We’re back with the latest episode of Q&A with Marketing Leaders, where we talk marketing planning and strategy with some of the best B2B marketing leaders around.
In this episode, we spoke with Eytan Buchman, CMO at Freightos.
The Freightos Group runs freightos.com, the world’s largest digital freight marketplace (think an Expedia for importing) and WebCargo, which connects over 2,000 global logistics providers directly to airlines like Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air France. In other words, Freightos automates the global freight pricing, booking, and management that probably help ship the screen you’re reading this on.
Eytan, in addition to being the CMO at Freightos, hosts the Marketers in Capes podcast where he shares practical marketing advice through interviews with real marketing heroes. Before Freightos, he was an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces, strategic planning and foreign affairs prior to becoming the IDF Spokesperson to North American Media.
So how did you originally get into marketing?
Totally by accident.
I was a career soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, involved in strategic planning and international relations. I found my way into a spokesperson role and was the spokesperson for the IDF for North America for 3 years.
At a certain point, it became too much and I wanted a new challenge. I always loved tech (I used to code a bit as a kid) and thought that’d be a good place for me. When I got out of the military, I started looking into opportunities in high tech. The main question I asked myself was “what is a skill set that I have which differentiates me across the tech scene?” What I came up with is that there weren’t a lot of people in Israel that really focused on the art of storytelling. When I audited my own skill set, I found that my competitive advantage was being able to find a specific target audience, find the right message for that audience and find the best way to reach them.
Now not every company is at the stage to hire a marketer with that specialty so I pulled a list of companies who raised a round of funding, are B2B, and didn’t have a developed marketing department. I took the 5 or 6 that appealed to me, cold-outreached the CEOs, and said “here’s what I do and here’s how I can help you”. That got me through enough doors to start the daisy-chain of intros to relevant people and brought me – shockingly quickly – to Freightos, where I started my marketing career from the ground floor.
Why B2B or B2C?
To me, B2C seems very imposing! There’s something scary about having such a large audience to market to.
B2B means clarity – a very specific, addressable audience. It might be 10 people and it might be 5,000 people but it’s addressable. It allows you to learn a lot about the audience…why they wake up in the morning, what’s a win for them, what’s a loss for them, etc. and craft amazing messaging that resonates. Its really gratifying and opens up a lot of cool opportunities that you just don’t have in B2C.
What’s the best marketing advice that you’ve gotten in your career?
Two things come to mind.
The first I picked up when I was interviewing for my first job outside the military. I sat down with someone and he was walking me through his interview strategy and how he preps for it. His answer was this messaging hierarchy document where he lists his core message, 3 supporting messages and 3 data points for each supporting message. Its really a great system – whether you are putting together collateral, meeting a customer, doing a lecture, putting on a trade show. Know your core message, supporting messages and the data points to support it and that makes it so much easier to evaluate if everything you produce hits the core messaging.
The second is it’s all about no-code and how we need to be as free from as many technical limitations as possible. When I was a kid, when we’d get a Lego set, my parents would take away the instruction manual and say “build it however you think it should be built”. Taking that over to marketing – there’s no reason why you can’t just go and throw a creative together, write the copy and start running ads. Get off the playbook, figure things out for yourself, break things, mess around with Zapier and build things without limitations.
What’s the most important skill for a marketing leader to have?
I think its the ability to deliver.
It’s really easy to get stuck in metric or collateral purgatory, locked in loops and a never-ending back and forth. I’m not saying I’m an advocate of “shipping dirty, shipping fast”. I like to take some time with things but you need to make sure you can finish things and deliver.
The other skill is to be agile.
Things change so much with your target market and audience that you need to be able to read those changes and adapt your messaging, strategy and tactics accordingly.
Let’s transition over to planning. What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to marketing planning?
Accounting for flexibility and enables you to react quickly to changes in the market, play around with new ideas and experiments.
COVID-19 was a perfect example. It took most companies about a month to tweak their messaging, produce relevant content and shift their efforts into digital channels like webinars. It also threw off most marketing plans for 2020.
I believe that a huge part of marketing, especially with brand visibility and top of the funnel engagement, is to look out there, see what’s happening, and quickly take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. It’s really hard to build that into a marketing plan.
How do you create goals and KPIs for your team?
So the way we do it now is working our way backward from the business goals.
When we understand what marketing needs to do to contribute, we’ll try and figure out where we need to be at the end of the quarter and set weekly and monthly check-ins to evaluate where we stand.
You also need to account for “bumps” when creating goals for the team. It’s not enough to just work backward, you also have to know your market. For example, when I’m planning my quarter, I need to realize that the Chinese New Year will fall during that time and account for that impact on results. We’ve also started to leverage OKRs as a general system more and more. One thing that I constantly learn and relearn is that the more high-level direction you can give your team, the better positioned you are to step out and let them plan and execute. It’s why you hired them, right?
How do you build the tactical plan once your goals are in place?
It depends on what the end result of that plan is supposed to be.
I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I usually follow the process of visualizing where you’re trying to go, brainstorming what the solution looks like, breaking it down into very specific tasks and then start approaching it. That’s the generic format for putting together the plan.
But with the actual building – I think about what I need to accomplish and who’s the audience, what’s the message, what appeals to them, etc.
So say I need top of the funnel engagement from VPs of Sales – By asking all of those questions, I can understand the right ways to target and approach them and what the right content/collateral is needed to do that. My team and I work than work towards making that happen.
How often do you go back to review and evaluate your marketing plans?
So, the larger the initiatives, the more rigid we’ll be about doing a post-mortem. An example is our annual conference for 100 very senior people in our industry and we will rigorously post-mortem that!
For smaller things, not as much. Most of our marketing activities are scalable and things that we‘re never really all in on. If I’m building a suite of tools for demand gen where instead of creating blog posts, I’m building maps and calculators on my site, I’ll build a small one and test it. If it works well after some time, I’ll scale it up. It’s less like “when do you stop and review?” and more like constantly reviewing what you are doing.
For strategic things like quarterly goals, those things are based on data and I’m not going to make a huge adjustment to those on the fly – maybe a little adjustment here and there but nothing drastic.
What advice do you have for new marketing leaders about marketing planning?
One thing is that only amateurs learn to make mistakes themselves, right? Speak to as many people as possible. Just cold email! That’s how I got into marketing. Want to find out the thought process behind a specific initiative? Reach out to the CMO responsible and ask them. You really liked that Coca Cola campaign you saw? Find the ad agency who did it and reach out. It’s so simple, works most of the time and is extremely insightful and helps you learn and grow. This outreach strategy is literally how I ended up building a successful marketing podcast.
The second thing is to collaborate as much as possible with sales. They often hold so many insights into things that can be used to make your marketing much better and help them generate revenue.