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SearchChat Podcast: Surviving the Dog Days of Summer

As summer hits its hot, vacation-filled days the work world slows down for a minute. In these slower moments, there’s a chance to reflect on the speed of business. 

We discuss how B2B buyers are spending more time researching their purchases —75% said they are now using more sources and taking more time. B2B marketing is different because sales is actually at the center of the wheel. But most marketer’s top measurements aren’t actually about sales. The difficult problem marketers face is translating what we do into value. How do we think more through marketing right into sales?

In an age of speed, sometimes the best answer is to slow down. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Rushing doesn’t close sales, moving smoothly does. 

In this episode we cover what marketers should do to get ready for the fall, and, dare we ask, 2020?

0:00 Intro

1:40 Dog Days of Summer

10:15 Slow is smooth, smooth is fast

16:45 Speed is the new currency of business

21:15 How should people be prepping for the fall

25:15 Outro

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Search Chat is SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? We’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company. If you think we might have the answer to your conversion problems, feel free to connect with us.

Transcript

Tim Peter: Hi, I’m Tim Peter and welcome to SearchChat, SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search, AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? Well, we’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company. SoloSegment, make your search smarter. You can learn more at solosegment.com.

Tim Peter: In this episode of SearchChat, SoloSegment’s CEOs, Steve’s Zakur and I discuss the dog days of summer and how you can use those to make your business more successful this fall. And in 2020 we also talk about speed and how it’s important to move your business in the right direction at the right tempo. All that and more on the latest episode of SoloSegment’s SearchChat, coming at you right about now.

Tim Peter: Well, hey Steve, how are you?

Steve Zakur: I am doing great and I can actually see you. This is an amazing thing.

Tim Peter: I know, this is exciting. We’re doing video for the first time ever.

Steve Zakur: It’s crazy. It’s crazy. Those content marketing people have been harassing us for so long, we finally decided to do it.

Tim Peter: Absolutely. And we, we’ll have apparently video up on YouTube for the first time after this. We’ll see how this goes. But we are in an interesting time of year, Steve. It is, we’re kind of in the dog days of summer.

Steve Zakur: Hot.

Tim Peter: Down. Hot. I don’t know about where, I don’t know where you are. I know exactly where you are, you’re about a 100 meters from me.

Steve Zakur: It’s hot here, yes.

Tim Peter: We absolutely all are. Exactly. And it’s kind of this wild period where things are slowing down and it got you and I talking about speed.

Steve Zakur: Speed, because things are so slow. You always think about speed.

Tim Peter: And it’s funny because there is one article I do want to talk about and I would love to get your take on, but I think it speaks to speed more generally where a Demand Gen did their 2019 B2B buyers survey report, and they found that B2B buyers are spending more time researching their purchases. They said 75% of the B2B executives surveyed said they are now using more sources to research and evaluate purchases and 75% say they’re taking more time. And that got us thinking about time and speed and what the customer does and things like that. And so, I thought we’d have a little chat about speed and business and what this means to you specifically.

Steve Zakur: Yeah. Yeah, no I think it’s a really interesting topic. Especially, so many emails that I send out these days you get the out of office. People are off on vacation recharging and, it is interesting that in a kind of an environment where we are all so focused on getting stuff done, it is an awkward time. Even though, hey, I took my time off so it was a wonderful thing. Nobody interrupted me. I got to, I’m not going to begrudge anybody their time off. But it is an interesting time to kind of sit back and think about how are people buying? And how do they think about the buying process? Because some of those out of office emails I get are transactions or deals that we’re trying to progress, whether it’s chairman person or the client or whatever.

Steve Zakur: And you know that kind of changing face of the B2B buyer is actually something that’s kind of top of mind when we think about product as well. Because I was talking to somebody this morning, digital marketing professional, interesting there, she’s in the automotive business, but she was talking a lot about how people, how B2B buyers kind of approach, thinking about their needs, things that can solve or help them with that need and then how do they actually purchase it. And of course as a marketer, she reinforced the message that, you always have to be thinking about the salesperson at the end of this because usually there’s not something getting dropped in a cart. It is a salesperson who’s kind of taking off the handoff, but she talked about that even though the process can be and feel slower than for, especially if you come, she came from the, CPG kind of business.

Tim Peter: High volume.

Steve Zakur: That’s where sales cycle’s 22 minutes. Coming from that CPG background.

