EPISODE #043 – ASSESS THEN GROW: INTERVIEW WITH LEAHANNE HOBSON

Logan Kelly:

You’re listening to Intent Topics, a podcast about all things. I’m your host, Logan Kelly. Hello, everybody. Thank you for tuning into Intent Topics today. Today, I have a special guest Leahanne Hobson from Alinea Partners. Leahanne, thank you for joining us today.

Leahanne Hobson:

Hey, thank you, Logan. Great to be here, from Vienna.

Logan Kelly:

Vienna, Yes, it’s exciting. This is like, international guest today. So, Leahanne, tell us a little bit about what you’re working on right now.

Leahanne Hobson:

Yeah, sure. We are a global B2B secret shopping agency, so we are working on what we do all day, every day, and that is secret shopping, in the IT and telecommunications world. We’ve just crossed over and have done over 700 globally in the last couple of years.

Logan Kelly:

Wow.

Leahanne Hobson:

Yeah.

Logan Kelly:

That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. So, this is an exciting one. I think you’ve done a lot of great work. There’s a lot of great case studies and blog articles on your website. So, I just read a Bloomberg article where a president of a large hotel organization said he believes business travel will go back to what it was in two to three years, and he sounded optimistic, which is crazy. So, we’ve all made adjustments to our businesses to navigate the short-term, but if we’re looking at an even a year, or two, or three, that’s going to fundamentally change how a lot of IT, telecom tech companies sell. With that said, alignment from marketing all the way through to sales, and everything that supports it, is not just going to change, it’s going to become so much more important.

Logan Kelly:

So, with what I just said, it’s nothing new, but understanding how to execute and understanding an idea at a conceptual level are two totally different things. So, I’d love to get a little bit more weeds in the conversation for you or with you here. I obviously see a lot of misses when it comes to digital presence and sales process. So, talk to me about some of the steps that leaders should be taking to, “Get their house in order.”

Leahanne Hobson:

Yeah, sure. I think what we’re seeing is a natural tendency to go out and do a lot of demand generation in order to compensate, maybe for pipeline opportunities that have paused or closed down or industries that have just closed. I mean, we do a lot of work with Motorola Solutions, for example, and they provide walkie-talkies for events, so all of their partners, globally, were out immediately looking for other lines of business, be it other industries or other types of clients. Just as an example. Where other companies are doing really well, like Microsoft, who we also work with or software and using software remotely, they’re doing quite well. But regardless, the natural tendency that we’re hearing, and we talk to about a hundred different companies a year, is that everybody wants to spend a lot of money on demand gen, which, that’s a good thing.

Leahanne Hobson:

You want to build the funnel and you want to close that business, but what we’re really cautious about is the companies that want to do that without performing any kind of a health check. So, for example, a good number of those companies, 700 companies that we’ve assessed, do not have any case studies on their websites, of any way, shape or form. And we know that today’s pre-COVID-19, during COVID-19, and post-COVID-19, we will ask people in the industry, our friends, our family, people we trust, “Who did you buy your software package from?” And that’s who we pay attention to.

Leahanne Hobson:

And TripAdvisor, since that’s come about and been so popular, everyone wants to know what other people think before they purchase a service or a product, yet we’re hiding a light on things like case studies. Other areas that happen much too often are contacts. So, I go to your website, my buyer starts to look around, they’re interested. Maybe they have a question, chat doesn’t work, or they send something through to email or website form, never get an answer. Now, before the pandemic, we would have conversations with companies about, “You should make sure that your processes work, that they’re staffed, et cetera, and make sure that if you have a communication possibility to a company, you need to make sure that it works.”

Leahanne Hobson:

During the pandemic, a lot of these customer service or frontline sales have gone remote, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be able to reach you. So, even if your marketing department is now sitting at home, you need to answer your emails and you can’t think about spending a lot of money on demand generation, unless those simple things work, or else you’re not going to get the opportunity that you’ve just generated and you’ll waste your money.

Logan Kelly:

I love that. So, I love that it’s actionable, it’s so simple, but it’s also, it’s much more fun to talk about, “What’s the new copy? What’s the new strategy? Who could we target?” As opposed to, “Let’s make sure that what we already have is executed correctly and in a way that is not missing opportunities.” So it sounds like one of the first steps that we should be taking here is, is really making sure that our defense or what’s already on our website is operating right before we go spend more money.

Leahanne Hobson:

Exactly. Operating right is one level, content that’s right, is it appealing to the right persona? So, for example, if you tell me that you’re looking to market to hotels, just to use your story from the beginning, then you shouldn’t have a website that never mentions hotels or concierge services or any of the other language of hotels. And it shouldn’t be as though you’re speaking to a vanilla, small and medium or large sized company, which many, many people do, you should actually make sure that your website is acting as part of your sales force. And just as your sales person would pick up the phone and immediately get rapport and understand what type of a persona is on the other end of the phone, your website should be able to do that as well.

Logan Kelly:

So, that’s interesting. I think that leads us into the persona, understanding the persona, one, which is very important. I think that goes without saying, and a lot of companies get it right, but a lot get it really, very wrong. And even with the best targeting data, most sophisticated marketing automation, marketing technology, that can really cause things to fall flat. So, where are you seeing some of the biggest misses from a understanding your persona, translating that into your presence and do you have some examples that might be companies that are doing it right, that you’ve seen that are standard bearers for right now?

