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#2 Buyer behavior and content personalization with Steffen Hedebrandt - CMO and Co-founder at Dreamdata

November 18, 2023 | Jimit Mehta

How does buyer behavior differ for companies of different size and industry when it comes to B2B software products? I had a chat with Steffen Hedebrandt - CMO and co-founder at Dreamdata - on how to personalize content for different accounts and buyer personas.

How size and industry affect SaaS buyer behavior?

[00:00:00] Teemu Raitaluoto: How many people are you at the moment?

[00:00:01] Steffen Hedebrandt: 30, I can't remember if it's plus one or minus one or something like that.

[00:00:05] Teemu Raitaluoto: It's a good amount.

[00:00:11] Teemu Raitaluoto: So previously, you and I chatted, I also read that Lars mentioned in a previous podcast that Dreamdata is serving companies that are roughly in the 100 and 500 employees and even up to 5,000.

[00:00:24] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah, more, more like that now that we try to creep a little bit upmarket.

[00:00:29] Teemu Raitaluoto: Could you tell me something about how differently those kind of companies buy on the spectrum, from 100 employees to 5,000?

[00:00:38] Steffen Hedebrandt: I think, there's a kind of a shift from when you're in the smaller part, smaller SMBs spectrum, people, they care about whether your product integrates with the right data sources and they care about if it's a good product. Once you move upwards, security starts to become more of a thing. Are you SOC2 certified? How do you treat data? Is it a GDPR compliant way that you treat data and you guarantee that the data stays in the EU and not leave the EU? Are you using any illegal tracking technologies like fingerprinting and stuff like that.

[00:01:14] No, we're not. But so like, the bigger the company is, the more (important) compliance and security is... It's my feeling, that you see. But hopefully there also, the deal size will also be larger and more attractive and sometimes they can actually make quicker decisions because what we're asking for our product is not crazy amounts for them.

[00:01:40] Teemu Raitaluoto: Have you seen any kind of cutoff point where companies start actually paying more attention to security and compliance?

[00:01:46] Steffen Hedebrandt: No, not like really. But yeah, above 500, I would say is like my gut-feeling about it. But it also depends on which industry is the company in, if they're in banking, medical, all sorts of FinTech. They need to make sure that they don't lose their license, so they have to ask more questions to their subprocessors and vendors about how they do things.

[00:02:10] Teemu Raitaluoto: And for these, let's say, two types of different customer journeys, what kind of role does your website play in that?

[00:02:18] Steffen Hedebrandt: The way I look at marketing is that your website should be the center of all your activities. So, It's very important in all instances. We run an inbound model. So it means that pretty much like above 90% of all deals created, deals won, go through the website. So it's extremely important for us.

[00:02:42] Teemu Raitaluoto: So even the enterprise companies, they go through your website and sign up?

[00:02:45] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah. That, that's, that's how we go to market.

[00:02:48] We don't do any outbound right now. If you can call being active on LinkedIn an outbound effort, we do that, but it's not like we have BDRs calling and chasing people that has not had been asked to receive phone calls.

[00:03:03] Teemu Raitaluoto: Have you seen any kind of differences in the types of companies that maybe book a demo and some companies that sign up for your freemium product?

[00:03:11] Steffen Hedebrandt: And that we have seen, for sure, the bigger companies tend to need a demo call or two before that they can go ahead and sign up. Whereas the smaller companies, they can use the free model where they just, you know, "Let's just sign up, connect our data and see how it works". Whereas , as I said before, if you are bigger, you need to be careful about who you, who share your sensitive data with. So they typically go through a round of calls before they connect their CRM or automation system.

[00:03:43] Teemu Raitaluoto: It's an interesting point of perspective because you previously mentioned that you also have this PLG motion, so what I'm hearing is that, PLG might be more suitable for smaller companies where they can connect their data sources directly into your products, and then bigger companies might not be able to fit in that PLG motion because they have to take care of the security and compliance things first before trying out the product.