Tim Peter: It’s not 22 months.

Steve Zakur: Exactly. But coming from that background, she said it was kind of a big shift but the importance of getting salespeople engaged. But it really was, for her, she had to really reframe how she thought about the process. One of the most interesting things she said was, “Yes, it’s a lot slower. There are a lot more touch points both digitally and offline, a lot more data to chase.” But she said something that was really interesting that in these slower moments you get a chance to think about, was for B2B, marketing is much different because sales is at the center of the hub or is at the center of the wheel. All the spokes kind of lead into sales. Which for for a marketing person to say that was very interesting because not all the marketers that I talk to say that.

Steve Zakur: And so, it’s one of these things that, I’m going to start to chew on over the next couple of weeks and months is really how do we help our customers kind of reframe in that way? Because we’ve been talking a lot about as we build product about, how do we help marketers drive the things that they value? And often, when I ask, I had I think a 100, that was discussion 148 this year, so far this year with digital marketing professionals. And when I ask them what their top measurements are, very few of them say sales. Oh, of course growth is important to us, but when they talk measurements, they say, “Well, marketing qualified leads, the handoff to sales,” that sort of thing. And some of them are even impressions and all of these top of funnel metrics. How do we gauge?

Tim Peter: Engagement.

Steve Zakur: Oh yeah, engagement. What the hell is engagement? I don’t know. Because it generally, what’s the problem? The main problem that marketers face I think is translating what we do into value. For me, kind of this dog days of summer thought is, how do I both help our customers think more like this person I talked to this morning? How do we think more kind of through marketing, right into sales and make that connection? And how do we use our technology to help enable that? So that if you are one of these marketers that’s in this report that’s thinking about accelerating, that’d be great. Or decelerating the buying process. How do we make sure that we have our eye on the right ball? That we’re doing the things to help progress the conversation, whether that’s digitally or offline towards the goal. The goal is always growth.

Tim Peter: Yeah. Well, I think we, I do think we do a pretty good job of it a lot of the time, but I think you raise a great point of where can we be doing better along that? Our good friend Mike Moran, our senior strategist always talks about the fact that, he said, if you look at a lot of companies when times get tough, the CEO will walk into the head of sales office and say, “We need you to cut your budget by 10%.” And the head of sales invariably says, “Well that’s fine, but let me explain to you what’s going to happen to the rest of our revenues.” And the CEO goes, “Okay, don’t do that.” Walks down the hall to the head of marketing’s office and says, “I need you to cut your budget by 20%.” It becomes this problem of, if you can’t connect the dots, if you can’t line those up.

Tim Peter: Where did I see a stat the other day? I will find this, and I’ll make sure we get this in the show notes, but I saw a stat the other day that the average CMO tenure has now fallen on average to 12 months.

Steve Zakur: Wow.

Tim Peter: You get a year, if you’re lucky to prove your value. Now I’m sure this must be, one of those, I can’t think of it.

Steve Zakur: Most of the last two days, the rest.

Tim Peter: A two tailed distribution if we’re getting fancy with our statistics.

Steve Zakur: Yes, there you go.

Tim Peter: Where there’s a lot of people with a very short tenure and a lot of people with a much longer tenure, but the average is very short. I think it is this disconnect probably plays a pretty significant role in making that so. What would you say?

Steve Zakur: Yeah, no, I absolutely agree. A, based upon the number of folks whose emails changed during the sales process or, the faces that are around the table. I absolutely agree with that statement. Yeah. I think that we are all right speed. Kind of back to this speed kind of concept. I think everybody’s under a lot of pressure to perform. Especially now, we’ve got these rumblings of inverted yield curves and recession on the wall and whatnot. And so, how do you respond to that?

Tim Peter: By the way, there’s a cheery thought, if you’re listening to this on the beach while you’re on vacation.

Steve Zakur: Oh, absolutely, yeah. Are you going to have a job when you get back? News at 11:00. But yeah, no, it’s one of these things where we’re thinking about, okay, well how do we make sure that if the pie is going to be shrinking, that we’re taking the most advantage of it. And so now you’re feeling the pressure and there’s this phrase that a totally non work related conversation. I had a buddy who’s, was in the army this morning and, the phrase slow is smooth, smooth is fast came up. And it’s one of these interesting things.

