B2B Demand Generation: ‘How I Work’ EP40 | Deanna Shimota

deanna shimota headshot and blog covre

Deanna Shimota is the CEO of GrowthMode Marketing, B2B marketing and demand generation expert and self-proclaimed growth architect. She uses her knowledge of tech trends and B2B expertise to catapult technology companies into high-growth mode.

How I Work, Episode 40 with Deanna Shimota (GrowthMode Marketing)

Deanna joins Josh Becerra in episode 40 of How I Work to share her experiences in high-growth companies. One of the biggest is the difference between B2B lead generation and B2B demand generation. She is a strong ambassador for B2B demand gen and explains how to use it in combination with the ICPs and the customer journey. Listen Now. Plus:

  • Building out your marketing strategy in preparation for mergers and acquisitions
  • 3 key pillars for building a demand generation engine: Strategy, Content, Distribution
  • How to find a unique business POV and why it’s critical for success

Learn more about Deanna Shimota and GrowthMode Marketing: https://growthmodemarketing.com/

Explore more content from leaders in the SaaS marketing community on our podcast. Or visit our blog to find more digital marketing tips and ideas.

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Transcription: How I Work, Episode 40 (Deanna Shimota, GrowthMode Marketing)

Josh Becerra: Hi everybody, this is Josh Becerra from Augurian. Welcome to the next episode of How I Work. I have the privilege to be here with Deanna Shimota. Thanks for being here Deanna.

Deanna Shimota: Thank you, I appreciate being here, Josh.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, so I’ll tell the audience a little bit about you. So Deanna is the CEO of GrowthMode Marketing. She’s made it her mission to know everything about B2B marketing and demand generation. It’s on top of every tech trend and social media modulation now. She leads GrowthMode Marketing with the goal to help other organizations travel down the same path of success.

Super excited to talk to you about demand generation and everything B2B marketing. Can you just kick us off a little bit by telling the audience about yourself, where your passion for marketing comes from, your career prior to founding GrowthMode marketing, and the path that you took to starting this agency.

Deanna Shimota: Yeah, absolutely. So I consider myself a growth architect. And what I mean by that is I really love helping companies build out their engine for growth. And prior to being at GrowthMode marketing, I was on the corporate side, working for several software companies. And over the years, as I grew my career and I grew my responsibility levels, I found myself at organizations that were looking for high growth and kind of walking in and starting from scratch

And so GrowthMode marketing came to me because I was actually a VP of marketing at a software company in the network security space who was private equity backed. They had a mission for high growth and it was on my shoulders to come in and build out the marketing piece to help support that. And as I was going out and talking to different agencies, I was frustrated with my experience because I felt like the agencies that I was talking to were like to sit in my shoes.

I was coming and saying, we need to build out an engine that fills our sales pipeline. And they wanted to have conversations about the brand experience they were gonna create. And as a marketer, I appreciate the brand experience. I think whether you’re talking, B to C or B to B, that’s a really important factor. But the way they were framing the conversations was just very frustrating. And I felt like they didn’t get it.

So GrowthMode marketing came to be, a past colleague who was also a VP of marketing at a software company in the B2B space. And we started talking about these challenges with the agencies we were working with and walked away from that lunch saying maybe we should start an agency that works the way we would like to work for the type of companies that we’re working with.

Josh Becerra: Well, that’s super cool. And I think your experience being in these high growth companies is also really relevant, especially to the audience. There’s a lot of our listeners who are motivated to grow their companies. You’ve been involved on both sides of merger and acquisitions, I know. So a lot of our listeners want to grow and ultimately sell. So can you share a little bit about those experiences? Being on a marketing team having gone through mergers and acquisitions and any tips or pitfalls that you think leaders should be looking at or acknowledging that exist.

Deanna Shimota: Yeah, I think when you’re talking about mergers and acquisitions, when they happen, whether you’re on the buy side or the sell side, change is inevitable. I mean, in my own experience, if you’re at a company that just got bought, they’re looking at everything and they’re saying, where are their duplicate efforts to cut costs? What are you guys doing that’s really good that we can incorporate into the existing organization? And they may come in and restructure it. a lot of the processes. It can be really hard for not just marketers, but people in the organization as a whole.

