The gurus tell us marketers need to understand technology to succeed in the 21st century. They tell us to think like entrepreneurs. Millennials, they say, communicate differently than older customers, and you have to find the right channel to reach the right audience.
Chester Co had all that figured out before the Internet was invented.
With a background in computer science, Chester has run his own company, written software, and run demand-gen programs that have driven untold millions in revenue. He’s created campaigns in every channel from radio to Twitter. And he just happens to be Leadspace’s first customer.
We had a fascinating conversation with Chester, who generously gave his time to discuss what has changed since he started in B2B marketing, what has stayed the same, and what challenges he sees demand generation practitioners facing in the future.
Settling in the Bay Area a decade ago, he spent five years at Savvion where he started in training, became a Salesforce admin, then product manager, then director of demand generation and web marketing. After Savvion he spent three and half years leading demand gen for Actiance, before taking his current role at San Jose-based networking solutions company Brocade.
Remember the Yellow Pages?
Sometimes it’s hard to remember marketing before the Internet, but Chester’s first demand-gen channels were radio, TV and the Yellow Pages.
“I come from the old school world,” he said. “I put ads in newspapers and billboards by the highway and hoped people called me.”
Chester moved with the times, from print to the Web. “There was no Google or Yahoo! yet,” he said. Excite and AOL were the prime spots for online advertising. Email marketing was becoming a big deal, and trade shows were still the place to meet prospects face-to-face.
His background in computer engineering helped when it came to understanding, implementing (and inventing) new technology solutions to old problems, and eventually led him into a marketing role.
Martech before martech was cool
Chester saw the potential of martech before that was a word. Established tools like Marketo and Salesforce were just getting off the ground.
“I hacked Salesforce to do marketing automation before marketing automation existed,” he joked. “I was moving to demand generation, looking for tools to help me find leads.”
“There was nothing like Leadspace yet. Amnon was still in the military,” Chester said, referring to Leadspace founder and CTO Amnon Mishor.
Over the next few years, Chester tried pretty much everything available to a demand-gen marketer, from purchasing lists (“I hate them”), to well-known data providers that proved to be inaccurate and undermined the sales team’s confidence in their leads.
“When Amnon approached me with Leadspace, I said let’s try it out. I signed up for the beta program. I had a controlled rollout. I didn’t pick just anybody, but two of our top sales reps and three of our top inside sales reps.”
“Based on my experience,” he added, “it’s the top reps who are the most organized and will give you the best feedback.”
The feedback was good.
“One of the reps told me, ‘I’ve been trying to chase the correct person at this account, talking with a low-ranking person who’s been blocking me.’ When he tried Leadspace, the right name came up, and boom, he closed the deal. That’s what gave me the approval to get Leadspace.”
The more things change…
Chester says the biggest change he’s seen in his demand-gen career is the ability to get more data and target more effectively. Rather than casting a wide net, B2B marketers can be more personalized.
“There are more tools to manage the data,’ he said. “It’s easier to find people now. People are more connected and leaving digital fingerprints all over the web.”
… the more they stay the same.
No matter where a lead comes from, Chester said, it’s value diminishes over time, and that hasn’t changed. “Whether they called you because they saw your ad in the newspaper or responded to your tweet,” he says, “the moment you engage with them, the chances of being able to get into an opportunity is much higher than if you let it sit. Timing is very important.”
The way we engage with prospects has changed, and will continue to evolve
The demand-gen process used to rely pretty exclusively on a phone call to the prospect. But Chester sees that changing.
“Some people nowadays prefer communication through other channels rather than the phone, but there are still a significant number of people who prefer a phone call over anything else,” Chester has learned. “You have to know the person you’re trying to reach.”
The right method to engage with a particular prospect can be found in the data.
“With Leadspace and other tools, I check to see if they’re social and active in all types of channels. If so, there’s a good chance they don’t want to be contacted by phone. But if they put their phone number in their LinkedIn profile, they probably like phone calls.”
What should B2B demand gen pros consider for the future?
“Things are changing so rapidly right now,” Chester said. “Social is not going away, but data privacy issues will become more strict and stringent. It may come to a time where we have to go back to the old school in certain ways in order to be able to reach out to people because of data privacy issues.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising that Chester’s final piece of advice, like all the advice he shared with us, is rooted in common sense: don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
“Try to keep as many options open as possible,” Chester concluded. “Think of other ways to reach those people you need to reach.”