Episode 46: Blending Tech & Strategy: B2B Tech Sales Complexities | Mark Donnigan

In this episode of the Interesting B2B Marketers podcast, Steve Goldhaber is joined by Mark Donnigan, a dynamic professional whose career spans across computer science, music, and revenue strategy. Mark's unique blend of technical expertise and marketing savvy offers listeners a rich, multifaceted perspective on the marketing landscape.

The conversation covers a range of compelling topics, including:

  • The complexities and extended sales cycles in B2B technology sales, such as video encoding integration.
  • The evolution of marketing strategies that emphasize a deep understanding of the audience's mindset.
  • The shift from traditional brand promotion to fostering industry-wide dialogues and building communities.
  • The importance of understanding customer problems over solely focusing on product specifications in B2B sales and marketing within technical environments.
  • The need for marketers to have a deep understanding of their industry ecosystem, the customer's needs, and the ability to frame a product's value in a problem-solving context.
  • The role of credibility and setting aside ego in marketing, exemplified by personal anecdotes from Mark's early experiences in marketing.
  • The risks of marketers becoming isolated in their 'marketing bunker' and the importance of direct conversation in marketing.
  • The challenges and cultural aspects of Salesforce integration, and the importance of understanding user perspectives.
  • A brief reflection on their experiences and excitement working in the tech sector.

To keep up with the insightful conversations and learn more, connect with Mark Donnigan and Steve Goldhaber on LinkedIn.

Listen on your favorite podcast app

Meet the Host


With 25+ years of marketing experience, Steve Goldhaber is a former head of global digital marketing for two Fortune 500 companies and the current CEO of 26 Characters, a content marketing agency in Chicago.

Connect with Steve on LinkedIn.

Full Episode Transcript

Disclaimer: The transcription of our podcast episodes has been generated by a third-party AI tool. While we strive for accuracy, we cannot guarantee that all typos, errors, or misinterpretations have been corrected. So, if you come across any blunders, don't blame us. Blame the robots. (Just kidding, don't blame them either. They're doing their best.)

Steve Goldhaber: Hey everybody. Welcome back to Studio 26 and the interesting B2B Marketers podcast today. I am super excited to have Mark on the show. Mark, welcome. 

Mark Donnigan: Yeah. Hey, happy to be here, Steve. Really excited. 

Steve Goldhaber: All right, cool. Give us a quick background, so give us, give us the 60-second version of who you are and what you've been up to.

Mark Donnigan: 60 seconds. All right. Salesperson turned, business builder. Who figured out that, you know, marketing's kind of important and I have a left 

Steve Goldhaber: kind of don't kind, don't be too serious. 

Mark Donnigan: Kind of, kind of, kind of important. So, so I have a left brain, right brain thing going on. I started programming when I was 12 years old.

I'm old enough to have discovered my school's Apple two. So that puts in context, but, and ended up, uh, you know, my dad retired with Hewlett Packard and building silicon. And so you can imagine I went into a computer science program. That was a foregone conclusion and after a couple years went, you know, I think I'd rather be a rock star.

So of course I was playing music this whole time. Went to music school and then I figured out a poor starving musician route is not where I wanted to go, and I never became a rock star. Went into sales, but seriously, along the way. Just really began to find that I was gravitating towards, you know, the convergence of go to market revenue, the strategy behind business, as well as then the, the marketing tactics, and that's how I ended up where I am today.

Steve Goldhaber: Awesome. All right. Well, that you are interesting. That's why you're on the show. I love, I love former rock stars. 

Mark Donnigan: Hey, well, never was a rockstar, but it, you know, I did get to play. I, you know, it was fun. I still play today, so. 

Steve Goldhaber: Alright. Case study number one. It's the making of any good. B two B drama. It involves a very large buying committee and very long sales cycles.

Things that are dreaded by some marketers out there. But anyway, yeah, I'm excited to hear about this. So take it away. 

Mark Donnigan: Yeah. Yeah. So is quick background. The primarily I work with companies that are selling, uh, well, really exclusively B two B. These are technology sales. They typically have very long sales cycles, and when I say long, you know, for context, everybody's definition could be different.

But six months would be blazing fast. I mean, that would be, you know, like unheard of. Frankly, a lot of sales cycles can be 12 months to even as long as 24 months. Now. The deal sizes are huge, so you know, when you get one over the finish line, it can easily be a high six figure. Even seven figure annual reoccurring, you know, type engagement.

So that creates a lot of challenges though because you know, navigating, you can imagine the stakeholder count gets pretty high when you're talking deal sizes that that large, you have product involved, you have engineering involved, you certainly have finance, you have executive sponsors. There's a lot of people sitting around the table and keeping everything on track.

You know, over 12 to 18, even 24 months is, you know, is the challenge. 

Steve Goldhaber: Yeah. So, all right, take us through that beginning of the journey for this company and, and give us some context about like the, their business. 

