TRANSCRIPTION OF EPISODE
Chris: On this episode of Intent Topics, we’re going to talk about selling agency services using intent data.
Chris: So, I wanted to start this episode off by telling a little story from my past, Logan, is that all right with you?
Logan: Totally cool, can’t wait.
Chris: Cool. All right. So, let’s rewind. It’s, let’s see, 2011, 2012-ish. I’m a tiny little agency based out of New Hampshire, and I’m fully committed, 100%, HubSpot is our jam, it’s what we’re doing. I’m out there trying to generate business. So, by nature of selling HubSpot’s software, right? I’m a tiny agency amongst all these great marketers, right? Other agencies, right? They’re great. They’re writing blogs, they’re great on social media, and I’m just totally a needle in the haystack. These guys and gals, they’re more established, they’re better funded, and I had to figure out how I was going to sell here, right?
Logan: Were they all selling just HubSpot as well? Or were they, you know, creative agencies, or these kinds of things that also were [inaudible 00:01:22].
Chris: Yeah, it’s mostly creative agencies, or do your marketing for you. So, web development, a lot of it was collateral creation for content, you know, eBooks. Just blog content, persona development, call action creation, manage social media stuff, right? There was a revenue stream via selling HubSpot subscriptions. I think a lot of these bigger agencies actually were generating quite a bit of business off of, you know, the commission on the subscription sales.
Chris: But I really never got that many deals closed. I became a primarily services agency, right? In fact, my account manager, or sales rep at HubSpot, his name’s Buck [inaudible 00:02:15]. He’d call me probably once a quarter, “Hey, Chris. Checking in.” I’m like, “Buck, I got [inaudible 00:02:20]. I got all this service work, right? But I don’t have any subscription deals for you.” That’s what he gets paid on, right? So he’s like, “Okay, let me know.”
Chris: So anyways, HubSpot created this program called Partner Match Program, and really what it was, was a form that a customer could fill out, and tell us a bit about what they wanted done. There’s a couple drop-down fields. One was a website redesign, one was do inbound marketing for me, right? So, certified agencies could enroll to get the form submission when somebody filled this out, right? Oh, and the other thing is they could add their budget, and always way too little money to get anything actually accomplished. But, that part was [inaudible]
Chris: But this email would go out to all of the partners, and so we’d get the email, you’d sue the note to the prospect, “Hey, what are you looking for? Blah, blah, blah.” Then over time, I eventually hired a sales rep. I’m like, “Here, take these emails and do something. Close these deals, right?” So he starts closing all these deals right away, his first week, two weeks of being at the agency. I’m like, “This is crazy, how are you doing it?” He’s like, “I just pick up the phone and call them.” I’m like, “Okay.”
Chris: So he starts asking these prospects, “So why did you go with us?” He goes, “You’re the only person that called me, everyone else just sent an email.” Right? So, to tie this all back to what I’m talking about with intent data, is that, in 2011, 2012, that was the closest I had, as a business owner, to know kind of information about who to prospect, right? I knew that this was somebody using HubSpot, which I knew is an exact fit for us, and I knew that they needed some sort of service, right?
Chris: So, what we’re doing currently at Union, is we’re using the data to identify that, you know, a prospect is using a certain piece of technology, right? So if I had this years ago I’d know, “All right, here’s all the people on HubSpot,” and then I just look for people who were searching on topics around the services that we’re selling.
Chris: So anyways, so, I want you, Logan, to talk about what you think an agency or a software partner should be doing to sell kind of in this way, right? So whether you’re selling HubSpot, or CMS software, you know, there’s many, Salesforce.com, whatever. How would you instruct an agency to sell their services using this data?
Logan: Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s something that we’re working on right now to pretty great success. So, one of the things I love about having an install base, or user base, however you want to call it, is there’s the technographic data that really anchors us, right?
Logan: So, you know, you can see, all right, it’s a HubSpot user, it’s a, you know, Episerver user, it’s a Salesforce.com user, et cetera. So, when we talk about building the audience, like you were talking about, you just want to know who’s using it to start, right?
Logan: Then from there, we can get creative, right? So, what’s a, you know, a need of the business that HubSpot solves?
Chris: For the customers?
Logan: Yeah, yeah. Why would you subscribe to HubSpot in the first place?
Chris: Oh, they have an all-in-one platform to do all your marketing in, really, right? Major context.
Logan: Yeah. So, marketing, contact management. But what’s the outcome that, you know, HubSpot is really working to create for a business? The answer is growth, right?
Chris: Right, yep.
Logan: You don’t pay, whatever, 800 bucks a month to 10,000 bucks a month for some software, right? To just have it, you’re looking for business outcomes. So, with intent data, what we can see is companies that are in this audience, in this install base, that are searching for topics related to the business outcome. I call this the dissatisfaction profile, right?
Logan: So it’s, “I’m not satisfied with the amount of leads I’m getting. I’m not satisfied with my conversion paths, I’m trying to figure out what other software might be able to build landing pages.” That’s not just a HubSpot thing, there’s some pretty expensive software out there, much more expensive than HubSpot, that you see that stuff happening on CMS platforms all the time.
