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Episode 5: Lessons Learned from Marketing B2B Services

Brandon Snyder, Director of Marketing
HMB

Brandon Snyder is a Columbus, OH, marketing consultant with a deep understanding (and admiration) for small businesses. Brandon is also the Director of Marketing for HMB, an information and technology services company in Columbus, OH.

With over 10 years of experience having started, ran and exited businesses of his own, Brandon is uniquely qualified to help small business owners better leverage marketing to grow their business.

Many businesses struggle with marketing for one key reason: uncertainty. Brandon is on a mission to bring a mindset, framework, and tools that revenue teams can use to make marketing and sales& success more predictable.

Episode Description: 

Today my guest is Brandon Snyder, Director of Marketing at HMB. So who is HMB? Well, HMB is a trusted and well-respected IT solutions firm in Columbus, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky, and they help mid- to large-size enterprises deliver custom technology solutions to help their clients solve their biggest business challenges. Now, Brandon is a self-described scrappy creative marketer with a passion for consulting, bringing teams together, and building strong relationships internally and with clients to net big results. So I sat down in the Minds On studio to talk about what he's most passionate about, and to see what I could learn and what you could learn from this super positive professional.

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00:06 Speaker 1: B2B marketing and sales can be tough to master. Sales cycles can be long, and buyers are notoriously difficult to close. That's why you need Minds On at your side. We're a B2B marketing and digital agency that's helped more than 200 clients evolve their brands, win more business, and succeed more often. And we're ready to help you. Visit www.mindson.com today to schedule your no obligation consultation. Now, on to today's program.

00:37 Dan Harris: I'm your host, Dan Harris, and welcome back to another episode of Minds On B2B. Thank you so much everyone for clicking, subscribing, sharing, downloading, and of course, listening to our podcast. This is a weekly show dedicated to helping busy B2B executives, marketers, and sales professionals stay informed, learn something new, and perhaps apply a lesson learned or run with an idea shared by our guests. As we say at Minds On, all of our minds together are better than any one mind alone. Who knows, you just might like what you hear, connect and network with us.

01:13 DH: Today my guest is Brandon Snyder, Director of Marketing at HMB. So who is HMB? Well, HMB is a trusted and well-respected IT solutions firm in Columbus, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky, and they help mid to large-size enterprises deliver custom technology solutions to help their clients solve their biggest business challenges. Now, Brandon is a self-described scrappy creative marketer with a passion for consulting, bringing teams together, and building strong relationships internally and with clients to net big results. So I sat down in the Minds On studio to talk about what he's most passionate about, and to see what I could learn and what you could learn from this super positive professional.

02:02 DH: Brandon, welcome to the show. So let's start off, you know the premise of the show?

02:07 Brandon Snyder: Sure.

02:07 DH: So I wanna understand exactly what are you passionate about when it comes to B2B?

02:12 BS: Well, okay. So I think what I really enjoy about B2B marketing is the consulting nature of B2B marketing. I originally come from a background selling sexy tech products and apps, and more business to consumer. And when you do that, there's almost a formula for how you do it, there's almost a template to how you actually go out there and do lead gen, it's...

02:35 DH: I agree 100%.

02:36 BS: It's almost like you follow this formula and good things happen, which is great if you're in a SaaS company. But in B2B it's not like that, you really have to get creative 'cause so much about what you're trying to do is create relationships with people.

02:50 DH: Exactly.

02:51 BS: Which is really challenging to do. And a lot of times when you're on that path to create those relationships, the organization challenges you to operate like you're a lean start-up, so you have to be really creative, and all of the things that you do in operating lean is... It makes everything a little bit more turbulent, a little bit more exciting. And I know, at least today in the organization that I work in, HMB, the deals we win when we have strong customer relationships, they're six-figure or million dollar deals, so even though things are turbulent, when the marketing and sales things you're doing work, they net big results. And when that happens in your organization, everyone raves about it, and they talk about it, you feel really good. So I like being part of an organization where you have to be a scrappy, lean, creative marketer [laughter] to build relationships that do good things for your organization.

03:42 DH: And I agree with you 100%, relationships are important, and it's a long-term relationship you're looking for.

