Turning the Tables, with Polly Yakovich and Stephen Woessner

March 3, 2021
PRODUCED BY POLLY YAKOVICH

Polly Yakovich’s Bio:

Polly Yakovich is Co-founder and Chief Strategist at A Brave New, a Seattle digital marketing agency focused on helping businesses accelerate their growth through inbound marketing, branding, and web design. She specializes in working with clients to identify barriers to their growth and overcoming them with strategic content and marketing tactics. She has more than fifteen years of experience in digital marketing and branding.

Stephen Woessner’s Bio:

Stephen Woessner is the Founder and CEO of Predictive ROI and the host of the Onward Nation podcast, a top-rated podcast for learning how business owners think, act, and achieve success. Onward Nation is listened to in more than 120 countries around the world. He is the author of three bestselling books including the Amazon #1 Bestseller Profitable Podcasting. He is also a speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why Polly has always been fascinated by learning how things work and asking questions, and how vulnerability is the foundation of inspiring trust from others
  • What the psychological principle of Positive Regard is, and why it serves as one of the core tenets at A Brave New
  • Why Polly gets fulfillment from helping clients recognize, identify and adapt to barriers to their growth
  • Why getting past the "forbidden thing", the barrier to growth, is the key to creating new possibilities in your business
  • Why inbound marketing is trendy thanks to Hubspot's reputation despite the story being more nuanced than that, and why outbound marketing's role is often underappreciated and still necessary
  • How the team at A Brave New specializes in blending both inbound and outbound marketing to get maximum impact
  • What account-based marketing is and how it offers unique and specific benefits to help you tailor your marketing efforts for better results
  • Why account-based marketing needs great alignment and collaboration between your marketing and sales teams, and why the key is to offer authenticity and value
  • Why it is more important to do account-based marketing well than to go big, and why delighting someone is easier than it might seem
  • How Polly approaches the complicated task of tracking marketing success and ROI, and which KPIs she focuses on to get a sense of the bigger picture

Additional resources:  

Show Transcription:

Intro:

Welcome to A Brave New Podcast. The podcast all about how brave entrepreneurial companies are unlocking their business potential using inbound marketing. Here is your marketing expert and host Polly Yakovich.

Stephen Woessner:

Welcome to this episode of A Brave New Podcast. Now, before you check your device thinking you're listening to the wrong show because you don't recognize my voice, I promise you, this is the episode you do not want to miss. Let me first introduce myself, I am Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI and the host of the Onward Nation Podcast. And if you're an avid, A Brave New listener, you might know me as Polly's guest for episode three. But today I'm here because I'm an avid fan of Polly's. And because I have the privilege of now turning the microphone around, and for this episode, putting Polly in the spotlight, instead of one of her guests.

Stephen Woessner:

You're no doubt all too familiar with Polly as the host of this great podcast. And you may even know her as the co-founder and Chief Strategist at A Brave New, where they help clients stand out from the competition, generate the right leads and drive breakthrough growth. Polly, Josh and their team are a brilliant collection of super smart experts who thrive on solving tough business issues on behalf of their clients. And Polly in particular loves uncovering those barriers to a client's growth and then designing the right strategy that removes the barriers and drives the client's growth in a repeatable and predictable way, and I just love that. Okay, Polly, I know this is going to sound a little bit odd, but welcome to A Brave New Podcast.

Polly Yakovich:

Thanks for having me on my own show.

Stephen Woessner:

Well, thank you for saying yes, and-

Polly Yakovich:

This is fun.

Stephen Woessner:

It is fun. And it gives me a chance to put a spotlight on your smarts, that maybe normally doesn't come up when you're having a chance to sit down with a guest, because you're all about pulling out the insights and wisdom from the guests and sharing those with your audience as you so generously do. So, before we dive into what I'm sure is going to feel like a litany of questions that I'm going to fire and send your way. Let's go foundational first, because one of the things that I admire respect, candidly, a little bit envious of is this strategic mind of yours in this natural curiosity of uncovering the barriers, and then solving the problem, and making sure that the solution you put into place is repeatable, that are truly is a system. So where does that curiosity come from? I mean, why does that fire you up like that?

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. This is a very layered response and I think part of it is totally teachable, and part of it is probably just innate. But, for me, I've just always been a really curious person and I have always wanted to know how things work, why they work, what factors make them work, what sets people up to sometimes not succeed. And I think one of the things, and I really encourage this for our clients and our team is I think one of the things that is helpful as you get older and a little more confident is just feeling very free to ask the questions. And I think one of the things that most people, especially early in their career, it depends on the person, but can sometimes get stopped from, is asking the questions that they feel are dumb or asking the questions that they feel are obvious. And I really encourage people to lean into any question.

Polly Yakovich:

And so when I'm interacting with a client at any level, for any length of the relationship, but particularly in the beginning when you're talking about a big idea, or a growth, or a strategy, or a plan, it's like the second the client is talking, or someone is sharing with you and a question comes into your brain, you need to ask it, that question has popped in there for a reason. And if you're uncomfortable, you can even phrase it as like, "I think I know what you're saying," but you can do a lot of things to give yourself that comfort. But I've really found that one, people love to be asked questions, to them all at demonstrates is an interest. So you can sort of allay your fears, that feeling like they're going to think it's a dumb question.

