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Insight from Experts: Marketing Metrics and Justification with Joe Chernov

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Author: Mark Nardone, Chief Marketing Officer at PAN Communications, headshot
Mark NardoneChief Marketing Officer

Mark Nardone, EVP at PAN Communications, speaks with Joe Chernov, VP of Marketing at InsightSquared. Listen to the podcast, watch the video or read the transcript below as they discuss how marketers can justify their efforts within their content marketing program using metrics and analytics.





What’s your expert advice on the best way to look at measuring the content marketing program?


We use percentage of readers that are associated with accounts that the sales team is going to work. We run a hybrid content/ABM program.

I would say it’s 30 percent content and 70 percent explicit outbound target accounts. Let’s say we have an addressable market of 50,000 accounts; everything we do is focused on that cohort. And now, of that 50,000, say my sales team can work 5,000 of them at any given point. Well, now I’m going to hold myself accountable to see how I’m doing in engaging those 5,000 accounts. The ads we run are targeting those 5,000 accounts. The content that we publish is equipped with the VDRs with links to it for their outreach cadences so that they’re sharing that specific account with that specific content with those 5,000 accounts. So, it is content-driven, but it is content at an account level.

So, we basically look at what the engagement is with the right audience. I would love to get to the point that we just do away with forms entirely.


As an industry as a whole or as a best practice?


Well I’m not responsible for the industry – I’m a responsible for one company. For us, I think it’s the right thing to do.

There’s a lot of false idol worship. I think the false idol worship of the inbound ethos has gotten a lot of companies in trouble because it’s the wrong market to be doing that. So, I’m speaking for InsightSquared to the extent that listeners can identify with it and identify with some of the challenges and some of the nature of our business. But if it’s a company that’s selling that little tile product that goes in your phone, and if you lose your phone you can find it, then this isn’t going to apply. That’s just too broad of a market.

I look at how I would love to strip away forms to be able to get our content to have a wider reach but narrow the aperture of the content we’re writing, so it’s more specific and will only appeal to the kind of buyer that we sell to – a sales operations person. So, one of the first things I did when I came into InsightSquared, I said no more power selling to people that like the “Game of Thrones.” I don’t care if “Game of Thrones” people come in droves to our blog. They’re never going to buy our software. So, the way I try to control this is to publish content that only the right person would ever read it, because it’s simply too wonky for anyone else.


What are the top two or three measurements that the new CMO coming in within inbound should be looking at?


I would look at the growth trajectory of the content. Is it getting consumed? Or I would look at the content ranking, and is it ranking for terms that we care about? I would track a cohort of three to five terms that we really want to rank for, and I would see which terms are performing best there, because that’s an annuity. Once you’re sending the right signal to Google, not only do those pieces get rewarded but the entire domain authority begins to get rewarded. And now, all of your content has a better chance to rank.

So, I would look at how I’m ranking for really important terms and which pieces of content are ranking for those terms. I would look at the growth in lead gen. I would certainly look at the growth in form fills, but I would look at the right growth in form fills. Are we pulling in people that are good potential buyers? I would look at lead to customer conversion rate. Which of our lead sources are yielding the most high-quality opportunities and ultimately the most deals?

And then I would reallocate dollars to those lead sources. Those would be the first passes.

We as marketers can get intimidated by all this measurement stuff; that’s one of the reasons why you get 10 to 20 calls a week on it. This scares me. And we can forget that qualitative data is data too. I wouldn’t be afraid to circulate anecdotes – there’s a lot of power in anecdotes. So, I would ask my sales team every time somebody references a piece of our client in a sales call, let me know. I want to write more stuff like that, but I would circulate that story more broadly so that people start to understand that there is stuff that is measurable in a binary fashion. But there is stuff that’s measured best by anecdote. And those stories contain a lot of power.


Do you think that you’re going to start to see a better definition of that KPI, where right now it’s split between MQLs and SQLs? Do you think those are going to come together? Are sales and marketing coming closer together? Is a KPI going to be measured closer together as well?


Yes, all those QL’s have come from a serious decisions waterfall. I think the first one was 2006, and they did another in 2012, and they’ve just done another. The new “QL” is more about the nature of the intent at each stage. I’m not going to get it exactly right, but there is identified intent, and then there is passive intent and active intent. The waterfall just came out – but it’s less “QL-y,” and I think that’s a healthy thing.

A really rotten thing happened when marketing finally got a metric to call their own: the MQL. And we got really excited about it and started to pursue generating MQL’s in big numbers. Then the executive team got excited about it because we could finally quantify marketing, and the CEO sees something good and wants more of it. So, how do you get more of it? Well, the most sure-fire way to get more and more of something is to reduce the definition and reduce the bar you have to cross to produce the thing to begin with. So, marketers started to increment downward, started to sort of decay the line that needed to be crossed for an MQL to be generated. In the end they’re more like ML’s; there’s no Q. They’re not marketing qualified leads, they’re just marketing leads.

That, my friend, is the birth of the rift between sales and marketing where sales says your leads suck and marketing says you don’t work my leads hard enough. They’re not working your leads hard enough because you’re sending them lousy leads if you gamed the system to keep your job.

Interested in learning more? Check out other sections from the conversation here:

What are your views on today’s marketing metrics? Let’s continue the conversation @markcnardone.

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