Q&A with Marketing Leaders: Mikkel Plæhn, Director of Growth Marketing at Falcon.io

We’re back with another Q&A with Marketing Leaders, our interview series with SaaS marketing leaders built to provide you with the best insights and actionable tips on SaaS marketing planning.

In today’s Q&A, we got the opportunity to speak with Mikkel Plæhn, the Director of Growth Marketing at Falcon.io, one of the leading social media management platforms for business.

Falcon.io provides a unified SaaS platform for social media listening, advertising, engaging, publishing and analytics. They enable their clients to explore the full potential of digital marketing by managing multiple customer touch points from one platform. Falcon.io has achieved international traction and its technology is endorsed by partnerships with Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram.

Mikkel has been working in marketing for around 10 years. A self-taught marketer, he became interested in marketing after realizing how different marketing really was from what he learned in University. He has a wide range of practical B2B marketing experience including in channels such as email marketing, content marketing, paid marketing and event marketing.

What was the best marketing advice that you’ve gotten in your career?

For me, it was “be patient and focused on what you do”.

Reflecting on some of the projects that we’ve done, whenever we’re patient, have a solid focus and a lot of dedication, we’ve seen much better results. It’s not really about the quick wins, but more about the playing the long-term game in marketing.

Being patient and focused isn’t really “marketing advice”, but that’s been one of the most impactful things for me.

In your opinion, what’s the most underrated marketing channel?

A lot of marketers will say, e-mail, right? People constantly think that email is dying and becoming less efficient. Email is actually becoming an underrated channel. It can be extremely impactful if you do it the right way.

I also want to highlight events. When you work in digital marketing, it’s really hard to build a relationship with your audience and prospects. If you meet someone in-person, face-to-face, you have a chance of building a lasting impact. It’s not like an e-mail, they can’t just mark you as spam. Maybe they can walk past your booth at a trade show, or decide not to attend your event, but for those people that do show up, it’s going to be tremendously impactful.

We do trade shows, meet-ups and we even have our own conference. Beyond the measurement of tickets sold or attendance, the spillover effects you’re going to get from them is immense. We’ve been able to create a ton of content based on influencer presentations. In addition, we now have powerful relationships with industry influencers, which we use to impact other channels.

If you’re just doing the same thing as your competition, or another company, guess what? You’ll never be the one leading the pack.

What is the most common marketing mistake that you see?

It might not be so polite to say, but there are a lot of lemmings out there. They just walk the same way as the person in front of them. It’s a kind of bandwagon effect. Some marketers will see something in the wild and go, “Whoa, that’s pretty cool” and they will then try and do the exact same thing. That means you’re not differentiating yourself…you’re just doing the same thing. If you’re just doing the same thing as your competition, or another company, guess what? You’ll never be the one leading the pack.

Interestingly, I think a lot of the tactically driven content out there is partially to blame for this. Someone has experimented, achieved some great results and then shares those results and/or tactics in a blog post or video. Suddenly everyone in marketing goes out and does the same!

As marketers, we need to figure out our own way of standing out. It’s so important!

What are some marketing tools that you can’t live without?

That’s a really tough question! For me, I spend quite a lot of time using our analytics and BI reporting tools to keep track of how we’re doing and to improve decision-making. They’re just so important. It would be really hard to see us being able to operate without them.

As Director of Growth at Falcon.io, how do you see social media, which has changed a lot in the last few years, fitting into the marketing strategy B2B-oriented companies?

I think there’s no doubt social will continue to play a significant role. Social media is a huge part of our lives. Facebook has done a massive land grab of getting the majority of users. Now, you will start seeing specialization. It will inevitably start to cater to people who have specific needs or interests. In Copenhagen, we have a startup called Tattoodo, basically a community for people interested in tattoos and its a great example of social specialization. I think that’s going to be the flavor that you’ll see over the next decade…social media will become more unique and relevant to us, as individuals.

Regarding B2B companies, social will continue to be the most important channel for most B2B companies because its a place where they can effectively reach and engage with their audience. With social media, you can really understand what your audience is interested in and easily measure their interactions. B2B companies will always use it to promote their activities and marketers will take advantage of the endless targeting capabilities provided by social media.

