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Episode 21: Strategic Marketing with Ryan Bonnici

Welcome to Episode 21 of HubShots!

Interview: Remarkability with Ryan Bonnici (@ryanbonnici) – HubSpot Marketing Director Asia Pacific and Japan

Recorded: Friday 12 February 2016 and Wednesday 24 February 2016

This episode we have a fantastic interview with HubSpot marketing expert Ryan Bonnici.
Ryan Bonnici
Some of the key items covered in the interview:

– picking the right few channels to work on
– insight for marketing managers who are looking to grow into marketing director and CMO roles
– picking the right metrics to focus on
– reporting the right ROI metrics to motivate other departments
– product hunt success
– co-partnering success
– doing less webinars
– the importance of data and working backwards around what sales teams need
– fanatical about hiring
– being remarkable in some way

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Interview Transcript

Ryan Bonnici: I’m the Marketing Director across Asia Pacific – we have three sub-regions in Asia Pacific. We have Australia New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and very soon to be Japan.

Ian Jacob: Excellent. And how long have you been at HubSpot?

Ryan Bonnici: Just over a year now so it’s been an exciting 12, 13 months.

Craig Bailey: Excellent. All right so we’re going to ask you a few questions, and particularly in terms of marketing managers who are listening to this. We’re really interested in your perspectives across what’s happening in Australia and Asia-Pac, so let’s start with a few questions just around things that you’re seeing marketing managers face as challenges at the moment, and how you’re seeing that change in the last year.

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, look I think if you look over the last few years, the amount of channels and technologies that marketing managers have to use today has grown exponentially. So if you think back 10, 20 years, the main channels for marketers were TV, radio, friends.

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, it was very different. And so now, I’d look to the metrics but there’s more than 150 different channels that you can be on today as a marketing manager. So I think one of the big struggles is trying to first manage all of those different channels, and the second piece, I think, is pushing back on your boss and saying, well, yes, no, we don’t need to do all of these channels. I think marketing managers traditionally are very bad at prioritizing and focusing on the key thing they need to do and really delivering on that because you’re trying too many things that you’ll deliver at none.

So a good example would be when we launch a blog in Hubspot. So we’ve just launched our Hubspot Japan blog. People have said how many leads are you generating, how many MQLs are you generating. We actually don’t really care about all that at all. When we launch a blog, all we care about is traffic and blog subscribers, so those two key metrics. So whenever my Japan marketing manager comes to me and asks me questions about like what he should do, it’ll always come back to, “Of the things you could do, which of them will drive traffic and subscribers the greatest?”

So like that thing that you question everything from. I think Facebook have monthly or weekly active users. To us when we’re doing a blog, it’s the number of subscribers so just prioritizing I think is really important for marketing managers today.

Ian Jacob: That was a really good tip. Now if there was on the flip side of that, what is something that people are doing really well like marketing managers are doing great in APAC region?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, good question. So I think marketing managers in APAC are fantastic at e-mail marketing and e-mail nurturing actually. I think they’ve had a lot of time to look at their counterparts in the U.S. and they realize that, okay, e-mail is a big deal. You grow your database, you communicate with them, you move them down the funnel, it’s really important. Where I think that they’re missing out right now, and I’m seeing this start to change since I was part of the launch here, is that they’re realizing that there’s only so much you can do with e-mail marketing and e-mail nurturing, right? It’s not growing your database. In fact, it’s actually cannibalizing, right? Every service you make, you’ll lose people from your subscription.

So I think marketing managers, they’ve done that for a few years now and their databases are getting smaller and they’re having to use pay to top it back up, and they’re starting to realize that they can be a little bit smarter about using blogging and other inbound methods to grow the top of the funnel while they optimize the middle of the funnel for e-mail. So they’re doing e-mail well but I think they could just get a little bit better at the top of the funnel alongside e-mail because they work together.

Craig Bailey: So in terms of ROI, in terms of marketing managers achieving ROI, what are you seeing in Australia in terms of their ability to do that, and whether they’re actually tracking ROI on the right things?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, so I was actually at a Twitter lunch not too long ago and there were some CMOs at this luncheon, some really big companies in Australia. And it was really interesting because we were having a chat about ROI and a couple of the folks that were there are all really senior marketing leaders. We’re talking about the metrics that they share with sales and the business at email open rates. So I think a lot of marketers I think, are very still in those tactical engagement metrics and they’re really important I think for more junior people on the team to be working on optimizing. But I think at an ROI perspective, you’re wanting to be looking at the number of leads that are converting into ops because that tells you about lead quality, you’re wanting to look at the number of MQLs that are being accepted by sales, and then ultimately sales generated revenue through marketing.