Polly Yakovich:

And then as you get older into forties and beyond like some of us, you just really realize that everyone, no matter who they are is just a human on the same journey. They don't look at your question with the same sort of judgment that you may be. So if you can really strip away the judgment and ask the questions, you just will get so much further. And I would say too, so many times, everyone is sort of pretending. There's been so many times I've gotten into conversations and I'll just say like, "This is probably a dumb question." Which I'm also unafraid to own because I just... I do think I am blessed with confidence, but I also just choose confidence, right? So I don't feel bad to say, "This is probably a dumb question that everyone here already knows the answer to, but can you just clarify for me X, Y, Z?"

Polly Yakovich:

And it's shocking how many people around the room will be furiously scribbling, nodding, look relieved that you've asked the question. I mean, maybe they've been in conversations or meetings with this particular person 10 times and never asked that question. The other thing this leads into, and I'll talk about it more, sorry, long-winded answer.

Stephen Woessner:

This is great.

Polly Yakovich:

When you sort of open up those windows of vulnerability in a conversation, in a meeting with a client, you provide a safe space for everyone to do that. And this gets to the heart of why I think that, and not just me, but why it works for me as a strategist, as a futurist, is when you are able to be vulnerable, you help lay the foundation for building trust amongst everyone, and you cannot build an effective strategy without trust, and you cannot lead a client there without trust and vulnerability. And so I think from those very first engagements, from those very first questions, from being willing to ask, "Dumb questions," or be vulnerable about what you don't know, or don't understand, or clarify, or get very clear about that, you really set the foundation and sort of break down those barriers for everyone to be in a safe place and that is how you build an effective strategy. Obviously there's more to it than that, but that just has to be there.

Stephen Woessner:

So we'll get to the more here in just a minute, but that was awesome. Let's break a couple of those things down. First, if Brene Brown were listening, she would give you a big virtual high five on the vulnerability piece, right?

Polly Yakovich:

She is the queen. She's the queen. I bow down to her.

Stephen Woessner:

I was listening to one of her audible books, the other day. I'm almost finished with Dare to Lead and the whole time I'm listening to this and I'm thinking, "Oh my gosh, she's smart. She is so wicked smart. Amazing." But when you said the vulnerability piece, and then you went on to say, by doing that, by asking the questions, you open up the window of vulnerability, but then you said, you provide a safe space for everyone else, right? That establishes rapport. Maybe there's somebody on the client's team who's been itching to go deeper into that topic, and you by asking the question, you give them permission, right?

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. Yeah.

Stephen Woessner:

Love this. Okay. So let's go into the, everyone is sort of pretending piece because when you said that I thought, "Imposter syndrome. Wow. She's a hundred percent right." Because we all are sort of just trying to figure it out along the way, but that really speaks to it, doesn't it?

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. This is actually a value of our agency and I totally stole this from one of our clients, but which is great. So one of the core tenants of our agency and our values is this, principle of positive regard. Are you familiar with this psychological principle?

Stephen Woessner:

No, tell me about it.

Polly Yakovich:

So the psychologists out there will correct me because I'm going to sort of butcher it in my short explanation. But the gist of it is, this belief that everyone is trying their best in that moment with the tools and resources that they have. And that isn't to mean that you don't ever correct performance, or people don't fail, or you have to have hard conversations, or fire people. But it does mean that everybody is a collection of their experiences, of their opportunities, of their challenges and that for the most part with strong boundaries, people are trying and they're doing their best. And sometimes they're not doing their best it's because of those other things, the tools and the resources that they have.

Polly Yakovich:

And so I would say as a guiding principle, this has been really important for me because it kind of removes this hierarchy that people have in mind with imposter syndrome and all the rest. And it also gives us a really safe space to just say, "Whoever you are, we're all human, we're all trying." Sometimes trying my best is not that great, because I've had like four hours of sleep, or my kid's been up, or this or that. And so it really allows you to one, step into different kinds of conversations with people, but also just realize that we don't have to come at our life or our work from this philosophy of like, it's pie and once everyone gets our slice, it's all gone.

Polly Yakovich:

It's just there's really enough opportunity for all of us. And if we bring our whole person to work, to our relationships, if we again, to overuse, maybe never overuse the word, if we're vulnerable and honest, we don't have to worry about imposter syndrome. It's okay to say, "I don't know." It's okay to say, "I don't know what's next." Or, "I feel like I'm doing this thing and I'm unprepared." Or, "I'm not as good as this other person." I found for me, and again, it's easy to learn these lessons along the road, I definitely am not perfect at them and they are hard won battles. But I think for me, the more that I pretended that I knew, or that I could do it, or that I was confident, the harder it felt.

Polly Yakovich:

And I really have found throughout my career and I really encourage this of both our clients and our employees, the more that you're willing to say like, "I'm nervous about this meeting." Or, "I've never led a presentation like this before, do you have any tips?" There's just so much more grace and help and opportunity, and everyone wants everyone else to succeed, particularly when you have that foundation of trust. And it just, it really opens you up to a richness of growth and opportunity that you wouldn't have had if you pretended.

Polly Yakovich:

So the more that I can lean into that for myself and model that for my team and encourage everyone around me to do that. I think the better we are, because when we're pretending we're just holding so many of our cards that's back that we can't get to the real stuff. And sometimes the real stuff is what keeps a company back from their goals, keeps an organization back from achieving a big idea. And so it's all really interconnected, I think, with literally, I'm talking about soft stuff, but this is really interconnected to the work that we're trying to accomplish together, because-

Stephen Woessner:

Because then your clients trust you at a whole new level too.

