Welcome to Tuesday Talks, a live discussion series where we shed light and bring truth to emerging topics in the communications industry. I'm Rebekah Johnson, Founder and CEO of Numeracle, and I'll be co-hosting today’s session with Molly Weis, our Vice President of Marketing and Communications.
So today we're shifting gears away from a discussion on emerging technologies and over to a discussion on best practices for how to market to these technologies. When we’re looking at, from Numeracle’s perspective, marketing and getting engaged with our partners, it's so much more than just getting out who we are in the industry. It's also about how we support our customers, how we support the industry as a whole and move it along, and how we lead because we're a leading type of company.
There's so much involved just to get that aspect of marketing into the industry for change to happen. This is why, today, I have invited Molly to join us. We're going to discuss our non-traditional approach to marketing.
Absolutely, thanks, Rebekah. Hi everyone, I'm excited today to talk more about marketing and share some strategies that you all can take away to inspire your own marketing teams.
So, Molly, I hate to tell you but right off the bat when I first started the company, everyone told me, “save your money don’t do marketing,” from day one. But you know what? I have had the privilege to actually work with some incredible marketing teams over my career. I realized marketing is one of the absolute key roles that I need for my startup team. I've got to have the technology, I've got to have sales, and I’ve got to have marketing. It just wasn't an option. Unfortunately, Molly, what also wasn't an option was a budget; we had a budget of $0 for marketing.
I remember talking with you when we were first interviewing and of course, you blew me away with your vision, and your insight, and how your approach was to marketing. We were real and honest and I just didn't have a budget for marketing and asked you if you could still achieve it.
So, Molly, how did you take what we had, your limitation of $0 budget, and create a multifaceted campaign to launch Numeracle?
I knew without a budget I'd have to get extremely creative so I remember starting by making a list of every element that I could think of that we could possibly accomplish on the cheap. I made a focus not out of the channels of distribution that we were able to achieve, but really out of the messaging behind where we were distributing it.
Thinking about your prospective customers and their partners, they're constantly out there looking to solve some problem whatever that may be related to your own business. When you have the answer to that problem, to make it known, people will be able to find you and come to you for it whether you're paying to advertise that or not. You have to make sure that you're putting the answers out there in multiple places, described in multiple different kinds of ways, so instead of being this “best-kept secret,” you’re actually this exciting new secret expert that people have not heard of yet until now when they’ve just discovered you so it makes them even more excited because they think they’re in on some kind of a secret.
You mention not needing to pay someone else to put the spotlight on you and this is certainly something Numeracle has seen, from offers to pay to have our product listed on the “Top 100 of the Industry.” I've been offered to be the “Top Leader in the Industry,” in some magazine that I have never even heard of. There's a lot of easy pay-to-play solutions out there that, honestly, we've intentionally avoided.
Can you speak more to why companies shouldn't focus on raising funds for this type of activity?
The way I look at it is when you pay to be featured in an article, you're really switching out of the world of journalism and into that world of advertising. Though it's more time-consuming, it's a hundred percent possible to be featured in an article based on the merits of your work and the unique problems that your company is solving. Nine times out of ten it’s going to be in a publication or a platform that your prospective customers are actually consuming.
Molly, I remember the first time that Numeracle was featured in The New York Times and it was not because we were an advertiser. It was one hundred percent because they were collecting research for an article and found Numeracle as an expert in our field.
Exactly, it's directly tied to our approach of positioning leadership where we actually are leaders rather than advertising some kind of smoke and mirrors leadership where you're paying to become part of someone else's marketing. It all goes back to that strategy of making sure that you're able to be found and that you are visible to those who are searching for the solutions in your area of expertise.
Right, being visible and making technology leadership accessible to those in need of a solution is exactly how we started growing our client base when we were starting out.
So many of our early intro calls happened as a result of someone seeing you, Rebekah, on a panel or at an event, curiously starting to Google us and then reaching out. Once we picked up on this trend, Numeracle made absolutely sure we were at every industry association event that we could be at. If the sponsorship fees were too heavy at the time, we simply offered to contribute our expertise and resources instead of through our pocket book.