On the flip side, if you’re the acquiring company, what I’ve experienced there is, you know, you’re coming in and you’re the bad guy that’s looking at where the efficiencies, you know, and you’ve got these people that are very resistant to you because they know that their job, you know, may be at risk as you’re coming in there establish their own processes and ideas that they believe strongly in and you’re coming in and you’re really poking holes in it and questioning like is this the right thing or are we doing it better. So you know there’s there’s always a little bit of crunchiness when you’re trying to merge two companies together and teams but you know I think as long as you can go with the flow and accept the change it helps and if you’re a marketing leader in an organization and you know that you’re at that is looking to do high growth. You’ve kind of got to think about your marketing programs in the sense of how do I support that ultimate end goal which is for our company to get acquired. And so

I think as you’re looking at building out the marketing foundation, you’ve got to think about will it be scalable? Because if you’re a company that started, for example, with personal networks and referrals, that can’t be your marketing strategy, that’s not scalable when you start to get to 100 million, you know, 200 million, so on and so on. And so really looking at the technology and the different pieces to build out a really strong foundation is going to help you support growth in the future. And it’s going to look more appealing to that acquiring company when they come in and they’re looking at each department for growth. So marketing plays a really big factor in that. I think the other thing to consider, you know, if you’re a company that hopes to be acquired in the future is the fixed costs within marketing.

So like my last step before I started GrowthMode marketing, one of the things that we really looked at was we don’t want to add too much staff. That company comes in and they’re looking for ways to cut and they’re looking for how much is your profit margin and how much flexibility do they have with the company, they’re going to look at your fixed costs. That doesn’t mean you can’t do the marketing programs, but I think instead of the model being we’re going to hire for every role, you maybe have a smaller marketing team, but you really think to cut that cost out for that acquiring company when they purchase you. If it’s an agency, it’s a lot more messy if it’s people that work directly for you. So I think there’s a lot of things to consider and whether you’re on the buy side or the sell side, it should be a factor in how you think about building out your marketing strategies for sure.

Josh Becerra: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, change is hard for everybody, no matter which side you’re on. But I definitely, we’ve had experiences where we’ve worked with companies that were in high GrowthMode, and they were, you know, getting looked at by private equity, and they ended up, yeah, they ended up selling, getting a huge influx of cash. And that was kind of the point at which they decided to invest in building those in-house teams. But until then, of agency-supported services. I think you’re absolutely right to keep the fixed costs down. That’s super smart.

So let’s talk about lead gen and demand gen. I know that you and I talked a little bit about this when we were prepping. Why don’t you help the listeners by defining them in your own words, and then we’ll just kind of have a little session about the differences between lead gen and demand gen. And then we’ll just kind of have a little session about, like, the differences between lead gen and demand gen. And then we’ll just kind of have a little session about the differences between lead gen and demand gen.

Deanna Shimota: So I think many marketers still think or do think that demand generation and lead generation are interchangeable terms. They’re the same thing, right? Like in both cases, you’re trying to bring leads in the door. They’re actually very different marketing strategies. So lead generation, which is the more traditional, it’s been around for a while, a model that companies are doing. That’s where you’re essentially, and you’re trying to pull them into your sales process. And what I mean by that is you’re doing all of the outbound marketing. So a company that has SDRs, for example, they’re picking up the phone and they’re calling someone because they looked at a piece of content. And their whole point is I’m trying to set an appointment with this company so I can hand them to the salesperson. And the goal is to have conversations.

Demand generation on the flip side is about building trust with the market and understanding that, you know, the reality is only 5% of companies at any given time are actually in the market to buy. I mean, 95% of them are not. So when you’re doing that cold outreach, you’re gating those forms, you’re trying to find the 5%, but you’re disregarding the 95% that are not in market to buy.

With demand generation, programs and so you’re putting a lot of content out there that isn’t necessarily for the person that’s going to buy today. I mean, you still have to consider that piece, but it’s much broader because you’re also putting content out there for the other 95% of people. So that when they are ready to buy, they know who you are. You’ve built trust with them. They actually already have an affinity for your brand and they raise their hand when they’re ready to buy their buying process versus you trying to pull them into your sales process. And the result is higher close rates, faster sales cycles, and overall lower customer acquisition costs. So, you know, there’s this shift in the market where lead generation just isn’t working the way it used to. And the reason is buyers are not buying the way they used to. Gartner have said, I would prefer to have zero interaction with a sales rep during this purchase process. 80% of the buying decision is complete before they ever are willing to talk to a salesperson and it takes 66 touches to actually get them to agree to a sales meeting. And ultimately, like in my mind, what that means is from a demand generation standpoint, lead generation just doesn’t work the way it used to. I had a conversation yesterday with a prospect who said, I’ve had 1,200 people visit our landing pages and I’ve gotten zero leads from it. I’m hearing this all over the place.

That’s where, you know, I say lead generation doesn’t work. That’s where demand generation is a strategy and the whole premise behind it is your digital footprint has to become your best salesperson.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, I love that. You talked about your digital footprint being your best salesperson. So when you think about content marketing, like in my head, I think about, okay, we’ve got this online customer journey at the highest part of that journey. People are either unaware or they’re not in buying mode, like you’re saying.