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. And I just have found that grinding your way there, based on this foundation of pretending, and hoping, and guessing and whatever. Some of that you'll always do forever and that's okay, but grinding your way there just is not very fun. And if you're not building relationships, and learning, and growing along the way, it's not going to be sustainable. And that's where you're going to lose people, or you're going to get fired by your clients, because it's just even if you achieve the thing that felt so hard, and as much as we hate to admit it, particularly on the agency side, it's still very much about relationships. It's all about relationships.

Polly Yakovich:

So we can keep clients if we fail at a goal, if we were honest and truthful and laid a good plan and have a good opportunity to learn from what we did wrong. That's a better place to be than killing everyone to achieve something. That client's still going to fire you at the end of the day and find someone who just makes it feel a little less hard.

Stephen Woessner:

Yeah. Yeah. For sure. So I get the curiosity and some of it is teachable, some of it is innate, totally agree with that.

Polly Yakovich:

My family, my whole life has called me the journalist, because you cannot share one thing with me without like 15 follow-up questions. And my husband really struggles with this because he'll stop me in the beginning and be like, "So-and-so came into the shop today. And before you ask, I didn't get a chance to ask them any of the things that you want to know, because it was really busy. And I just need to let you know that this is the only information I have." I'll still ask though.

Stephen Woessner:

So where did this innate curiosity, where did that go into barriers to growth, how did that get connected there? And maybe it isn't a bridge, maybe it just feels totally natural to you, but why does uncovering the barrier for a client, in particular a barrier to growth, why is that so intellectually stimulating for you?

Polly Yakovich:

I honestly think for me and everyone who knows me will nod and be like, "Yep, that's totally Polly." But I've always been fascinated by the forbidden thing, always. I remember, this is so silly, but I grew up in a really conservative environment and I told my mom when I was like 13, "When I turn 21, I'm going to get so drunk and smoke all the cigarettes." And she was like, "Okay, weird dream." But I always wanted to do the forbidden thing, I loved the forbidden thing. And so for me, I'll be honest, barriers to growth is always the forbidden thing. Nobody wants to talk about what went wrong. I think people are really afraid of what could happen, everyone is on a career path. They want to be only successful.

Polly Yakovich:

We don't have business environments that... we talk about it a lot. You will hear every leader say this, yet, I think no organization creates an environment well that encourages trial and failure. Now, some organizations famously do create space for that and those are case studies for Harvard Business Review and whatnot. You think of like 3M and other places like that, that just famously have like, "If you're not failing enough, you're not trying hard enough." But most common environments say that, they know it's true, but if you fail, you're screwed or you're in big trouble.

Polly Yakovich:

And so being strategic is not about winning every time. And this is very hard in the agency environment because clients hire you to win. So this is where to me, it's all a very fun mixture and terrifying, I get that. Some people may be like, "This does not sound like a fun mixture." But if you're fascinated with the verbiage, and then you get curious about asking the questions about like, "Why didn't that work?" Or, "The pieces were all there, but the relationship set us up for failure and why is that?" And uncovering sort of the dark secrets within organizations that they may not even think are dark secrets, but it's like, "Your culture is toxic. Nobody's going to win here." And then how do you have those conversations? Those are very terrifying.

Polly Yakovich:

But when you're fascinated by the forbidden, then you can go the places that other people don't want to go, because everyone wants to keep the relationships nice. And I've just always been a sort of like, "Well, if I'm going to fail at the end of the day, I'm not even going to try. So I need to dig in here. Otherwise, you're just setting me up for failure." I also, unfortunately, I'm like, "Well, I'm happy to burn it all down," person. So there's a part of that I think is sort of needed. Like, "This may fail and I could get fired and I'm okay with that because I have to be true to myself and to ask the questions that could lead to a big success." Which not to set up any further things, but this is part of what our name is about, which just to be brave, right?

Polly Yakovich:

This requires a lot of bravery that we are asking clients to be brave and to instill in us their trust so we can be brave on their behalf. And in fact, I think some organizations hire agencies to be brave for them because their environment is such that they don't have room to fail, but they can assign the agency the impossible project, or the figure this out project, or once people are spending money on it, they look at things a different way. So they might give more attention and resources and executive time there, et cetera, et cetera. There's a lot to that. But I think that's the core of it, is that forbidden thing. You have to be able to go into those places that no one wants to talk about because that's where things fail and that's where strategies come off the rails.

Stephen Woessner:

So in your mind, when a client comes to you and says, "Either growth is down or maybe growth is up, but we're not quite sure how we're going to scale because the additional businesses create a pain points or barriers in these other areas." So finding whatever that constraint is or that barrier, that's the forbidden thing to you, am I tracking with you?

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah, I think it is. And often the things that lead to failure are just like a series of weird things that you would never know about, which is like, "The executive so-and-so and the other executive so-and-so don't talk and kind of hate each other and kind of hold back resources. So they kind of set each other up to fail." Those are the things that you find out when you push into those places that set projects up to fail. And being able to speak truth to power is important too. I think for us as an agency, we're also honest about like, "We don't know if this will work, so we're going to try it. And we're going to be honest about the places that we've gone awry."

Stephen Woessner:

Love that. So if the forbidden thing is the barrier, on the other side of it, the growth, what's the metaphor for that?

Polly Yakovich:

I don't know. What do you think?

