EP 191: Becoming a Category King with Mark Donnigan | Beamr

In this episode, Stacy sits down with Mark Donnigan who is the Vice President of Marketing at Beamr, a company that leads in global, video software technology. The two discuss the importance of category design in B2B marketing, as well as how certain marketing approaches and strategies can help bring in sales and fight competition.

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Stacy Jones (00:01):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of Influencer Marketing, and brand and content agency, Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for topics for us to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today.Stacy Jones (00:16):
While it is impossible to be well-versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy or money, whether you’re doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.Speaker 2 (00:31):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.Stacy Jones (00:36):
Welcome to marketing Mistakes And How TO Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones. I’m so happy to be here with you all today and I want to give a very warm welcome to our guest, Mark Donnigan, the vice president of marketing at Beamr. Beamr is a global video software technology leader. For him, Mark leads corporate and product marketing, including growth initiatives, digital, PR and events with an eye focus on revenue achievement. He’s doing a lot of things right as his teams work as results-driven, a four-time increase in industry engagement metrics, a two-time increase in growth and marketing in qualified leads, and have obtained customer acquisition costs significantly lower than the industry average.Stacy Jones (01:12):
Mark has that rare mind of both a creative and systems thinker, and he’s worked in early in growth stage startups in the segment of high technology, software, and software as a service in both consumer electronic, hardware and services brands.Stacy Jones (01:26):
Today, we’re going to talk about how successful B2B brands are standing out from competition, and driving sales to marketing approaches and strategies. We’ll learn what’s worked from Mark’s experience, what could be avoided, and how some are missing the mark.Stacy Jones (01:39):
Mark, welcome.Mark Donnigan (01:40):
Thank you.Stacy Jones (01:40):
Why don’t we start off and have you share with our listeners a little bit more about what got you to where you are here because you have an interesting background to getting into marketing.Mark Donnigan (01:52):
I have a very interesting background. So, yeah. So, I won’t bore with all of the details, but the trajectory of my career, when people say, “What do you do?” or “Who are you?” the usual question, right? Of course, it’s easy to say, “Oh, I run marketing,” or whatever, but that’s really a very incomplete answer. I call myself a business builder. What that means specifically, and how it follows the trajectory of my career and just what I’ve done professionally, is that I’ve always been drawn to companies and products and markets where there’s the opportunity to build something that’s new or to really enact significant change, so maybe a legacy market that’s undergoing some radical shift.Mark Donnigan (02:54):
So, in that context, I kind of came up through the sales side, not kind of, I did. I started out in sales. As I progressed and begin to lead sales teams, et cetera, marketing was always a component. A lot of times, it was because maybe we’re a smaller company, we’re a smaller organization or I just felt like that I maybe had some insights, and was able to go off and build some assets or to do something that my sellers needed.Mark Donnigan (03:28):
So, even when I had a full-time head of sales hat on, just as an example, I was always working very closely with marketing, whether I formally had a sales marketing title or not. So, that’s my connection to marketing. A lot of that just comes because I found that messaging is so critical. So, just as I was working with my sellers early on, and we would spend so much time just on positioning and understanding, again, some of this is block and tackling of sales, right? It’s just understanding what are the needs of the clients, what’s the needs of the customer, and how can we speak to that in such a way that they’re going to buy our product over the other product or solution.Mark Donnigan (04:18):
So, that just put me on this path. As I was able to get involved in other interesting companies and do things, they were more around corporate strategy and business development. Maybe a little bit less directly responsible for a number, but very much responsible for success of the organization. That just lined me up perfect to take on then a full-time official vice president of marketing role, but I definitely am in some ways an atypical vice president of marketing, which I hope that we can get into some of the ideas that I’ve given you to talk about because I think some of the viewers will agree, and some will probably not agree, which will be fun.Stacy Jones (05:09):
Well, I think it’s so interesting, and we will, absolutely, get into all of that. I think it’s so interesting, though, with our world now, with more and more companies trying to position themselves, where sales and marketing truly is the light because that’s where success is found.Mark Donnigan (05:24):
That’s right. That’s right.Stacy Jones (05:26):
So, with what you’re doing, why don’t you share and pull back the curtains a little bit? I mean, your team has had some phenomenal success in making some magic happen, where you’re getting a lot of customer acquisition at a lower price point by using some of your magic sauce.Mark Donnigan (05:46):
Yeah. So, first of all, just so that everybody understands the context because I’m sure your viewers come from a wide range of markets and business model types, et cetera, so there’s B2C, B2B. So, I’ve spent really my entire career in B2B even though I have worked in you might say B2B2C, where for a period of time we were selling physical products to retail stores in the music business, who were then, of course, selling guitar amplifiers, and PA equipment, and recording studio equipment to, obviously, a consumer. Really, everything that I’ve learned comes from that B2B, doing business with another business.Mark Donnigan (06:36):
The first comment that I’ll make is that there really is no such thing as B2B or B2C. There’s H2H. There’s really just human-to-human. This is one of the things that even not too long ago, I had to really come around to really understand what that meant because I found even in my own thinking, I would fall into this, “Oh, that’s a B2C strategy. I’m B2B, so that’s not going to work for me,” or I’m going to completely ignore that or it’s almost like I just had these blinders up.Mark Donnigan (07:14):
As complicated as the sales processes that I am in now where we have a multiyear sales process, it’s not uncommon for there to be 25 decision makers. The way that the B2B process works today used to be you always were looking for the buyer, and there generally was one person who ultimately would make the decision. The B2B sales process has always been somewhat fragmented. There was a team of folks, but there was always one.Mark Donnigan (07:49):
It’s my belief that in at least the markets that we’re in and I think in a lot of industries, that’s not even the case anymore that literally any member of, in our case now, and not everybody has this fragmented process, but up to 25 people. Even somebody who’s not connected in any way to the budget has power that they can kill the deal.Mark Donnigan (08:13):
So, how do you get a sale closed in an environment like that? This is where the H2H, the human-to-human where at the end of the day you have people who are doing business with people. This is where a lot of my strategies that I think we’ll talk about have come from is just how do you get in front of people so that even that “least significant person” but who has a say, who very well could kill the deal or certainly can slow a deal down says, “You know what? I like these people. You know what? I actually think their product is pretty good. Hey, I think we should take a look at it, but it’s your decision.” Okay?Mark Donnigan (09:00):
To get that is in some case is what we’re looking for because the opposite response, “Well, I don’t know about it. I’m not sure. I think we can do,” and all of a sudden, you have a whole deal, a million dollar deal that gets turned sideways because of that. So, the first thing is this H2H. I think that is just absolutely essential. If you approach marketing that way, it actually simplifies things a lot.Stacy Jones (09:34):
So, with that approach, is it that you are harnessing inbound marketing to try to do education mainly, so that you’re not trying to just do a mass canvass and you’re doing top of the funnel, and you’re creating something that’s more mid-funnel before you’re getting down to that true buyer or how are you approaching?Mark Donnigan (09:52):
Yeah. So, I think, again, everybody’s environment is different. I know that there are some sales processes that are able to be pretty tightly defined in a funnel, where you can pretty clearly say, “Hey, we have step one through eight,” and, yeah, there’s a few steps that you might be able to skip or they can go out of order, but pretty much, these are steps, and you have to complete them or else the deal is not going to happen.Mark Donnigan (10:23):
For our experience, we certainly have gates. I think a more helpful way to think about it that I found anyway is to think in terms of gates, not so much like a funnel or steps because what happens is if we define the marketing process as a funnel and it’s steps one through eight, then you end up building processes to address a step, and the problem is is that we are not in control. That’s one of the things that marketers have to learn today, and recognize. It’s humbling because I like being in control. I don’t know about you, Stacy, but I like being in control, but we are not.Mark Donnigan (11:06):
The buyer, the customer is in control. The buyer is going to enter our funnel wherever they well please. They are going to interact with us as they please. The days of the vendor being able to force everybody or literally force everybody into a process like, “Well, let me set up a call with you first. You’re going to talk to this person, and then we’re going to qualify you, and then you’re going to go …”Mark Donnigan (11:34):
If someone is still executing that playbook, they’re losing. I mean, that sounds harsh, but it’s reality. They may not know they’re losing, but they’re losing. So, what I like to think of is in terms of gates. Now, these gates.