Tim Peter: What is this? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Steve Zakur: Yeah. This is the whole notion and you’ll see this, watch your favorite Navy seal video or whatnot. You’ll see these guys, people are shooting at them, they’re not often running. The whole notion is that, when you rush, you make mistakes and of course you don’t want to stand in the line of fire for too long. But if you train well and everybody knows how to do their job and you keep your eye on the objective and you keep moving, that and you make no mistakes and the bad guys don’t get you, so the competition doesn’t get you or that other marketing guy who’s competing for your job doesn’t get you or all those other things. You can achieve your objective a lot faster than if you’re running around willy nilly. And so, but it was an interesting phrase that kind of comes to me as we’re having this conversation is that, that really is the goal.

Steve Zakur: How do you continue to progress in an orderly fashion? And while nobody likes to say, “Hey, I’m doing my job slowly,” you certainly want to be one of those people who’s doing your job smoothly because you’re able to respond to inputs from the environment. You’re not missing things. And I think that’s probably, kind of one of the lessons from that phrase is that, smooth is fast. And I think the clients that we work with that are most effective, first of all, are the clients we’ve been with for a long time. They’ve got, we’ve got this kind of tempo with them, but it’s very rare that we’re rushing with them.

Tim Peter: Right, right, right. We’re moving in a smooth way. I think that’s something we’d always tried to do. But I think that’s a really interesting way to look at it. I know you’ve heard me say this before we were talking a little bit about this before the show as well, but I was a music major in my past and my voice professor always used to say practice does not make perfect. By the way, I feel like, oh, we’ll get it together tomorrow.

Steve Zakur: Yeah, you do on the radio voice going. It’s very nice.

Tim Peter: But practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Which doesn’t mean you get it right every time. The whole point of practicing is you’re making mistakes in a, quote unquote, safe space. But what it really is, is it means that you’re deliberate in the way that you practice. You practice in a very focused way. Just like you’re talking about, smooth is, okay, I got to get this right.

Steve Zakur: Smooth is fast.

Tim Peter: Smooth is fast. It’s that idea of you practice in a very deliberate manner so that you’re making notes about what went right, what didn’t, what wrong, and how do you improve on those? You’re doing things in the same manner again and again. I think that’s a really interesting, connecting those two things. I don’t have a pithy way to do it right now, but that’s an interesting, perfect practice means smooth, really.

Steve Zakur: Yeah. Yeah. It is interesting, this conversation, the same woman I had a conversation with this morning, she works again in the automotive industry and we were talking about visitor journeys and some of the models that they had built over time. And basically what they were doing was creating funnels because they had done some data analysis that said, “Well, if you do this thing, we’re going to score your interaction in this way. And therefore once you do this, or this thing, this next step can happen or you’re ready for this, whatever.” And ultimately, you’re scored enough so that you can become, get handed off to sales. And it was interesting when, I kind of poked at that. It was, we had a conversation around, well how are those models built? And whatnot.

Steve Zakur: And one of the things she talked about was while they’re, it was basically a consulting engagement, we hired this data analytics firm, they did all this analysis of the data over a three year period. Really got into it. And I said, “Well when do you update? How do you update those models? She goes, “We don’t want to update the models because it’s too hard.” Again, getting the speed, what’s really interesting is, that kind of analysis is very powerful because if you know those kind of moments in time that are most related to conversion, that’s awesome. Because every time you see one of those, there’s a conversion that you can pass to sales or you can take advantage of to progress the journey. And what was interesting was of course I said, well back to our topic of speed again I said, “But doesn’t machine learning give you then the opportunity to go much faster there?”

Steve Zakur: Now I’m just throwing my smooth is fast or slow is smooth, smooth is fast thing out the window. But it is interesting that there are places where we can go much faster these days. And I think about again, some of the analysis that Stephen’s working on for us who does some data science work for us. He’s looking at these patterns and of course by patterns I mean vector analysis of documents. What we’re looking for these patterns.

Tim Peter: What else could you mean, Steve?

Steve Zakur: Right. That’s where we as as people speak about patterns, they’re always thinking about vector analysis. But I’m thinking about, as they look, as we look for these patterns, it’s almost very similar to that thing that we used to do. We’ll do it by annually. And now you can do it immediately. It’s interesting that there are, in these dog days there are some opportunities to sit back and reflect on what we can do better because we have moments to think about them.