Logan: So, you know, if I’m an agency looking for new clients, and the services … I think everybody knows that the real money in the agency world is not in reselling software, right?
Chris: Right. Of course, yeah.
Logan: It’s all about that service. So, it’s like, what profiles can you solve that are very profitable for your agency, because everybody’s different, that you can then go after?
Logan: When I’m doing this for somebody, you know, I’m really looking at what content do they have, and how can we position them as experts? Because that’s what people care about, right? People buy from people, people like to talk to experts, they don’t like to talk to sales people.
Chris: Sure, yeah.
Logan: So, yeah. So, what we’re doing, is we’re going and doing that content audit, mapping that to the intent topics, tying this all into, as, you know, “I’m an expert in this field, and I can solve your problem. Look at my case studies, look at these articles.” Then we’ll ask you to take the step of an audit, or, you know, a quote or whatever. But we’re never going to start that conversation off with, you know, “Let’s just sell you something.”
Logan: Because to be honest, the person in the install base, that company in the install base, who’s pissed off that they’re not getting what they need, does not want somebody who’s representing that software that they’ve already invested a lot of money in, trying to sell them something else, right? It’s not going to work. You’ve got to position yourself as the expert, you got to position yourself that you’re going to make it easy for them to, you know, stay on that platform, and really, you know, get the ROI that they were kind of sold.
Chris: Yeah. To tie it back to my kind of rambling story at the beginning here. The point is you have to have some level … or it’s possible to go into those conversations with some level of intelligence, to make sure that you know that you’re having the right conversation with the right person, right?
Chris: So, knowing that this person’s using a certain technology, right? So for that partner match coming from HubSpot, well, I knew that that person was using HubSpot. That was step one, right? But I also now know a little bit of what they’re looking for, and then the third piece that we were doing, that a lot of people were doing, which allowed us to win business, was pick up the phone, right? There’s the human hustle.
Chris: It’s the intelligence, plus the human hustle, right? You pick up the phone, and you have a conversation with a human, and that’s how you’re successful. So that is what I think we’re doing. This is a modern day version of that, of all the few years, right?
Logan: Absolutely. Yeah. One thing that I’ve seen agencies do to me, you know, because I haven’t been doing this forever. So, you know, I’ve definitely … agencies have tried to sell me. It is a valiant effort to go on someone’s website and give it a critique. “I noticed this, you know, you could impact your-
Chris: Sure. Yeah.
Logan: But when you pick out what I don’t care about, you’re going to lose. But if you take that same framework, layer intent in it, it’s like, you know, lead generation, conversion funnel, all these different topics around, you know, the kind of bottom of the funnel, what’s going on in my actual turning visitors into lead side.
Logan: Then I critique that. Okay, great, right? When it’s a design, and a, you know, “I’m not comfortable with the way my website looks,” kind of topics, right?
Logan: Okay, great. I got some ideas for you there. When it’s like they’re looking at marketing automation, where they’re looking at, you know, email campaigning style topics, the agency can then go convert, and then take that, sort of the response that they get from the form submission, and talk about that. So you can really message to the end user, based on the intent topics, as opposed to saying, “Hey, I know that you’re looking at lead generation, let me help you.” Because that’s just creepy and, you know, it defeats the purpose.
Chris: Yeah. A different angle, and I don’t even know if this is applicable, but what you’re just talking about reminded me of the email we got. I think Mark circulated it around to all of us. But it was from a sales rep at Drift, and there was a screenshot of our form, and the messaging, I don’t remember the exact words, but it was effectively like, “This form’s long, do you think anyone’s actually filling this out? Why are you missing out on conversations you could be having on your website?”
Chris: Right? So I thought that was clever. That’s not necessarily on topic, but when you’re talking about visiting someone’s website, doing some research, assessing what’s going on, I thought that was relevant, right? The person took some time to do the work, and, you know, knowing them, there’s probably a lot of other information they had on us too, so that that rep knew to prioritize his time, right? Because the Drift sales team is actually, you know, a big inspiration for what we’re doing at Union right now with our [inaudible]
Logan: Super legit. I love their use of data, and it’s just a hyper-personalized, very data-driven, and awesome. I think what you just said is not irrelevant, because when it comes down to it, when you talk about lead gen, and you’re talking to people in a sales organization, or the sales organization in a larger business, you can almost always be pretty close to something that they care about, if you’re talking about generate more leads.
Chris: Sure. Yeah. I mean-
Logan: But you got to be crafty. So that’s what I like about what Drift did, is it’s not like, “I can generate you more leads on your website,” it’s like, “Here, let me show you an example of what we’re doing.” So that’s, to bring it back into our conversation, when you have intent data, that is your queue, as an agency, on what to look for on someone’s website. You know, and you can break it out into different, you know, sort of categories.