Stephen Woessner:

Well, so as you're describing the... I'm just kind of thinking of visuals here, when you're describing the forbidden thing, I'm thinking, of course I have to put it into a Disney movie. I'm thinking maybe something out of like Sleeping Beauty, something dark and thorny, that kind of thing or whatever. Something forbidden there, or poison apple, or whatever. But then on the growth side, I see the world of possibility as I see Blue Skies, I see heroes and heroines and that kind of stuff. I see all the constraints gone and now I see... that's what I see. But I'm curious as to what you see on the other side of the forbidden thing.

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. I will say, so I'm notoriously bad at celebrating to me Blue Sky doesn't exist, and my team hates this about me. I'm like, "Really good job. Okay. So next." But I would say, we're getting sort of in a hero's journey stuff here, but sort of one of the things about growth and success is that everything is like a micro step in plateau and then this is B2B marketing, it's kind of a cutthroat place. So stuff works for a little while, but you always have to be, this is where I think the flywheel comes in to borrow from HubSpot speak, but it's all about... and this is a little bit of a different format, but it's all about learning iteration, success, celebrating that success, building off of strengths for what's next. So I've been talking about this a lot, but when I think about success, I always think, about core direct response principles that are the foundation of, at least my professional experience and I think vital for any marketer.

Polly Yakovich:

And that's to like always build off of what's working, right? So you take little, to borrow the metaphor, you take little adventures out from what's working and you scout out new ground, and then you say like, "Oh there are great resources over here. Let's move 50 yards up river." And then you build off of strengths every time. And sometimes your search party is going to come back and have been ambushed and then you don't go that direction. So you have to be experimenting all the time. But I do think of it as micro experimenting, because you want to be building off of what worked. I think marketing that wholesale is like, "This worked great. Okay. Let's scrap it and do the next thing." And you're laughing, but people do that.

Stephen Woessner:

Absolutely.

Polly Yakovich:

And clients want that. And so part of your guidance is to say, "We are moving things aside. We are asking the forbidden questions. We are moving forward a big vision, but we're also doing that from a position of strength and not just constantly recreating the wheel."

Stephen Woessner:

Okay. So you gave us several things there too, to also break down. I love your point of view when you said, "Okay, so now what's next?" Because that tells me and your listeners or shows me and your listeners, that there's always room for improvement, that you're always looking for the next way to make that even better, right?

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. Always. I mean, I would say there's almost no marketer. Occasionally you used to be able to do this with websites, but not even anymore. You're never like, "Launched that. Great. Now we don't have to think about that for another year." Which is kind of depressing in some ways. But to me it's fun because it's like, "Okay, now comes the search parties." Nine of the new ways of improving on this are going to fail and then one's going to be a couple steps forward. Which if you are sort of a little bit of a glutton for punishment, like me, is a very rewarding career because there's just always something to do, and there's always something to learn, and always something to grow, but there's never a sense of like, "I've reached the top."

Stephen Woessner:

Yeah. Awesome. Exactly. A hundred percent. Let's go into one of the things that you just touched on. Let's see if we can break this down a little bit further, because I was noticing two pieces, potentially, when you said flywheel then you said, HubSpot speak, but then you went on to talk about, some direct response principles. So that made me think like, "Okay, is that something that A Brave New is knitting together, inbound, outbound?"

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah.

Stephen Woessner:

So take us through that piece there.

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. So this gets really complicated and I'm very bad at being concise, as you can tell from my meandering brain. But the original idea of inbound marketing essentially to be extremely helpful and then when people need you, they'll come to you and find you through your helpful content, right? I'm massively simplifying it. But the idea is a little bit more, and this is ironic because a lot of people want to talk about HubSpot as the example. And it's true, they're the creators and the thought leaders of inbound, but they've also been an organization that themselves have always been a very aggressive outbound marketers.

Stephen Woessner:

Yes, they have.

Polly Yakovich:

And so if people just think of them as this like pie in the sky building this thing, it's just simply not true for their organization. And so when you talk about the HubSpot flywheel, the essential components are, and many people break this down into more than these three, but it's like attracting folks, engaging them, and then delighting them. So you're talking about this buyer's journey, right? You're going to bring people in, you're going to help them make a choice, you're going to convert them to a sale and then hopefully you're going to make them delighted. And they'll either share it with their friends or come back and make a repeat purchase, et cetera.

Polly Yakovich:

So there's this idea that you're never selling a customer and then moving onto the next one, you're always engaging people all the way around. For Josh and I particularly, part of what I'm going to talk about is actually born out of our insecurity, because Josh and I came out of the direct response space, in different ways and in different roles, but we were involved in, particularly and to start with nonprofit, but then moving into for-profit but more direct response, right? So, we were very outbound, people do cringe a little bit at direct response, but I actually was fortunate enough to be just old enough to have come into it and have done a lot of things that aren't available to folks anymore like telemarketing, lots of print mailers.

Polly Yakovich:

Obviously people are still doing these things, but they're a little out of vogue. But to have that experience of this really multichannel, direct approach to the consumer, that has its own super unique strategies. So when you talk about outbound marketing, particularly with a direct response foundation, you're talking about directly asking, you're talking about tabloid headlines, you're talking about what percentage of people are going to open your envelope, and the envelope doing 90% of the work. You're talking about a lot of things that inbound marketers find gauche, right?

