Did you catch last month’s episode of Revenue Rebels? We’re back with part 2 of “How to Accelerate Company Growth Strategically” as Darryl details the last step in his 4-step approach to strategically growing VanillaSoft in just over a year:
Rinse and Repeat
Make some Noise
Listen to the full episode to hear Darryl and Rhoan discuss growth tactics, team restructuring, business team alignment, and transformation results.
About Darryl Praill
Darryl Praill, Chief Marketing Officer of VanillaSoft, is a high-tech marketing executive with over 25 years’ experience spanning startups, re-starts, consolidations, acquisitions, divestments and IPO’s. He has been widely quoted in the media including television, press, and trade publications. He is a guest lecturer, public speaker, and radio personality and has been featured in numerous podcasts, case studies, and best-selling books.
Host: Rhoan Morgan, DemandLab
Guest: Darryl Praill, VanillaSoft
Rhoan Morgan: Thanks so much for the introduction, Paul. And welcome back to Revenue Rebels. I’m Rhoan Morgan, your host and this program is sponsored by DemandLab. Thank you so much listeners for joining today. I’m really excited today because we have got part two of a great conversation that we had last time with Darryl Praill, who is the Chief Marketing Officer of VanillaSoft. He is joining us to continue what I thought was a pretty exciting conversation around if the steps to accelerating company growth through a marketing transformation. Darryl, thank you so much for joining us again today.
Darryl Praill: I am thrilled to be here. And you know, as one marketer to another, whenever there’s a part two that means part one was juicy and full of good tidbits so let’s carry on the conversation.
Rhoan Morgan: Exactly. I knew we were going to have to lead into a part two as we were winding through our 22 minutes last time. Excited to be able to continue the conversation. Why don’t we just sort of do a quick intro on your four-staged approach to marketing transformation and what you’ve been doing there at VanillaSoft to kind of get people caught up and then we can start where we left off, which was at the growth phase, the last phase that you’ve been in for a while now.
Darryl Praill: Yeah, no problem. So, the first stages I took that I use, it works for me and we had this conversation last time. It’s a great chance to recapture it, is when we start a job you want to do everything all at once. And the reality is, we can’t do that. The second thing is the leadership or the sales teams all want you to contribute to the pipeline all at once and have media and social impressions and whatnot and it just doesn’t work that way. So it was all about putting together, for me, was a one year plan that made it very consumable and digestible and logical, and everybody understood it.
So kind of four stages, one per quarter, if you will. First step I had was triage. Kind of go in, figure out your systems that you have in place, what you need to have in place, get a baseline of your metrics, make sure the integration is going through your whole marketing stack. From marketing automation, to sales engagement, to CRM as well as any other pieces you might have in there. Whether it be email or landing pages or whatnot, your whole stack so that you can get a holistic understanding of what you’re doing and you can measure your progress. That’s critical, and especially with your website, your social channels, defining what is your keywords, what is your tracking, your UTMs, all that wonderful stuff. So triage. Get your systems and your house in order because that’s going to become your single record of truth moving forward to prove that you’re making a difference.
The second part was rinse and repeat. So if one was triage, two is rinse and repeat, which is the process of establishing with the team, however big or small it is, what exactly you’re going to do every single month. Maybe it’s every quarter, it’s every week, whatever. For us, it was a monthly basis. And then it’s building templates, repeatable processes around those. You set expectations with your stakeholders and with your community on what to expect. Scheduling, frequency timing, all that kind of stuff. And you no longer have to ensure that we didn’t forget a step or forget something because you’ve got a template.
In our case, the second Tuesday of every month is always a product webinar. We’re talking about a feature or function in our product that anybody can listen to, not just our install base. The fourth Thursday is always a thought leadership webinar. We have all these dates that were just rinse and repeat and we managed it all, the project manager tool or content manager tool will be used at the HQ but you can use base camp or travel wherever you want to. The point is, it’s rinse and repeat.
