#HowIBuy – Volume 2

An in-depth look at the buying process from 12 different perspectives.

Learn From Leading B2B Buyers in #HowIBuy Volume 2

Why Read #HowIBuy Volume 2?

Welcome back to the #HowIBuy series. #HowIBuy is a customer-centric look at how decision-makers buy. For volume two, we’ve conducted another dozen interviews to bring you more valuable insights into what you should be thinking about when prospecting senior buyers.

Key themes discovered about the modern buyer include:

  • B2B buyers are behaving like consumers
  • Trust must be built across a committee of buyers
  • Their networks are everything, so target them

We hope you enjoy these interviews as much as we enjoyed conducting them!

Get a free preview below, read our interview with Elle Woulfe!

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Elle Woulfe
VP of Marketing, PathFactory

First, tell us a bit about PathFactory – what you do and a bit of a rough approximation of size to set some context.

PathFactory is an Intelligent Content Platform that gives marketers a smarter way to deliver content across every channel. We make it easy for buyers to self-nurture so they become educated and qualified faster and more efficiently. We’re also transforming how companies define “sales-readiness” by tracking what happens after a prospect clicks and delivering insight into how content is consumed. We believe that great marketing is at the heart of great companies and that marketers should have the power to generate transformative outcomes for their businesses, their audiences, and themselves.

We’re a growth stage business based in Toronto, with a pretty distributed workforce across the United States. I was the first remote employee to join the company a little over two years ago and the first American to work at PathFactory.

And as for you, Elle, what is your role and what kind of things do you spend money on throughout a year?

I’m the VP of Marketing and I’m responsible for what I would call “full funnel” marketing – from creating awareness and general market education at the top of the funnel, to much more structured programs designed to cultivate consideration and enabling our sales teams. As a result – I spend money on lots of different things. We’re a very data and process driven marketing team so we spend a fair bit on technology and infrastructure – some of that is data and services but a lot of it is the software that helps us to operate and scale. The rest is loosely what I would call programs and media – much of that is channel cost, content creation, some consulting and lots of events.

How do you find out about what’s “out there”? How do you discover the latest solutions and approaches that might have a chance of making your world better?

The most common and reliable way is from people I know and trust. Marketers are a pretty social bunch and I’m lucky to have a strong, smart network so I take a lot of cues from folks who have had paved the way and had success with different tools and programs in their own marketing. I’m also in a unique position because we are a marketing technology company so our customers and prospects are a great source of information – we sponsor and participate in lots of marketing events and I often find myself wandering around a trade show floor, checking out what the other vendors are up to.

I have a 3X rule. If I’ve heard about a particular idea or technology three times or from three different people, I always investigate it further. When something keeps popping up on my radar, it feels like I shouldn’t ignore it. I am also a big proponent of empowering my direct reports and it’s the job of everyone on my team to bring their ideas and make recommendations for the new tools, technologies and programs we should be investing in so it’s not just me making these decisions. I have several people on my team that are responsible for driving innovation in terms of how we allocate our budgets.

How does a decision play out? What role do you play? What role do your front-line leaders play?

It really depends. When I first joined PathFactory – I drove most of the decision-making and worked collaboratively with my Senior Demand Gen Manager to research and implement a lot of the technology we purchased, but as we’ve grown, that has changed. Now it has more to do with what kind of purchase it is.

We have a pretty strategic initiative going on right now that’s a good example of where I’m really the owner and have been from the start – I selected the vendor, handle all the communication and manage the day to day on the project. For most of our technology decisions, I am always involved but often it’s at the end to give it the green light. I still bring a lot of problems to the team that require solutions and ask for their help in finding the right tools to address our needs. Last year we wanted to build our own ideal customer profile and needed some very specific data, so I tasked my demand gen and revenue ops managers with sorting through all the options and bringing back their recommendation. They will ultimately own the project so it makes sense for them to handle the due diligence. Similarly, I wanted to add some automated direct mail capability for the sales team so I asked them to go and investigate the options.

But sometimes it will work in reverse. My Revenue Ops Manager recently asked for a new reporting tool that he felt would add some insights he was missing and my content marketing folks requested an SEO tool they were lacking so it works both ways. I trust my team to do their research so if they bring me a request and it works with our budget and fills a need, I’m usually pretty open to approving things.

From a program and channel perspective – we are always experimenting and trying new things. We tend to brainstorm those ideas on a longer-term basis. For example, at the start of 2017, we outlined several different media channels and programs we wanted to test and then as we started to see how things performed, we would kill stuff that wasn’t working. We’re very agile so we’ll look at the calendar, see how we’re tracking against our funnel goals and figure out if there are new programs or channels we want to add to the mix. It’s a fairly collaborative process.

Obviously there are a lot of great ideas. How do you prioritize what initiatives are “now” and what are “later”?

It’s mostly goal driven – my plans and budgets are built around opportunity targets, which are modeled based on revenue goals for the year. We’ve gotten pretty good at building models with a high level of accuracy and we model out program return so I have a good idea of what I need to do each quarter.

Certain things are table stakes – those are the fixed costs that are non-negotiable. Our marketing automation cost for example, or the platform we use for response management and attribution reporting. We start with that stuff because it’s essential to how we operate. Then we look at our big programs that our essentially the cornerstones of our marketing mix – a lot of those are events which drive a significant amount of qualified demand, but there are some other types of programs in there too that are essential to other elements of our marketing mix.

When I build my budget at the beginning of the year, I code it: red, yellow green. Green needs to happen. It’s how we keep the lights on. Yellow is pretty critical to how we’re going to hit our goals. Red is stuff we’d really like to do but if you told me to cut 30% from my budget – that’s the stuff that would go and I could still probably hit my SQO targets. The “now” stuff is the Green and Yellow. The later is Red. If the red stuff makes it into the plan, then it becomes a now thing. Obviously, that’s also resource dependent so we sometimes have plans to do things that get forced onto the back burner simply because we don’t have the man power to get them done even if we can fund them.

Read the rest in the Guide!

Key Takeaways

  • The role of the VP of Marketing is central in major buying decisions, but often works closely with their team and other areas of the organization when selecting tech to add to their stacks.
  • Marketing teams are becoming more and more data and process driven, and as a result spend a fair bit on technology and infrastructure.
  • Marketers tend to be a social bunch and frequently rely on their networks for recommendations for different tools and programs.