[00:04:07] Steffen Hedebrandt: I think it's, it's definitely a discussion worth having. Whether that's true or not, I think. You can have enough, I think you can actually have enough security certificates on your website for PLG to work fine for large companies. But they would always know that they would need to see, okay, SOC2, GDPR. Where do they store data? So if I think you do a really well-written, well-created security page, then they might be just fine by using a free model. Companies like Segment and High Touch, they do PLG just fine to enterprises as well. So there is a path for sure. But I think overall as a general trend trend, I think larger enterprises do like to speak to somebody before they buy. But you know, it, maybe it's also about where you are as a company. Like, we're just 3-4 years old. I'm sure Microsoft has some PLG products that people trust just fine because the brand is so established that they don't have to question whether it can be trusted or not.

[00:05:18] Teemu Raitaluoto: Have you segmented your own customer base? I saw our recent statistic published by you that the average sales cycle in the B2B market is around 192 days. And have you seen any difference in that when it comes to smaller companies and bigger companies?

[00:05:34] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah, so now I'm trying to recall how our own Dreamdata account looks. I think it's something where the midsize to large companies their customer journey is actually the same length. Though, the large companies tend to have larger deal size. So that's quite interesting. Which also indicates should be possible to move upmarket because if it takes the same time but the deal size is larger, then that's attractive. And then the classical small, medium size businesses typically move quite fast.

Website personalization and content at Dreamdata

[00:06:09] Teemu Raitaluoto: And you previously mentioned that in a previous podcast that you would like your website to answer any questions that the customer might have.

[00:06:16] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah.

[00:06:16] Teemu Raitaluoto: Do you see website personalization solving that kind of problem for Dreamdata or for other companies?

[00:06:23] Steffen Hedebrandt: So I haven't been, we haven't been doing much personalization yet. It's been more centered around defining an ideal customer profile for us and think through who at our ideal customer profile company, who would be the team that would normally be involved in the buying journey? So for us it's typically, different kinds of marketers, some ops and data people. Then they might have some security people, maybe there's a legal department that needs to read through the data processing agreement, and then there's maybe a CFO or CEO who needs to sign a contract, and we try to think through all these personas, and make sure that there's content that pleases all of them.

[00:07:10] Teemu Raitaluoto: How do you approach creating content at Dreamdata? I know you publish a lot on LinkedIn, but how does your content team work?

[00:07:16] Steffen Hedebrandt: So we, it's very much listening to market feedback. So what are prospects saying on calls with the salespeople? What are our customers asking for? I try to always think about, it's kind of the one-to-one communication that we have with potential customers. And customers are kind of a key ingredient. And then as a marketer, so you to think about is there a one-to-many answer then we can give here. So if the same questions get asked two, three times, then you probably should be thinking about creating a great piece of content that can pre-empt this question in the future. Or at least allow the salespeople to say, "great question we have an article right here that addresses this question and have a look at that."

[00:08:03] Teemu Raitaluoto: It sounds like you are producing a lot of very bottom-of-the-funnel content. How do you think about top-of-the-funnel content? How does it fit your strategy?

[00:08:12] Steffen Hedebrandt: It basically doesn't, because of experience, but also we can see across many different accounts that, what might create a lot of visitors on your website does not equal that it's worth anything for your company because it doesn't create deals or deals that you win.

[00:08:31] So I think more about top-of-the-funnel as doing kind of thought-leadership pieces. So what I had in mind, what I said before is you go to a search engine tool. We use Ahrefs. And then you find the keyword that has the most searches, but typically there's such a weak intent in those ones. So instead, we try to write thought-leadership pieces relevant to our ideal customer profile.

[00:08:56] So for example, you mentioned, these benchmarks that we released earlier this year. That's because we found it interesting to look at what is actually the average customer journey that we are dealing with here. And if we find that interesting, then other companies like us would also find it interesting.