Leahanne Hobson:

Yes, and yes again. I can tell you from my research, what we find is that in the IT world, many companies still display information on their website and market themselves on their website toward an IT buyer. And what we’ve quickly, we’ve realized over the last couple of years is that the IT or manager or the CIO is not the only purchaser in many of these purchasing scenarios. So, you’re going to get a CEO involved. You’re going to get the CFO involved, maybe marketing’s involved or other decision makers within the company. Or in many cases, the CIO has become much more business savvy than they were 10, 15 years ago.

Leahanne Hobson:

So, if you’re simply selling, let’s say, Azure, mention one of our clients, as Azure, then you are more likely than not just selling somebody who is technical in nature and knows what Azure is versus someone who is thinking about the business outcome and would much more be interested in having you come and talk about security. “Oh, yeah, by the way, it’s Azure.” And what we see on a lot of websites is that they’re leading with cloud, “We’re the cloud company.” Or, “We sell Azure.” And today, that’s not enough of a differentiator one, because everybody says that. And two, it’s clearly not showing that they’re adaptable and able to have a C-level conversation, from what’s on their websites.

Leahanne Hobson:

Who’s doing it well? GoDaddy does it well in the space that they’re in. A company in the UK called Wirehive does it very well, to partners as well as end users. They’re interesting because they were a marketing agency that added Azure and then morphed into a partner for many other companies, and they do really good business analytics and such, very specific to the UK.

Logan Kelly:

So, really making sure that the content on the website and what is being asked of that person, or being presented to that person, is not necessarily for the IT role, but really for all the decision makers, all the stakeholders, who might be needing to get some information before they say, “Yes.” Or allow something to progress?

Leahanne Hobson:

Exactly.

Logan Kelly:

Which in a lot of cases is not necessarily the IT person, right? It is the C-level. Yeah. Interesting, interesting. So, one of the things that, when we were going through, reading some of the work that you and your team have done, you had mentioned, or your team had mentioned, these moments of truth, that there’s so many assumptions that get made just building anything, that you say an outsider is really who can see these moments of truth. What does that mean? And maybe how, at a high level, what are some things that businesses might be able to look at on their own digital presence that might be some of these moments of truth that we’re all missing?

Leahanne Hobson:

Sure. Just to clarify, our secret shopping goes beyond the website, we are unique in that we also look at the sales process and the buying process, the onboarding, getting started and customer service, but regarding that website piece, there are … I think what Christian, from my team, probably mentioned is, a moment of truth is when we decide to either stay on your website or go, and it could be one thing that happens, or it could be two or three of these things happen and then it’s enough, and we leave. So, an example could be a broken website. We had a buyer shopping a website couple of weeks ago, and they had a great call to action, “If you want more information about this and a 30 minute free consultation contact us here.” And my buyer was like, “Oh yeah, I’ll take that.” And clicked on and it went to a broken link.

Logan Kelly:

No.

Leahanne Hobson:

Yeah.

Logan Kelly:

Oh, no.

Leahanne Hobson:

Yeah.

Logan Kelly:

That’s brutal.

Leahanne Hobson:

Horrible, because my buyer will be persistent. They will try other ways to reach that company, but normal buyers don’t.

Logan Kelly:

Right, right.

Leahanne Hobson:

[inaudible 00:13:30] buyers. So, that’s one thing, another thing, a lot of companies haven’t put HTTPS on their website, so it’s not secure, which means, last week a buyer went to a website and clicked on and it said … Have you seen this lately?

Logan Kelly:

Yeah.

Leahanne Hobson:

“Please be aware, the website you are about to go to is non-protected.” Now, does that make you feel creepy?

Logan Kelly:

Yeah. Like, continue at your own risk, this could ruin your computer and steal all your information. Yeah. It’s scary.

Leahanne Hobson:

Exactly, so one, you’re not going to do it just because you don’t want to risk that, but two, the brand that you had in your mind that you were going to go to their website, you’re starting to think, “Wow. Creepy thoughts.” And that’s not how you want to start a sales engagements.

Logan Kelly:

Right. Absolutely.

Leahanne Hobson:

That’s a simple thing and you can buy it from your provider and I don’t know, I think it costs 50 euro or something like that.

Logan Kelly:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s simple.

Leahanne Hobson:

It’s cost of doing business.

Logan Kelly:

Interesting. So, this is great. Well, I think there’s a few really good nuggets in here. Is there anything you’d like to leave the listeners with before we wrap this up?

Leahanne Hobson:

Yeah. Just staying with the theme, I think, generating demand, generating it digitally, I’m a big supporter of that, but people usually go to the dentist a couple of times a year in order to fill in cavities, so do that business due diligence and check to make sure everything works. And then, you can invest and do the right things with companies like yourself and grow. So, assess that everything’s in order and then grow.

Logan Kelly:

Bam. I love it. Well, Leahanne, thank you for joining us. We hope to have you back. Everybody, this is Intent Topics. Thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to give us a five star review on whatever podcast app you listen on and we will see you next time.