Mark Donnigan: Yeah. So the business is software and it's in a very niche, but very critical. And actually it turns out very visible area.

Video. If you've watched streaming service like you know, Amazon Prime or Netflix, or you know, Disney, uh, plus or Max, you know, the new H B O service. Basically anybody who's streaming video, there's a critical component that's called video encoding. And. All that is, is you take this large video file, you make it smaller, but retain the quality so that then you can watch it on your, your tv, your iPhone, your whatever device you're on.

Now you can imagine that the integration complexity there is pretty, you know, is pretty deep. So what ends up happening is that a sales process? You know, there's some of the normal things that you could imagine like, well, certainly they probably wanna see does it produce good quality? Does it meet some very specific technical requirements?

And those hurdles can be cleared, you know, pretty quickly. But it turns out that there is a very long evaluation process. They not only have to assess just the product, does it do what you say it does, you know, does it work in their environment? But then they often have to integrate it. Do you know what's typically called a proof of concept or something that would look like a P O C?

So this is the challenge because what ends up happening in this type of a sales cycle is that the business sponsor, or you may think of it as the budget holder, even though it is true, it would be their name that is on the po. And yes, they have the authority to certainly say, no, we're we're, you know, we're not gonna spend the money, or we're not gonna spend the money on solution A, but we're gonna go with solution B.

But because of the technical complexity, very, very often the old concept, the typical B two B sales concept that I need to get to the buyer, I just need to get to the authority. And that's, you know, the C F O or the C T O or the highest ranking executive, and that's how we're gonna win this deal. It doesn't apply.

In fact, generally speaking, it can be. Now I'm saying this by rank only, not by importance, but it can be the lowest ranking member on the buying committee who doesn't have the authority to say yes, but a hundred percent can say no, and they will override the senior executive every single time. It's a huge challenge though, because quite often this person is not visible in the initial vendor meetings.

In fact, quite often the challenge is to figure out, okay. Who is that person in the account and how do we get to them? Yep. 

Steve Goldhaber: Interesting. So is that. Is that by design? Do these companies, are they hiding this unofficial decision maker? Ooh, good question. Or is it No, they're just, they're, they're a behind the scenes tech person.

They don't need to be in meetings. 

Mark Donnigan: Yeah. And you know what, Steve, that's a great question. I would say that it's different for, you know, culturally in some companies, there are some companies where it's by strategy. And in fact you go hunting for these, you know, for these individuals. It's very clear that they are hidden on purpose.

You cannot find them. Yeah, others. It's just purely in nature and I would say this is more often the case. It's a nature that, you know, often we're dealing, these are PhDs, these are academics, these are people who are certainly capable and used to talking to vendors, but you know, they're just, it's a different role in the organization.

So yeah, that's where the complexity, you know, comes in. 

Steve Goldhaber: So how do you, how do you get to that person, even though you may not see them? Yeah. What are you just saying? We know how they think, therefore, all of our, mm-hmm. Content and documentation will be presented in a, in a friendly way. How does that work?

Mark Donnigan: Yeah, so, you know, it's interesting. So this case study is all about really the, I would call it the evolution of the way that marketing or marketing ideology worked or used to work, you know, 7, 8, 10 years ago and the way it works today. So the idea was, oh well this is why we have a product. You know, previously, this is why we have a product marketing team.

The product marketing team are sort of. One part engineers, one part product people, and one part marketers. You know, they know how to speak the language. Sometimes, you know, you'd hear, you know, that they know how to speak. The Geek Talk, you know, would often be. Yep. Although there's an element of that where clearly if you're gonna talk to somebody who lives in an incredibly academic environment, they're an engineer, you do want to tailor how you speak to them, to, you know, to their kind of the language.

Again, I put that in air quotes, but the language that they would relate to, but it's different than that. And so what the approach now is, is that, and, and this is the case study, is that we moved really to solve this dilemma of continuing to come up against buying processes where you would get. 50, 60, 70% of the way down the road and then never quite be able to get it closed.

And what was the holdup? What was the holdup? And always it came down to suddenly a name popped up, you know, and well, wait a second, who's this person? We, we've never talked to this person. You'd go look him up and you'd say, oh, well this is a principal engineer. They, you know, they have this certain, you know, description.

You're like, well, yeah, I can understand why that name popped up. But now we are, we think we've closed this. And suddenly this person's coming back and asking a whole raft of questions that we should have addressed earlier. So that caused us to really take a radical rethink of how we market, for example, do they care about our brand?

And you know what? Sadly they don't. Does not matter. That I've got killer swag that I'm giving out an event. Do they care? I've got the big booth front and center. 

Steve Goldhaber: That could be a bad thing. That means that means swag dollar's not put into the product. 

Mark Donnigan: Yeah. Yeah. A hundred, a hundred percent. Steve, you're bang on.

