V-cast with Mention:How Mention grew into a household brand

Hosts:

  • Hanna Teklit: Product Marketing and Innovation Lead @ Sparkfund
  • Shawn Goldsmith: CEO @ Markarie
  • Richard Fallah: CEO @ VBOUT

Guest Speakers:

  • Jordan Pinzolo: Head of Sales @ Mention
  • Anna Willems: Lead Growth Manager @ Mention

Highlights


Jordan, can you please give us a very quick introduction on Mention? 

Mention is a household name in the social listening space. We boast around 800000+ users. We give users the ability to monitor online, their brand competitors and industries’ great experiences for their communities.
To give you a quick background on myself, the most background of my career lies in the digital customer experience and specifically the sales within the SaaS space, having partnered with and advised over hundreds of companies of startup size, all the way up to the fortune of 500.

My goal is to bring Mention as a social listening product market within North America, with a mission to make social media intelligence more accessible to the mid-market specifically.

Our product is to enable marketers to understand what people are saying about their brand competitors and industry, based on the words that these users are actively tweeting and posting on Facebook and Instagram.

Anna, can you tell us more about your role at Mention?

My name is Anna Willems and I’m a lead growth manager, in charge of creating a consistent lead flow for Mention. I have a background in digital marketing for SaaS tech companies and I mainly focus on delivering a good brand experience for everyone that’s getting into touch with these brands. I’m excited about technology and how it affects people’s lives and try to include that in my day-to-day work.


Strategy side

As a sales leader, what are the top objectives that you are chasing?

We make sure our mission and our communications around that mission are in line with the market needs in 2020. 

At a high level, we focus on the company’s growth especially with COVID heading which is extremely unfortunate timing. We’re especially focused on keeping our customers close and staying as close to the market because ultimately, our product will influence the way companies communicate with their customers. 

Anna, as a growth strategy leader how do you align with Jordan’s mission?

Well, that’s a good question because obviously, if the marketing team is not aligned with the sales team, then we’re getting nowhere. We’re trying to adjust our goals like I said; my main focus is to generate more leads, find new channels as well as new sources for leads and get brand awareness so we’re working closely with the sales team. Thus, we actually share the same objective and translate that objective to the marketing team which means that we want to boost brand awareness and generate more leads which lead to greater opportunities for our sales team.

What roles does market-researching data place on Jordan’s mission as well as your institution as a whole?

It plays a big role… It’s a type of work which consists of a lot of effort. Although it’s time-consuming but a good research helps everyone within the company not only in sales and marketing but on the product side as well. Therefore, what we’re doing at Mention is making sure that the marketing is working closely with the product team because the product side has some needs around market research. In addition, marketing and sales definitely have the needs, so we’re working together and trying to divide that work as you need to have multiple hats considering the size of our company. Our product team is doing a lot of research and at the marketing side, we’re trying to translate that information into the right go-to-market and finding the right target group. It’s a really big part that takes a lot of time and energy.

Sales is clearly on the front lines of the industry that we’re operating with. Thus, as a sales organization, we’re not only heavily relying on other market research that’s being provided to us from the product team or marketing team but because we’re also on the front line of all this, we have the first fees out there in the market. So in a lot of cases, we’re able to supply not only the product team but also the marketing team with anecdotal market research, based on our experience on the front lines and create a really nice ecosystem of taking the whole idea of market research and working on it hand in hand with the marketing department.

As there’s a lot of concrete data that may be rejected in organizations due to gut feeling and narrow focus within sales, how do you prevent that from happening in your sales organization? As sales by design is oriented toward getting stuck out and being focused as much as they can to deliver the number that they need, how do you educate openness and outside the box thinking? 

There’s a few different sides to it. It’s quite difficult to filter out, especially when your competitors might be providing a one-off offering to custom fit their solution around a specific need for a specific client. In a case like that, a sales rep perhaps comes back with new information that you are not sure if it quite fits that type of sales structure. The reality is just tough and sometimes you have to react to it on a customized one-off basis and keep it on the back burner but rely more on what’s confirmed and what we know is real. Unless you’re being a bit sneaky and getting product demos from your competitors, seeing their proposals and invoices, you do not have any concrete data and you don’t know what they are doing on a one-off basis. For those types of scenarios, it’s not impossible but you have to keep them documented and find out what your competitors are really capable of doing.

How do you keep the sales team excited around the leads that you’re generating?

It’s always the kind of energy between marketing and sales. The sales team is closest to our prospects and customers at the point when they actually want to buy. Therefore, we really want to grab that information to define our target groups as well.
We’re also working heavily on our scoring parts which means that we’re trying to not only focus and build upon the opinions of our sales people but on the data as well. So we try to define which types of prospects are ready to convert to find specific industries and target groups and  create specific content for specific target groups which would lead to acquire the qualified leads that the sales aim to have.