Polly Yakovich:

And so I think particularly for Josh and I, when we started pivoting more toward inbound, we really were like, "Let's pretend," I mean, I'm exaggerating, "But let's pretend we never did direct response and never tell anyone about it." Because it just felt very old school, and not modern, and kind of embarrassing, and people don't like telemarketing. No one wants to say like, "Oh, you run successful telemarketing campaigns. That must be amazing." But as we've grown, and as we've led clients through inbound programs, and particularly using the lessons of 2020 and something that our clients are stepping into more and more, which is account-based marketing, which we can talk about a little bit more. It really requires this infusion of outbound and inbound approaches.

Polly Yakovich:

And it also requires, particularly in the outbound side of things, when you're talking to people who are pretty cold contacts, you don't want to betray your brand, but you have to be direct. Because otherwise one, you'll never capture anyone's attention and everyone knows how cluttered the marketplace is. Two, it's so cluttered you have to repeat yourself all the time. Only because people are going to look at their last 10 LinkedIn messages and then get tired and move on. And then three, you have to be really clear about what you're asking people to do and ask them to do that thing. If you're keeping it very vague like, "Oh, hey, if you're interested or maybe someday you might want to read this," et cetera, et cetera. People are like, "Oh, okay. I'll maybe bookmark that and then come back to it never because my life is busy and I forgot about it."

Polly Yakovich:

But if you're like, "Open now for free X, Y, Z limited time offer." That has urgency to it that compels people to act. And it may not feel as nice, but that's what people respond to because we're just so busy. And it doesn't mean that you're not also creating super helpful content, because when you're talking about high value B2B products like what we are selling on behalf of our clients all the time, those are really long sales cycles and they take a lot of education and information and trust building, but getting people into that cycle to learn about your brand, requires shaking them out of where they are. So you do have to be able to blend both and blending both is hard. It's very hard, but it's successful.

Stephen Woessner:

So let's talk about that a little bit because your listeners, some of them, maybe all of them, are in that B2B space and selling things that have long cycles, high price tags, not impromptu purchase, right?

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. These are not $20 cool slogan t-shirts that you combined, doesn't matter if you like it or not.

Stephen Woessner:

Something hits their inbox and, "Yes, I think I do want that $3 million piece of capital equipment that I didn't know that I needed until just now." So how do you blend those then of direct response and recognizing that you have a longer sales cycle that is going to drive it?

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. So I'll talk a little bit about it. I also want to say we have a really cool resource on our website that talks about when and where, and some examples of how to use direct response. So I would say for us, I mean, obviously this is laid out in a strategy, but if I were to high-level it, I would say, whether it's an account-based marketing like targeted outreach to target accounts, or it's your sort of regular month to month marketing efforts, you need to lay out your campaigns and you need to see which particular aspects of those campaigns are going to need to jolt people to action, right?

Polly Yakovich:

So your blog posts might be really super informational and really deep into the content and build a lot of trust and show your audience that you're really experienced at this component of a thing you do, but the email that you send that month has to contain messages that get people to act, get them into that blog post, get them to download a new thing you have. And so really we look at sort of the marketing mix and we say, "Which impacts here need to be more direct response, and which components of those impacts need to be more direct response." So like all your headlines should be pretty action oriented, and if you're offering something, it's not like, "Download this if you think about it, and maybe you could read it sometime." It's like those kinds of places where people taking action need a very different kind of approach and urgency.

Polly Yakovich:

You're even going to use words like free and urgent or limited time only, and things like that, that feel really salesy, but that capture people's attention. And no matter what your ads are going to need to be pretty direct response, because they're in a crowded space where people are scrolling and inundated with information. They can't be like, "Oh maybe if you got around to this, this is a really interesting article." That just doesn't work. And then I would say too, when you're thinking about your audience, you're thinking about who you're talking to. So if you're talking to people who subscribe to your monthly newsletter and they're used to getting it, and they're really engaged, you might not need so much of a direct message as when you are running an account-based marketing campaign and maybe you're sending your first emails out to people who are pretty cold contacts.

Polly Yakovich:

You're going to need to be very clear about why you deserve to be talking to them, and what you want them to do, and who you are, and all of that kind of stuff. So you really need to think about, sort of do a matrix in your head as you're planning, "Who's my audience. Do they know me?" I mean, ask yourself all the time, "Why should they care? Why would I do something right now? Why would I read this, why would I click, why would I give my email?" Have you given me a reason to do that? I think even internally people struggle with this a lot because we're doing this work all the time. And we're like, "Of course, it's interesting and so valuable." But it's like, "Okay, if person X on Facebook is scrolling through, why would they stop and click? They've never heard of you before." Just constantly putting on that hat, makes the work better.

Stephen Woessner:

I love this blend of, this removal of passive language, right? It's very active voice in the way that you're creating urgency, love that. Couple other big topics that I would love to get your perspective on. You mentioned account-based marketing and then the campaigns associated with that, first, give us some foundational definition and then take us into an example, if you would.

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. So I would say for most people with a high value B2B purchase, oh, you're looking at a long sales cycle, like six months to three years. That's so hard. And so you're looking for any places where you can shorten that up. And so obviously the inbound side does that by being really helpful and building a lot of trust and showing really deep knowledge. And what you're wanting to do with account-based marketing and sort of jumpstart that. Because with inbound marketing, I mean, I don't know anyone doing a peer, peer, peer inbound marketing program, because even running digital media ads is outbound. But I would say on the inbound side that is slow. And you can give obvious examples, but you're not going to look for something until you really feel like you need it, or if somebody captures your attention.