Now you know, that doesn't necessarily always get verbalized, but you know, I have a lot of stories where you would hear like people would go, oh geez, you know, the company A over here it, it'd sure be nice if they spent that. Big fancy booth budget on making their product better, you know? Yeah. So our normal marketing tactics, like we're just really gonna invest in our brand so that when people see our logo, you know, they're gonna feel confident, they're gonna feel safe.

They're gonna, you know that this is, this is a quality product. This person doesn't care about that. This person is not necessarily trolling all of the usual. And I don't mean that in the negative sense. Troll is probably the wrong word, but they're not. They're not on some of the maybe social platforms.

They're not in some of the normal places where it's like, yeah, but you know, we're running this, this great ad campaign. We've got this really cool thing we're doing here. They're not there. Okay, so where are they? Well, this is what's super interesting is, is that they are self organizing and they're self-organizing around communities.

And you might say, well, what, like Facebook groups? No, no. Uh, maybe, you know, maybe, but, but set aside, you know, whether it's a LinkedIn group or it's a Facebook group, or whether it's just a meetup that they go to once a month of, you know, engineers that are working in the same space that just hang out, you know, drink beer and talk shop.

There's a lot of ways this can look, but that is where a lot of the information transfer is happening. And so the aha, the big unlock was in 2018 when we had been at this for a couple years and, and, and, and enjoyed some success. There's some video streaming services that you probably and many of the listeners have subscriptions to that utilized and still utilized today our software and so had success, but we also had enough of these.

Deals that didn't close, you know, Uhhuh, where these experts were like, how do we get to them? What do we do? And so we started thinking about, what if we started hosting a party? Okay. And the idea is not, it's not a sales event. Not at all, because they would bristle at that. But you know what? Everybody likes a good party.

Everybody's interested in something. What if we just create a forum? For information be transferred, for people to hang out for. And this is the community aspect. You know what we're going to draw these people in. We're gonna begin to meet them. We're gonna learn who they are, they're gonna get to know us.

And then if at some point we're engaged in a sales process, it's gonna be a lot easier to, you know, to push through. So we chose a podcast as the forum to do that. And you know, some might be like, wow, community, and all of a sudden you're jumping to a podcast. I don't think a podcast as communities. But let me tell you, in my experience, they are incredible community builders because it gives someone an asynchronous way to interact with you as a person, interact with the company, get a sense of the company, and none of it in a sales way.

So we started a podcast called The Video Insiders, and it really was just a hosted series of conversations that were, with interesting people doing things in the video industry. We would even talk to competitors and that might be a little bit of a mind blown for some people. The first time that I presented this to my c e o, who, who I reported to and worked for.

I said, now there's a wrinkle here. And he, he loved podcasts, so it's like I didn't have to convince him like the value. I said, there's one wrinkle. I said, the wrinkle is that we're not gonna be dumb about it. You know, we're not just gonna bite our competitors on to come take shots at us. But you know what?

There's enough co-opetition, and we know in some cases that there are other technologies and other competitive solutions that are being reviewed. So, Why not be the host of the party? Like, Hey, let's invite them on. Yeah, exactly. Let's have a conversation. And it worked like gangbusters. Really, really, really super effective.

Steve Goldhaber: Yeah, I have really liked that approach. I mean, I, even with my own podcast, right, I've had other content marketing agency leaders or owners, and when I always ask myself, should I do this? This is a threat to my company. Yeah. I, I really just say, Steve, get over it. Be true to the podcast. Yeah. Like I'm not doing sales pitches and I, I think your, your point is very valid.

It's better to be the host of the party as opposed to like making it such an invite exclusive thing that not everyone is gonna, you know, see it that way. 

Mark Donnigan: That's right. And what's great about doing that too is, is that you break down the natural by, you. Push through, I guess is maybe a better way to think about it.

Push through the, oh, but he's a marketer, or this is a marketing thing, or, oh, but it's sponsored by this company. Surely they just wanna sell to me, you know? And look, we all feel that on some level, and I debate with some people say, well, engineers feel it even more. I don't really think that's true because you know, especially I work largely in Silicon Valley and you know, the same engineer who will sit there and say, you know, I hate marketing, I hate marketers.

Well, Go out and get in their brand new fancy whizzbang car that clearly was marketed to them, that they. Let's see. You know, how did this work? But the point is, is that by just being facilitating, just conversation, like, Hey, we're all here to grow the industry. We're here. You know, to really improve your life.

Bring value to your life, your life. Meaning, you know, you as an individual working for a company, you know, in this space, you know, Doing your job and trying to make your company better, the rewards come back. So maybe I should share with you some of the more tangible outcomes. Yeah, let's do it. Let's do, what do we got?

Let's do what? The outcomes. Let's do it. Yeah. Yeah. Because it's easy to say, Hey, it worked like gangbusters, but, oh, okay. What does that mean, mark? So one of the challenges with a podcast is that even as you grow your downloads, you know your listenership, your audience, first of all, for a lot of us, the niches and our subject areas are probably pretty small.

