How Freightos Does Enterprise Marketing Planning | 2022 Planning Series

eytan buchman
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Eytan Buchman is the CMO of Frieghtos, a digital freight booking platform. 

Freightos runs 3 business units: WebCargo, Freightos.com and Freightos Data. WebCargo, the digital pricing, booking and sales platform for logistics providers, represents more than 30% of the world market. Freightos.com is the largest digital freight marketplace, with over twelve thousand organizations sourcing shipping services.

Eytan’s marketing planning needs to accomodate for Freightos’ multiple product lines and sales cycles.

During this interview, Eytan discusses the planning process, marketing-sales alignment and more. Below are some of our key takeaways:

  1. What planning process do you follow? Divide the planning into two parts. The first part locks down the budget. After that, focus on target planning.
  1. Aligning marketing and sales. Keep a clear line of communication with the sales team and figure out where marketing can be helpful.
  1. How do you accommodate differing sales cycles? You can check for historical cohort data to get an idea of what returns to expect.
  1. For long-term investments, how do you show the marketing contribution? Some branding-related PR campaigns won’t generate a return on investment, and that’s okay.
  2. Did you revisit and adapt your planning in response to the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic? A plan is important, but you should also incorporate check-ins and be flexible.

What’s your planning process?

So, most of our planning, or a good chunk of our planning, is already done.

We are basically driven from two directions. We plan from the finance perspective of locking down our budget, and then we also approach it from a longer-term perspective.  That’s a little bit more on the commercial side. This involves: 

  • Planning out our targets for next year.
  • Identifying where we feel like we’ve been weak.
  • Defining the types of marketing activities we feel has a lot of potential. 

Usually, we’ll do a series of off-sites on the executive level and then on the individual business unit levels. Then, we send out the general objectives to the individual team members, letting them come up with their initiatives. We use an OKR methodology, allowing them to come up with their own initiatives. We then fold that back up as we roll up into long-term planning.

Marketing-sales alignment

I think there’s always going to be some misalignment. I don’t try to necessarily hit a hundred percent. The number one thing for me is really just to make sure that, from a technology and process perspective, we have visibility on what’s coming in and understand the result of that. 

 Choosing the right metrics to track

I’m allergic to vanity metrics. Slowly, every year, we take another metric—organic website traffic, for example—off of our planning and try to turn that into SQL, MQL, speed of return on ad spend for paid ads, or conversion rates for paid versus brand versus partner ads.

We’re really trying to pinpoint the KPIs that move the needle. So, I think the first part of the alignment is really about processes or making sure that whatever the tool is, whether we use a CRM or spreadsheets, we know exactly what happens to the different leads that we bring in.

Tracking the metrics properly

We know what ends up happening to these leads because working without a feedback loop is impossible, right? It’s like playing darts without being able to see where you land on the dartboard. So, first, I make sure that I have a direct line of communication with the sales team. Not just on the senior level, but ensuring that the people on my team have the right relationships with the people on their level. We try to get feedback from every single person there. That’s really important.

The second thing is, where we feel like there’s a role for marketing to insert itself, we do so, but we also recognize that we don’t need to be an intrinsic part of the sales process for every type of sale that we make. So, that would be when we do something that’s a little bit more B2C.

We basically own almost every touchpoint when you’re talking about business to enterprise. It’s okay for us to do sales enablement and to provide the right collateral to ensure that the collateral is actually useful. For example, we can sit through a demo call that a salesperson is doing and see which of the slide decks they breeze through and which they don’t.

And maybe if you sat in on another call that differs across different salespeople, you could come up with a way to make more modular content so each salesperson can customize their presentation. I think that having a feedback loop is important on the technology side. 

Making sure that there’s alignment on how you’re using your CRM and how you’re pushing people through your funnel is the next factor. You must have the right platforms to share content with the different sales team members, keeping them in the loop about the new content that you’re putting out.

If you’re putting out research that they don’t have access to or know about, then you’re totally missing out on the nurture component of content. So, I think the technology and the process works hand in hand.

How do you account for differing sales cycles for different products?

It’s hard, I’ll give you that. It’s very hard on the enterprise side. You get diminishing returns when you try to measure everything and get yourself to the point where you’re getting full visibility.

For enterprise sales, what we might look at is how many sales-qualified leads we are bringing in. Historically, we know that we’ve maybe gotten a 5–10% conversion rate and just leave it at that. Leave it at a very fast feedback loop from sales qualified. And just be okay with that. 