That’s right, it made a road warrior out of me to say the least. When we weren’t in a position to pay for the spotlight, I had to start moderating and leading panel discussions, and chairing committees, and volunteering to lead task forces. Each of those exposures genuinely led to new opportunities to speak and promote the brand as word spread about the unique solutions that we were solving. None of this happened through a single sponsorship or advertising dollar but through leadership, true leadership.
Then I started my own industry association, recently this year, the Enterprise Communications Advocacy Council. As Molly knows, this one has opened the door to even more collaboration across the industry with subject matter experts in relevant fields.
It definitely has, and I would encourage any teams out there who are struggling to get their foot in the door of a larger event they're interested in, Rebekah, we see this all the time. There are some huge things out there that we we wish we could be doing but especially when the cost is high my suggestion would be to explore what's on the agenda, look for a place you think you can add expertise, volunteer to speak or if you have a partner in the industry who is already speaking, ask if they need any help. Before you know it, suddenly they’ve invited you to join the panel discussion as well.
I believe this is exactly how Numeracle found its way onto those panel discussions in the past. There's definitely a marketing strategy around that with the partnerships that we built and it just kept repeating and repeating and repeating. I think it’s really important that those listening grasp this and understand it.
You've been leading those partnerships, so can talk a little bit more about how those partnerships work?
Absolutely. We've definitely found that partnerships go a very long way, especially when you can find partners who have big marketing budgets to spend but are short on resources to create the content to sponsor the events that they’ve already committed to. I can speak from personal experience working for a previous company where I managed a one million annual marketing budget. We had tons of connections to publications, we had sponsorship dollars, and we had trade show booths that had already been paid for. But we had no resource time to come up with anything relevant to publish or promote that hadn't already been done.
In this world I have found if your currency isn't there in the form of a budget, your currency is your own creativity, your knowledge, and your resource time. Get sleuthy and talk to anyone and everyone that you're in business with or searching for a partner who is in need of an extra set of hands. When you find this partner, donate your time and energy to one of these partners in exchange for, let's say, joining them in a webinar that they're sponsoring. Be the subject matter expert in somebody else's trade show booth. Go write a blog or an article for someone else. Suddenly your partner has become your advertising channel and your message is out there getting published, yet you have not spent a dime.
Molly, I didn’t know that I was going to learn something new about you today. I don’t think I realized that you managed a million dollar budget, but this makes so much sense in your strategy and why it was so successful. You understand the other side of the relationship, which I think is so key for a relationship or partnership to work; you have to understand where your partner's coming from.
It has been amazing to see for Numeracle, even in our early days of being a startup, we were volunteering to take the lead on marketing materials necessary to launch the new partner initiatives that we had. I think it’s important by being flexible enough to represent our partners brands, it's not always about you, right? It's about our partners and representing our partners’ brands in a way that pays respect to those brands. We've not only earned the trust of our partners but we've been able to get our name out there on the marquis with some awesome major power players due to this ability to adapt and represent the interests of our partners.
Exactly, Rebekah. That's where the tight communication between leadership teams and marketing is absolutely essential. As marketing people, we don't often get the opportunity to learn the ins and the outs of strategic partnerships, product roadmaps, or anything else going on at those higher levels within the company. Even the most talented marketing teams out there can't usually create a compelling message to promote a product or solution when they aren't given that mindshare to learn in an in depth way what problems are being solved for the customers out there. We’re not in on those conversations. The difference at Numeracle has always been that you've always made this a priority for me.
Can you share some more insight for the other leaders who are on the call, why this has been so critical to our success?
One thing I love about anyone who comes to the marketing space is they’re creative people, they really are. No one chooses to go through the training that they do and obtain the degrees and the experience unless they are creative and motivated. We are really selling ourselves short on leveraging marketing just to do email blasts, a website, some PowerPoints, and a booth. If that’s all you're getting from your marketing department, chances are it's your leadership that's the problem. I'm pretty sure nobody in marketing ever goes and gets that degree and that's all they want to do.
The only way to get our vision out into the industry is through a marketing channel. That really requires a relationship with the executives and the marketing leadership so we’re always in sync on the vision and that vision can change, that vision can shift, but we have to be in sync. We talk weekly or daily; for every little activity we do I'm not micromanaging in any way, shape, or form, but as the leader you are responsible to deposit that vision into the marketing leadership team. It's the responsibility of the marketing team to capture what that vision is and make it their own.