Mark Donnigan (11:54):
Now, let me talk about my process. So, we have a very technical, we have a software product. It’s not a SaaS solution. So, it’s something that our customer has to take and then integrate into a workflow, so it requires engineering on their side.

Mark Donnigan (12:10):
The very first gate that we have to clear is a validation that our process does what it does, I mean, that our product does what it does, that our software basically works the way we say it will.

Mark Donnigan (12:22):
Now, how we get to that can sometimes be a very direct path. We can have effectively maybe one or two meetings. There’s a phone call with a certain set of people, and we generally always know who those people need to be, and then they say, “Great. Let’s get a software evaluation license agreement in place, and send us the software. We’ll run it through our test. We’ll ask you if we need help, and then we’ll give you an answer,” and then we know from there what happens.

Mark Donnigan (12:54):
That’s a gate, for example, in our process. So, for the listeners, for the viewers, everybody, you can already think in terms of, “Okay. We have maybe two gates, maybe three gates, maybe six gates.” If it’s a highly regulated market, there’s going to be more perhaps. Maybe you only have one gate. The point is you have a gate. Then what I had done is oriented then the marketing function and the sales support function around these gates.

Mark Donnigan (13:25):
So, if I know, for example, in my business that the first gate is performance. So, one of the things that we focus very heavily on, one of our main selling value props is our software performance, and it’s very important for these very, very large services, where it could literally mean half as many computes, instances, computers running on AWS. That’s a very big deal because you’re paying, in some cases, millions of dollars to run these large computing centers.

Mark Donnigan (14:02):
So, therefore, I will produce content or we will produce specific studies, provide data, provide … I am a little bit negative on white papers, but I am not negative on the fact that … I’m negative on white papers as being like the magic vehicle that, “Hey, let me send you my 25-paged white paper, so you can see how great my product is.” Absolutely worthless, at least in our business.

Mark Donnigan (14:37):
Where there is value is to have a well-written technical document that contains the information, the answers to the questions that I know need to be answered at that gate. So, that’s what we really focus on.