[00:09:14] It could also be like with business challenges that we face, because then probably other companies face it. So this week we released the piece we've learned about churn prevention and churn prediction. So we kind of share our learning experience with companies similar to us. Now, hopefully that constant resonates.

[00:09:33] So we don't write for search engines, we write because it's relevant for ourself and for companies like us.

[00:09:40] Teemu Raitaluoto: Do you see it would play any kind of role in creating more brand awareness?

[00:09:44] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah, like those pieces I mentioned here is definitely or hopefully creating brand awareness for us.

[00:09:51] We've seen these benchmarks mentioned all over the place and our partners like it. If there's no commercial goal in writing content then you probably wouldn't spend any resources on it. So obviously our intention is that it creates awareness that becomes demand, which becomes deals at some point.

[00:10:10] Teemu Raitaluoto: Have you seen from the data of Dreamdata's customers this kind of general business content having any kind of influence? Something that can be loosely tied to your business.

[00:10:20] Steffen Hedebrandt: We haven't pursued it that much, so I can't say anything definitive about it. But we have written some SEO articles and they're kind of in a graveyard because they're not like super spot on to what we do, and then you don't invest the time and resources in making sure that it breaks and that it gets distributed.

[00:10:41] Then it's just been a cost for us producing it. But without us actually putting any deliberate effort in spreading it, because we know it's kinda also off-topic. So, at least we're not big enough to have these kind of off-topic pushes for ranking certain pieces of content.

[00:10:59] Teemu Raitaluoto: It's a good point that if you don't have a piece of content that you would like to repurpose, then it's probably not a good piece of content for your business..

[00:11:07] I saw on your website that you are at least personalizing different landing pages, say for marketing agencies that can use Dreamdata. How do you approach personalization? Have you done anything? You mentioned you don't do outbound so that's not really applicable.

[00:11:22] Steffen Hedebrandt: So we do to the typical personas we meet, we try to make sure that we do have content that addresses all of them. So I didn't think about it as, I think when you say personalization, I think more like a one-on-one personalization. But overall we're trying to read the landscape of who are we dealing with and make sure that the website reflects this.

[00:11:45] So like a good example is that couple of years back, we didn't transparently show how our data model works, and then we would only be speaking to the marketer or although there would always be a data person that would need to make sure we're not just bullshitting here. So we developed this very transparent illustration of how our data platform works.

[00:12:09] And now when a data person then comes in, he can see, okay, they extract data, then they transform it, and then they deliver the product. And that's an example. We kept seeing these data people at the sales process and then we developed content to sort of make them trust us as well.

[00:12:25] Teemu Raitaluoto: What about on the product side? If there is multiple types of users inside the product, do you personalize the experience for them?

[00:12:32] Steffen Hedebrandt: We haven't done it yet, but it's definitely a move that we are considering. There's ways to do that can detect which role are you and then customizing the product inside of it. And I think, in many ways it could help simplify the product experience because then it will be easier to show them relevant stuff.

[00:12:52] And that is a like core challenge of a product like Dreamdata is that it's such a wide range of users from people who spend money on ads, to content people, to CMO, CFO, CEO, etc. And kind of all of them need to be catered to. And at some point we probably will need to personalize it a bit more based on roles.

[00:22:17] Teemu Raitaluoto: I previously talked with Lars about your website and I noticed that you're on Squarespace.

[00:22:23] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah.

[00:22:23] Teemu Raitaluoto: Have you seen, or do you expect to renew the website at some point to maybe some other platform?

[00:22:31] Steffen Hedebrandt: So I think for the reason why we're on Squarespace is that it's so easy to use for everybody, so we don't get locked down by us needing engineering resources for anything.

[00:22:44] And I think, this enables us to execute very, very fast. If we were to go with anything that just needed the slightest of HTML, things would move a lot slower. So as long as we can delay that, we'll do that. I know it's not the tech thing to do, but it's very easy to keep executing stuff on Squarespace.

