We found Yotpo particularly intriguing in terms of how it manages its marketing planning. The company was founded in 2011, and is currently headed toward an IPO of $2.5B.
It manages five different product offerings, including Yotpo SMS Marketing, Yotpo Loyalty & Referrals, Yotpo Reviews, and Yotpo Visual UGC.
We sat down with Yulia Ziv, director of products and demand generation.
She shared some actionable insights regarding how Yotpo manages its planning process:
- Yotpo has three main stages of planning. research, strategy and ideation. Yulia delves into the details of each stage, giving us many insights into how Yotpo’s processes work.
- Yotpo needs to accommodate different segments, each with its own sales cycle. While SMBs must measure their results on a monthly basis, mid-market companies are different. Metrics are measured on a quarterly basis to allow for a longer sales cycle.
- Planning is an ongoing continuous process. Even though the planning is done six months ahead, Yulia’s team meet every month. They look at what was released, and brainstorm changes they can make on the spot to improve their results.
- The challenge and advantage of managing several products. Yulia mentions that the challenge of marketing multi-product lines is also an asset. That’s true since the company’s robustness is one of its biggest differentiators from other competitors.
What is your marketing planning process?
We used to do quarterly planning at Yotpo, and now we have moved to plan six months ahead. This is mostly for efficiency purposes. It takes up a lot of time for our team, along with their day-to-day activities. It also requires the ability to see the emerging themes.
We want to be pushing per product line, per segment, per geo six months ahead. We understand that it’s not about more assets and more activities. It’s about distributing them more aggressively and leveraging one initiative over a longer period of time. We have to take a more evergreen perspective toward the activities that we’re planning.
The first stage of planning – Research
In the main stages of our planning, we start with research.
We go back to the main data points that I look at. I interview the sales team, split into SMB sellers and mid-market sellers, on the past quarter’s performance. Essentially, we focus on why we win, why we lose, what seems to resonate with prospects, and what they say.
Sales data is one of the most efficient data points in terms of driving the strategy. We’ll be focusing on it in this marketing-sales alignment, which is so crucial in B2B.
Other data points we’re looking at are NPS and customer success. What’s happening with our existing customers? We already know what works and what doesn’t. The question becomes why, and how can we improve it from a top-of-the-funnel perspective. Which messaging should we be leveraging? Which type of product-supporting evidence should we be pushing out?
We also look at actual revenue data, such as which opportunities we lost, why we lost them, and to which competitors we lost them. This data helps us to understand the bigger picture.
Second stage – Strategy
Then, based on this research, we build the strategy, which means understanding the main themes.
We always need to think about the product line and the segment within the product line. That’s because the pain points of SMB buying reviews are different from a mid-market company buying reviews.
We also think about greenfield versus switchers. Greenfield: prospects who don’t have software in place at all. Here, there’s still more education to be done. For switchers, the strategy focuses mainly on convincing them to switch and migrate from their existing software.
So that’s another pillar. Then, we’re splitting it by geos, because different activities are relevant for different regions.
Third stage – Ideation
The third stage is ideation. In other words, how do we take these activities and transform them into distribution channels? So, after the research strategy, we narrow our focus to content design or product marketing.
We work together closely in order to think about the webinars and events that will support our key themes. After that, we build the actual planning per channel. In terms of co-marketing, we decide who we would like to partner with. Finally, we put it all on a Gantt chart for easy visualization.
For the six-month period, you have a certain segment to focus on.
When we plan, we plan for each product line, for each segment, and we do also take an 80/20 approach.
Do you have any KPIs that sales and marketing share?
SAL (sales accepted leads) is the main KPI we focus on. Usually, marketing is measured and is really focused on an MQL. Right now, our entire planning is really focused on sales. Essentially, I have it per product line, per segment, per geo. For each one – there’s a number of sales accepted leads that I’m supposed to generate for sales.
We’ve (marketing) really aligned with sales. I think it’s a very strong connection. When we call, we speak the same language, which reduces friction and enhances collaboration. We also look at ACV. When I look at past activities, I focus on which campaigns worked in recent months and should be replicated.
It’s not just about the metrics at the top of the funnel, but the ACV as well. We look at closed-won deals and how much they brought. So, these will be the metrics that are replicated, not just the top-of-the-funnel MQL.
What is the length of your sales cycle, and how do you accommodate it?
The sales cycle varies between the segments. For an SMB, it can take between one and four weeks from a lead to a close.
In the mid-market, it can take between two and six months. For enterprises, it can take up to a year.
We need to be measuring MQL and MQL to SAL conversion on a quarterly basis versus a monthly basis. We’re very focused on monthly monitoring of all the results across all segments. So, when we’re dealing with the mid-market, we can’t look at the end-of-month results and think that’s our trend. Also, we need to closely monitor the cohort view and understand how the results differ over time. We have started our discussions with sales on when to launch our webinars and events to drive mid-market demand.