Polly Yakovich:

And if your product doesn't feel super urgent, even if it would be very helpful to your organization or save you money, everyone is human and all organizations are dealing with often what's in front of them at the moment, even if they're planning for other things, those things just don't feel urgent. It's like, "Well, that's on our three-year plan and we'll definitely get to it," et cetera. So I would say for most organizations, account-based marketing has become really important because it's more about, "I'm going to research target accounts that would be..." In ABM speak we call these ICPs, ideal customer profiles, right? I'm going to create an ideal customer profile, and I'm going to say, "Companies of this employee size who do X, Y, Z, who are," let's be specific, "Have self-funded health insurance, that do," whatever, "Are really good candidates for my product."

Polly Yakovich:

And then you're going to go out and find a hundred, 200, 500, a thousand target accounts. And rather than waiting for them to see your ads and find your stuff and be in the right magazines, et cetera, obviously I'm exaggerating all of this, but you're going to actually get a hold of them. And you're going to tell them, well, first you're going to ask questions, but if you know a lot about your audience, you're going to try and identify with them on their pain points, which you're with because they're the pain points of other people who would be ideal customers. And so you're going to talk to them about those pain points in a really forthright way. I would not say aggressive, and you're going to try and get them to engage with you.

Polly Yakovich:

One of the other strengths about, I would say ABM in general for companies that are selling high value products is typically, in ABM speak, we call the buying committee. But typically not one person is going to make a $3 million decision or a $3 million upfront, $2 million for the rest of the engagement a year decision. So typically there's a group of people making these decisions. And so, one of the nice things about account-based marketing is you're going to come up with, let's keep it simple, your hundred target prospects, your ICPs, and you are going to build out a three, four, or five buying committee for each of those target accounts. And typically those are, you can identify what the roles are. It's going to be your CFO, it's going to be your head of this or that, maybe the CEO isn't normally involved. These are the roles that are involved. You're going to research all those people for each account and now off of 100 target accounts, you have five or 600 prospects to engage with and try and get to engage with you.

Stephen Woessner:

Let's continue using your example of the 100 targeted accounts. So once somebody has identified the 100 targeted accounts, then what? What is downstream from that, once they've done the ICP, and they've thought about the buying committee, so it's a hundred targeted accounts, but maybe that's 500 people like you just mentioned. So then what comes downstream from that?

Polly Yakovich:

Here's the ideal situation, which we all know never happens and you always have to deal with some sort of reality, right?

Stephen Woessner:

Yeah.

Polly Yakovich:

But everyone has something different that goes awry, so it's easier to talk about the ideal. But I just want everyone listening to know that no one's ideal and no one does this all. And there's so many on and off ramps that a good agency is going to talk about what's practical for you. And you're going to say, "Okay, we're going to compromise on this, on that. And we're not going to compromise on these things. We're going to hit these things as perfectly as we can." Ideally, you're going to have, and this is where account-based marketing is most tricky, you're going to have a very good alignment and understanding and regular communication between the sales and the marketing team.

Polly Yakovich:

Because something like account-based marketing is very integrated between person to person communication and sort of automated marketing or whatever we can do in a mass scale. We can place ads, but we can't mass to send a personal message that's really smart and personal to each person's LinkedIn box, right? And so ideally for account-based marketing, you really want to provide like a 360 degree view around each of your targets. So you might decide of those a hundred target lists, you have a sales team that can only handle one person at each account, and you're going to tear out what your strategy looks like, depending on what your sales team can personally engage with. But I would say ideally, and then stepping down from here, you're going to have people sending them LinkedIn connect messages, that are not your standard, cheesy barf, "I'm never going to accept this request," message.

Polly Yakovich:

You're going to learn so much about each one of those target accounts that you are providing them, again, so helpful information. You're going to be setting up Google alerts, so you know things that are happening in that unique industry and you're saying like, "Oh, hey, did you catch this article in Forbes, what do you think this might mean to you?" Or you might notice as you build their relationship, things that they're concerned about and start being helpful to them and feeding them information. And this is always a very big balance. But you're going to be providing a level of support that is personal through social media. You're going to give your brand support through digital media placement, so they have at least seen your ads. So they're not like, "Who is this company contacting me? I've never heard of you." You're going to be emailing them cold emails, but these are less likely to get opened without the other support.

Polly Yakovich:

This is where the pandemic has been really challenging. Is like account-based marketing has always been very... it's always been a great place to like mail someone a book to their house or send them something that might be interesting that just disrupts the normal pattern. This is hard when you don't have home addresses now, so that may be something that you save for later in your campaign when you actually have a relationship with them. And you can say like, "Oh, hey, this leadership book was really important to me." It could even be unrelated to your product or sales, it just demonstrates that you care about them. You're going to be calling them, you're going to be inviting them to webinars.

Polly Yakovich:

You might have, this is again hard, typically you might have an event that you would give them a free invite to, or an exclusive call with some sort of leader at Google who's talking about something really important to what they do or the service that you provide that's maybe tangential, but really interesting. So you're really wanting to get creative about what you're offering them in an exclusive way that brings them a lot of value. Your whole campaign is going to be centered around bringing them so much value and then also just being warm and personal and caring about them in a campaign that has a lot of different strategies. I do see a lot of people struggling right now with what to do, because there's so many things that just aren't to us. And so it's using the tools that you have, but if you have an ABM campaign that's just sending cold emails for 35 emails and multiple months, it's just not going to be as successful as a fully integrated campaign like I was just describing.

