We’re back with another edition of Q&A with Marketing Leaders, our series designed to provide B2B SaaS marketing leaders with the best insights and actionable tips on how to improve their revenue marketing practices by learning from best marketers in the industry.
We’ve got a good one for you this week!
On this edition, we spoke with Gaetano Nino DiNardi, Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva.
Nextiva is a cloud communications company that enables businesses to work from anywhere. Think of Nextiva like a business phone system with superpowers.
Gaetano DiNardi is the Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva and has a track record of success working with brands like Major League Baseball, Pipedrive, Sales Hacker and Outreach.io. Outside of marketing, Gaetano is an accomplished music producer and songwriter – he’s worked with major artists like Fat Joe, Shaggy and loves making music to stay turbocharged.
How did you originally get into marketing?
It’s kind of an interesting story. I actually have a degree in marketing, but the degree didn’t make me want to become a marketer.
While I was in school, I was also in the music industry, producing and songwriting for some pretty big artists.
I kinda got into marketing through blogging about music and my experiences as an up and coming songwriter/producer in New York and through writing a lot of in-depth music company reviews.
Somehow, people started finding my stuff. It definitely wasn’t my goal to rank in search, but that’s actually what happened. I started getting hundreds of comments from people I didn’t know, and I’m like “how are these people finding my stuff without me promoting it”?
So I started researching, installed Google Analytics and got myself familiar with some of Google’s free tools, like Search Console. Turns out, they found me through organic search! I also loved the idea of building great content and building something valuable that people would find, instead of me having to go outbound to them. That solidified my love for inbound and marketing in general.
Why B2B over B2C?
Early in my career, I was working at a digital marketing agency called iPullRank and we had a full range of large clients, both in the B2B and B2C and I got to experience both sides.
In my opinion, B2C marketing is just too huge. The audiences are massive. It’s hard to nail a niche.
B2B, on the other hand, has more of a fundamental process for building audiences, creating content and doing lead gen.
I honestly found that my brain works better on the B2B side of things and I enjoyed it more so I stuck with it.
So you started off in SEO, but what attracted you to Demand Generation?
For me, SEO was a great starting point for Demand Gen because it’s a lot more than just keywords and backlinks. You really have to know a lot about user experience, mobile, etc. and have technical skills as well.
You also have to realize why certain things work and don’t work. In terms of engagement, you have to get analytical with understanding landing pages, design and content on a deeper level. You also have to be good at writing copy.
There are just so many things you have to do to be successful at SEO and you have to know how everything works. Because SEO is such a great foundation, it kinda made natural sense to migrate into demand gen.
What you’re trying to do with demand gen is you’re trying to focus on lead quality. You’re trying to find the best sources of leads for the best cost. SEO fits perfectly into that because that’s exactly what you do when you rank for commercial keywords or high-value keywords in search. Demand gen is doing the same, but on a wider scale, in more channels.
I think the final part of it was that demand gen is mainly focused on the performance element of marketing. It’s really all about how marketing influences and drives contribution to pipeline and revenue. I like that part of marketing more than brand marketing.
Even though brand is super important, I would rather be challenged to produce a pipeline of revenue for a company and use my marketing talent to make that happen rather than say, build a podcast, not that there’s anything wrong at all with building a great podcast!
I think I already know the answer, but what’s your favorite marketing channel?
Ha! You’ve probably already guessed it but I’m saying SEO.
At Nextiva, we sell digital communication software. In this day and age, especially with COVID, the cost of advertising to our audience has risen significantly. This is especially true with Google Ads keywords, which have literally tripled in cost for us. I’m talking about $200-$300 per click range!
We compete with large, publicly traded companies, who have deep pockets, and bidding against them isn’t sustainable. I believe the best way to fight back is to rank for those terms organically.
Even outside of Nextiva, I feel the only way a business is really going to sustain a lower cost per acquisition is by building up a large portfolio of terms that you can rank for organically.
If you are a company that’s reliant on Outbound Marketing and Paid ads, you are kind of at the mercy of market conditions and your competition. When something like COVID hits, it’s going to be really tough.
So what impact did COVID-19 have on your marketing?
COVID really turned the world upside down! No question about it.
At Nextiva, and a lot of other companies, it forced us to think about how to prepare for the worst and put some things that we were investing in under a microscope.
Finance was cracking down hard in a lot of companies. Spending needs to be tracked and, ideally, attributable to revenue. So, if there are things where it’s hard to say if it’s working or not, it’s probably going to get cut. And that goes for technology vendors too, right?
We’ve had to take a look at our technology stack and say “all right, we probably don’t need this. We probably don’t need that. What’s the real value of this?”
We ultimately thought about where we can conserve, where we can scale down, and how we can be more efficient.
Essentially, just looking to be as efficient as possible and trim the fat.
Did you change your marketing goals because of it?
Definitely, but it might be a bit different than you think. COVID 19 caused the demand for our services to skyrocket.
We were of the lucky few companies that COVID 19 impacted in a good way. G2 released some stats around what categories have seen the greatest surge in demand and our categories were up like 200%, 300%, 400%, and 500%.
Because of lockdowns and work from home, companies scrambled to transition their phone and communication systems to the cloud. Our biggest challenge was just handling the unexpected volume that came in. As a result, we had to shift things like our sales capacity.
With regard to our goals and forecasting, yeah…everything changed. We had to redo the whole year and say “well, based on what we’ve seen in March…what do we anticipate that Q2 and Q3 are going to look like?”
It’s really hard to say. We put a bunch of different scenarios together and came up with some conservative, intermediate, and aggressive estimates but it’s uncertain. Could the surge in demand continue? Or maybe it will taper off?
Where did you reallocate budget?
Obviously, events are completely done. We took budget away from events and invested in SEO and content. We’re going all out on content marketing. We’re also investing in things like user experience and redesigning some of our most important assets.
Pretty much, we’ve taken that unused event budget and invested it in things that I have wanted to do for a while and will have long term benefits for us.
What mistakes did you see brands making during the crisis?
I think one mistake that a lot of companies made was not having different scenarios built out so they could make a switch when COVID came into play. COVID, while impossible to predict, caught a lot of marketers totally unprepared.
Another one was continuing with business as usual. Even as everyone was in lockdown and worried about the future, I was still getting ebook offers. Like, today 3,000 people died of COVID-19 but the next email you send is like “how to build a cloud communication strategy for your IT firm”. It’s kind of tone-deaf and insensitive, right?