Tactical side

If you are in an industry that’s very competitive, you’re likely to go to G2 Crowd and Trust Radius with 30, 40 people on the grid… how do you differentiate yourself if you’re an emerging or a newer type of company with a lot of competitors? How do you recommend it to our audience of executives, CEOs and higher-ups?

Basically, the social listening industry is extremely saturated and you have a lot of vendors coming to market. If I was a buyer for this type of software, there’s never been a more confusing time for me. For a communication standpoint, it’s important to have a really precise and differentiated value proposition by knowing what your competitors’ advantages are and what business problems your product is best positioned to solve. On the sales team, when you’re actually out in the field pitching, you need to be consistently qualifying against these sales problems and make sure that they are working on the right deals. They need to make sure that they are solving their needs at every single stage of the sales cycle. This leads to generating more qualified opportunities which in turn leads to more closed deals.

You said a value prop, it sounds like there are different media and personas; how would you mention all the different value props to the right personas in your content? Do you think part of it depends on the medium? 

It definitely has to do with medium. Mention is built around a good content strategy so what we have been doing over the years is creating the right foundations, which means that our SEO foundation is really good. When it comes to targeting the right people at the right moment, it has to do with the fact that we want to enable any person that’s in the marketing space. So we’re writing content around every piece in the marketing space. Every single thing you can think of is mentioned in our blog. 

That means that through the process, our SEO has grown bigger and better and we are actually in the lucky position right now that other people and companies want to work with us to provide content for our website which makes it better for us to target the right people and industries. So we’re fortunate and happy to be in that space and happy to think a lot around our social media strategy. To mention one thing we’re dealing with as a challenge is that we’ve written a lot of content and big pieces which is awesome to some parts of our target groups but some may like snack content or videos and that’s something that we’re going towards. This creates a challenge for us.

As there are different messages or value props for different personas, and since you said you have tons of content, do you see yourself in the Mention team tweaking the content and certain personas you’re looking after, especially within the current situation we’re in with COVID and how things are going? How is it affecting not only the marketing messaging, but the sales team, proposals, etc…?

Well, from the marketing perspective, we tweaked some of the content due to the situation that we’re owling. But when it comes to combining marketing and sales, we’re in a position where everyone is online somewhat more so for us as a company, and for our product that’s actually good, we want to handle that with care. So we’ve had some initiatives to change some of our content and write more specific content in this situation, but our content is becoming more and more relevant in the last few months.

We’re kind of operating during a time when businesses need more than ever to connect with their communities. Our product is super well-aligned with that and given that we provide our customers the ability to identify the posts whether they are being mentioned and respond to them on the same platform. For sales, we’ve been aligning our product to bring the community much closer to yourself. As people are working from home online now using their phones and computers, this really helps with community and cross-collaboration across teams which is something that can be accomplished through our technology. Our product is really helping keeping digital teams online and serving their customers.

Any specific funnels, different social media channels or call to actions do you see are working in the current environment? 

There’s not one specific thing that works for us or anyone. One thing for example is still working for us during this situation, is working together with other companies and partnering up to give more valuable information to a larger group of people. That’s a good way for us to reach other audiences that we would not reach to ourselves. That’s something that really works for Mention and has to do with the fact that we already built this reputation of being social media professionals or digital marketing experts. There are tons of companies in our industries having the same reputation so we try to combine our knowledge and give it away.

We spoke about different personas, targeting and messaging, but one thing that people have been always talking about is adding more videos especially that we now have TikTok and people are addicted to Instagram stories and LinkedIn has stories feature. Do you think that’s all right if you’re trying to add it to your marketing mix? What would you recommend to tech founders and executives that are debating whether to include these videos? If so, how much? 

First, video doesn’t need to take a lot of effort. That’s a main idea that’s still existing in a lot of marketing teams or teams overall. To be honest, we’re not leveraging video as much as we would like to do either. But I like to think of my audience as a normal group of people like my friends, and within my group of friends, not everyone likes videos and written content. So I think there should be a good mix. For example, what works for us is spreading gated content, trying to enrich our database and then within our nurturing flows, we’re adding video as well to explain more about our product because it’s more visual and people need it at certain stages within the funnel but we’re not leveraging such a format as a real lead generator at this moment. We published webinars which are working for us but this is something more down in the funnel when it comes to talking about the product somewhat more.

Technology side

How many marketing tools do you currently use to bridge the gap, capture and nurture leads and deliver these leads to sales? Can you tell me more about this infrastructure if possible?

That’s an interesting topic because being in this space, there are a lot of tools available. When you do some searching online, you can find a new tool every minute that might add up to anything you’re doing. It’s awesome to dig into some tools and try to see their added value for your own process but I would like to make a division between paid tools and those we’re using for fun because we want to test and learn to know how it works. We would use around 15 paid tools on the marketing side regarding lead gen and we would go over 30 or even 40 tools in total which is too much. You cannot handle all of this. At some point, you want to test and then make a decision about whether you’re going to use it or never again. 

What drives you to adopt a new technology or makes you decide on getting a new tool?