And so where we see effective use educating and just being that resource for people to understand their industry and their business that they’re in like as long as you’re kind of providing value at that highest level You’re doing some of that demand gen you’re creating that trust and affinity for people. So what do you know besides content marketing or or tell us a little bit about how you see the tax of that demand gen happening at that high level in the customer journey.

Deanna Shimota: Yeah, so it goes so much beyond just putting content out there. I mean, if you’re just putting content out there, it’s content for the sake of content. When I look at how do you build a demand generation engine, I think there’s three key pillars. It’s the strategy, it’s the content, it’s the distribution.

You’ve got to start with the strategy piece. And what that is is first you’ve got to define or identify who is our ideal customer profile. Very basic definition of an ideal customer profile is these are best fit companies. And it’s different from a buyer persona. A buyer persona is about individual roles. The ideal customer profile is these are the type of companies we need to attract because they are the best fit. They are the most likely to close for a sale.

You then take that ideal customer profile and you create what we call a unique point And this is building out a story that you’re going to put out in the market to challenge thinking. And that story is very much crafted based on who you know your ideal customer profile is. You then develop a content marketing and demand generation plan. And within that content marketing and demand generation plan, you know who your ideal customer profile is. You know what your that story specifically for that ideal customer profile to attract more of those companies to your company.

So now you go into the execution phase, you start to build out the content and you identify what your key topics are and you build content for every stage of the funnel and you build all kinds of different formats and we like to at GrowthMode marketing create what we content. The cornerstone content is going to be a big piece or a series of pieces. So for example, let’s say it’s a podcast.

Your podcast is going to be your cornerstone content and then you’re going to slice and dice that down into bite-sized chunks. So your podcast series, like each podcast episode that you do, let’s say you’ve got your audio recording, you’ve got a video version of it. Let’s say you create five social media clips that are minutes each of videos from it, you’re going to create an article from it, you’re going to create a bunch of social posts from it, for you know it, that one episode now equates to 20 pieces of content. And you’re gonna then go to the distribution pillar, which is all about how do I get that content out in front of my ideal customer profile, by getting it in the places where they hang out and footprint is your best sales rep.

And I think there’s three factors or avenues to consider with the distribution phase. I mean the first is your website. This is your digital storefront. You’ve got to have good content on it and give people the ability to go deep as deep as they want because again they’re making 80% of that decision before they’re willing to talk to you are building your audience, you can control what content you put out there, at what time you put it, how frequent you do it. So think things like podcasts, webinar series, blogs, social media, email campaigns, all of those things, you get to control that, you get to build your audience out.

And then the third, which is actually where a lot of companies will start because they own built audience yet, but that’s third party channels. And that’s tapping into other existing audiences that are really relevant to your ideal customer profile. So going back to that ideal customer profile, like when you’re doing that exercise and building that out, one of the things you need to ask them is, where do you go for sources of information? Where do you go to learn out or going to the things you think it may be for example I do my research on LinkedIn or I’m listening to this podcast or I read this industry publication but when you understand that then you can make sure that you have really highly targeted content in the right places where they’re showing up and then to fuel the engine you keep creating content and you tell that unique point of view so that it starts to stick with them.

And that’s how you build not only that brand awareness, but that trust and that affinity. Because if they start following along with the story and they become an audience member for you and they want to consume your content, when they actually enter that elusive 5% of companies that are in market to buy, they’re more likely to tap you on the shoulder and say, hey, I like what you’re saying. Let’s have a conversation.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, I really love how you talk about like this unique point of view concept, and that it’s almost like challenging or like some level of like going against the status quo a little bit, right? Like it can’t just be super vanilla or repeating what everybody else repeats. I get actually, you have to really think about how it can be different so that people like recognize, oh, that’s their piece of content. I have an affinity for that because there you might be able to like put a draw a line in the sand and somebody will say like, I don’t believe anything that Josh is saying, which might be just fine because I don’t probably don’t want them as clients anyway. Right. I want the people who believe in what I’m saying to be the people who actually pick up the phone and say, Hey, like, I want to talk to you about, you know, this new opportunity I have. So I think that’s like a unique point of view. It’s like a double-edged sword. It’ll tell certain people, you’re not going to want to work with somebody who is not a fit.

Yep, and then it’ll tell other people, like, oh my gosh, that totally resonates with me. I totally wanna work with you. So I really love that. I don’t know how you’re talking about that.

Deanna Shimota: Yeah, you’re spot on because I think if everybody agrees with your unique point of view, it’s not unique. It needs to challenge thinking and it’s okay that not everyone’s going to agree with you because on the flip side, there are gonna be people who agree with you who are like, you know what? You’re right, I really like how you’re thinking about this and that’s what pulls them in to follow along with that story and continue to engage And you know the whole unique point of view and the reason you know at growth load marketing that we work with clients to develop a unique point of view is because differentiation sometimes is really hard.