Logan: The other nice thing about intent data is however many users there are in that software base, you don’t have to do this for every single one of them. You know, you can kind of prioritize where you spend your time, because there’s plenty … If a software’s talked about, it’s because they have enough users to be talked about.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah, well, and to tie it back to the earlier story, right? So I’m this agency, I’m tiny, I’m running with other horses that are faster and more equipped than me. I’m not going to prioritize my time on writing blog posts, and more social media, right? So when I get this form submission from the Partner Match Program, that’s worth prioritizing your time. That’s the whole point here, is prioritize your time, so that you can have the most conversations [inaudible]
Logan: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. That’s an interesting point you bring up, because I think with content, what we’re really working towards with some of the agencies that we work with is, all right, a lot of agencies are great at producing content. So it’s like, how can we kind of weed out … because when you have 100 blog articles to read, or that you could potentially utilize, how do you figure out which ones are the best when you start-
Chris: To use?
Logan: Yeah, and when you start-
Logan: Exactly. I think that’s what’s great about intent data, is you can like, “Okay, cool. You know, these are the three groups I’m looking at, here’s the, you know, here’s the five blog articles. We’re going to test this like crazy and see, you know …” But the thing about it is, the article is not going to pay off on the first outreach, right?
Logan: It’s going to pay off, because it painted you as a valuable, you know, keep on, you know, opening that email, take my phone call when I call you, et cetera. So, it’s like, how did that blog article or piece of content, like a podcast or something, position you in the mind of that prospect?
Chris: It’s almost like … sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off.
Logan: No, no.
Chris: It’s almost like what piece of content makes you most highly probable to have someone who’s interested in what you’re selling, have a conversation with you, right?
Logan: Yeah, yeah. Exactly, exactly.
Chris: We’ve seen that work here, be like, “Oh, here’s some information, here’s some context that we know that, you know, it’s something you’re interested in.” People were like, “Yes, I want to have a conversation with you,” right? There’s no shortage of people knocking on businesses doors saying, “I’ll help you grow your business,” right?
Chris: I get them all day long in my inbox, and I’m doing it to others, but we’re doing it differently with more information, way more tactically.
Logan: Yeah, that’s what I love about, you know, living in the intent-based sales world. You know, before we recorded the podcast, what did we spend? Two hours today, you know, prospecting, and just really relying on, you know, the best practices that we’ve built here with Union. It’s comfortable to prospect with that, right?
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Logan: Because we’re in lead gen, and we’re talking about people in agencies. Dude, this is all red ocean, right? The sharks are out there, and it is not pleasant. But when you’ve got this data, and you’ve got this good content, and you know how to deploy it, you can kind of rely on, like, “All right, I’m just going to put one foot in front of the other, and I’m going to find the right person on just about every prospecting, you know, sale.”
Chris: Yeah, yeah. You know, it’s been a little while since I’ve used a fishing analogy, so I’m going to go there. But, running a boat in the fog or in the dark, right? I had a good buddy of mine, Sean Bristow, he definitely mentored me on fishing and operating boats, and all that. One of the pieces of advice he gave me when running, you know, blindly in fog or dark, is when all you really have is radar, you just trust your instruments. You got to trust your instruments, right?
Chris: It’s probably like rock climbing, trust your gear, or you’re just never going to get in the right mindset. But, here, it’s like, all right, you have this data, and you know people are interested in these things, and we have this content, and we’ve tested it, and we know that this is the highly, most probable to get the conversation. Trust your tools. Trust the data, trust your testing, and you’ll get the conversations, right? I get giddy when it works, right?
Logan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Chris: It’s just like I get pleased when I get back to the dock in the dark or in the fog, you know, it works, and I trust it, right? Then you go back out there, and you trust it again every time, right? Then it gets to the point where you can’t live without it, right? I would never go on a boat in the dark without radar, would never do it.
Chris: You know, so.
Chris: Anyways, yeah, yeah, yeah, cool.
Logan: So, I think the last point that I’ll make is, you know, it seems like a very simple process. You know, I think that’s where, if there are agencies that are like, “All right, I think I get it, or I get it, but where do I start? Et cetera.” Just reach out to us, because, you know, we love the agencies who have content created, they’ve kind of got their stuff together. But it’s just like, “How do I deploy that against this kind of data, and this kind of outreach?”
Logan: Let’s just have a conversation, right? Because you might be able to do it by yourself without, you know, somebody like Union Resolute or anything.
Chris: Sure. You can just let us teach you from all the mistakes we’ve made, or not mistakes, but weaknesses in the chain that we’ve now figured out. The other thing is, working with someone that’s done … well, it’s most likely that, for example, like a HubSpot agency, they probably have tons of content, they know how to analyze it, they know how to measure it, they know what works and what doesn’t. To then apply these new tools, it’s actually, you’re well on your way, compared to, you know, some of our clients that have very little content, or, you know … we have a client that’s content hasn’t been created since 2014, right?
Chris: So, it’s kind of like starting fresh there. Whereas if you’re an agency, or maybe you’re providing content for a client, you can plug this in real easily, because you’re already tuned into what content’s useful, or you can create it real quickly, because you’re poised to do that, because that’s what you do.
Logan: Right. Absolutely, absolutely.
Chris: Yeah, cool. All right, man, let’s wrap it up, yeah.
Chris: Well, I’m Chris Battis.
Logan: I am Logan Kelly. Thank you so much everybody for listening. Please give us a five star rating on whatever podcast app you’re listening on, and we will talk to you soon.