Steve Zakur: But there’s, it’s also the technology has made, things that used to be kind of written in stone, we can write them in Jello. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing because when I can iterate on that as new data comes in because the technology platform’s there. I’m not exactly sure how that’s relevant to this discussion, but it just kind of struck me.

Tim Peter: I like it because it speaks to this idea. I’m going to bring in two very different things that I’m going to try to tie them together and then hand it off to you run with for a second.

Steve Zakur: Oh excellent, I’m looking forward to it.

Tim Peter: Anyway, I’ve just mixed a couple metaphors right there, but nonetheless, one is Mark Benioff, the CEO of salesforce.com has said, “Speed is the new currency of business.” And it absolutely speaks to the fact of everybody’s connected. Everybody’s carrying one of, carrying a phone in their pocket. I like to say they’re carrying the internet in their pocket. Everywhere that they go, people can access the data they want. This is all stuff people have heard. But people can access the data they want wherever they want, whenever they want, et cetera. That’s certainly one thing.

Tim Peter: But the other thing to go back to my musician thing for just a second, is you don’t expect, the tubas to do the same thing that the fiddles are doing, that the violins are doing. You give the right jobs to the right part of the orchestra or the right part of the band or things like that. And you think about a great band these days plays to a click. And what I mean by plays to click is the click makes sure that they stay more or less on tempo. Except what most people don’t realize is the entire band is not listening to the click. The drummer is, and everybody else is listening to the drummer. Who sets the tempo, by the way, see the speed thing here?

Steve Zakur: All right, look at that.

Tim Peter: They’re letting the machine do what the machine does well, which is kind of keep everything in sync so that if they need a computer to do something over here or they need to trigger a sample or they need to do whatever, things line up correctly. But also they let the people do the part that the people do well, of bring artistic flair to it or things like that. It’s not everybody’s playing rigidly like a machine. It’s that they’re playing in time with this thing that the drummer’s listening to.

Steve Zakur: I was wondering how you’re going to bring this home and this is just amazing.

Tim Peter: I thought you’d like that.

Steve Zakur: Yeah. It is amazing because and this has been many conversations, again, kind of was a theme that repeated itself this morning, but it was this notion exactly that of, what are the people good at? And what are the, what are the machines, good at? And the great bane of visitor journeys, personas, journey mapping has been the creation of content. It’s not that people aren’t good about it is that there’s a finite amount of time in the day and you can’t create content for everything.

Tim Peter: You can’t scale it necessarily.

Steve Zakur: Right, exactly. And, what’s interesting is that the machine helps there because you have a lot more content than you think you have that’s relevant to certain points of the journey. What you have to do is make sure that that content is discoverable and the real challenges is if a human doesn’t map it, then navigation’s got to take over and somebody’s got to be able to find it. We all know that navigation is a pain in the butt and then if that doesn’t work, your search has got to work and we all know that generally that doesn’t work.

Steve Zakur: How do you then hand off that problem to the machine? The shameless plug moment is, we’ve got some of that in the, in GuideBox, which helps, kind of connect some of those dots, but not always. There’s kind of an evolving technology there that’s going to make that content more findable and make it easier to bring to the front at the right moment. But that really is I guess a way of framing this as, we all kind of take a pause, things slow down and think about, what’s next for our tech marketing teams? What’s next for block tech and how do we implement those? Is, where does the right technology help you? And where do you need to kind of apply people?

Steve Zakur: We’ve talked a lot about efficiency and effectiveness in MarTech and what help, what technology helps you with one and or the other and could help you with both. And that is, I guess the moment when we have to think about, what is technology really doing for us? And what are the most pressing problems that, challenge that we have? And then, how do we apply technology to those moments so that we can be more ultimately effective as marketers? And I think at some of the efficiency play helps there. But you also need some of the effectiveness. You need to effectiveness help. You need to be able to be effective inside of the equation as well.

Tim Peter: Yeah. Well it goes back to a line I say all the time that AI won’t steal your job, but smart people who use AI will. It’s that same idea of letting each piece kind of work out where it’s strongest. I guess the question I would have for you is, okay, now that people have a little time for the next couple of weeks, see what I did there? How should they be prepping? Because clearly folks are going to come back after the holiday weekend and things like that in a couple of weeks time and people are going to start running like hell again. And is that the right approach? Or what should they be doing now? What should they be doing then? What should they be doing different to put themselves in a better position to make sure that folks armed with AI don’t take their job?