And what I mean by that like that your unique point of view is not product differentiation. competition and I use HR technology as an example because we work a lot there. If you’ve got a human capital management system, chances are the functionality that you’re bringing to the table is the exact same functionality as the other 500 options out there. And you can spin it any different way you want, but in the buyer’s eyes, you all do the same thing. And it’s not meaningful differentiation. what I would consider really weak differentiators. And that’s where it’s like, our differentiators are our people. We provide exceptional support. Well, guess what? Everyone can say that.

Or our integration capabilities or our implementation process. Like just really weak things that quite frankly, your prospects and your clients expect from you when they’re purchasing from you. But companies go that route time defining it and they maybe really believe like our differentiation is our customer service. It’s just so much better than XYZ prospect. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s really hard to prove that.

And even if you have case studies, because I’ve had a conversation with someone before where we debated this thing, they’re like, but we have proof points. I’m like, okay, tell me more.

I was at a trade show for HR technology. So, you know, I could point out all of them. I’m like, it’s not that hard to go to your very best customers that have really good relationships and get a really good story out of it to tell and share. That is not a proof point. That is a common occurrence.

So the unique point of view helps kind of address that. Like, okay, maybe we’re more of a commodity in the market because our product is not different enough out, but this is a way for companies to stand out better. And if they can tell that story over and over consistently and really get people thinking and challenge it, t’s a good thing. It’s kind of like no PR is bad PR. Well, challenging thinking, you know, regardless of which way they fall, it’s not bad because they’re thinking about you.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I love that. I think you’re spot on with that. And yeah, as an agency owner who has an agency that is doing SEO and paid media, run across a lot of agencies that say, well, we just do it better, or we just have better people, or we have a better process. And I think many times, if you can understand the essence of the human side of what it means to work with us. That’s where the gold lives, right?

Once you can get beyond, well, this is our process and these are our people, these are our services. How does it feel as a human to be in a relationship with this agency and this brand? That’s where I think some of the real gold is in these unique propositions. So this has been a great conversation and we’re talking about like, unique and challenging ideas. So one of the last questions that I love to ask people is like, who are you reading or what podcasts are you listening to? Or like, who has those challenging ideas that you’re like consuming today love this audience to hear about or read about.

Deanna Shimota: Yeah, you know, to be honest, I’ve been thinking about that ever since you let me know you’re gonna ask me that question. And I, to be totally honest with you right now, where I’m finding the best information to challenge my own thinking is actually on LinkedIn.

You know, there are a lot of people out there who are either pro lead generation camp or pro demand generation camp. a lot of debates going out there. And so I, you know, I look at the hashtag demand generation, the hashtag lead generation, and I’m always looking at what people are putting out there and saying, and there’s a lot of really good thinking that has helped inform, you know, my own thinking and challenged me, you know, and helped me kind of evolve as a marketer, because we all grew up doing lead generation. And for many, many years, it worked great in the model made sense. And as We’ve seen with our own clients, the type of tactics we used to do that worked really well in the past Suddenly aren’t producing the results. They needed to and so it was like alright We need to rethink this you know and I love listening to podcasts. I love reading books books are never as Kind of in the moment on things

So lately to be honest a good thought leader in the demand generation space and I’ll follow them. And a lot of times they end up going on the podcast circuit and having conversations. And so listening to those podcasts, but there’s not one particular podcast that I listened to, but a lot of them, just kind of listening to different people’s perspectives because I love to hear different perspectives and perspectives that I don’t necessarily agree with me shape my own thinking and it helps my team really go out and say, okay, you know, these people are saying this in our guts. It doesn’t feel right. What is the opposite we would do with that? Let’s go try it with our clients.

You know, and l say things that were like, that’s a really good piece of advice or thinking. Let’s go test it out with our own marketing and see if it works. And then if it does, we’ll roll it out to our clients.

Josh Becerra: Yeah. I think it’s so cool that like your answer isn’t just explicitly a podcast or a book, but it’s more like connecting with the people who have the same kind of passion for the same topics, grappling with the same challenges on LinkedIn, follow them, you know, listen to what they’re saying, challenge them, have those conversations in platform with them. So I think that’s super smart, super cool.

Deanna Shimota: Yeah, so it’s also kind of fun because you do end up getting this dialogue in the comments going where you’ll be like, I disagree, blah blah blah, they’ll come back. Well, here’s why I think this, you know, and it really opens up some good conversations virtually that you typically wouldn’t get to have.

Josh Becerra: Yeah, yeah, I think that’s awesome. Well, Deanna, this has been super fun. We learned a ton about demand generation from you today. I appreciate you taking the time and we’re gonna call it a wrap on this episode of How I Work.

Deanna Shimota: Awesome. Thanks so much, Josh.

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