Actually, it’s really about testing and learning. For instance, if we went through the entire lead funnel and worked with the sales team and they would tell us about a target group they would like to reach and saw an opportunity that we on the marketing side were not doing, we would try it because we depend on their opinions and experience. To reach some of these target groups, we really need new tooling that the sales team would advise us about.

As the top funnel is pretty large, not all leads are created equal; you have those who are consuming content on the go and would like to learn, while others are more serious evaluating and those who know too much about you and want to make a decision. Because a lot of people make a lot of research and probably 70% of research is done before they reach out to you, it helps to have that background on it… do your marketing tools help bring some of that background into the conversation? did you say lead scoring as I heard you saying that before?

Yes, that’s correct. Our lead scoring is also in our marketing automation tool. I would say it’s never perfect. But I think the scoring part is hard, especially when you have to deal with different lead flows. For instance, a scoring for demo request on our site will be entirely different from that for content download. It’s logical but you need to take that into account. At the same time, demo requests could be of less worth for a sales team than content download. It’s a tricky part between marketing and sales which requires a discussion between both sides. I could say a content download is really worth looking at but if there’s a demo request next to it, what would the sales people choose?

You mentioned you have a full marketing automation stack that has landing pages, lead scoring, form enrichment, what else?

For more top of the funnel, we’re learning a lot from SEO tooling like SEMrush, and other tools which have different functionalities that are interesting for us. That would be on the traffic side. We’re also using tools in combination with our CS team to build on reviews that we have online.

What are you using for CRM? Can you name a tool?

We’re using Hubspot and Customer.io for the different flows and they have different goals.

Is there a reason why not consolidating both? Is one better than the other in certain aspects?

I would not recommend having separate databases to anyone. But our data flow is really complex and being built over the last few years. The main reason why we have this right now is because we need to leverage the info we have from our products users and send out emails based on user power products.

Regarding paid ads, can you tell me more about that? Are you doing it natively or using third party tools?

Mention has not really been doing paid ads. It’s something we’re looking into because we want to leverage it somewhat more to reach target audiences that we’re not reaching right now. We want to find new target groups without eliminating our organic traffic. So we have done some testing with LinkedIn advertising and setting up some Google ads at this moment.

Does LinkedIn ad work for you?

It could work but it requires resources. It’s expensive and time-consuming to build the right campaign; setting up one ad is not difficult if you know your target audience but the right campaign leads someone through a funnel which may require you to build different ads after each other.

What do you think is the most important tool for your marketing team or any other marketing team to use nowadays?

I would definitely go for SEO tooling, finding search keywords, the right target audience on the web in order to make sure you’re providing the right content and increase your organic traffic. But it’s a long term process and you would need the right skills for that.

On the other hand, I would touch the monitoring tooling especially when you combine it with the SEO tooling. So whenever you need to go for the right tooling and find the gaps within your organic strategy, and you would monitor what’s being said online, you can create a combination between both and build a wonderful content strategy for yourself.

From the customer side, a lot of them are using our tool to fuel their SEO strategy. And the reason for that is the reason that it allows them to tap into branded conversations or unbranded, more industry-focused conversations where you can dive and see how people are talking about, either a product or a specific industry.

Many of our customers are using this to feed into their SEO strategies, content strategies and measure their own brand health based on the way that keeps their customers talking about. More Savvy users are using it to conduct competitor analysis and see how people are talking about their competitors. Lastly, customers are using it as lens to look at their entire industry through which takes a bit more discipline, but there are powerful insights and trends that you can uncover when you take a look at say 2000 or 200K tweets of what people are saying about specific product sets that aren’t even branded and to use it to fuel your own product strategy or communications about your own products.

Takeaways

  • When it comes to the tech, it’s okay to experiment and test with multiple technologies and don’t be afraid to test and have the team giving you feedback as long as you are bridging the gap between the top of funnel tools which collects the leads and something that nurtures the lead. You need the tracking at core for each of those so you can deliver proper leads to your sales and they are going to have a productive outcome and convert better.
  • Two quick ways to jump start SEO: first one is the reviews, which are used as a social proof which also help for SEO and a second thing is videos which have SEO components that rank high in search engines. So doing both is a good way to start your SEO journey at a very low cost.
  • Go for pillar pages; identify what’s the main problem that your customers might have and type it into Google to see what’s coming up. Build a page around the answer as long as it connects to your product.
  • As the world is also dealing with COVID and other events, we need to be especially aware of our company’s values, as well as the value prop that we’re truly providing to our customers. From a commercial standpoint, be super-targeted and make sure you’re coming to your right prospects solving the right problems while being sensitive to the times that either people on individual level or company level might be going through. Be aware of your entire ecosystem, whom you’re competing against and what’s driving the initial conversation to begin with.
  • Relevance is the main of the game. Data, consistency and integration are the tools for that. 
  • Being on the same page with your key partner in your organization is critical.

Thank you Jordan and Anna for the great interview.

https://www.mention.com