And so I'm gonna give one number that may be a little bit shocking, but I'm doing this on purpose because I think there's this feeling of like, oh, but if I don't get to 5,000 downloads, you know, a week or within some, you know, then it's a failure. On average, we only got 500 downloads in the first seven days of an of an episode.

Some people might be like, geez, what's the point? Now bear in mind, this is gonna be contextual to your tam. And I don't even mean the economic tam, I mean just, you know, if there are in the whole world, a thousand companies, you know, or even let's say 5,000 companies that really would be in your I C P, you know, well, 500 is 10%.

Right? That's pretty good coverage if you're reaching 10% every week, you know? Yeah. So, you know, so just for comparison, but my point in, first of all, sharing that is, It is absolutely about who is listening, not the absolute numbers, you know, and I've said it, if there were a hundred of the right people, we would've viewed it as a, as a success, so we got to 500.

Now, here's the challenge though, is that you don't have a way to really directly engage them, because we also chose not to be really heavy handed with trying to get email addresses and, and so, I said, this is great, and we're getting really tremendous anecdotal feedback, our sales team, and going to meetings, just, it just became automatic.

You'd go into the first meeting and somebody in the room, you know, on the customer or the prospect side would say, we love your podcast. You know, I mean, it just became automatic, like it was weird if it didn't happen. So we knew people were listening. So what we decided to do was build a LinkedIn group.

We just sent and we called it, and it's still, you know, it's very active today. And in fact, today there's 3,200 people who have chosen to join. They've requested to join. It's very selective. I don't have it open. I probably reject three out of five who request to join because I just simply look and it's like they're not even in the industry or they're not, you know, or just not a good fit.

The point is, this isn't just a, a, a vanity group. Now what does this give us? What it gives us now is a way to message via LinkedIn to these professionals who are the movers and shakers in the streaming video industry. So, super valuable. The second thing, the second tangible outcome is that, um, these things are.

A little tough to quantify and I even, you know, we could model higher improvement in this area, but our sales cycle time shrunk by 20%. 20%. Now, when you're talking about a 12 month, maybe an 18 month sales cycle, it's huge. Like 20. Yeah, 20 percent's huge. Why is that? Well, because of this affinity. Rather than having to take one to three meetings for them to, you know, it's almost like kind of feel you out as the vendor.

Like, well, are you legit? Who are you? They already came in like, Hey, We know, like, and trust, you know, going back to that, these guys. Yep. Okay. Number two, number three was that we had at least, and again, you know, these are kind of concerted, but at least a three x increase in what I considered like our organic distribution of content.

And so what does that mean? Well, first of all, we now had a podcast episode that we would cut, cut up, and, you know, repurpose. We just got this, all of a sudden, just this boost, like literally a three x over our organic content distribution. That's huge because everybody should be focused on that. You know, how can I, you know, how can I get it out there?

And then there was a, Absolutely a, a direct correlation to a revenue increase as a result of a couple factors. One being, you know, sales cycles are shortening, so obviously we're, you know, we have more revenue that's closing in a shorter period. That gave us a very, a very, very nice boost. But generally just an overall lift in terms of just the market saying, wow, this company is everywhere.

I can remember Steve one time being at a, at a major trade show, and somebody approached me, who I know from the industry. The first thing that he commented was Mark. Congratulations. You guys are everywhere. Now the funny thing is still, we're a startup, right? We don't have massive marketing budgets. We are not burning, you know, burning a ton of cash.

It's not because the logo was splattered everywhere. You know, it's because of the perception of, you know, it's the podcast and other things, but it largely was driven by the podcast. So you, 

Steve Goldhaber: I, something you said is the whole like, and trust I've. I've been podcasting for four or five months now, and I've, I've done video series in my business for 26 characters.

It is rewarding as a marketer when someone comes to you, raises their hand and says, now let me just give you the context. I've already watched X, Y, and Z. Yeah, I know this. And it is so much more interesting to sell to those people. That's right. 'cause you don't sell this Truly is. That's right. All right.

They are a buyer and I just say, You tell me how can I help? What do you need? That's right. And it's amazing how the power of, whether it's podcasting or video marketing. Yeah. And I think so much of it really is, is just the, it's not written. Yeah. Right? Yeah. When you hear people talk, when you hear them tell a story, you know, I would imagine on this podcast, within five seconds people are judging us.

Are these people smart? Do they know what they're talking about? That's right. And that's. I could write a white paper and at the end of that white paper, you'd still say, well, I don't know. I don't know. Yeah. There were some interesting things in this white paper, but anyone could write it. Yeah. But yeah, when it's from a a, a human with a talking head, it, it's all together.

You know? It makes sense to people. A hundred percent. Yeah. Alright, let's do this. That was, that was a great case study. Next time I'm on Netflix, I'm gonna, I'm gonna refer to that case study. That's right. There you go. Let's go to case study number two. Yeah. This is another B two B thing. Yep. Long sales cycle again.