I can say that for every leader within Numeracle. Each one has captured the vision of where we're going and they translate that into their area of responsibility, and then we’re all moving in the same direction. Molly, I give you a lot of credit for the ability to do that and that's why you're a leader within the Numeracle team.
I think we're all synced up on those two for sure. It's the leaderships team's job to create the vision for the company, and the product teams job to define how the product works and what it is, and it's definitely the marketing teams job to create a way to describe all of this in a way that aligns with the goals that the customer is trying to meet. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about. Marketing here, I've always seen us as being the perfect “translator,” the way to meet in the middle between the perspective that the clients are looking to obtain about something that they don't know exists yet. They’re looking for solutions where they don’t know what they are but they know that they need to solve a problem. You want to be that solution that someone finds when they're Googling some problem that they’re trying to solve. You've got to present that in a messaging tone that feels comfortable, knowledgeable, and inviting for people to consume.
As you were talking, I was thinking I have seen companies, and there are some that we go head-to-head with in the industry, where it is so disjointed between the marketing and the executives and the product. How many times have people come to us saying they have the Powerpoint slide deck and have this product, but when it comes down to it, there is no product?
Having that leadership synced across-the-board, I know that you have one-on-ones with Anis (Chief Product Officer Anis Jaffer), as well. And that is really important, because to me it’s about integrity, this is an integrity issue if your marketing does not reflect what you truly offer. So I can't speak enough to the leadership.
I think we’ve always taken the approach that we don’t need to be exactly like everyone else; I'm certainly not, so I wouldn’t expect Numeracle to be like everyone else in the market. We’ve been successful in creating a voice of trust and approachability in the market that our clients have also come to trust.
What were your goals when creating the voice of Numeracle?
In the early days of being a startup, looking back fondly at this time for us, it was all about creating a sophisticated way of looking larger than we were but not so large that we became unapproachable. This actually might sound really simplistic or super obvious but my actual strategy was to convey the technology and the solutions in a down-to-earth way as much as possible. To describe the concepts truthfully in an unbiased way, that we were trying to get across, describing things in a way as if you would describe it to a friend or family members around the dinner table.
In the end, that style of communicating these technical concepts in a very conversational way became our foundation for easy-to-consume information that’s relevant for businesses out there searching for the information that we were sharing.
This goes with my theme, which I've already said once on here, and I go, “it's not about you.” I say that to Numeracle, I say, “Numeracle, it's not about you.” When it comes to marketing it's about the customer, and you're hitting it with regards to how we communicate what we can offer. So often I see companies getting caught up in their color scheme, their fancy words, their little logos, and they create a whole product line with a name where you can't figure out what it even is. It just becomes about promoting who they are.
We made that little mistake in the beginning and we stumbled and we figured out why people weren’t understanding what we were saying. We discovered, why don’t we just tell them in simple concepts and simple words? I really think it's important that others do the same and not get caught up in these fancy logos, fancy words, and all this other stuff that loses the message of what you really want to get across.
What are some tips you could give to listening that can mimic this approach that we refer to as a conversational and approachable marketing style?
I’m going to take that first part where you mentioned some of the hurdles we were trying to get over when we were launching, let’s call them ‘trademarks names’ for things. We found that people don't know our product names because they haven't talked to us yet. They're not able to go search for this product name that they don’t know exists. All they know is what they’re trying to solve, they know what issues they’re having.
We learned that pretty early, on but were wondering why we weren’t getting as much traction to certain areas on the website we thought we should be getting. When you look at the Google Search Terms, for example, we dug into the metrics to try and figure this all out and found people time and time again searching for the issues they’re having, not for the name of our product because they don’t know what that is. We made a flip early on to stop getting fancy with everything and decided to just call things what they are. That's been super successful for us.
With the naming of everything and the descriptions of all of it, it’s definitely been all about the content for us. When we talk about conversationally delivering new content, we literally used conversations that we were having with customers and prospects to shape the way the content unfolded. If we had a few web inquiries from people coming and telling us, “My numbers keep showing up as ‘Spam Likely’ and I don't know why,” guess what our next blog post was titled? “My Numbers Keep Showing Up as Spam Likely and I Don't Know Why.”