03:47 BS: Absolutely.

03:48 DH: So as you operate in this business and you're building these relationships, can you share with the audience something you did that failed miserably, or at least a failed to some level, and what did you learn from it and what could they learn from?

04:06 BS: Totally man, listen, it doesn't matter what sort of marketing you're in, you're gonna fail at some point, and I would encourage everyone to fail. Because if you fail you're trying, right?

04:18 DH: Exactly.

04:18 BS: If you never fail, you're never trying. I think one of my favorite failures that I've had is we... At the company I work at, HMB, we sold a technology consulting solution to an education... To high schools basically. And we had one raving. And they loved the things we did, they loved the managed services IT solutions that we brought to them. And so we thought, "Well shit, this one customer loves us, surely the problems they're having, there's a whole market full of these customers, right?"

04:52 DH: [chuckle] Yeah.

04:53 BS: So dude, we went hard, and we developed a really killer direct mail campaign that was targeted to schools, it had the messaging that... The customer that loved us actually helped consult with us and develop this messaging, they did a testimonial video.

05:06 DH: Nice.

05:07 BS: The direct mailer had a video component built into it. Dude, we spent a considerable amount of money developing a targeted list of superintendents and treasurers, [chuckle] and we launched it near this education trade show that was happening. And the idea is at the trade show, all those people were gonna be there and we were just gonna hustle and talk to them. And we got a lot of compliments. Everyone's like, "Yeah, that was a really cool package you sent to us, very creative," but not a single person thought that the pain that which we were trying to prescribe our solution to, thought it was great enough to hire us. So we went out and spent a considerable amount of money, and I think there was some good brand awareness that was generated, but we certainly didn't get any revenue out of it, and that was a costly mistake.

05:49 BS: So I think the lesson learned there is because you have one or two or three customers in your market saying kind of the same thing, it doesn't constitute a trend. So when your business is saying, "Marketing, go out here and help generate revenue," it's an expensive proposition if you go out there building your messaging and campaigns off of what you think the pains in the market are. You really need to go out there and talk to as many customers as you can talk to, you need to do surveys to the greater market to correlate patterns and trends. And this is a much better way to reap the benefits from a campaign rather than just guessing. Make sense?

06:34 DH: Yeah, it does make sense. And I think the other thing that potentially people could learn from this, too, is tying back to what you said before, in B2B it's about relationships, and to build relationships you have to have conversations. So why not equip the business development team, your sales team, your executives, to have conversations with those prospective teachers and school systems before you invest in that effort. So surveys is one good thing, but just a good phone call, a face-to-face meeting, asking their opinion, getting that feedback in aggregate makes a huge difference.

07:13 BS: Oh, Dan, that's totally true. And those are things moving forward, when we design most of our campaigns now we don't like to go in there blind [chuckle] like we used to, 'cause that was an expensive mistake. And it happens more than you think. I would wager if you talk to 10 B2B marketers, I would wager probably eight of them are doing this. They're doing the same thing. And it's because to do that kind of research you need to understand the real problem, it takes time, it takes money, and the business doesn't see the immediate ROI of doing those things. But let me tell you, they will feel the pain when you spend $30,000 to run an effort for a quarter and it's generated no dollars. They will remember that. [chuckle] And that will make your job going forward harder, because they'll always look back to that one failure and say, "Well, remember when this happened? Why would we give you money to do this thing when this failed so miserably?" And it just makes your job harder, and then you gotta fight for another big win to put a blanket over the failure.

08:10 DH: Well, and obviously, you're still at HMB, [laughter] right? So you must have been able to work your way out of that conversation. So it's kind of a cool transition, so let's talk about the opposite, something that was truly successful, and why, and what did you learn from that, and what can our audience learn from you?