So take us. Yeah, take us away. Case study number two. 

Mark Donnigan: Yeah, so this one is slightly different, but I really encourage the audience to listen carefully. If you are in a B two B, you know, marketing, sales environment, and if you're selling something with a technical component, listen up. Don't click away now, don't turn it off.

Because the background here is that, first of all, it's pretty well known that right now sales cycles are just incr. It's just taking longer to close deals anyway, so you compound that with the fact that there are a lot of, there's just a lot that goes into making a buying decision when you have a heavy technical component, you know, to the product or the technology, the solution that you're selling.

Then just because of the growing B two B buying committee, you know, buying committee is just getting larger. So the problem here is, is that, you know, due to the specialized nature of the information that's needed, a lot of our traditional marketing approach is like, yeah, well we have a white paper on that.

You know, we have a data sheet. We have some sort of a, of a product brief. We have an application guide, right? You know, there's kind of these normal like, well, what else do we produce? Like, like that's what marketing does. And hey, look how awesome they are. They look really great. They're well designed. The challenge is, is that.

50% of the buying committee. Again, going back to the stakeholders, the influencers and the decision makers are not directly engaged with the vendor, and you're not necessarily going to have an opportunity to sit down and have a conversation, whether it's with this. Technical individual contributor, who is the person who can't say yes, but can definitely say no, you're not gonna have an opportunity necessarily to sit down with them and enter a conversation and they can ask questions, and you can bring in an engineer and you can do all this.

So the big challenge is, well, what does a marketer do? Because, The old idea of like, well, marketing, you know, especially around product marketing, produces product briefs and data sheets and does all these things like, that's not sufficient, because that doesn't actually answer the question. What the buyers need to know today, want to know today is, can you solve my problem?

Period. That's it. The fact that we're a little bit better, the fact that we're a little bit faster, the fact that we're a lot bit cheaper, you know, or a little bit cheaper Sure. Does not matter. And regardless, yeah. Of what they tell you. Even though they always do the, you know, buyers will fake us out a lot and fake out sales teams by saying, yeah, you know, we're just gonna make a decision based on costs.

We're gonna make a decision based on quality, we're gonna make it. That never is the case, and I just encourage anybody who's saying, really go back and do a review. Go back and do a review of your last, you know, even just two or three, you know, close lost deals. And if you really do, you know, if you're able to talk to the customers, you're gonna find out, yeah, they said it was price, but.

Guess what? You know, that was a factor. That wasn't all of it. 

Steve Goldhaber: Sure. So, sure. Mark, do do a, do me a favor, take a step back and just give us the business context. Yeah. So give us like the industry. Yeah. What's the size of the company? 

Mark Donnigan: Yeah. Yeah. So this particular case study comes from a company that has built special silicon.

Silicon are just the chips that you know, you might think of them as the processor that's in your computer, that's one version of silicon. There's many different types. This is a piece of purpose-built, not a piece. It's a purpose-built chip. It's silicon. That does this video encoding function, so what we talked about in the first case study, someone like a, like a Hulu, like an Amazon Prime, like anybody who's streaming live video, like a Facebook, like a YouTube, live, like a Facebook Live.

Anybody where you have a camera and then someone on the other end is watching, it could be video conferencing, could be Zoom. All of those require very fast and very efficient video encoding process. And you can just imagine that as, you know, as the user scale, then, you know, this becomes a, a pretty big challenge.

So this company has built this purpose-built silicon, designed it, produced it, very, very expensive process. And the challenge is, is that it's not sufficient. To kind of take your typical marketing tactics, which is what I, you know, explained as the setup, and just apply those in other words, like, okay, I'll get some, you know, I, I'll get the bullets from the engineering team and we'll go create a beautiful looking, you know, data sheet for example.

So how do you solve for this? Because you have to have business understanding and you have to be able to connect. Going back to what does the customer really care about? They will say they care about the speed, the performance, the quality of the product. And yes, that has to be validated. There's benchmarks.

All that's true. But at the end of the day, what they care about is, do you solve my problem? And so marketers who don't understand what the ecosystem is that the product's gonna be used in are gonna really struggle here. Really struggle a lot because what will happen is, is that the content that gets produced can be beautiful.

It can look really nice, but it doesn't connect to the ultimate question that that buying committee is asking, and that is, does this solve our problem? Period, whatever that problem is. And so this was something that I saw very, very plainly. Now, I had the advantage personally, coming from a technical background again, I mentioned, you know, I, I started programming when I was 12 and taught myself various languages and, you know, so I am a technical person, but I have spent my entire professional career in sales and market.

So I never actually, you know, I, you know, I don't code today is the point. But I learned early, early on that I needed to become a master of the, not only the domain, but an understanding, technical understanding of how not only does our product work, but how is it used by the customer. So the case study here and the unlock in terms of really providing a boost in marketing effectiveness is that I doubled down on building, you know, my network.