Once you’ve got that pattern three months of doing that schedule that cadence over and over again, now you can just forget it because now you’re on autopilot. Third one was make some noise. So now that you’re feeling good about your systems, now that you’ve got the kind of demand generation and shall we say the brand building awareness programs rinse and repeat are occurring on a regular basis, now I need to go out to the outside world and really start growing our community, growing our visibility and fundamentally make sure you’re found. It could be trade shows, could be speaking gigs, but it’s really make some noise. So you can identify who are the influencers are, can identify the channels you want to go after, your budget, all that kind of stuff. So make some noise was step three.
And then step four, it’s grow. Now that I’ve got some noise and now I’m filling the pipeline and my systems are telling me everything’s going on, how do I take the company to the next step? How do I do that? And there’s lots of tactics. We’ll talk about that today. But it was about growing. So, it’s not just about maintaining, it’s about growing. Again [inaudible] in the regrowth. So the idea is after one year you can say look at the transformation that has taken place. One per quarter, scalable, reasonable, you can ramp your staff as required, you can ramp your budgetary spend as required, and you can show results at every step along the way. So you’re earning street cred, and you’re getting buy-in from your key stakeholders. And that was the four-step process; triage, rinse and repeat, make some noise, grow.
Rhoan Morgan: One of the things that you mentioned before in the rinse and repeat is really about scalability. So something that you create the sort of very strong foundation, you’ve got your programs in place, then as you’re continuing forward you can sort of go back, look at those numbers, see where you want to invest, see where perhaps you shouldn’t be investing anymore, and then really double down on those areas of success.
Darryl Praill: That’s huge. And that’s why the triage stage is so important, because it gives you that baseline. So now you can measure the results of your rinse and repeat process, know which channels are working better for me, which lists are working better for me, then you start doing some A/B testing to see how do I optimize the conversion ratio. But you can’t do that within triage first. The other point there is truly about efficiency. So, how can we automate this? So again, the triage process, maybe I put in some Zapier connections to make sure I’m updating various Google Sheets, everything else that are necessary within the company so that I don’t have this manual data entry process and my team could focus on doing what they do, as opposed to admin work. So that was huge.
Rhoan Morgan: Yeah. Well, as you know, I’m a big fan of automation.
Darryl Praill: Yes.
Rhoan Morgan: Now you’re in the growth phase and you’re looking back, maybe tell us what exactly is happening during this growth phase. Sounds like it is a lot of studying what’s been done, refinement, advancement, but what are some of the less obvious pieces of the growth phase of this puzzle?
Darryl Praill: I actually gave a presentation on this recently to a Product Management Association. We had about 1000 product marketers and product management people when I was speaking about guerrilla marketing. And we actually had this conversation. Some of the growth tactics you can do that or perhaps less obvious, and I’ll just go through a few. We can just cherry pick these. Don’t be afraid to challenge the experts. You do it with courtesy and with respect. But just because a bestselling author who’s got 50,000 followers out there says the sky is blue doesn’t mean the sky is blue.Don't be afraid to challenge the experts. You do it with courtesy and with respect. ~ @ohpinion8ted #RevenueRebels Click To Tweet
You can call them out, you can do that I can say respectfully. What we ended up doing was we would actually have a little debate back and forth, maybe a few to and frost on LinkedIn wherever these discussions happening. And then I would reach out to them directly behind the scenes and I would say “Rhoan, it seems we disagree in this topic but it also seems there’s a lot passion in the community about it. Let’s do a live debate. You are position A, I am position B and I don’t need to win and you don’t need to win because no matter what, we’re both going to say something and the community will get value out of it. We know there’s traction here. People like conflict, you’re on A and I’m on B, let’s do it.”
And we’ve had fantastic success with that. We’ve had webinars well in excess of 1000 people live streaming. The beauty of that is you’re building your brand by leveraging their brand and you’re building their reach by leveraging their reach. And the other part about that is they’re promoting you. So it’s giving you that subtle endorsement, which I know we all kind of know by now. But the reality is you’re not just doing it by email, now you’re doing it on social and you’re using multiple pieces of content video to do it. In my case, often it’ll appear to the public that influencer I’m arguing with on social network like we’re fighting. Behind the scenes, I’m like, “Okay, so tomorrow, I’m going to post a video saying you suck. You’ll wait 24 hours and then you post a video saying I suck. Okay, now you go and three days from now and you go get your network to take side. They’ll take your side, and I’ll get my network to take my side.”