08:29 BS: Yeah, that's a great question, and I like how you kinda segued it with I'm still at HMB. [chuckle] And honestly, what I'm about to tell you has been a big success, it's probably why. I think so often B2B owners, or the business in general, they'll tell sales and marketing, "Hey, if you could do one thing for us really well, it's a lead generation." But I think what they're really trying to say is, "Marketer and sales, we wanna make more money." And they automatically, through a lot of marketing that happened in the good old days of traditional advertising, when lead gen was much easier, they associate lead gen with the way of which you fill your pipeline and have lots of money. And I would wager today that in B2B that that's not necessarily true anymore. So for those of you listening, Dan and I had an interesting conversation before this about, well, where do you start? If you have limited resources, where do you start in your sales and marketing organization? What's closest to the money? And for me, it was really sales enablement, really focusing on understanding the life cycle of our buyers, and then making sure we have the right tools, so things like one-sheets, webinars, demos, e-books, white paper, those sort of things. It's making sure we had the right tools at the right time to engage customers who are ready to work with us.

09:51 BS: So much of success in sales in the kind of consulting organization we are, is speed. Do you have what I want when I'm thinking about it, when the pain is real and I'm actively searching for a solution? And there's a statistic, it's like 80% of sales success is if you're first and you're fast. And we traditionally didn't have those tools ready, so instead of focusing on lead gen, we really said, "Okay, what's our storefront of solutions look like?", and it was really weak. So we spent almost an entire year just really rebuilding our marketing tool kit that we used to actually help close deals. 'Cause what we realized is we didn't need a high volume of leads to hit our revenue targets; we had a ton of great customers. The real challenge was, well, how do we upsell more stuff to them, and the people in the closing stage of our funnel, how do we push them over the edge? And really sales enablement was that thing. So we built killer tools. Sales scalability was another thing. So how do we make these tools? We have something called the super deck.

10:57 DH: Woah.

10:57 BS: Yeah. [chuckle] Sales traditionally... You can find this stat anywhere online, something like 40% of sales time is spent doing non-sales activity, which is super detrimental to sales success, right?

11:11 DH: Yep.

11:11 BS: And we experienced that at our organization because a lot of our sales reps were spending an inordinate amount of time searching for content, searching for tools, building presentations and proposals. So what marketing did was we basically templatized everything, so everything you needed, the salespeople, was 85% built, and you just had to add that 15% touch that makes it relevant to that target.

11:33 DH: Yeah, yeah, and I like the idea because I know you've built those templates, you've built those, and you've delivered them to sales and shared with them how to use it, and then you've also gained feedback from them on how to improve it, and consistently evolve the presentation. So I think that's something that I think is a huge benefit to anybody listening is that have those conversations with sales, equip them, not only just throw the deck over to 'em and say, "Here you go," but have a conversation with them on how to use it, why it's important, why it matters, where to find it. 'Cause we've talked to several clients and they've created all these tools but sales doesn't know they exist or they don't know where to find them. So you've done a nice job at that, and I think it's a huge benefit to your organization to have someone like you in that position, leading that cause.

12:27 BS: Yeah, and I'm so happy you brought that up, 'cause that alignment is... It's paramount. You need to have really tight communication between your sales and marketing teams. 'Cause I think marketers, you're going to have a better understanding of how to message and position things in general, but sales will definitely know the cust... At least in my experience at HMB, sales knows the customer, and they know if the language I'm using or how I'm positioning things is going to resonate with our actual real buyers.

12:56 DH: Exactly.

12:56 BS: So I like to think I get things 80% there and sales helps shape that final 20% to make it really powerful. And so you have to have a cadence of when you deliver your sales enablement tools to them, and they review it, and then you kinda go back and finish it.

13:10 DH: Yeah, well, that's fantastic, and I think from a standpoint of tips, ideas, tricks, as we wrap up, I want anybody listening who listened to us babble on for 20 minutes [chuckle] to walk away with something that you found valuable that you've applied in B2B that can be about sales, about marketing, but a tip, a tool, a technique, share with us.

13:38 BS: Sure, man. And it's hard to pinpoint one, [chuckle] but I'll try. So I think...