So at Hubspot, our sales team only work leads and MQLs that are generated by marketing. There’s no outbound that we do, it’s obviously quite the contrary to inbound. So it makes it makes it really easy for us to measure the impact of marketing because we’re generating all the leads that they’re actually working, and I think that’s a really nice thing about ROI. When you do it in an inbound way, marketing really is steering the ship and there’s a really good alignment between marketing and sales because sales doesn’t do outbound. Marketing is the thing that they need to then close their deals. So yeah, ROI I think at a high level is really important, right? I just think a lot of the time mangers and CMOs get their metrics a little bit misaligned and I think talking about an e-mail open rate with a sales leader is going to create friction as opposed to create alignment.

Craig Bailey: Can I just build on that point because you’ve mentioned marketing managers and CMOs? Now are these different people, and if so, how are they different and in fact what are their KPIs and what they’re tracking in terms of ROI? Are they normally different, do you think?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, sure. Look, I think it depends on the size of the organization. So someone might be called a CMO at a startup of 10 people and they will be effectively doing all forms of marketing. So they’re really, they’re everyone. But I think in the traditional sense, the CMO is the person that’s aligning the vision of the brand, the company, and understanding how the strategy of marketing will work for them and pushing and challenging sales to think about things differently and to be good salespeople. And I think for them reporting is of utmost importance, I think, so being able to understand what their team, if they have a team, what levers that team is pulling and how that’s impacting sales, and that comes back to the metrics we touched on before.

I think if you’re a Marketing Manager supporting a CMO or a marketing director, as a side note the CMO/marketing director are the same thing in Australia. Unless you’re a big enterprise like Comeback, you don’t really have a CMO role in Australia so we view that as the same. But anyway, the team, I guess, supporting that marketing leader, I think for them it’s really important to be able to execute on the goals of the CMO, and a big part of that comes down to using platforms and technologies that are aligned so they don’t lose data between multiple different platforms making sure that the platforms they’re using are actually aligned with the vision of what they’re trying to achieve.

So if that’s a B2C or B2B company, that will change but I think at the end of the day the marketing manager is definitely more of that doing person so for them they’re the person that is feeling, I think, more of the struggles today than, say, that CMO because the CMO is a little bit shielded from technology, they’re a little bit shielded from all the different channels. To them sometimes new channels are a shiny tool to use, and I think that can work sometimes and it’s good to try new things. So right now we actually just launched a campaign on Product Hunt for one of our free tools, and within a week, we’ve generated more than 100,000 leads through Product Hunt and we’re the number 28th most upvoted product on Product Hunt of all time.

Ryan Bonnici: For free. Literally a person on my team just built this campaign out. So leveraging having different channels is important, right? So as a marketing manager, as a leader, you want to be thinking about that but you have to have your house in order before you do those things.

Ian Jacob: Fantastic. That was really good. Okay, so I guess that’s one thing you’ve done really well recently. Now share with us something else you’ve done that’s a bit different to what other people would probably think of that’s worked really well in the last six months.

Ryan Bonnici: Okay, that’s interesting. Maybe I can tell you about something that hasn’t worked well for us.

Ryan Bonnici: Something that’s really challenging for us is that we’ve got this really strong amazing blog that generates I think between three and five million unique visitors a month all through organic means with great content for great sharing on social. But the thing that is really challenging for us as Hubspot in a region that also speaks English is that we don’t necessarily have the lever that the U.S. team has with that blog. We don’t control an A and Z English blog. So you’ll see other vendors they’ll typically do that, they’ll create an A and Z blog.

One of my previous companies used to have one like that and it’s really more like a branding thing. They do it to show the market that they’re there, they’re creating content but at the end of the day the content really isn’t different. How you use Facebook marketing in Australia is not very different to how you Facebook market in the U.S. so people don’t search for how to do Facebook marketing in any certain region. In English speaking countries anyways they don’t.