So you kind of build up this guerilla hype, this anticipation. And it’s amazing how that gets a lot of traction. So that’s the one thing, don’t be afraid to challenge the experts. Don’t be afraid to consult with the enemy. I took on my competition earlier this year. They’ve been making hay of the stack this statistic and a piece of research that they’ve done and they say, “This is the truth and if you don’t do this you’re stupid.” I actually took that video clip and I went to a trade show and I played it. Here’s my competition saying if you don’t do this you’re stupid. Paul, any people in the audience don’t do this. Most of them don’t do it. So according to my competition you’re stupid. I said let me explain to you why my competition’s wrong. And then I went and did it.
Now what was great about this was I was able to identify a few agitators in the crowd who I know on Social Night and before this, I said, “Hey, check out what I’m going to do. I’m going to show video me going after my competition.” They filmed it, they posted it, they tagged my competition. So now he’s responding behind the scenes he and I are coordinating. Oh my gosh, Let’s have some fun with this. Don’t be afraid. Your competition is not your competition. Yes, they’re going for the same buck you’re going for but usually, in most cases, there’s lots of bucks to be had and you can’t all get it.
So work with your competition to create a little hype. So consult with the enemy I call that. Don’t be afraid to call out falsehoods. Again, if somebody says the sky is blue, you can say you’re wrong. And you can have that debate, you don’t have to have the live stream like I talked about earlier, you can just have that conversation. What you need to understand is that social media especially, it’s full of lurkers. There’s only a small percentage of people who actually contribute to the conversation. Most people are reading, and they’re watching, and they’re observing, and they’re forming opinions. And when they see you not being afraid to take on the thought leaders, but being respectful, having a valid take, your street cred goes up dramatically. And now they start talking about you. That’s a big thing. Nothing is news, Jack.
So give an example. We don’t have any venture funding at VanillaSoft, we grew organically. It’s crazy. But we’re making a lot of money without any venture funding. But my competition, they do. So why does that matter? Well, because they got a fair amount of vendor funding, they reach over 100 million in funding. There’s a lot of financial analysts and a lot of research firms that track them; the classic Google Alerts. So what do I do? I go out and I issue press releases and I tag my competition in my press release. And I know that within seconds, that community who follows my competition now knows about me. So a good example of what we did, was we invested a lot of money into growing all of our reviews on sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra, even Google. And we dramatically raised it and depending on the report analysis you do, you can see that we’re better now than our competition based on user feedback.
I issued a press release saying we’re better than them, meaning them. The beauty of what I did there with the press release and naming my competition, was that I got a lot of visibility with the people, I hit the real unknown influencers that I can’t easily reach. They all found out about me, and within hours I had multiple tier one venture capitalists calling us up to say, “Hey, you guys are doing some great stuff. Let’s talk.” That’s all about make some noise and guerilla. That’s just some example like a lot more, I can go on for hours. I don’t want to consume the whole content in that point.The beauty of what I did there with the #PressRelease and naming my competition, was that I got a lot of visibility 👀 with the people that I can't easily reach. @ohpinion8ted Click To Tweet
Rhoan Morgan: Very fun, and some pretty exciting and pretty bold ideas there which I think takes some certain types of personalities to be able to pull off for sure. And I’m actually excited to try a few of them out myself. I would never even have thought of it. Let’s take a quick break, quick little commercial from Paul, from the sponsor, DemandLab and then we’ll be back in just a minute to continue the conversation with Darryl.
Thanks Paul. We have been speaking with Darryl Praill who is walking us through his fourth stage of his four part approach to accelerating company growth through marketing transformation. Super exciting stuff. We just got through some really interesting guerrilla tactics that I absolutely love and can’t wait actually implement ourselves. What I’d love to be able to do is talk a little bit about some of the results you’ve been able to measure and then let’s get into some of the team, how you’ve grown your team. Can you talk to data points or anything specific that you guys are looking at every day and are able to attribute to your process?