[00:23:04] It's not to say that we're not gonna change in the future. But, as you know, in a startup, speed just matters much more than being technically cool or something like that.

[00:23:13] Teemu Raitaluoto: That's for sure. There is something kind of funny I've run into as well in that category, which is marketers tell us that, hey, I can change anything on my website with this tool, we have a custom website. Can I just change things without personalization, you know, is that possible? And it's kind of an interesting value proposition as well. Change anything on your current website without need any code.

How to define MQLs and sales-accepted leads

[00:13:13] Teemu Raitaluoto: Shifting back the conversation a little bit to marketing and to marketing qualified leads especially. How do you think about tools that promise you more conversions? Do you think it dilutes the quality of the marketing qualified leads, or how do you think about that in general?

[00:13:30] Steffen Hedebrandt: Hmm, good question. I have not considered that. So I care, almost say, I care deeply about marketing qualified leads because, in many ways as a CMO, this is one of the main things that you are to deliver to your company. And then I try to take us to really on the line that we're talking about qualified leads here.

[00:13:53] That should be stuff that you are proud at presenting to the salespeople. And then I think it's your responsibility to monitor every single, that becomes a marketing qualified lead, that it actually fits your definition of an ideal customer profile. And then coming back to what you said, if you drive up conversion but of bad fit leads, then it's not a good thing. If you drive up conversions of leads that fits your ideal customer profile, then I think it's a great thing. So, you know, don't use a funny cat video to increase conversion. Use something that is like relevant to the business context you're in.

[00:14:33] Teemu Raitaluoto: The way I think about conversion rate optimization usually is that you have a "spectrum of intent" for the customer and then the high intent customers are going to convert anyway to your product. There's some people who are somewhere on the edge of converting or not. So maybe you can help those customers a little bit better and make them convert by using different tools.

[00:14:56] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah. But then it's kind of the next question is that what's the point of converting them?

[00:15:03] Teemu Raitaluoto: Is it too early to convert?

[00:15:05] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah. Like for example, we at Dreamdata, we don't really have a funnel before people express real intent. Meaning that unless you book a call with our salespeople or sign up to our product, we're not gonna actively pursue you. When you sign up to our newsletter or download our ebook, you will get, "best of our blog posts" email automation, but it's not like we're gonna start chasing you to buy.

[00:15:26] We just wanna give you some more value and educate you on what we do. And then hopefully when you actually have a real intent to do something about this thing, then you probably will sign to try the product or you will request to book a demo. That's a bit how I approach it. I would say like when I download an ebook, it's very rarely me trying to buy a product.

[00:15:49] Otherwise I would've just booked (a demo). So, be careful about how you treat these leads. I think one of the most interesting aspects of B2B is when handover happens between sales and marketing. You know, don't just hand over any conversion to the salespeople because they'll hate you for wasting your time. So make, make sure you run automation so you have some lead score or something like that that indicates a certain quality aspect of these conversions.

[00:16:17] Teemu Raitaluoto: I previously heard you discussing a term called sales-accepted leads, which I think is a good definition of what it should be.

ABM at Dreamdata

[00:16:25] Teemu Raitaluoto: Have you given any thought on doing ABM at Dreamdata?

[00:16:30] Steffen Hedebrandt: So we are yeah, a lot actually, also because we try to, we wanna like slow little by little move a bit more upmarket and there ABM becomes a more doable tactic because ad platforms work when it's that size and it doesn't when it's small businesses. So for example, we're using LinkedIn's Matched Audiences where we have built lists of accounts that fit our ideal customer profile and then run ads towards them. Everything we do is with an account-based focus, you can say.

[00:17:06] Teemu Raitaluoto: Do you have any cutoff point for the ABM program? Do you cut off certain companies under certain amount of employees?

[00:17:15] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah, so the LinkedIn is great for this. You just define how big, how small should these companies be before you include them in your audience and then you run ads towards them.