You're literally just trying to answer people's questions but it’s not scalable to continue to do this one-on-one; you can't just wait to answer every question as they come in. You assume that a lot of people have the same question and you deliver it in a one-to-many strategy where you get a couple common themes and you go for it. Using the actual conversations you're having with prospects and customers as a never-ending resource for ideas and for new content for your marketing team is something I would definitely suggest. Sales teams out there, feet on the street, anybody that is hearing it directly, voice of the customer, you're hearing again and again what people want to know. Take that, catalog it somewhere, and give it to your marketing teams and have them go and run with it.
If you use this strategy you're going to lead people to contact you organically in an inbound type of way, you can continue this flow of people coming in, and continue to create that content that's addressing the real world problems or the curiosities of your audience. You can use this as a great way to supplement any of those traditional outbound promotional strategies such as, again the traditional stuff, advertising, spending on email lists, sending sales teams out to canvas for new business and whatever else. I promise you'll be so busy tackling all of the inbound interest that you’re getting that your marketing teams aren’t going to miss or be worried about spending advertising dollars on paperclip campaigns or things that just have diminishing or inconclusive results.
When people ask what our outbound strategy is, we tell them we are still dealing with the inbound. Three years later most of our leads are inbound, it's them reaching out to us from those avenues that you set up. It's an incredible story and I know we are still writing, the story is not finished yet. I'm blown away and amazed with the work that you've done from day one. It's an absolute honor and privilege, and I told you this I think soon after the first presentation that you did, I said, “Molly, get ready to take some notes because you're going to write a book about how to market on a budget of $0 and you will be giving talks. That is in your future, it's phenomenal.”
And I’m so excited that we got to do this for the first time through Tuesday Talks. So on this last note, Molly, it looks like we have a few minutes left for some questions. There's one that I want to participate in answering as well, I think it's a really good question.
How do you get execs comfortable using social media or speaking on video?
I've got a perspective in this just from helping Rebekah try to deal with all these requests. Like we said, we get so much inbound activity from people wanting us to do things and be around to share our expertise and knowledge. What I’ve found has been the most helpful strategy, at least when prepping Rebekah for these types of activities or even managing some of it myself as I’m trying to go back and forth with scheduling, is making it as easy as possible to accomplish would be top of the list.
I know the pandemic moved all of us out of physical offices into home offices. In the past you could have had a marketing team help you set up a nice area, walk you through lighting and how to turn the zoom on and do everything else, get you some scripted notes, and prep you, do A/B testing, whatever... Now we can't really do that anymore so it's just as important to provide those super specific details about what are videos’ goals? What are expectations of what's going to happen? Exactly how long is it supposed to be? What exactly am I going to talk about? Exactly how do I login? Exactly who is watching?
All the specifics really help execs become more comfortable because they know exactly what they're getting into. Take away any of that fear about what might happen with the technology or what they’re going to do. You just hand it to them and say, “here’s exactly what’s happening this time.” The same thing for me would go for social media interaction. Let your execs know exactly how you want them to interact with social media, point them exactly to what you want them to interact with, give them instructions, “share this,” “say this,” “do this.” The clearer you can be with these types of media the easier it’s going to be because executives do not have time to try to figure it out. You've got to spell it out for them to make it easy and get them used to it so it can start to be more of a part of their daily life.
I want to add on to that, from the executive’s perspective on use of social media and doing videos such as this, is in line with some of the points that you made with regards to being prepared. As an executive, we're going from meeting to meeting to meeting, no joke. When we do these podcasts, I had a meeting right before and I’ll have a meeting right after. I have to shift my brain, thoughts, and processes. So being prepared in advance and making time to prepare for whatever you're going to say or how you're going to structure what your post is going to be. I don't make social posts off of the whim, there is thought put into it.
The other key element that I would say is to definitely know your audience. I get interviewed by different groups whose audience is a totally different industry. If you want to be relevant and be seen as a leader then you need to know who you're talking to and you need to understand what their challenges are and speak specifically to it. If you stay in a generic realm then you're just generic. Sorry to tell you, but you are. You've got to show that you understand.