Stephen Woessner:

Right. Would you agree or disagree, the expectations from the prospective client, the bar has been raised. They're getting the 35 cold emails and they're deleting those, the bar has been raised, the expectation of how will the person on the other end truly prove that they know me, that they understand what I need, that they actually understand that it's my decision plus four other people, there's risk involved in that decision, and how are they hearing me? So the bar is raised, right? We as marketers, we have to do a better job of actually giving a rep, right?

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. I think the bar is raised and also so few people are really doing ABM well. I mean, it's a buzzword, but so few people are doing it well, that it truly does catch people by surprise. When you delight them, and you do something different, and you don't seem just out there for yourselves and you take the time and the effort to send them something that's important to them, and you're not just bombarding them with email, bombarding with email is actually kind of easy. And you're playing a numbers game in a different way, and for organizations that do that, the numbers may work out for them. But part of a big sale is capturing some of the tension by delighting them, and that delight is actually, I hesitate to say this, but it's actually easy because so many people just don't want to make the effort of the time.

Polly Yakovich:

And so if you can do that, ABM has been proven time and time and time again, to increase sales cycle time substantially, maybe even cut in half. And the organizations that do it well are spending a ton of money on it because it's a really labor intensive, but I don't want people to feel like you have to be Adobe to do ABM well and have the budget of a big, massive company. I would always encourage you to do it right and well before you do it big. So even if you took a really small group of people, made it work, took one sales rep, really demonstrated it, figured out what time it really does take, figured out the ROI on that, then you can make better decisions from there.

Stephen Woessner:

Huge golden nugget. When you said capturing someone's attention by delighting them. And I say it's a huge golden nugget because it's not hard.

Polly Yakovich:

No.

Stephen Woessner:

Excuse me. It's simple.

Polly Yakovich:

It is.

Stephen Woessner:

But at scale it becomes challenging, but being able to just capture someone's attention by delighting them, that's not overly complicated when it's a one-to-one thing in the ABM kind of dojo that you're describing. And then when you do that, whether it's sending somebody a signed book or a framed something or whatever, the impact that something little like that can have, can be massive.

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. And there's always a lot of, no matter how much you try and put lipstick on it, there's always a lot of animosity between marketing and sales teams, it's just part of the nature of the relationship. But salespeople are incredible, good salespeople are amazing because they just like people and they care about them. And anybody who has any sort of experience with a sales person who just was interested in them and wanting to make a human connection, there's just so much opportunity there. So if you can wrap that sales person in a campaign where you're providing them great stuff, and individual one sheets, and particular things for their prospects, and they can do that human work and delight them and engage with them and be really human and interesting, everyone wants that.

Polly Yakovich:

This is the thing that I think is really interesting that is helpful when you grow up as a marketer, everyone wants it to be about algorithms and math and what's new and the tech, and it's just still about people. And we are the same to some extent, whether we're interacting digitally or in person, we still want the same connections, we still want the same interests. We still want all the same things that humans have wanted forever. And so if you can really get down to that human level, even if you're selling a product, when you're selling a product, there's magic there.

Stephen Woessner:

Absolutely. And that takes us back to the beginning of this conversation when we're talking about vulnerability and really understanding people and where they're at, and really understanding the context of where somebody is coming from and all of that. And you're right. A great sales person understands that, they understand [crosstalk 00:48:36] communication, right?

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. I love salespeople. I love being sold. I love when I am not going to buy something and then they sell me because I just like them so much. Like, "Take my money." I love it.

Stephen Woessner:

Well, I know that we're quickly running out of time, but one more thing that I would love to get your point of view on, and this may seem obvious, but I'm going to ask it anyway. And that is, how does somebody know that it's working? And I know that it's not all about math and algorithms, how do they know it's working, how do they know what to evaluate? Maybe somebody who's listening to you right now has an in-house team, or maybe an outsourced partner, and they want to do a better job of holding them accountable. What are the metrics that they should be looking at, Polly?

Polly Yakovich:

This is the portion of the show where Stephen opens a giant can of worms and then tells me, I have like two minutes to answer.

Stephen Woessner:

Is your show. So you've got as much time as you want.

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. This is literally a question for the ages. So I will say anyone who has it figured out completely is lying to you. And here are some of the ways that we like to approach it. So one of the things I want everyone to keep in mind, and this is hard on the agency side, because everyone wants their agency to tell them when it's working with ROIs. But they also don't want to tell them what internal staff time was taken at, what the value of that was, what the sales team's time is like, what the value of that is. If you actually put all the time dollars, whatever together, I don't know anybody besides maybe huge fortune fifties that can do that, or that are willing to do that, or that do that at all.

Polly Yakovich:

And so pure ROI, I think the thing about measurement is a lot of people go down a couple different paths and here are sort of the treacherous surprises on each path. So you can go down the path of measuring and looking at everything. And for me, I often talk about this path as data as trivia. You get into a lot of marketing agency or marketing reporting meetings, and it's like, "Here's the stats on this, and here's the stats on this, and here's the stats here in our ads. Click through our above benchmarks. And this is this, and this is doing well, and this is not doing well." And it's just a lot of trivia. And I don't like that because it's like, "Okay, cool. Your click-through rate was above benchmark, but nobody came to the webinar you were advertising. So didn't matter."