[00:17:27] Teemu Raitaluoto: Can you talk about the specific, can you talk about the specific numbers of employees that you target?

[00:17:32] Steffen Hedebrandt: So when we're talking, for ABM, I think it's tough to do, and that's mainly to do how algorithms work. The ad algorithms work is that, I would say somewhere in like north of 250 employees. I think it gets hard to run ads towards these companies that are 15 employees or a 100 employees because they typically just have one or two people working in the function you're going for. And that makes it extremely expensive to get your ad placed in front of them.

[00:18:05] That's why it's very nice to do more account-based marketing when you go for larger companies. And overall this is a more expensive tactic, so you also want a deal size at the end of your effort that is worth the chase.

[00:18:20] Teemu Raitaluoto: Do you think it's different to attribute revenue to account-based marketing programs than it is to other marketing tactics?

[00:18:27] Steffen Hedebrandt: Depends on what goes into your account-based marketing in the end. It's hard to say really depends on what do you put in to that bucket. I don't think account-based differs from other marketing activities, in per se.

[00:18:41] Teemu Raitaluoto: Also, I remember you discussing in another podcast you mentioned that, you should observe that "here's a date that we started this new program or new initiative". Then kind of measure the before and after of that, the influence. That's one way to think about measuring ABM, perhaps.

[00:18:58] Steffen Hedebrandt: So in that sense, this is more like a specific example of using LinkedIn to run ads. So that's if we put the ABM like definition aside, that we had a period where we ran a Matched Audience of somewhere of thousand accounts.

[00:19:15] And the easiest thing to track is people who click on links and arrive to your website with UTMs. But that's approaching advertising as a way for you to get the user to do something that is easy to track. You should do something that is getting the best possible messaging across to the best possible person, like the right messaging to the right person. And then you start by building your creatives around that. Then afterwards you do what you can to track it. So an example can be instead of putting in some kind of link in your ad that you want people to click. Maybe it's actually, they actually want rather to see a real case with a video. And this video doesn't necessarily get people to click the video, so it's hard to track the video.

[00:20:05] So coming back to that, the experiment we ran. We could actually see some attribution directly that some of these accounts clicked the links. And booked demo calls, but the biggest uplift we saw came through direct and organic search, and if you know all the other activities you're running during such a period, then you also know that the main difference between this period and the last period was this new LinkedIn ads program.

[00:20:37] And then I think it's fair enough to attribute in a probabilistic way, I think the technical term is, that these two things must correlate. So typically in attribution you talk about deterministic or probabilistic. And deterministic is "this person clicked this link, therefore he's part of", you can do attribution or probabilistic, then you guess the correlation. And in this case we had to kind of correlate more than we could deterministically say.

[00:21:07] Teemu Raitaluoto: I think you call it common sense as well in some of the podcasts.

[00:21:12] Steffen Hedebrandt: I think that's fair as well.

[00:21:14] I think particularly related to what you do at Markettailor. Don't just think about conversions for the sake of conversions. Make sure that the conversions you do generate then has a strong intent. Or if they don't have a strong intent, make sure not to just throw them at the salespeople, because then the sales people are gonna get angry.

[00:21:34] So only do the handover to sales when there's actually a real intent worth chasing.

[00:21:39] Teemu Raitaluoto: We also have this product-led growth motion taking place where we have a freemium product. And our salespeople basically look at those signups and determine based on the email address of the signup whether this is worth contacting or not.

[00:21:53] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah, exactly.

[00:21:54] Teemu Raitaluoto: It's a bit different when the signup comes from some other channel. For example, some newsletter. Then it can be a difficult if the salesperson doesn't see it.

[00:22:02] Steffen Hedebrandt: Yeah. And it's also like a privilege of which stage are you and are you just starting out. Then you need to go chase everything. And when you have more some stable demand, then you can be more picky. So, any advice comes with a prerequisite of which situation you're in.

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