If you don’t have a company vision and don’t translate it into strategy, you’ll end up with a lot of disconnected campaigns that don’t really serve what is being developed in R&D or what sales might be selling.

What is your process for building your marketing strategy?

It starts with the business, not marketing. You need to understand where the business is going and what the business is trying to solve. It’s also related to the company’s vision and mission. Why was this company put into the world and who is it for? That will help you build your marketing strategy.

Obviously, you need to make it super operational at the end of the day. As a company, we have a vision that we pursue in the long term. On a yearly basis, we will build our strategy with some very clear objectives and initiatives that we’re going to run as a company. In Marketing, we will take a look at that and ask ourselves, “What will we do within the context of the strategy that aligns with our mission?” That’s where you can start breaking it down into something very real. This is also where you start ending up with targets.

If you didn’t have that vision and didn’t translate it into strategy, you would end up with a lot of disconnected campaigns that don’t really serve what is being developed in R&D or what sales might be selling.

How do you choose what marketing channels to utilize?

It’s all about who you want to reach and what do you want to achieve, right? The channel mix and budget is kind of secondary to that because if we started by taking the approach of channels, we’ll optimize ourselves really well in the wrong direction. Driving traffic and acquiring emails is relatively easy, but if it’s not the right traffic or emails, we’ll have a big problem. We tend to look at where we can reach our target audience in the best way, based on what we want to achieve.

Let’s say we want newsletter subscribers, what is the optimal way to get to that point with our audience? We may decide to create some rich content–video, e-book, or something similar. How will we promote that to our audience? That’s when channels really come into play. At that point, we’ll go back to our targets and see what we need to reach. We will determine that we need to reach a specific number and if we go and tap into this audience, we can deliver maybe 50% of that with this type of campaign. You start getting practical around what channels have historically worked well to drive that objective.

You’ll find that AdWords is great at surfacing intent but maybe not if you want to go out and acquire an email audience that you can leverage in the long run. Maybe you’ll want to go where there’s a bigger audience, such as Facebook. So it’s all about the objectives and how you can effectively reach people.

That’s kind of how we choose and plan our channels. From there, it becomes a game of understanding where we pay the least amount of dollars to attract the right profiles and the right quantity of people.

What would you say is your biggest challenge when you’re building your marketing plan?

Honestly, it’s getting everyone, both in marketing and other departments, on the same page as to what we need to do to achieve our goals. It’s super critical that all the teams and stakeholders are aligned on what we need to achieve and when. Obviously, this is more challenging when there are unforeseen opportunities and challenges, but you still need to get everyone on the same page and understand what exactly it is that we are doing.

I really think that’s the biggest challenge and it is just so critical because you can get people to say, “Yeah, yeah, we can do this campaign.” but if you don’t have their commitment, they’re not going to give it their all, which is what you need. If you want to have a really effective team, everyone needs to be on the same page and you need to understand each other and why you’re doing what you’re doing.

If you know what your conversion rates are in your funnel from lead to revenue, as well as the velocity and the customer acquisition costs, then you can start planning how you will reach your target.

How often do you adjust your marketing plan?

We used to do it quarterly and we would plan all of our projects and lock them in. What we saw would happen is that people were creating the classic Gantt chart but then we’d hit a roadblock or bottleneck and the project would get delayed. In other cases, projects only took half the time to complete than we accounted for but were being released on the end commit anyways.

We decided to scrap that approach and become more agile. Now, we run marketing according to scrum principles and we are doing bi-annual planning. We prioritize the different projects against the targets, resources and our current capacity and then work through a prioritized list for a quarter with very clear deadlines. If anything more important comes up, we can easily go in and re-prioritize based on what other projects we have because we’re, we’re way more agile in our approach.

We will do a quarterly check-in though just to make sure our projects are still relevant and see if something needs to be changed.

How do you establish your tactical marketing goals?

It’s kind of top-down, bottom-up approach.

We have very clear revenue targets as a business and marketing defines what activities we need to do in order to reach that target. It kind of becomes reverse math. If you know what your conversion rates are in your funnel from lead to revenue, as well as the velocity and the customer acquisition costs, then you can start planning how you will reach your target. At this point, you can bring it to the team who then will plan all the initiatives that drive towards these results. The involvement of the team means they will have very clear goals and, for the individual, they will be able to feel how they impact the overall goal.