So that’s kind of interesting because, from an inbound playbook perspective, we’re limited by one of the biggest levers, which is the blog, so for us we’ve had to become really creative at using other channels and a big part of that is using co-marketing partners. So what’s something that we do that we love so we’ll do campaigns with Twitter, with LinkedIn, and with Google. We’ll create content with them together and then we’ll host this content on our landing page. We’ll send an email out to our database, Twitter will send an email out to their database, and then everyone that completes that form has checked the box that says, “I’m happy with both partners sharing leads,” and they’re okay with that because the content’s really good quality. So the threshold for them wanting to give their details is enough that they’re willing.

And to me that’s like a no-brainer for marketers in region, again, once you have your blogging and everything set up, because it’s giving you access to someone else’s database really quickly. So we have a database of hundreds of thousands of people in APAC, Twitter has potentially more than that, maybe millions of people. So they can capitalize on our content, we can capitalize on their database and it’s a nice bit organically grow each other’s offerings. So I think co-marketing is a big area where people can do a lot more and I haven’t seen many companies do it very well, to be honest. Most co-marketing is doing a blog post with someone as opposed to a lead gen offer.

Ian Jacob: Yeah, you’ve done quite a few webinars as well, haven’t you?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah.

Ian Jacob: How has that worked because I know in the U.S. it’s really big. Australia APAC, how has that worked for you guys in generating interest and keeping that conversation happening?

Ryan Bonnici: Look, it’s worked. There’s been I think mixed reviews. We haven’t done a hit report, we’ve probably done about six to eight webinars in the past year and it’s hard to look at a trend between them. The first one we did was with Guy Kawasaki, and that was just soon after I started at Hubspot. I think that did really well partially because we’d never done a webinar at APAC before so to the database and to the audience it was like, “Wow, Guy Kawasaki will be live on a webinar with our time zone.” So that is part of if you can get a high profile person in a local timezone, the timezone really appreciates that because typically they’re used to hearing a recorded webinar. So that did well.

So I think for something like that, we would get several thousand people actually register for it and maybe 1000 or so actually attend the webinar, which is pretty good, I think. And then the great thing about that obviously is you then record the webinar and it’s ever there, it just lives on so if you can keep watching it, you keep generating leads, but then the amount of effort to go into a webinar is quite a lot of coordination in creating the content. And we did a similar kind of webinar with Twitter that worked really, really well about how to tweet smarter and how to leverage Twitter lead gen cards and then drive people to your website, and how you can use the Hubspot CMS platform to show them relevant content then move them into your database, into your funnel and sell to them.

So that’s beautiful alignment because Twitter do something that we don’t do and we can connect really beautifully with their vision and vice versa, so those kind of webinars work. I think this year I don’t think we’ll necessarily do more webinars, to be honest. I think we want to focus more on creating good, really interesting and interactive content as well. So things like our website grader that are a tool that a marketer can use or any buyer or person can use that generates a lead for you through the process of using the tool I think is an interesting kind of play.

Ian Jacob: Yes. I’ve used website grader now for two potential customers and just showed that to them and they were blown away and said, “Well, why didn’t you show this to me before?”

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, so it’s a great tool and exactly because it’s helping them and all they need to do to do it is enter their website and their e-mail.

Interviewer 2: So many good points there. I know we’re out of time but there’s a few that Ryan Bonnici said that I just wanted to pick up on some but the co-partnering one was just excellent. We should have a whole episode on co-partnering. We’d love to come back and chat to you about that. I think that’s a pretty good topic because a lot of marketing managers don’t use that so that’s a fantastic point. But I wanted to quickly move on to sales and marketing alignment if that’s okay.

Ryan Bonnici: Sure.

Ian Jacob: Because it’s a new topic in Australia although I know in the U.S. they’ve really been putting a lot of focus on it. And I guess what we’re interested in knowing and so for a marketing manager listening to this, how important do you think sales marketing alignment is, or actually what is it? You actually touched on it at the start of the interview but how do you see that? How would you explain?

Ryan Bonnici: From a B2B marketing and sales line perspective, it’s crucial because marketing is nothing without sales and vice versa so I think it’s really important. So the way we think about it is at the beginning of every year, we look at the number of quota carrying sales reps that we have in region. Sydney, Singapore, Japan they’re growing really quickly so every year it’s like doubling, which poses fun challenges for marketing because it means we have to keep doubling our lead flow and number of MQLs.