Mark Donnigan (14:52):
So, one of the things, Stacy, is that we actually start a podcast ourselves. Our podcast, and we were talking about this before we started recording is an audio podcast. We actually don’t even do video, and yet we talk about video, right? So, you would think, “Wow! That’s super weird.”

Mark Donnigan (15:13):
What we have found is that it gave us a very non-intrusive, it gave us a new avenue to speak to our market for them to see us as thought leaders, for us to interview, in some cases, even our customers. We’ve had our customers on. We’ve had our partners on. We’re very non-salesy. It is, in fact, only at the very end do we say sponsored by Beamr Imaging. Obviously, people know me, they know our CTO well enough. So, it’s not that the industry doesn’t know who’s putting this on, but it is not a heavy branded thing. This is not a branding exercise. This is not look how awesome Beamr is. This is a communications vehicle that gives us a touchpoint, so that we can maintain contact with the industry without just flooding with ultimately irrelevant information that they don’t need or even don’t even want.

Stacy Jones (16:23):
No, and you’re able to establish your expertise in the field while doing so-

Mark Donnigan (16:27):

Stacy Jones (16:27):
… and create content that can be repurposed in oh so many different ways to keep on ticking.

Mark Donnigan (16:33):
By the way, isn’t this exactly your strategy?

Stacy Jones (16:35):
It is. It is.

Mark Donnigan (16:38):

Stacy Jones (16:38):

Mark Donnigan (16:38):
Yeah. We don’t have to spend time building up the value of a podcast, but at least in our industry and given that we’re in the video, in the video niche, et cetera, it was slightly counterintuitive. Now, interestingly enough, over the last, our podcast has been going for a little over a year. In fact, we just put out our 40th episode, which considering that that’s a run rate of about one every 10 to 12 days was … I guess it was … Yeah. We’re about every couple of weeks. We’re almost a year and a half old. Anyway, it’s really doing well and it’s now getting copied. So, others are like, “Hey, we need to podcast, too,” but it’s great. It’s not a bad thing. It just shows that that communications mechanism is resonating.

Stacy Jones (17:38):
Right, and there’s a need for the actual content.

Mark Donnigan (17:40):
That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. I stated this earlier, but I just can’t say it enough that the client is in control today. The customer is in control. So, part of our job as marketers is to understand what their needs are, and then meet those. Obviously, it’s our job as a commercial company to bring a product, but as marketers, it’s our job, too, to do the same.

Stacy Jones (18:12):
Yeah. 100%. So, you had done, you came to this podcast more prepared than anyone I’ve ever met.

Mark Donnigan (18:19):

Stacy Jones (18:20):
Oh, yeah. I mean, listeners-

Mark Donnigan (18:23):
That outline took 10 minutes.

Stacy Jones (18:26):
Yeah. Just want you to all know, Mark sent over an outline, there’s bullets, there’s like, “These are the big ideas.” I want to make sure you have the platform to get across some of those things. One of the things that you started off was an explanation, an understanding of how you can win at B2B marketing or H2H marketing.

Mark Donnigan (18:45):
Yeah, that’s right.

Stacy Jones (18:47):
Right, and become the king. You literally wrote out, “You become the king.”

Mark Donnigan (18:51):
Yeah, become the king. Yeah, that’s what we all want, right? Yeah.

Stacy Jones (18:56):
So, let’s dive in there. How do you do it? how do you become the king or the queen of your category?

Mark Donnigan (19:03):
That’s right. That’s right, king or queen, both completely absolutely valid. So, yeah. There’s a concept that is not completely new. I want to give credit where credit is due, and there’s many people who develop this. So, again, if someone’s listening and saying, “Oh, but there’s this other person who’s done a lot of work in the area.” I know there are. I just don’t know about them.

Mark Donnigan (19:26):
Christopher Lochhead is one that … He wrote a book called Play Bigger with some of his partners. So, he has some co-authors as well, but Play Bigger came out in 2016, if I remember correctly. He did find this process called Category Design. Category design is really simple to understand. I think almost … I’ll start with an example, and then I’ll explain what it is, and then just the high level steps is to how you execute it.

Mark Donnigan (20:03):
So, let’s think about the Apple iPod. Now, I think everybody is familiar. Nowadays, in fact, I don’t know. I think Apple, do they even have an iPod now. I don’t know. The iPod is the iPhone, but we all remember when the iPod was everybody had an iPod, right? What’s interesting is I think most people are well aware that Apple was not the creator of the mp3 player. They were not the creator of this category called portable music player, which was the category that they dominated.

Mark Donnigan (20:38):
At the height, Christmas of 2016 or I’m sorry, 2006, Christmas 2006, so this is really the height. The iPhone, remember, just came out in 2007. So, iPods were still very big and people were buying in 2010, 2011, maybe 2012. 2006 was really the height of it. Apple, during that Christmas season had 72 % of the entire market, 72%. Every single music player sold, the iPod consisted the 72%.

Mark Donnigan (21:22):
Now, do you remember Microsoft’s solution? Do you remember their player?

Stacy Jones (21:27):
I remember that, and I remember Philips’ time, so I had an mp3.

Mark Donnigan (21:32):
Phillips had a line. Absolutely.