Darryl Praill: Sure. So, we track all of our channels and our channels that we track would be leads coming from white papers or ebooks, review sites, Capterra, YouTube, G2 Crowd, search engine marketing, organic search, webinars, and events. And those are the primary ones. What I can tell you as search engine marketing for me and my market is the most expensive actual cost per lead CPL above all. However, it has the highest conversion rate. I think it’s because of intent. People are going, they’re seeking intentionally and they’re finding you. So search engine marketing is an expensive investment for me, it is a very high CPL, biggest conversion and the biggest deal size.
Now, if you want a very affordable cost per lead, and I can tell you my search engine marketing costs are over $300 CPL. Now webinars or live streams for me, my CPL is six bucks a person. Still has a reasonable conversion rate but for context, search engine marketing is upwards of 20% conversion into a [inaudible] free trial, whereas webinars are around 5%. So there’s a four time there, but it’s six bucks per. But if I do four times six, then that’s obvious in the six bucks $24. So it’s all relative, but I get a much bigger reach in webinars. My volume is substantially higher.
So webinars are great for building brand and reputation, they are a very viable lead source but search engine marketing is much better for us. Review sites are very strong for us. Our CPL is … It’s up there. It’s a little less than search engine marketing, but conversion rates almost 10% on that one into actual a free trial. Organic is the best. And that’s where I’ve been weakest and I will admit it. When I made the decisions of where I was going to invest the pot’s only so big, and I did not invest in SEO. That bit me in the butt on multiple times. But, I talked to lots of experts and they kind of said, “Listen, if you’ve got the budget, go search engine marketing first, and then go backwards afterwards and fix SEO.” And that’s exactly where I’m at now.
If I look at where do I need help, I need help on that SEO and that’s what I focus on right now. Finally, events. Events are expensive. We look at events not really as a lead generation machine although they do, of course. What we look at them for is for visibility and reputation building. So we won’t do an event unless we’re speaking and that’s a paid gig for speaking, I don’t care, it’s fine. I want my brand visible, I want to be speaking. The biggest thing we did in all of this and all of our marketing, you talked earlier on about it takes a certain kind of person to do this, we define roles and responsibilities for key people in the company.
In our case, we have to public faces; the CEO and myself. Then we have two roles. The CEO is good cop, I’m bad cop. And that means I am the person who can be out there and have an opinion and stir the pot. He’s the person that’s going to be the academic, the person that talks to the fans, the folks, the person that cleans up my mess. That was all critical to the process. Defining roles and responsibilities and expectations and making sure that we knew there was going to be some mess. Sometimes you got to … What is it? You got to break an egg to make a cake. So that’s what we were doing. But those are some of the channels we use, the performance we’re getting and for us, everything to me, if in the end of the day is cost per lead. That’s where I’m always looking at when I think about where am I investing.
Rhoan Morgan: Awesome. Thanks for sharing that with us Darryl. I think that’s really interesting and I really appreciate you sharing some of the details. That’s really good and I’m sure that our listeners will be able to relate certainly to the CPL being number one and also kind of keeping in constant iron on that and knowing where you want to improve and digging in. So hey, I’d love to be able to transition a little bit and talk about the team. We talk with a lot of CMOs and marketing leaders who are going through their own transformation and they’re really looking at how to structure their teams to scale successfully. And even just how to structure their teams in today’s world of marketing in martech. I think it’s a big challenge. So I’d love to know, what did your team look like when you came into the role? How has it changed over time and wearing heading?
Darryl Praill: So when I came into the role, there was no team. That part of my mandate was to build a team. But what there was, was there was a marketing agency. In my case, it was two sisters and they had been with the organization for about five years. The CEO said, “Listen, we’re working with this firm, we like them, but we’re not marketing experts, you are. So whatever you want to do, we trust. You want to keep them, keep them. Lose them, lose them. It’s your call.” In the end, I kept them because they were talented but even more than that, they have tribal knowledge. They knew all the stuff we had tried before that did or didn’t work. They were the only ones, two outsiders, were the only ones.