By actually learning and by intentionally creating and participating and basically being a salesperson really effectively, I. I have personally, you know, again, working alongside sales in some context, every company, you know, is a little bit different. I wouldn't suggest marketers just go rogue and just start, you know, selling outside of your, you know, normal channels, et cetera.

But to the extent that you can go out and directly drive revenue, it does so many things for you. First of all, you have empathy for what the real need is. By the buyer, by the customer, and what the problem is they're trying to solve. That then allows you to directly correlate and have a whole different lens to messaging, to positioning, to what you're saying about the product.

And I personally haven't experienced this process where I haven't come back and said, oh wow, we really need to rethink this positioning. Or, Hey, this sounds really cool what we're saying here. It's totally meaningless, you know, to, to the buyer. Yeah. Yeah. Here's what they 

really care about. 

Steve Goldhaber: Yeah. So, all right.

Fast forward to the part about you hiring a journalist Yeah. To, to get through some of this. This is interesting. Go ahead. 

Mark Donnigan: Yeah. So as marketers and as marketing leaders, you know, we're always, um, I think being presented with, even though, you know, there's like a common framework right into the roles that you might have and you know, and I tend to think that every company is a little bit different.

Every market is a little bit different based on the constraints that, you know, we have on either budget or, you know, there can be a lot of different constraints. Right. It doesn't necessarily make sense to always do the cookie cutter. Okay. You know, I have, I have these, you know, three generalists who I call marketing managers.

Then I have a director of marketing, and then I have a director of comms, and I have this, and I, you know, it's like, okay, you may have people filling those functions, but the problem is, is that what ends up typically happening again, if you're in a more technical environment and if you're in one of these protracted selling and you know, Selling processes, you know, where your sales cycle's, 12 to 18 months or longer, is that you end up with marketers who, you know, you look at the content, you're like, Hey, that's a great looking white paper.

Too bad. Like, it's sort of empty calories, you know? I mean, you read it, it's like, all right, it's well written. I mean, but. It just doesn't tell me anything. Like it's not gonna move anybody to say, I need to talk to this company. I need to learn about this technology, product, et cetera. So the aha was, what if I went to the market and looked for a journalist?

What if I found someone who is already writing? About the space, by very definition, they're gonna at least understand the ecosystem, even if they're not an expert on the technology aspect of our product. You know, they know very well who the stakeholders are, what the, you know, what the lay of the land is, and that's gonna give 'em a much better framework for positioning and for writing.

So I was fortunate enough to, you know, through relationships that I have, it's another benefit of staying in one particular ecosystem or industry or, you know, market for a. You kind of, you know, you get to know people and mm-hmm. And so I knew of someone who had a tremendous amount of experience, was writing in the area that this company produces products in and then, you know, sells to and has actually a great brand name individually.

And it was an opportunity was presented, which was partially opened up through just one of those casual conversations, right. And I, the bell went off in my, in my mind and I went, wow, this could be an amazing fit. We were able to bring him on and it's been just absolutely incredible because he's able to leverage his name and standing in the industry.

Because people trust him, even though now he's working for a vendor, which the first time in, you know, like 20 years because he had been an independent freelancer doing his own consulting, writing, you know, for a long, long time. But, but that wasn't lost. It's not like all of a sudden, oh no, this person's now working for a vendor.

I have to look at him different. They're like, No, no, I still, I'm still consuming his content online. He has his distribution channels, et cetera, and at the same time, he's able to bring that perspective of the customer, which I think is a real key message. I don't wanna get lost here. I. Is maybe you're not gonna be able to go find a journalist to hire onto your team, but you need to find marketers who have lived in the ecosystem, know the environment, can say, Hey, you know, I've been on sales calls, you know, I am on sales calls now.

I listen, I know what the customer cares about. I know what their fee. So important. 

Steve Goldhaber: Yep. Yep. I think credibility is just a huge part of the marketing process, and any times you can put your ego to the side as a marketer, good things can happen. So yeah. Thank you for sharing case study number two. I want, I wanna jump right into q and a.

All right. Let's do it. I know your first job as a coder, maybe doing good things or bad things. I, I don't know. I hear, I hear strange childhood coding stories from a lot of my friends of, of how they were up to no good at an early age, and I'm like, 

Mark Donnigan: yeah, no, no, no. I was, and, and my first job was not coding.

I never, no, I, uh, remember this is the Apple two and I taught myself basic, so I wasn't, wasn't exactly. Hacking the internet. No, my, you know, interestingly enough, I, I've heard you ask some of your other guests, you know, well, what was your first marketing job? This one's a little bit funny. So my first marketing job was for me, doing my own marketing.

It was a mailed out newsletter. I mean mailed like I Nice. 

Steve Goldhaber: How old are we talking? How old are we talking? 

Mark Donnigan: How old? Like the year? Yeah. No, like how old were you? Oh, how old? Oh, well, let's see. I was right outta college. I guess I was 26, maybe 27, something like that. I mean, I wasn't right. I was a couple years outta college.