Stacy Jones (21:36):
Yeah, a lot of lines.

Mark Donnigan (21:38):
There were a lot.

Stacy Jones (21:39):
All of a sudden, everyone just took a step back and ran. They ran. They ran. They’re like, “We can’t compete.”

Mark Donnigan (21:46):
“We can’t compete.” Yeah, yeah, can’t compete. Okay. So, Microsoft came. Microsoft said, “Hey, we can compete here.” They came out with a product called the Zune. The Zune, I should have looked this up. I want to say maybe it came out in 2001, 2002, somewhere in there. I may be off.

Mark Donnigan (22:13):
Anyway, so, the Zune came. So, Microsoft came out with the Zune or actually, maybe it was even 2003-2004 now that I think about it. It would have been 2000. Anyway, forget the time table. Point is Microsoft came out and let’s go back to Christmas season 2006. Apple has 72% of the market. Microsoft finished with a resounding 2.8% of the market, 2.8. This is Microsoft.

Mark Donnigan (22:40):
By the way, the Zune, by all rights, had features that the iPod didn’t. You could argue various points. Was it better? The point is is that this was not a bad product. Of course, we all can think of dozens, hundreds of examples of where you can look at a market and you can say, “There is a better product, but at lost,” and why is that. That’s because of category design. What it comes down to is when Steve Jobs announced the iPod and in all the early advertising, what did he do?

Mark Donnigan (23:16):
Did he hold it up and say, “Ladies and gentleman, I am so happy to announce and to reveal for the first time ever Apple’s mp3 player.” No. He held it up, he said, “A thousand songs in your pocket,” a thousand songs in your pocket. Now, you think about, going back then, you had portable CD players, which you wouldn’t exactly carry around a thousand CDs. That would be crazy. You had, of course, 1,000 songs is not 1,000 CDs, but hundreds of CDs, let’s say.

Mark Donnigan (23:54):
So, what did he do by saying, “A thousand songs in your pocket”? He defined the problem, first of all. So, the problem was, “Hey, I want to carry more music with me. I want to carry my whole library. I don’t want to just carry two or three CDs and have to manually change them or whatever or a couple of cassette tapes like the Walkman, going back 10 years earlier. I want to carry around my music library.” Okay. That was a practical problem.

Mark Donnigan (24:25):
So, category design and the message here is is that he was not marketing and Apple did not market an mp3 player, a cooler, slicker, neater, whatever, music player, mp3 player, whatever. It was a thousand songs in your pocket.

Mark Donnigan (24:44):
So, the first step to category design is to define a tangible problem. It’s easy to sometimes if we’re already in a well-established markets think, “Well, everybody already knows what we do,” right? It’s in my experience that, with very, very few exceptions, you can find something that you can define, you can put a label on that is a unique twist or a unique presentation that will cause someone to lean forward where previously they’re just hearing all these marketing messages and they’re just going in one ear and out the other.

Stacy Jones (25:28):
Marketing and tactics. Tactics do.

Mark Donnigan (25:30):

Stacy Jones (25:31):
This works for service businesses as well.

Mark Donnigan (25:33):
Oh, 100%. Oh, 100%. In fact, service businesses, I think, almost in some ways, is easier to do because you can say … A couple of years ago, I had a roof put on my house, right? So, I had a parade of roofers come through to give me quotes and everything. The roofer that I ended up hiring, it’s not that he really has done this exercise, but you know what? He was more than just a roofer, who would bring a crew out and replace the tiles on my roof.

Mark Donnigan (26:09):
He made it seem like he was a fabricator, who was going to deliver a different roof than the next company. Yet, reality was who knows? Maybe he’s seeing the same guys. I don’t know. You don’t really know how some of the stuff works.

Mark Donnigan (26:30):
So, the first is you define a tangible problem. The second, and this is really, really critical for category design is that you name the problem. You have to name it, but you have to be sure to put your solution at the center. So, you know what’s interesting, going back to the iPod, Apple iPod example is a thousand songs in your pocket. Now, you say, “But that’s not really naming a problem,” but it is if you think about it.

Stacy Jones (26:59):
You’re tethered to your music, otherwise.

Mark Donnigan (27:02):
Yeah, yeah, exactly. All of a sudden, they’re like, “A thousand? Wow! That’s a thousand songs.” Most people are not walking around thinking, “Oh, my library consists of 983 songs, and I just bought a new album, so now it’s …” They’re not thinking that way, but they’re thinking like, “Wow! That’s a lot of music. Wow! If I’m in the mood for rock, if I’m in the mood for country and for pop, I probably could have that in my pocket, and then now, whatever I’m in the mood for, I can listen to it.”

Mark Donnigan (27:32):
See? So, you define it. Then now, how does someone like Microsoft or Philips or the Rio or any of those early mp3, guess what? They were all marketing by capacity, 1 gig, 256 megs. You remember how they’re measured. The consumers are just looking and they’re like, “I don’t know. Which one should I get? I don’t know. This one’s a little 10 bucks more. I guess it’s better. Okay. I’ll buy that one.”

Mark Donnigan (28:04):
Then Apple comes in, and they’re double the price or even triple the price, but they say a thousand songs in your pocket and you’re like, “Of course. That’s what I want.”