13:43 DH: Alright, I'll let you do two. [chuckle]

13:45 BS: Okay, okay, well, let's see if I can get one, if I need to expand it to two. So I think in my experience I have totally underestimated how much I would need to educate our business, our C-suite and our VPs on the marketing things we're gonna do. And by the way, this is hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money that they're giving to me to go out and do my job. And I've never appreciated how big of an ask that was. So at every turn I would be like, "Hey, here are the things I wanna do,' and they're like, "Woah, woah, woah, what do you mean we're gonna go out and spend $30,000 on this or $10,000 on this?" And I was like, "What's the big deal?" 'Cause in my B2C sexy product marketing life, that's... Whatever, I could do whatever I needed to.

14:29 DH: Drop in the bucket, yeah.

14:30 BS: So once I got out of my own head and just accepted that, "Hey, I have a responsibility to make sure my clients, the C-suite, understand what we're going to do and they feel comfortable, that's a big part of my job." And once I got out of my own head and started doing that, I actually started to really enjoy it. And that's the consulting part of B2B, again, that I'm really passionate about now. And once... And you can see it, once they understand the connection they really appreciate it. And then you suddenly have liberty to go and to do the things you need to do to help your marketing and thus your company be successful from a revenue standpoint.

15:08 DH: Yeah, so give me an example of how you educated the senior level team on what you wanted to accomplish.

15:14 BS: Oh sure, so going back to resources, we talked about tight resources. When you have the budget conversation, especially in B2B marketing, it's how much should we invest in marketing? And by the way, I wanna emphasize, it's an investment.

15:31 DH: I love that, I love that, because it's not, "Here's what I wanna spend, here's what I wanna invest."

15:35 BS: It's not a cost, when you're marketing, it's an investment 'cause there's a return. So we had a big conversation about, "Well, how do we know?" We used to just be funded by initiative, but the mistake there is when you're funded by initiative is, you have no long-term forecast into what you're going to spend, you have no long-term forecast into what you think your returns are going to be. So I had to do a whole educational scenario around how to determine what you should invest. So I did it through a combination of this online calculator that I found online that was created by a company called Web Strategies. And it's awesome, by the way. I don't know if in this blog or in this podcast you can link to it somehow but it...

16:16 DH: Yeah, we'll put it in the podcast notes, for sure.

16:18 BS: It was paramount, 'cause I could show them statistically, "Hey, we're a B2B consulting company with this much revenue, with this sort of marketing team size," and this calculator has some sort of algorithm based off of market research that says statistically companies of your size and your space are investing this much. So that's the analytical way to justify marketing investment. The other one's from your gut. And this is the much harder part to communicate, but I think it's the critical other half of the equation. And really I just talk through like, "Hey, guys, are we in growth mode or planning mode? If we're in growth mode, then check. [chuckle] You should wanna go there and do those investment things. What are your business goals? Do you need to be at a much... At 30% next year, greater than what you were this year? If so, you cannot do that, you can't continue to scale your revenue efforts without scaling your marketing and sales efforts accordingly, it doesn't work." So I think there there's the... So anyway, to go back to answer your question, I educated them on the data-driven part of the budget question and the gut, and connecting it to the business, and I think that was very paramount in helping them understand how we need to position our budget, our marketing budget for next year.

17:38 DH: Well, and I think it's interesting, because if you go back to the very first question where you failed, in order for you to have that gut, I think you have to fail. You mentioned that, fail fast, fail often, just don't fail again in that same aspect, right? So no, that's great advice. And that web calculator, for a budget calculator, I think that's an amazing tool. So we will... We'll put that on the show notes. So here's a question, if anyone listening wants to get a hold of you or wants to learn more about HMB, how do they go about doing that?

18:07 BS: I have my own blog site, it's www.brandon-snyder.com. I put out weekly videos, I put a lot of fresh B2B small business marketing content, so feel free to reach out to me on my site. At HMB, you can definitely visit us at www.hmbnet.com.

18:27 DH: That's fantastic. All right, well, thank you so much for your time today. For those of you listening, please follow up with Brandon, take a look at his site, and join us again next week for the next episode of Minds On B2B.

18:43 S1: Thanks for listening to today's Minds On B2B podcast. If you like what you heard today, please subscribe. Also, feel free to share this episode with your peers and colleagues so we can keep bringing you quality content from the best minds in B2B. Until next time, from all of us at Minds On, have a great week.

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