I. And I was selling cars and I built from a newsletter I built ing this. No, no, I, I worked at a, at a new Toyota car dealership and Okay. Because I had been selling, I, you know, all through high school I worked at an Apple reseller. I worked at a hi-fi store through college. I managed a car audio. That's basically how I kind of put myself through college.

Managed a car audio store, and then I was an assistant manager to Radio Shack back when Radio Shack was around. So yeah, I had this whole sales thing. But yeah, so I mailed out a newsletter to my customers and to other people who were willing to give me their address and I'd bring my apple into my, my Mac se I think I had at the time set up on my desk.

Yeah. You know, and. And when the showroom was not busy, I'd be creating my newsletter. Seriously. That's amazing. That's, that was distribution, marketing job. 

Steve Goldhaber: How many, how many people were on the distribution list? 

Mark Donnigan: I probably like 25 for No, no. All right. No, no, no, no. I think I got it up to 50 because, because, you know, and not everybody I would sell, I, I would mail to, I had, I can't even remember all my criteria.

Steve Goldhaber: So this was like, you were a legit. We were speaking about long, long buying cycles before. I mean, automotive is a pretty, yeah, I mean, when you wanna buy a car, you're probably buying it in two to three months, but at least if you're convincing and playing the long game, that's pretty interesting. What would you talk about in the newsletter?

Mark Donnigan: Yeah, well, so, so I remember, and this is like really funny because I do not cook, but I had a res, I had like a Mark's recipes. So I had, I had Mark's recipes. I had I think one article on something like a new Toyota model or some Toyota News. And, and I set it out monthly. And by the way, I think I only set like three or four of these out.

So it's not like I, I mean, three or four months, you know, that I did it. Yeah. You know, I didn't end up, so it wasn't like this is a success, but you know, I, it's like I look back and I vision. If I kind of engage with these people, and maybe they'll refer me to their, the concept was that they would tell their neighbor, you know, the neighbor would say, oh, I love that new Camry.

How do you like it? You know, and they'd say, oh, I love it. Hey, you should go talk to Mark. You know, that was the concept. So, yeah. 

Steve Goldhaber: I love, you know, just, I love the unorthodoxy there 'cause no one, no one's gonna think about doing that. There's, it reminds me of a story of a real estate agent, if I remember the story correctly, they were in California, there was a big garbage strike going on and there was this standoff with like a local, local village.

Yeah. And the garbage just started to pile up and stink for, you know, 3, 4, 5 weeks. And a real estate agent who was newer. Said, you know what? This is my opportunity. I am going to pay for all of this garbage to be removed. So he did that, hired the company, and then that day wrote, you know, a one page letter to everyone saying, hi, my name is so-and-so.

Sure. I'm a new real estate agent in town. I care about the community so much that I've just taken all the trash away. I've paid for it. Hopefully this contract gets resolved shortly. I just love that example is like, think of the brand awareness of a real estate agent that you didn't know. That's, and now you know, and now, now you're probably gonna take him out and buy him a coffee from doing it.

Mark Donnigan: That's right. Well, it's that affinity and it goes back to even talking about community. You know, in the case study, you know, the first case study, like we're trying to just build affinity. I, I actually hate the term B two B. Because it's not business to business, it's human to human. It's H to H. You know, at the end of the day, I don't go to my office or you know, or people work virtually now.

But you know, I'm not at work making a decision. And somehow I flip into this different dispassionate, totally disconnected mindset, like I'm still human, right? So I'm talking to this guy, Steve, who I think can help me, and I like Steve, like a good guy too. You know what? I think Steve can help us. Right. You know that that's how it goes.

It's not, you know, this disconnected. So, and yet Yeah. Sometimes, you know, our strategies and tactics treat it like Steve is this disconnected, you know, entity that, you know, we are, we're marketing to. And it's like, no, it's Steve's a human 

Steve Goldhaber: by, by the way, I'm, I'm laughing because it reminds me I have to tell a personal story now.

This is a long time ago. I worked at an agency. I was going in front of a, a really big retailer, and it was essentially a buying committee. Mm-hmm. And I was one of probably 15 vendors. Oh yeah. That day that, that was asked to come in and give a, Hey, give us a 20 minute pitch about who you are. You know, someone at the company introduces me.

I, I start presentation. No one is looking at me like, there is, there is zero eye contact. And I'm just going like, what's going on here? Like, I, my delivery is off. I need to like, reset. Yeah. And, and it was funny. It just, it was the most awkward 20 minutes. And then afterwards the host of the meeting took me aside and he's like, don't worry.

They, they don't make eye contact on purpose. They want, they don't want to be attached to the presenter because like, this is all they do. And as soon as they have a, a connection, yeah. They feel like they're gonna be kind of swayed one way or the other. And I was just like, oh my God. That's, that's fascinating.