I'll give a little example of this. In my prior life I did communications with regard to different industries, whether it was banking, healthcare, retail... and my biggest start was in health care and you have to understand healthcare and you have to understand the terminology and the words. I was mortified whenever I went into a word presentation and someone on our team was speaking to them as though they were the financial industry. We lost all credit even though our products were great and our services were great and everything about us was wonderful. But we lost complete credibility in that one presentation because they didn't speak for the audience and understand the audience in a way that they wanted to be communicated with. It's really important if you're at the executive level, there’s no excuse. You should know who your audience is and who your market is and trust your marketing team if they script some things for you.
We have one or two more questions here. We had one that was pre-submitted: What are some inexpensive strategies our marketing team should start exploring to get more creative with an existing budget?
I would say, have your leadership team arm your marketing team with one key message that you're trying to have your customers understand. Not a million things, not “hey marketing team to promote this more.” You need something super specific to work with. Once your team has that, there are a ton of amazing free tools out there, either for minimal subscription fees, or even better, a lot of the time they're free platforms. You just have to try to have an open mind, try a few things out and see what works for you. Never turn your nose up at new channels that you haven't used before, a great example of which is this podcast. We thought we’d try to find a new way to get the spirit of trust and transparency across and see if the conversational style will work for our followers. We launched, we learned, we carried on.
The important thing to remember is that you have to measure what's happening here as well. Check out and see what new types of activities you're launching that people are interacting with constantly, ones that aren't working cut them and move on to something else, listen to what your customers are asking and create that solid foundation of information one time that you can then repurpose and use via as many channels as you can come up with. That's just getting creative, again, you don't have to continue to reinvent the wheel. Once you’ve got that one piece of information you're trying to get out there you can get really creative with the different strategies to try and get it in front of people in new ways.
Again, I didn't know you were doing all that. I do see your tracking which is really fun when we have our quarterly updates, that’s always fun to see that slide of our progress and our growth. We’re always amazed with the numbers that you put in front of us, it’s quite amazing.
Molly, I'd like to give you an opportunity to summarize, if you can. I know we gave out a lot of information. What’s great is this will be available in a podcast, but what are the three key things that you would like everyone to walk away from this conversation knowing?
Okay, we can do that and I'm going to tie in and one more question we got in the chat window into the answer.
The question that came in is: How do you differentiate your marketing in a mature market versus in a saturated market versus one that's a new product category or market?
I'd say the same strategy I would use there would resound across any saturated market or new market. Understand what your customers are looking for that they haven't found out elsewhere. I’d say, for Numeracle, we’re in a relatively new market and we've created a lot of these things ourselves. But there are other competitors out there and there always will be. It's been about understanding how we're different, listening to definitely the voice of the customer and listening to exactly what our customers are saying when they come to us telling us they’ve talked to many people and still don’t understand. Can we explain it to them in a different way?
I would say really closely understanding the needs of your customers, being super creative, not falling into the trap of the ‘easy button,’ trying to take things in-to-house, and listening to what people are coming to you for, so pay attention. For your marketing teams, what search terms are leading people to your website? What are those? Do you have content around those? If not, great place to start building new content.
I’d say number three is definitely to listen to leadership teams in terms of what the product is in general. You can be as cute as you want with your marketing strategy, you can make it look awesome and be fun colors, but if it doesn’t actually represent what the product is trying to do or what the mission of the company is, it’s not going to do anything.
This podcast episode has been probably one of my favorites, and we're going to do the same thing with Anis and some others; we’re going to explore what it is that makes them so awesome.
So I really appreciate you coming on this episode and talking about marketing because I'm extremely proud of the work that you've done. I’m really proud and honored to be a part of what your future might be and watch you grow. You're going to spread those wings and are going to leave me someday in the future and I'll be proud to say, “I knew Molly.”
We’d like to thank all of you for joining us on another episode of Tuesday Talks. We hope to see you all again on Tuesday, June 1st, where we’ll be joined by special guests John Bruner of Aegis Mobile to discuss How to Attest Callers on Your Network by Implementing a Local Policy Solution for STIR/SHAKEN. Until next time!