Then, when we get to the higher value, lower revenue things that we sell, like on our freight marketplace for small businesses, it comes down to data.

You’ll basically look at historical cohort rates. So, for example, take a cohort of users who signed up, say, in January 2018 and see how they age over the course of that entire year. Then, look back and analyze. 

  • What percentage of that cohort eventually converted in the first month?
  • What percentage converted in your first week. You can then compare that with a couple of other cohorts and try to figure out where they differ. 

We had initially done that, and then we realized that there’s a huge dynamic that’s different between our cohorts in Q3 and our cohorts in Q1, depending on their budgets at the time. We then took that as our model and challenged other cohorts with that same model. 

We figured out which one actually checks out across as many models as possible. It turns out that for our first monthly cohort, we have very strong data about what percentage of that cohort will convert in the first month. This means that within a month, I’ll know my anticipated return on ad spend duration and I’ll know my actual revenue from that specific cohort.

How do you show marketing contribution for long-term investments?

First of all, I think some of the campaigns are valuable in their own right, especially for a startup. To a certain extent, branded search, like in a branded organic search, mainstream publication mentions have their own value. I really try to split the PR and brand activities that we do into two separate buckets. One of them is there to drive ROI and one of them is not. 

So, for partnership PR that we put out or PR about a specific feature—which is really a buy intent brand activity for me—the KPI would be: do I see a significant change on the relevant landing page for the relevant product page on our website in the first week or two? That’s where I hold myself to account. 

But there’s an entire category of brand activities that are never going to drive that ROI and shouldn’t have to drive that ROI. You should be able to recognize that just because you’re doing PR for both of them, it doesn’t mean that you’re striving for the same goals. So, with employer branding, for example, once you start doing that type of activity, over six months, you will start to see more familiarity with the HR team when they reach out to people. So you will start to see more people applying for vacant roles.

On the mainstream side of things, it’s a little bit tautological. But sometimes the best marker of a successful brand identity is getting more inbound PR. So once you get data from somewhere and you’ve got the snowball effect of more publications reaching out to you, this will trigger even more people to reach out to you.

As a result, you almost get this very positive feedback loop that shows you that more people are getting in front of you. But I try to separate it and say I don’t need to get a KPI ROI from every single one of these. It really depends on where you are in the company life cycle.

Sometimes you’ll dial it up and sometimes you’ll dial it down. I had a conversation with one of our board members a couple of years ago when we were very much focused on selling our SaaS product. I said, “If it’s okay with you, I’m not going to get on any tech publications this year. I’m not going to get on the Wall Street Journal. I know that I get more product leads when I get picked up in the Journal of Commerce, American Shipper or Air Cargo News than if I get in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, and we need product leads.”

Did you revisit and adapt your planning last year? 

Freight, as it happens, is a relatively resilient category. As a matter of fact, as a result of the pandemic, the market got much hotter for international freight and for digitization.

So, we definitely integrated it as a theme in our communications. Because of our sector, we identified these changes a little bit earlier than others. COVID really started to impact China long before it hit the rest of the world, and we noticed an unprecedented slowdown in manufacturing. 

We actually got our entire marketing team together and said, “This is going to shape a lot of how we do marketing. How are we going to talk about this issue?”.

We thought about how we could drive more value to our customers from the information that we had.  So, we shifted more toward data marketing. Toward taking the real-time data that we were picking up and putting it in front of our customers.

We took some of our easier products and made them free for small businesses that we assumed might be struggling a little bit. We started working more with partners who we felt were positioned to provide unique services during this time. We did more webinars, but I tried to stay away from the typical webinar format. Our webinars are just a conversation between me and some other senior executive. We go back and forth about the industry and keep it very low-key and very social rather than going too deep.

Of course, we reduced our event spend and increased our ad spend. Then, we reduced our ad spend once we started getting more PR from all the data activity we were doing. We also did some digital ad spending. 

The planning needs to be pretty flexible. Ultimately, the goal of marketing is to be in front of the right person at the right time and in the right way.

This is especially true in times like this when you don’t know what the right way is going to be in Q2 or Q3. You don’t know where or when there will be lockdowns. You also don’t know what the conversation is going to be within the industry. So, I think it’s really important to have a plan, but it’s also really important to create check-ins to evaluate whether it is the right plan and challenge those assumptions a little bit, as well as be able to build in a little bit of flexibility.

Conclusion

One really cool insight for us was how Eytan is really careful about avoiding vanity metrics and tracking only the really important ones. He’s also not afraid to invest money into long-term campaigns that do not have an immediate ROI.


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