Mark Donnigan (28:15):
So, first step, to find tangible problem. The second is name the problem, but find a way to put your solution at the center of it. This requires a lot of work. I mean, this is not … As we can see, it’s easy to just talk through, but this is what’s making marketing so fun today, in my opinion.

Mark Donnigan (28:36):
Then the third step, and again, there’s all these micro steps that are part of this, but the third is whenever you are communicating with the industry, you’re communicating with your customers, you are talking on your website, you are sending out email communication, any external communication, press releases, trade show booths, whatever, you’re always referring to your company and your product wherever feasible in light of the category.

Mark Donnigan (29:09):
Now, it could mean that you’re literally calling yourself the founder of the category, but nobody likes a company that just talks about themselves. So, that’s the weakest way to do it, but it’s better than just saying, “What do you do?”

Mark Donnigan (29:32):
“Oh, we make pipe-fitting machines for …”

Mark Donnigan (29:38):
“Okay. You and 1,800 other pipe-fitting machine manufacturers or whatever.”

Mark Donnigan (29:46):
So, by doing this, what ends up happening is is that you are carving out a space where now in time and if you do your job well, in time, the industry will begin to refer to you as the basis of comparison anytime they look at a competitor.

Mark Donnigan (30:09):
So, the beautiful thing is that you can think now like a little more modern day example, and let’s just stay with Apple, the iPhone, okay? So, Apple simply took their iPod dominance and what did they do? They now are the category king of smartphones. Now, I know that some will say, “Yeah, but they’re so many manufacturers who sold more unit quantity,” but when you look at what really matters, dollars, profit, revenue, Apple absolutely trounces, absolutely just decimates the nearest competitor in the smartphone category.

Mark Donnigan (30:50):
Why is that? There isn’t a soul that doesn’t walk in to look at a new Samsung what the new Q20, S20, whatever the new phone is, who doesn’t have on their mind the iPhone 11 or look at some other phone and what are they comparing it to? The iPhone 11, whatever the new iPhone is, whatever.

Mark Donnigan (31:13):
So, this is the key to category design and then becoming the king. The message is and the reason why I love especially the iPod example and throwing out those numbers is that, going back to the book Play Bigger and Christopher Lochhead and the research that he and his partners put into this, they found that pretty universally, regardless of industry, the category king takes upwards of 76% of the entire revenue of the whole sector.

Mark Donnigan (31:49):
Now, if that doesn’t just blow your mind. So, what that means is is that if we as marketers are playing to win, there really is no choice but to become a category king. Now, someone’s going to say, “But what do you do? Not everybody can be the king, and I’m in a space where I’m like, “I’m in the CRM market and there’s Salesforce. You’re telling me I need to be bigger than Salesforce?” Of course not, but you know what? What about defining, what about going in and saying, “We are going to target our CRM, both in terms of product, capabilities, but market position, we’re going to define a problem for law firms, and we’re going to become the category king of CRM in this particular area, so that if you are a law firm, we have 75% of the entire legal market. Is that an interesting business to you?”

Mark Donnigan (33:00):
I think most of us would say, “Yeah.”

Stacy Jones (33:02):
“I’ll take it.”

Mark Donnigan (33:03):
“Yeah. I’ll take it.” Exactly. So, this is something that I think chief executives, CMOs, executive leadership teams, founders, it doesn’t have to be only if you’re in a startup. In fact, I think it’s certainly applicable if you’re starting from scratch and you’re building a business from scratch like a startup, you’re in a new market, but if you’re an established market, it’s not too late to really think very carefully about how you can build a category that you can dominate and you can win.

Stacy Jones (33:43):
Okay. That’s awesome. That’s really good insight. Yeah. Okay. So, taking that a step further, the next area that you wanted to dive in to was all about demand generation marketing.

Mark Donnigan (33:59):
Growth hacking.

Stacy Jones (34:00):
Yes, because you found your niche. You are going to be it. You are the CRM for law, all things. So, now, what are you going to do to actually level that up?

Mark Donnigan (34:13):
Yeah. So, one of my observations is that, and I am not negative. The growth hacking, it’s become a whole sector, a whole category. There’s conferences, there’s SaaS platforms all around growth hacking and demand generation marketing. My strong belief is is that all marketing today is demand generation, that unless you’re blessed to work for Coca-Cola and God bless you or American Express or United Airlines or literally a Fortune 100, the brand building exercise is just not where marketers should be spending their time and attention.

Mark Donnigan (35:10):
The market is too noisy. There’s just too much competition for attention. So, all marketing is demand generation. Now, what’s interesting about that is that this gets then into the whole discussion of ROI and measuring ROI. So, demand generation on one hand is awesome because the idea is, “Hey, we’re investing a dollar and we’re getting $2 back. We’re generating demand. It’s very measurable. It’s very quantifiable. We know if our team is doing their job or not. We’ve set out these very clear KPIs.” That’s all good, and those things are needed, and you do need to know where you’ve been, so you know where you’re going, and all that.

Mark Donnigan (35:59):
So, this is not to say I’m not a marketing leader that doesn’t believe in measurement, not at all, but there’s a big difference between optimizing only for ROI and designing for ROI. So, I like to say that not everything can be measured for ROI, but everything should be designed for ROI.