We originally had them all the time. It was 100 hours a month. And there had a very, very, very, very fair rate. I’m based out of Ottawa, Canada, they’re based in Florida but to the power of slack, it’s like they’re beside me. They were a great transition for me to kind of ease into it. I hired one individual, this individual actually is from Toronto, so not even main office. First hire I made was a remote worker because I knew them. Young fellow and I said, “You’re going to run all my campaigns.” So the Florida agency, they’re going to be my sales and marketing ops, they’re going to author my blog posts, are going to help with the social media posts to start when we put them on autopilot.
You own rinse and repeat. So think of Florida is triage step one, systems, now first hire was rinse and repeat. You own all the campaigns, you make the templates, you make it scalable. And then when we got to stage three which was the whole make some noise, then I actually hired another contractor, another 100 hours a month, who’s going to help me with my events and my analyst relations, and my initially, my PR. That was stage three. And then finally, in the growth segment, we’re now making more substandard investments. We actually hired a PR firm, and I took my other contractor who was the events and analysts and PR, and I said, now you’re just events and analyst, PR firm handle all PR.
And then I actually hired an actual social media guru. Took that away from the sisters in Florida and I said, “You’re just social media.” And what was interesting about this, this is kind of important folks, managing your social media with input from the team, of course, but more than anything, he’s also managing me. Remember, I’m a spokesperson for the company, me and the CEO. So he’s busting my hump if I’m not actively on social media. He’s sending me conversations because I’m always in meetings to say, “You need to comment on this dialogue going on right now. You need to jump in here.” He’s giving me grief if I’ve not posted on a periodic basis. He’s coaching me. “Darryl, you responded too fast to that conversation, you need to wait for six hours, and then respond because we’re gaining the system, etc.”
So that was important. Just yesterday, I hired the most recent hire, which was my media producers. The problem I had is, as we’ve grown and gotten traction … I do all the podcast in the videos for the company, but I also do the editing and everything else. I can’t scale anymore. So this person’s coming on and their whole job is to do all the logistics, all the production, all the editing, all the posting, all the sharing of our audio and our video and our product explainer content pieces online. So that way I get in front of a camera, I do my thing and I leave. Because I’m getting more and more out there myself and my role with the analysts, and with the other thought leaders and the speaking gigs that we weren’t even being invited to a year ago but now we’re invited.
Rhoan Morgan: I think that’s really an interesting process. I see two things here; one, you have aligned it with your phases. Makes a lot of sense, specific people, specific functions and roles to these particular phases, and then grow them over time. And then the other thing is kind of what I actually talk about it here. Internally it’s sort of peeling off a part of what you’re doing part of yourself and handing it over to somebody else and it’s then their responsibility. Still partnered certainly in many ways but that is how you can scale. One person cannot handle all of this and so as you continue to grow and you have strength in the current team, then you’re able to peel off something else, another piece of what you’re doing and assign that into a new person or somebody that already exists, find the strength within your team, or within the company or outside, hire them in and really let them take over which is the only way that we’re going to be able to ultimately scale big time.
And even it sounds like you did that with some of your own team members where you said, “Okay, now you’re focused even more closely in this particular area, and I’m going to have somebody else come in and take on for instance, PR.” Really marked.
Darryl Praill: And that was essential, because we also had to prove ourselves. In other words let’s say my event budget was x when I started, and then we proved ourselves so now it’s x times 1.5. So now that events person who wasn’t as busy, is now going to be much more busy. And they’re much more busy, because we had success and we couldn’t have done that if we didn’t start with phase one, which was triage and baseline and measure.
Rhoan Morgan: Exactly. It’s funny, we have a client that we worked with for a long time. And one of the things that I really loved it was a huge success point for us in the second year that we were working with them, it was that his budget doubled. Not for us, for marketing in general. For all of the work that he was doing, he was able to say, “Look at the success that we’ve had, now, I need more money to continue that path.” To me, that was really exciting because that meant that he also was proving the impact and then also being able to continue the growth and the expansion and was really fun stuff that we get to do in marketing.
Darryl Praill: We went through the exact same thing here after pushing the one year mark, we said, let’s look at our results and how we’ve done and what’s going well. So, we need to invest more we all agree to that. The CEO kind of went around and said, “Put together what you think are some scenarios in maybe at one and a half times budget, maybe two times budget, maybe three times budget and how would you spend the money and how would you measure success.” So we all did that and then we went to the board and we said, “Here’s what we propose.” And the board blessed it and here we go.
