still largely remote.

Um, but something that I did in my last gig where I was also remote, it's just like for me as an individual I'm definitely a people person. And I, when I was working at jobs where I was in person, I. always said, Um, "Look, I spend more time with these people, which would be my team. than I get to spend with my children.

So on some degree, like I have to know and understand your personal life and your personal values, because I feel like it connects us greater on like a human level, um, than anything else. And in a remote. world, That piece of it is a little bit hard. Um, so something that I implemented here that our full marketing team does now is just these about me docs.

Um, we call them, ReadMes. and it's just like anything and everything that you need to know about me as an individual, as a marketing leader, as a demand gen leader, my entire philosophy, how I run my team, how I prefer feedback. It's like crystal clear. It's very. blunt. Um, there's like no fluff involved and it's like, if you don't agree with it, that's cool.

But like, I, it's my opportunity to be very direct and upfront with how I operate and how I want to run my team. Um, and then in turn, when we onboard new people, we ask them for the same, like, please be very direct. This is your opportunity to like lay it out on the line. And it actually has created some really great synergies amongst us because we just.

like, You know, no bullshit. Here's how it is. And I, I think it's like, it's super simple, but like a lot of people just don't understand how people prefer to work or wanna run their team or what their marketing philosophy is, or heck even like what their business philosophy is. Um, and so I think it's been really instrumental for us, especially as our team grows super fast to just get to know each other, like quick and easy and like, cool.

This is it. This is how we need to work together so that we can just. like Not deal with all the like feelings and emotions that come with misreading or misinterpreting a slack and like understanding the emotion behind how people operate. That's super cool. [inaudible 00:18:35] have a cool tip, but you're already applying it and I, I love it because two core values we have here that mean a lot to me is, is "Seek and speak the truth, Mm. um, and "Had full transparency.

So. and I, And I do it. I mean, look, there's only a couple things I don't tell my team and that's, if I'm legally or sort of fiduciary, you know, not able to do it. Um, other than that, I, I let everybody know everything I possibly can because you can't build a team without everybody understanding everything that's being contemplated.

And, and especially at this size, it's a lot easier At your size, it gets harder and it gets even harder above 500 employees and 1000 employees and things like that. So, but great set there. Uh, Kaylee, I really appreciate that. All right. Last question for you. So. Um, you know, I, I, there's a lot of trends, a lot of things happening in demand gen these days.

But are there things that you're seeing that are exciting you over... specifically just in general at demand gen if there's anything around data, that's exciting. you? I think, look, there are tons of, there are tons of classes. I think of demand gen marketers out there. And like, I would love to speak broader, but demand gen has like, unfortunately always been my lane.

So that's what I feel like I'm most knowledgeable. about. Um, and I think that demand gen is in this huge state of evolution. So like when I first got into marketing, it was like all about lead gen, right? It's all about those friends that are emailing us that are asking us to buy their lists. And it was like really gross and icky.

And we were completely reliant on any opportunity to cookie or pixel track you or whatever. Um, and it was all about gated content and it was just very salesy. Now, I think finally, B2B marketing is taking, um, a page out of the B2C. Marketing playbook as we should have 10 years ago. But for some reason, B2B is just very behind.

I think that literally, I don't know if it was COVID related or what has happened in the last 12 months, but something has really accelerated the rate in which B2B is trying to catch up with B2C morphing, Um, and some things are like some really cool things. Ob- Obviously, podcasting is a huge part of this new playbook.

Um, not gating content, not putting things behind a lead form. All of that stimulates back to, Um, content that's actually gonna move the needle. That's very informative. That's not SEO, keyword heavy. That's like a, what is an MQL? Right? Like we're moving away from that marketing model and moving into like really progressive marketing strategies that I am like, obviously we are trying to adapt here at Chili Piper.

We used to be a company that gated content too. So I can say like we're guilty of it. But, um, we are trying to be at the forefront of that movement along with several other really, really great in class marketing companies. And Uh, I'm just really excited for it. I think it's gonna, like I said, I think I said this earlier about, specifically about cookies, but I mean, it, in like the greater sense of marketing, I think that B2B SaaS is always gonna be a feature war, like who can build the best feature, the fastest, the quickest, and brightest.

Like, it's always that, like, regardless of what you think your competitor can build your feature set. like... But the companies that are gonna win are the companies that have the stronger brand, like look at any head-to-head competitive company out there right now. And tell me which one is winning. It's the one that's taken the time to build the community and to build the brand.

Um, and so, yeah, I think we're just excited to like, accept that challenge and, um, try and be a player in that game for us. as well. That's super awesome. Kaylee, I just wanna you know, uh, echo everything you said. I, I agree with everything you just said. And, um, I I see us, you know, that we overly use the word personalization.

I think we need to stop doing that a little bit because it's really about humanization or humanizing, the experience that someone has with your company. And if we. can start Focusing back on that's what, that's, what B2C does they focus on the human and the individual and, and, but it's not personalization in the marketing sense in, in that way.

And that's a wrap. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you enjoyed this content, please be sure to leave us a review. It really does help us continue to bring content like this your way. We'll see you on the next episode

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Demand Gen Chat is a Chili Piper podcast hosted by Tara Robertson. Join us as we sit down with B2B marketing leaders to hear about the latest tactics and campaigns that are driving pipeline and revenue.
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