Mark Donnigan (36:31):
So, when I’m talking about demand generation, cutting across the entire marketing organization, what I’m really referring to is is that the entire marketing team, however big or small that is, whether it’s one person working with maybe an agency or a couple of outsourcers, whether it’s two or three people or whether it’s 20 or 30 or 50 or 60 or whatever, that demand generation cuts across everything. So, if you’re in a bigger organization and your function really is more around content development, then it’s incumbent that as you’re writing even those blog posts that are not overtly salesy, that you have a very clear strategy or picture as to how does this fit into how we drive demand, whatever that looks like.

Mark Donnigan (37:31):
It might be some direct response. That’s, of course, the most direct way, right? If it’s B2B, it’s not direct response. I mean, you just don’t call it and go, “Yeah. I’m ready to license that software for a million dollars a year.” That’s not the sales process.

Mark Donnigan (37:48):
Again, we talked in terms of those gates. So, the demand generation is more driving towards what gate am I, again, to use the idea of if I’m writing content, if I’m a content writer, how is this serving to drive someone to clear the second gate in our process, just as an example.

Mark Donnigan (38:16):
This, of course, puts a new demand at what I found on marketers because now, obviously, being good at your craft is just table stakes, but now, you have to actually understand the ecosystem. You need to understand what’s the environment that our buyers are in. What are the trends? What’s happening in our industry that I should be speaking to, that maybe our product addresses, but maybe not, but by speaking to it, we’re showing that we understand we’re good citizens of the industry.

Mark Donnigan (38:57):
So, this whole notion, it’s maybe slightly ethereal and everybody’s environment in the way that their teams are built, of course, will mean that integrating demand generation through the entire marketing organization might be very cotton dried. It may really be how it works today, but I’ve observed, especially, in SaaS companies that there tends to be the demand generation team. All of marketing is demand generation. That’s really the point that I want to make.

Stacy Jones (39:35):
That makes sense. It all is driving to … Basically, what you’re talking about cornerstone content that you have something that you’re building and every building block, every blog, every podcast is helping move in the direction of getting people actually to that cornerstone to get them through that gate, and to start having them contact you, ask more questions or continuing opening gates.

Mark Donnigan (39:59):
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. Absolutely.

Stacy Jones (40:04):
Then you had a take in regards to how the CMO is a role that’s essential, and I think you’ve phrased it as a business conductor to work in tandem with the CEO, and the product team, man your sales team, and all these others. I mean, you are literally orchestrating and building and driving and making sure that only do the wheels not fall off the bus, but that the bus is going in the right direction with the entire rest of the fleet that you have.

Mark Donnigan (40:36):
Yeah. Really, I love the word conductor. I’m a musician, so maybe that’s where it comes from. Today, it is more exciting than ever to be a CMO or a marketing head or VP of marketing, whatever the title, but someone who’s carrying the primary responsibility for marketing leadership and marketing direction for a company. Today is the best time. I mean, it really is.

Mark Donnigan (41:07):
Yet, it’s super interesting to me that, and I don’t know if this is industry-specific or if the trend is getting better, but certainly, lots have been written about how the tenure CMOs is shorter than almost anybody in the C-suite. I think I saw not too long ago 18 months, 20 months is an average tenure, which is not good, if that’s really true. I can’t recall if that was industry-specific or where that number came from.

Mark Donnigan (41:42):
The point is is that it is well-known that the CMO chair is perpetually rotating. The reason I say that this is the most exciting time to actually be sitting in that seat, and I have a little bit of a theory and, of course, every organization is different. People are different. So, in no way am I trying to label why maybe someone didn’t last long in a role or whatnot.

Mark Donnigan (42:12):
I have a theory that I think is founded. That is that executing the, and I like to call it the business school playbook, which 15 years ago, 10 years ago, maybe even seven or eight years ago was the role. You build a team. There’s a management function of just making sure, like you said, the wheels aren’t falling off the bus, that every department is doing their job, and interfacing with the executive management. If you’re in a public company, then, of course, there’s a strong public facing persona to the role and all that kind of stuff, but it’s a little bit cosmetic. I’ll probably get totally shot at by somebody for saying that, but bear with me is what I’m explaining.

Mark Donnigan (43:04):
It’s a little bit cosmetic. You had the product head who ultimately was designing and is driving the product direction, and then maybe product marketing reported to the CMO, maybe not, depending on the organization, if it’s engineering-driven or whatnot. Again, there’s all these silos.

Mark Donnigan (43:22):
Today’s CMO is an incredible position where they’re empowered by the chief executive to work cross-functionally across product, across sales, not necessarily leading sales, although maybe in some organizations, the CMO also has primary revenue responsibility results leading the sales function, but certainly working in very close tandem with the sales leader and working obviously in very close tandem and coordination with the chief executive and the executive team to really chart the entire course of this demand generation engine, of this powerful force that is being built, that as we said earlier, buyers no longer are willing to come in to our process like, “Hey, we have step one. That’s where you start. Sorry. Start there.”

Mark Donnigan (44:23):
The buyer says, “No. I like step seven. That’s where I’m at.”