Steve Zakur: Well they should definitely be running like hell on budget because it is budgetary knife fight season starts. You definitely don’t want to take your eye off the ball there. I think that we’re where there is opportunity and again, if you’re going into your planning process this time of year, you probably have a fairly good idea of where you want to be, in 2020 because that’s really what we’re thinking about these days, is where do you want to be in 2020? And I think that, and this was something that Scott Brinker had in a recent, one of his recent blog posts on martech.com was, you want to start thinking about what can you do today to start experimenting? Because I think, kind of back to this slow is smooth, smooth is fast. I think there is an opportunity for pilots, proof of concepts, call them what you want, but there is an opportunity for someone that, boy, we’ve got lots of stuff in this today.

Steve Zakur: This, start small, go fast. But this whole notion of, are there things that you can be doing small in the coming months? Because a lot of vendors are going to, they want your money come 2020 so they’re going to be offering you opportunities to kick the tires on tech. And so I think coming out of it, it’s if I have priorities for 2020, I certainly want to not take my eye off the ball on 2019 execution. But if there are things that I want to be doing in 2020 and I want to win that knife fight on budget, can I be doing some small incremental things now that will allow me to prove that there’s value in the things that I’m putting forward?

Steve Zakur: Because it doesn’t matter how many case studies, how many white papers you can present to your boss about the importance of the things that you’re doing. If you had actual results, hey, this is our business. And yeah, it was a small of that business and a limited thing and it was an AB that didn’t have a lot of data. But it’s something. I think those things win. And so as I come out of this, in over the next two weeks, I’d be thinking about A, make sure I execute in 2019. B, makes sure I have the right priorities framed out for 2020 and how am I going to win in the battle for budget? Because I’m just, I know how that works in large enterprise, but the other thing I’d be thinking about is if I’m going to win, how do I make sure I’m able to demonstrate the value that I’m proposing?

Steve Zakur: And that is an opportunity, carve out of some of your people or some of your resource to try and make those proof points. And we’re doing this with two clients right now. They’ve got GuideBox, they’re doing these kind of quick and dirty, let’s just put it up and relatively inexpensive. And they get a proof point on personalization, on behavior-based personalization. Can you replicate that? And we do pilots all the time on search box. People get, is this data right? And so we’re not the only vendor who does this. If you want to do this with us, feel free to call me. But, there are plenty of vendors to do this sort of thing and so how can you do this this fall? And everybody goes, it’s distracting. No, it’s not distracting. It’s part of your opportunity. Where you are ready for execution in the future.

Tim Peter: And that sets you up better for perfect practice.

Steve Zakur: Absolutely. Yeah, you bet. That’s a great point.

Tim Peter: Fantastic. Well Steve, I think we’ve done it. I think we filled all our time.

Steve Zakur: Oh boy.

Tim Peter: You know how this show works. It’s not all the news that’s fit to print is just all the news that fits.

Steve Zakur: Indeed, indeed. Well thanks again, Tim for a great time.

Tim Peter: Fantastic, Steve. Talk to you soon. Have a great rest of the day.

Steve Zakur: Thanks very much. Take care.

Tim Peter: Bye now.

Tim Peter: SearchChat is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment is a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company. SoloSegment, make your search smarter and learn more at solosegment.com.

Tim Peter: If you like what you’ve heard today, click on the subscribe links you can find that solosegment.com/podcast on iTunes, Google podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, or wherever fine podcasts can be found. You can also find us on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/solosegment. On Facebook at facebook.com/solosegment. On Twitter using the Twitter handle @solosegment, or you can drop us an email at info@solosegment.com. Again, that’s info@solosegment.com. For SearchChat, I’m Tim Peter. I hope you have a great rest of the week. Thanks so much for joining us and we’ll look forward to chatting with you next time here on SearchChat. Until then, take care everybody.

Author

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    Tim Peter is the Senior Advisor at SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. SoloSegment uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve engagement and conversion for large enterprise, B2B companies.

  • Steve Zakur

    Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve engagement and conversion for large enterprise, B2B companies. Prior to joining SoloSegment, Steve held a variety of executive positions at IBM focused on marketing, technology, and sales. Steve holds an MBA from the Stern School at New York University.