So to your point, my budget tripled about two months ago. Every marketer goes, “Oh, my gosh, that’s awesome.” It is but in the same breath, it’s also even more critical that I need to be able to show ROI because now I’m spending three times the money which means the risk goes up and I’m that much closer to the door if I make some wrong decisions.
Rhoan Morgan: A double-edged sword. One last question and then I think we’re probably got to wrap up here. What are just some tips or guidance that you might give to somebody entering into or just stepping into a transformation like this?
Darryl Praill: Have a plan, number one. So the whole plan around triage, rinse repeat, making some noise and grow whatever your plan is, that was mine. It was very scalable, very realistic plan. Consult with the stakeholders, communicate, get their input, air go get their buy-in to the plan. So now you’ve got permission. All right, you’ve got their blessing, you’ve got a plan, you got the stakeholders. Next is define roles and responsibilities of the key people who are involved in executing this plan and then last piece of advice that I give you would be to own the agenda. In other words, you’re not just going through the motions ‘it’s time to send her the email.’ No, no. Everything you’re doing is with an end goal in mind.So the whole plan around triage, rinse repeat, making some noise and grow whatever your plan is, that was mine. It was very scalable, very realistic plan. ~ @ohpinion8ted Click To Tweet
When you finally achieve that, you set a new goal. For me, I’m always looking like six to 12 months out minimum. My agenda is to hit that and go. I don’t care what the competition is doing, I don’t care what’s happened before, I don’t care what external influences are saying to me. I mean their inputs, but I have to be singularly focused on only the agenda and achieving that goal. At that point in time, we can reassess what the next goal is then we can do that with those same key stakeholders. Those are the pieces of advice I would give to you. You got to position yourself for success, for wins that you can share with stakeholders who will influence your success.
Rhoan Morgan: And I suppose if you’re really clear on that agenda and you really own that agenda and you’ve gotten the stakeholders also clear and bought-in then it’s less likely that you’re going to find yourself as I think some people have in a situation where they’ve got almost whiplash because they’re being drag in one direction, and then the next direction, “Now we’re doing ABM, now we’re doing social, No. We’re not doing ABM at all anymore.” And that can be exhausting and actually paralyzing, and I think even hold a company back. So as long as you go through these four steps, you have your plan, you’ve got the stakeholder buy-in, roles are clear, and you own the agenda, I think it would be a lot harder for folks to come in and try to perturb your success path, right?
Darryl Praill: The one thing that I always coach my team on because people will come to me but sometimes they’ll try to go around me and go to my team to get their own agenda done. And I’ll say to them every single time, if you want me to do X, like you’re suggesting, that means I can no longer do Y. Are you telling me Y is no longer important? Can you please document that and put that in an email? So managing expectations, explaining consequences, and then unfortunately, protecting yourself so you can say, this is why we did this, and you endorsed it and there’s the proof. It really holds people accountable. And they are a lot less likely to say, “Yes, I’ll put that in writing.” They’ll actually say, “Well, you know what? Let me get back to you.” So it’s a lot of politics got to play but it’s not hard politics. It’s actually quite easy, and it’s very personable, and it’s very logical and why wouldn’t you say that? It just makes good business sense.
Rhoan Morgan: Absolutely. And we talked about this in other conversations. We are all on the same team. Got to be rowing in the same direction and it’s no harm, I think, to ask them to put that in. Wonderful. Thank you so much, Darryl. This has just been a fantastic conversation. Great part two. Would love to have you on again at some point in time. Really appreciate your time today. Can you tell us how the audience can reach you?
Darryl Praill: The best bet is LinkedIn. Just look up Darryl Praill and D-A-R-R-Y-L P-R-A-I-L-L and you’ll find me. You can go on Twitter. I’m in there too but I’m all[crosstalk]
Rhoan Morgan: Fantastic. And thanks again to our listeners today for joining us. I’m your host Rhoan Morgan and as always you can find me on LinkedIn at Rhoan, R-H-O-A-N Morgan. Back to you Paul in the studio.