Mark Donnigan (44:29):
The CMO is in this incredible position to look at the industry, look at the inflections in the market, look at inflections in the business climate, technologies that are relevant to them, to their industry, to their product, to whatever their core business is, and to really be the conductor of all of this, and it’s uber exciting for someone to be sitting in that role, who really is a builder, and who is interested in doing more than just hiring the next better agency or negotiating the next better deal.

Mark Donnigan (45:12):
So, it’s my strong feeling and observation that I think what we’re going to start seeing and I believe we’re already seeing is a different CMOs coming in to the role from a more diverse background, maybe even from backgrounds that were not through typical marketing progressions. Not to say that they aren’t marketers. They need to be marketers.

Mark Donnigan (45:44):
The other thing that’s also interesting in this is that I think there was a role in the past or a place for somebody who legitimately was leading this big marketing organization, maybe in charge of spending 50 million, 100 million, $200 million a year, huge budgets both on advertising spend and whatnot, but who actually had never really been practitioners themselves.

Mark Donnigan (46:10):
Now, you’re seeing, especially from where I sit in technology, I can’t really think of any CMO who isn’t a serious practitioner. It doesn’t mean they do all jobs well, but who probably came up in or has just grown their individual capability to be able to be an excellent writer, be a very good presenter, have a very strong strategic sense, understand business strategy, be able to be an analyst, be able to step back and say, “Hey, is this the right direction? Are we going in the right direction?” rather than saying, “Hey, you guys tell me what you want to do and I’ll build a campaign for it,” which previously was how a lot of the orgs function, right?

Stacy Jones (47:03):
Yeah. It’s true. No. It’s 100% true. The fact is, I mean, if you’re going to be a leader in today’s climate, we all have so much access to education, right? There’s so much out there that you just grab on to, and you need to have someone at a company who’s a leader, who’s able to inhale some of that education, who’s driven to educate themselves, but then also someone who is that special beast, who is able to light people up and get them to do their jobs while you still have an understanding of what they’re doing. That’s the magic.

Mark Donnigan (47:38):
Yes, yes, yes, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it’s so true. There is magic there because it’s easy to talk about in a conversation like this. It’s very different to hang up on this call and then go execute, but I think you can feel even my enthusiasm. You started out by giving a bit of a nod to my slightly unconventional parachuting into a … We’re not a large company, so I’m not trying to over-represent the team or the scope of what I’m working on today, but just certainly parachute in. We have serious investors and we’re doing some good work. I did come a little bit non-conventionally into a head of marketing role, and yet, it’s one of those cool things about careers, right?

Mark Donnigan (48:41):
If you sat down to design it, you wouldn’t design it, but then, necessarily, the way it happened, and yet when you look back, you say it happened perfectly. So, just where we are today in terms of what the needs of the market are and given my personal progression and things that motivate me, it’s lining up beautifully.

Stacy Jones (49:04):
Well, Mark, you are absolutely the conductor of your own symphony. So, congratulations on that.

Mark Donnigan (49:08):
Thank you. Thank you. Stacy, thanks so much for inviting me on.

Stacy Jones (49:14):
Of course.

Mark Donnigan (49:14):
This is really, really amazing. Keep up the good work as well.

Stacy Jones (49:18):
Thank you.

Mark Donnigan (49:18):
I enjoy the diversity of the interviews that you do. It’s really great.

Stacy Jones (49:24):
Anything that interests me, so I want those people who’s very educational-based. So, if there’s a topic that sounds interesting that could potentially benefit my company or the clients I work with, I am very eager to just dive in and explore it a little bit more.

Mark Donnigan (49:39):
It’s awesome. I’m the same way. I’m exactly the same way.

Stacy Jones (49:44):
What is your podcast about?

Mark Donnigan (49:46):
So, it’s called the Video Insiders. It’s extremely niched. So, the industry that I’m in at the moment is video technology. We, actually, if you watch Netflix, you are most likely, depending on the device you’re watching on, watching our software. We do what’s called video encoding. So, if you think of it this way, producing a high quality video, you don’t even have to be technical to get the understanding that the files are really huge to capture the quality and to stream over the internet as awesome as all of our devices are and as fast as the internet is. It’s still much, much, much, much, much, much slower as in like 100 times less bandwidth than what the pristine full quality is that gets captured.

Mark Donnigan (50:46):
So, our software is the software, and video encoders take this really large file, make it nice and small, so it can stream, but preserve as much of the original quality as possible. That’s what we do.

Mark Donnigan (51:03):
So, the Video Insiders, we interview, for example, the Superbowl just happened, and the Superbowl was a really big event in streaming video because it was broadcast, it was streamed in 4K, so very high resolution and also with the technology called HDR, high dynamic range, which when you see, again, what’s beautiful about some of this stuff is you don’t have to understand anything technically. You just see it and say, “That looks awesome. That looks better.” That’s exactly HDR.

Mark Donnigan (51:37):
So, we just did an interview with the broadcast consultant who designed the entire workflow and from the camera through all the production chain, all the way to distribution on your smart TV, for example. So, that’s what we do.

Stacy Jones (51:56):
Awesome. That’s great. Okay. You don’t do it on video.