Polly Yakovich:

And I think it's Seth Godin that says this and I love it. Is that anything that you can spend your way out of isn't something you should be gloating about reporting on. If I can spend money and get you millions of impressions, then maybe impressions aren't what I can be talking about. What I should be talking about is what I'm trying to accomplish and whether my work is impactful for what I'm trying to accomplish. And so for most of our clients, we really try and hone in on the KPIs, the key performance indicators that we think are telling us that are doing the job, that we are achieving the goal, that we are moving forward in toward the goal that we have for the year, for the campaign, whatever that is. And behind that is all the data and all the trivia and it does matter. I'm not trying to say it doesn't matter.

Polly Yakovich:

But what I'm looking for are analysis and insights, and that's what I want for my reporting. I want to know on these KPIs, of which there is mountains of data behind, am I moving closer to that thing I'm trying to accomplish? And the funnel is not dead, so it's like within this flywheel mentality, the funnel still very much exists. Am I bringing enough people in as leads to talk to them, and interact with them, to qualify them to become potential customers, right? So I'm looking for KPIs that tell me that that's working and where the holes are in that process, or where the gaps are, or where I'm falling short, or where I'm not converting the right way, et cetera. But it all has to really drive out of what you're trying to accomplish.

Polly Yakovich:

And if the goal is sales, if the goal is customers, if the goal is repeat purchases, if the goal is whatever it is, then it has to be really integrated. I also don't like this idea of being fully held responsible for KPIs when you don't control half of the equation, which I think is another big whole. It's like, "I want you to be totally responsible for our ABM program. But you have to lean 60% on a sales team you have no control over, and we're not going to talk about their performance, just yours." And it just doesn't work. That's unrealistic. And you're not going to be successful if you can't be honest and realistic.

Stephen Woessner:

Well, that doesn't provide the foundation of trust that we talked about a few minutes ago, right? Because then-

Polly Yakovich:

But it's quite common.

Stephen Woessner:

Right. Because then you have the stakeholders in a project and nobody trusts one another. And they're more interested in blaming one another as opposed to actually trusting.

Polly Yakovich:

And so full marketing program ROI is hard. It's just such a hard number to get at, which is why I do think it's like, whatever that old cliche is about, and it's kind of gross, about eating the elephant one bite at a time or whatever it is. Don't eat elephants, I don't support that. But it's like you do have to think about what you can measure. What gives you the right indicators that you're moving toward your goal and not getting distracted with all the data, not letting the client let you get distracted. Not reporting on stuff that doesn't move the needle, and being really clear. I think for our clients too, especially when you build that trust, it's like, "We're going to set KPIs for the year and we're going to use them as our barometer. And obviously there's a lot of stuff around them, but we're always going to be trying to move toward accomplishing those. And it's not going to be 50 metrics, it's going to be three."

Stephen Woessner:

I love that because it goes to your question that you said when you were talking about click-through rate, did it matter, right? Some would make the argument that 50 KPI is matter, but for Pete's sake, I mean, you had a conversation a few episodes around essentialism and prioritization, right? It's difficult to prioritize 50 things, three is doable.

Polly Yakovich:

And this is where I'm just getting old and grumpy because I'm just like, "Nobody's going to keep track of 50 KPIs, no matter how big of a team you have." And it's just not practical. You have to have something, especially when you're talking to the CMO, they're so busy, bring them three numbers. Or tell them, "We did this thing. This is what we learned from it, these are some things that we think are promising. Can we try it again by eliminating these things that didn't work?" Bring them an equation and a recommendation that you can solve. Don't bring them 50 KPIs.

Stephen Woessner:

That's amazing. This has been such a great conversation. So I know that we covered a lot. But before we go, before we close out and say goodbye to your audience, any final thoughts, anything you think we didn't cover, but should have, any final recommendations you'd like to leave your listeners with?

Polly Yakovich:

I don't know. The one thing I was going to say is I always end my interviews by asking people about what their super power is, but I've never shared mine, I don't think.

Stephen Woessner:

Okay. What is your super power?

Polly Yakovich:

I think that my super power is that I am an igniter. I am very good at lighting the match and I am a person of action. And so I think whether you're starting a new business, or you are rolling out a new product, or a new project, or whatever that is, I am undaunted by any of the things that you think are barriers or that will hold you back and I can get the match lit to move us along toward getting it done. So I guess if I were to leave the audience with anything, I say this more than I think and it's so, so simple, no matter what it is, all you have to do is take the next step, it doesn't even have to be the right one. And so I think one of the things that's nice about being an igniter is just being like, actually, we don't even have to know if this is the right totally right direction. We're just going to take that first step and that first step is painless. Even if it's a little bit off we'll recalibrate and we'll get there.

Stephen Woessner:

This has been so amazing, really great conversation. And so I'll leave your listeners with this bit of encouragement or maybe an action step here. Everything that Polly just shared with you, that she generously broke down for you, that she put into action steps for you, doesn't mean anything if you don't take her insights and wisdom that she generously shared with you and do something with it. Take it and apply the knowledge, quickly. We all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day. And the proof is, will you take this blueprint that she just gave you? Will you take it and apply it and move your business forward? And Polly, thank you for the unique opportunity to sort of hijack your show a little bit.

Polly Yakovich:

Yeah. Thank you. It's so fun.

Stephen Woessner:

This was a blast and really appreciated it. So thank you very, very much.

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