We discuss their goals for the quarter and where we stand in terms of their pipeline. We’re more focused on marketing at the moment. We’re trying to align on the right time to launch. We need to figure out the right time to push new activities considering where we stand with the rest of the sales pipeline.
It’s important to understand that it takes six to eight weeks for an MQL to convert to a solid lead. We need to know exactly when to have new marketing activities go live.
For the mid-market, nothing is fast. Everything takes time. You need to carefully nurture your leads and potentially create a surge within an account. This can be achieved by engaging with multiple decision-makers and people within that company. We try to do some activities and plan for things that are lower-lift on our end.
We see that these activities, like webinars, yield faster results. They essentially pay for the events where we send in-person salespeople. We’ve also noticed that it drives a faster sales cycle for mid-market and enterprise rent.
We constantly do air coverage of one-to-many activities. This means releasing evergreen content and different guides. These efforts contribute an additional touchpoint and additional engagement point, thus driving the prospect further down the funnel.
We always try to balance the different types of activities that we are planning for the future, especially for mid-market brands and where they currently stand within the funnel. We think about what messaging resonates better with customers to speed up the sales cycle.
How do you manage your budget planning?
Before we started our planning for 2022, we planned the budget. We always start with our strategy. So, it comes back to what I described at the beginning of this interview. How do we approach our marketing activities? The way we plan our budget is also based on our strategy per segment, per product line, and per geo.
We look at last year’s budget. The goals keep increasing in a very aggressive way. We try not to create a correlation between the goals growing and the budget necessarily growing. Instead, we focus on where we can be more efficient. One of this year’s goals is to produce fewer new assets or activities.
We’re strategically focusing on more distribution, more allocation of existing initiatives, and how we can more aggressively reuse what we already have. And obviously, that translates well to the budget. In terms of the budget, we’re only looking at the channels that require funding. Some activities, like email marketing, for example, don’t require any budget at all.
We allocate the budget according to the potential number of SALs each channel can bring for each product line and for each segment.
So, it always comes down to metrics. It’s not a completely scientific approach, but we try, as much as possible, to predict how many SALs we think can be generated for these types of activities in order to support our goals. Then we use the results to allocate the budget for the period ahead.
Following COVID, what’s the frequency with which you revisit and update your planning?
The main channel affected by COVID is our events. Obviously, pre-COVID, we had a much greater presence at in-person trade shows, which we’ve had to transfer to online.
This actually worked out great and drove even more demand.
Looking at our 2022 planning, we need to prepare ourselves for many more trade shows and in-person events. We’re also still planning 10 to 15 webinars per quarter. So that’s where we are in terms of events, and generally, we revisit our plan on a monthly basis.
We make our plan for six months, but we meet every month. We look at what we have released so far, how it has performed, and what we are about to release. And that might change on the spot if needed. We’re trying to be as proactive rather than reactive as possible when specific events happen, like iOS 15, for example.
When something like that is suddenly released, we ask ourselves how we can leverage it. Even though we didn’t plan for it, what can we release on the spot? So, basically, we always have a north star when it comes to our planning. There’s also the production allocation in terms of content writers, designers, and developers to execute the plan.
We meet on a monthly basis to question our performance and our upcoming activities. We also look at what’s happening in the market and what would drive the greatest impact. So, there’s no goal to execute, just because we decided that that’s not the goal. The goal is results. We also think about what will drive sales or awareness and the specific challenges within each product line.
Can you give an example of a project you changed during the year?
IOS is a great example of a project like that. It was very relevant, especially for the SMS product line, because it’s something that is less challenging but can solve a lot of data privacy and third-party challenges versus first-party data challenges.
So, we released it on the spot. A blog post was a very, very easy product to create. You wouldn’t expect that a blog post that was initiated on the spot to drive the amount of demand that it did. So that was a good example of something small and low-lift that had an impact. It was released quite quickly and generated the results that we needed.
How are you dealing with the challenge of marketing several separate products?
The synergy between our three products and the platform approach is something that I always see in front of me. It’s one of our biggest differentiators. A merchant should have one tech stack for your entire marketing solution. Because, otherwise, what’s the benefit of having one source of data and one customer journey? And how does each product help boost the value of the other product?
For example, maybe your goal is to gather more reviews. How does it help to have SMS incorporated in the same platform? Well, you can collect reviews by pushing them through SMS, for example. Reviews can be an event and a trigger for another loyalty point. This way, giving more points to a customer who returns and chooses to work with you again and again.
It’s a challenge having three products, but it’s also a benefit because of our platform approach. We have the ability to see across the products. We can take a new feature from one product line and see how it can help another product line.
Yotpo’s marketing team can serve as a great example of how to do marketing planning for a complex product. With all its product lines, geos, segments, and size, it’s no surprise that Yotpo has put solid processes in place to manage its marketing efforts.