That's bizarre. It's like, it's like they went to the poker conference on how Yeah. How to have your poker face up the whole meeting. Don't make eye contact. Don't let them see. 

Mark Donnigan: They, they should have at least all you're dark sunglasses so they could at least be looking at you and not seeing the eye. But, but I guess the point was they didn't wanna see you, not the other way around, but.

Steve Goldhaber: It, it was the most bizarre thing. Anyway. That's bizarre. Total segue. Um, alright. Another question for you. Yeah. What, what's one thing looking back that you've really kind of, you didn't get at the time, but now you, you have clarity on as it relates to like your own growth as a marketer, what do you, what do you look back and, and learn from?

Mark Donnigan: Wow. The, there's a lot, but this is the one that I routinely talk to people about, remind them about, you know, and say, do this one more growth hacking. Trick is not what you need. Learn business. 

Steve Goldhaber: I thought you were gonna share the one more. No. Perfect growth hacking trick. No, I was really listening. 

Mark Donnigan: No, no.

Learn business. Learn your business. Yeah. I find way, way, way too many marketers who their head is full of incredible knowledge about, you know, all kinds of, you know, gray and white hat, ss e o techniques and, I mean, just go down the list, right? And look, all of that is needed. But the problem is, is that there's often this feeling of like, I, I need one more.

I need to attend one more webinar. I need to buy one more tool. I need, you know, I need, I need, I need, and then we're gonna be successful. And I routinely just, just last week I was having a conversation with a marketing director. I made the observation, you know, it, it'd be too long and involved to go into the whole detail, but I made the observation of like, you don't need to implement that whole program.

Why don't you just get on the phone and call a few customers? You know? And this person's response was like, well, I'm not sales. And I said, but you are talking about implementing this whole long process to drive revenue when. I'm telling you, I can make that happen in probably the next hour by just getting on the phone.

Yeah, yeah. You know, and there was that pregnant pause of like, that sunk in what I just said. They were gonna implement a 30 day program that's gonna cost money, be incredibly labor intensive, and there was no arguing that somebody could have gotten on the phone and one hour achieved nearly the same result.

Steve Goldhaber: Yeah. Yeah. So that's, that's great insight. I, I think that marketers do just get caught up in the, call it the marketing bunker. Mm-hmm. That place we all go to and it's strategy, it's marketing shop, but there's nothing like just a good old, Hey, go talk to someone. Go pick up a phone and, or even if you can't get to your customer, Someone in the industry that you can at least say, Hey, what do you think a person in this role cares about?

Yeah. You know, and there's, yeah. I think we just make that, that mistake so many times is, uh, oh, that's not our job. Yeah. That's, yeah. That's tricky. 'cause now I have, I may have to ask permission or Sure. You know, and a lot of times the Salesforce, you know, it's, it's, it's their book of business. Mm-hmm. And they don't, you know, right or wrong in their perspective, they don't want people messing with it.

I, I remember I was talking to a salesperson once, I was asked to go out as part of a, it was like some client entertainment, and I was the marketing guy Ah, that got asked to join. Yeah. And we were just doing a Salesforce migration and the, and the leader of the company was making a big push to say like, salespeople, I need your information.

And Salesforce. Yeah. And this one salesperson I was talking to just said, here's my book. He literally showed me the book of all his notes and his, and his contacts, and he goes, I'm not putting it in Salesforce. And you know, we just had a great conversation about why he wasn't gonna do it. And that insight right there changed the whole perspective on the whole program.

Mm-hmm. Of how do you make it happen. Yeah. You know, it had nothing to do with the technical imple Yeah. Implementation of it. Yeah. It's a, it's a culture thing and ultimately it's a, it's a c e o decision. That's right. Are you gonna force this or not? Yeah. 'cause if, if, if you've got no teeth behind mandating it, it ain't gonna happen.

Yeah, that's right. Yeah. This just real good conversations are way more productive. 

Mark Donnigan: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. 

Steve Goldhaber: Well, mark, I've enjoyed having you on the show. I, I think you've got a really cool background and love that you're, that you're living in tech. I wish I got into tech sooner because it's just, It is a very sexy category for me.

Although I was very early on, I was in tech before it was a thing because I was in the satellite business, so, oh yeah. Okay. I started, I started at, uh, US Satellite Broadcasting, which became DirecTV. Yeah. And at the time, that was like a very sexy new technology. We were, you know, we were launching satellites.

That's right. We were taking down cable. And for my two years or so working at that company, I felt like it was, it was cutting edge technology. So it's, it's, yeah. It's fun to be in that, in that part of the world. 

Mark Donnigan: It is, it is. It is fun. Yeah. Well, it's been great talking with you, Steve, and, uh, really appreciate the opportunity.

I hope some of the insights shared are useful or will be useful to your audience. 

Steve Goldhaber: Yeah. All right. Well, thanks again, mark, and thank you to all the listeners who joined us again for another episode of Interesting B2B marketers. Until next time, take care everyone. See you.