So we go back from that so we start to look at, okay, the number of sales reps and what the quota will be for the sales manager for each month. We then will look at our average sales duration so say from when someone becomes an opportunity in sales force to becoming a closed customer. That for us is, I’m not sure of the exact number, let’s say two months, for example. So we would then backdate all of the MQLs that we need to get for that month. We’ll have to arrive two months earlier, right because you need to give the sales reps two months to work them to then close them in the month when the quota is due. So we’re just very thoughtful, I think, about how we build out what we do, very much aligned to making sure that sales hits. I think they can see that very clearly.

And so from there we will work out a number of MQLs that we want to generate per sales rep. Depending on the average sales price, it’ll be different for every company. We go about it that way really and it works, which is really nice so.

Craig Bailey: So it’s very much data driven. You’re basically doing it by the numbers.

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, I know. It’s all about the data, I think, and on the flip side it’s also about making sales commit too. So we commit to a number of MQLs or sales than having sales commit to working those MQLs. So I get a report sent to me every week from my team showing me the number of un-worked MQL accounts and it shows me by sales manager and by sales rep. So if I see someone’s not working MQLs, we’ll have a chat with him. If there’s a quality issue then that’s on us to fix, and we have actual quantitative metrics that actually tell us whether the quality is going down or up versus just qualitative from out of the reps’ mouth.

And if that’s the case, we’ll fix it, if it’s not, then it’s a question between us and the sales rep. It’s like, “Okay, you’re not working our MQLs. We’ll pull you off the rotator then for a month until you work those MQLs.” So there’s an agreement between us there because if we’re not working…At the end of the day, I always think about enterprise value so if one sales rep isn’t working those MQLs, another would like to be working them but they can’t because they’re in the other person’s name. So it’s not like a personal thing between us and that one sales rep, it’s more like that one sales rep is slowing the business down from growing and pulling them off the rotator will help.

Ian Jacob: So now we’ve talked about numbers. Now having hung out with you guys at inbound, understanding you seem to have a close relationship and people know each other, which I think is sometimes foreign in businesses that we deal with. What has been the success to having that? Is it because you guys sit next to each other, you have lunches with each other, what is it?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, I think Hubspot is just very fanatical about hiring. So when I joined Hubspot, they flew me out to Boston from Australia. I did 20 interviews over 2 days. I was only in Boston for only 48 hours. So very intense interviewing is one part of it, and I think the other thing is we only really hire people that we would want to work with and we would find interesting. And that’s not to say we’re homogeneously all the same, we’re all very different but we definitely look for certain qualities in people so we look for people that are innately curious because if you’re innately curious you’re always questioning things and wanting to learn more and you’re interested.

We look for people that are digital natives so we’re probably not going to hire you if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account because if you’re not practicing certain inbound marketing methods, then how will you be able to do that. And then we just look for like we obviously have our HEART methodology, which is all about being humble, being effective, being adaptable, being remarkable, and being transparent. We want people that are effective at their job so they can do it, and if not can to do it right now, they’ve got the potential to get there. For example, if we’re hiring someone straight out of uni, we want them to be really adaptable because in a fast growing business, every year your KPIs and your focus on what you’re working on changes.

And then I really love the thing that we look for is remarkability so everyone has to be remarkable in some way. And that’s not to say they all need to be type A people that are exhibitionists or extroverts, but they just need to have something that they’re really passionate about because when you start to talk to them about their passion, regardless of whether you feel the same passion, it’s just easier to connect with those kinds of people. So everyone on my team, every one across the board also has something that they’re passionate about and unique about. To some people it’s brewing beer, for some people it’s kite surfing, I think, for some people it’s having dogs in the office, it just all differs.

And the last bit is transparency so as an organization across the board we are just crazily transparent. We see all of the numbers. Every employee from [inaudible 00:18:43], all that sort of stuff so everyone understands the health of the business and everyone understands the part they play in making the business continue to be healthy, so that’s pretty fun. So I think when you look for people with those kinds of values and hire hard and long, it took me 10 months for me to hire someone onto my team for one role. I did 150 interviews. I wasn’t going to settle so I think we just have that mentality. It’s like I prefer to do more work and not settle and hire an amazing person.

HubShots Episode 21

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About the Author

HubShots: A weekly podcast for Marketing Managers discussing HubSpot and Inbound Marketing. Hosted by Ian Jacob and Craig Bailey.

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