Mark Donnigan (52:02):
No. So, it’s funny. We don’t do it on video. Of course, on one hand, it’s like, “Wait a second. It’s a video show on audio. That totally doesn’t make sense.” Believe it or not, it’s a little bit practical, but more strategic in terms of why we don’t do video. The practicality video just introduces that extra level of production.

Mark Donnigan (52:28):
Then for us, it’s always a little bit of a fight of, again, going back to that authenticity, on one hand, I mean, I think this is … It’s like I’m clearly not sitting in a small studio apartment somewhere, but is this professional? Does it present in the way that we might want it to or need it to? All those things come up when you’re talking video. When you’re talking audio, it’s a heck of a lot easier.

Mark Donnigan (53:02):
So, we’ve decided to do that, but the practical, so that’s just the little more … It’s just a decision, right? Practically, we’ve had a lot of people say they love it because on commutes, in the gym, the audio podcast is preferable. So, every time when I’ve mentioned, “Yeah, we’re thinking about doing video,” they’re always like, “Well, that’s cool. I might, but I’m only going to listen to the audio.”

Stacy Jones (53:37):
That makes sense. Well, now, it’s the whole. You have to create it in as many ways as possible, so that people can come to you how they want to come, right?

Mark Donnigan (53:45):
Yeah. Also, our objective, our market is very tightly defined. This is not … I mean, relative to a public … I mean, it is a public podcast, but a broader topic, it’s a very, small, small, small niche market. So, even though we are … It’s not like we think we’ve reached everybody, not by any stretch, but we’re not monetizing the advertising. I’m not trying to get … It’s for a very different thing. It’s a B2B market strategy.

Mark Donnigan (54:24):
So, it’s demand, it’s demand gen. It fits into the demand generation bucket, but just like the outline, what we’re going to talk about. My personal opinion is, and it’s backed up with experience, and I think there’s a lot of other people who are in the marketing world coming alongside and saying, “Yeah, you’re right.”

Mark Donnigan (54:52):
The days of looking at marketing as campaigns and as silos and as functional blocks like, “Oh, we have our content creation team,” “Oh, we have our demand gen team,” “Oh, we have our growth hackers that are a part of that,” and you have all these functional blocks, there’s some organizations that I think that’s still valid, and that that way of working works, but in startups and fast growth, when you are in very dynamic environments, I like to call it the Glenn Gary/Glenn Ross environment. You just cant approach the world that way.

Mark Donnigan (55:33):
So, in some cases, there’s tactics that need to be implemented for a period of time, and then they should. It’s not because they didn’t work, but the market has shifted or where the audience is or what the industry is thinking about has moved. If everything’s built in these silos or in these functional block, it’s like, “Well, in my content team, I’ve got three writers that I keep busy, so we’re cranking out white papers.”

Mark Donnigan (56:00):
“So? Nobody’s reading them.”

Mark Donnigan (56:02):
“So, all right. I hope you like your white papers because they’re not doing anything for you, at least in most industries today.”

Stacy Jones (56:14):
Well, Mark, thank you so much. Now, for our listeners and viewers, if they want to find more about you, I know you’re on LinkedIn. Can you share a little of insight of how they can do that?

Mark Donnigan (56:25):
Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, I’m very easy to find on LinkedIn. Fortunately, my last name is not so common. So, yeah, just search for Mark Donnigan. I’m sure you can link up in the show notes there, Stacy, but to my LinkedIn profile. Really, that’s where to find me. I live and breathe and sleep LinkedIn. It’s just a wonderful network, and I have a really strong network there. So, I’d love for you to join me.

Stacy Jones (56:55):
Perfect. That sounds awesome. Then for all of our listeners today, thank you so much for tuning in. Really appreciate it. I look forward to chatting with everyone on our next podcast.

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Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them Reviews 

Must-Listen For Every Brand Marketer (And Owner)

This should be required listening for everyone who owns a business, works in marketing, or is interested in the business of entertainment. Great stuff!

The Best Marketing Podcast Ever!

Stacy is a brilliant branding strategist and she really knows how to bring out the best in her guests! This show is fun AND educational! If you’re looking to understand the world of marketing, branding, digital marketing, influencer marketing and more, look no further. This show has awesome insight into some of the greatest marketing minds out there today, and they provide practical advice you can use in your business today. #FanForLife

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Stacy does a really great job making this a highly actionable podcast for business owners. With a focus on marketing, she covers a wide range of related topics as well and is always very specific with her questions so that the listener gets pointed advice instead of vague concepts to take away. It’s also really helpful to the hear the why behind any marketing tactic so that we can decide if something sounds like a good fit for where we are at in this moment.

Love this marketing podcast!

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I love Stacey Jones!

I absolutely loved being on this podcast! Stacey is amazing – real, down to earth, and genuinely curious and interested in learning – this makes for a very engaging conversation and valuable podcast!

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I just listened to the episode named Insights To Product Placement Brand Marketers Need To Know, and I really enjoyed every minute of it! There are so many ways to approach product placement in a manner that provides wins for many – and it is not always driven by money. I am looking forward to listening to more!

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Stacy, host of the Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them) Podcast, highlights all marketing and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!
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