Interview with Sarah Bond – Lessons in B2B SaaS Marketing and CRO – Ep. 56

Sarah Bond is the Senior Director of Marketing Strategy of Lucky Orange.

In this episode we covered:
  • How often should a marketing team review their strategy documents? 
  • How should a marketing team use OKRs (Objects and Key Results) and goal-setting frameworks to leverage their strategy documents?
  • What is Lucky Orange?
  • How does Lucky Orange (the team) use Lucky Orange (the tool) for conversion rate optimization?
  • How often should a business leverage giving out a free trial? What’s the difference between product-led growth and sales-led growth? 
  • How can B2B SaaS companies optimize their onboarding funnel? What’s the best way to build out experiments? 
  • What is a Product-Qualified Lead (PQL)?
  • How often should a marketer experiment?
  • And more!  

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto  0:00  

Hi there. Before introducing today’s guest, I have a very random question for you. What is more difficult? Getting an engagement on a tweet? Or getting your customer to open an email? I’d love for you to send me your answer, either through Instagram, searching for @KennySoto, you can send me a DM there, or you can send me a message on LinkedIn. This is just so I can know you’re listening to the podcast, and I’d really love your thoughts on this. 

Today’s guest is Sarah bond. Sarah is the Senior Director of Marketing Strategy at Lucky Orange, a software company that helps businesses around the world improve website conversion rates. She is responsible for leading all aspects of marketing and communications, including Product Marketing, brand positioning, market research, pricing strategies, and communications. Prior to joining Lucky Orange, Sara grew her knowledge of marketing, communications, and brand strategy through roles of a fortune 1000 healthcare information technology company, a marketing agency focused on higher education and on Air Force Public Affairs Office. Pretty cool, huh? Now, let’s tune in. 

Hi, Sarah, how are you?

Sarah Bond  1:18  

I’m great. How are you doing Kenny?

Kenny Soto  1:19  

I’m doing fantastic. Now before we started recording, I was giving a little backstory about the podcast and the listeners. And now I think it’s time for the listeners to get some backstory on you. So my first question is what got you into digital marketing?

Sarah Bond  1:35  

That is a great question. And to be honest with you, Kenny, I am not actually a marketer by trade. I got my start actually, in journalism. I studied public relations and advertising in college. And that’s what my undergraduate degree is in. But when I started in my first professional job, I was actually doing leadership consulting. And then after that, jumped into journalism and worked as a reporter, and then eventually, as an editor on an Air Force base’s weekly newspaper. 

And so that’s where I got my start, and then kind of from there jumped around and got to do what I really went to college to do, which was public relations. And it was while I was doing PR that my organization’s leader at the time came to me and said, Hey, we have this opening to lead ours at the time we call it our online marketing team, not digital marketing. And it was a real crossroads for me, because I knew I loved PR, you know, I love communications. I love writing. I love the written word and storytelling. And I had to take this leap of faith and say, this sounds interesting to me, I know what HTML stands for. That’s about all I know about online marketing. And I’m gonna give it a try and see if I like it. And in the back of my mind, I said, Well, I guess if I hate this, and it doesn’t work out, I’ll just quit my job with this company and go find another PR job somewhere else. But I got into it. And I really loved it. And it was a great opportunity for me to learn that one of the things that I really enjoy from a career standpoint is taking on new challenges and learning new things. 

So I made the leap into digital marketing. And from there, I really haven’t looked back in terms of taking on all sorts of different roles and pushing myself professionally to try new challenges and take on teams and areas of responsibility that I have no previous background or knowledge in but really have succeeded in by willing to learn and listen and enjoying the ride. And the fact that hey, it’s a challenge. And don’t doubt yourself, if you don’t have a background or a degree in something, you can still learn it and be very successful at it.

Kenny Soto  4:02  

That’s reassuring to hear. I can add to that story that you just added because I was a music major. And then I became a digital marketer. So that’s pretty cool. My next question, Sara, is how would you describe what you currently do at Lucky Orange?

Sarah Bond  4:18  

Good question. And what I currently do at Lucky Orange, it’s a mix of all things marketing and communications. So we are a software as a service company with a small team that’s less than 20 of us at Lucky Orange in total, across the whole company. And from a marketing standpoint, I handle all of our marketing strategy. So what we’re doing on the acquisition, side advertising, retention, I also handle our brand. So what is our brand strategy, our brand positioning, the creative side of things, our brand, identity, our visual identity and how that’s manifested and everything in between. So communications related any PR or media that we’re doing. 

And I also help out from an internal standpoint with our company-wide communications and helping to articulate and drive conversations around lucky oranges, purpose and our mission and what we stand for and our values. So I am very fortunate that I get to do a lot of really cool very different things when it comes to marketing and communications in my day-to-day role.

Kenny Soto  5:34  

This is a very timely question because I’ve been facing this challenge myself recently, at work. My next question is, how do you? How do you document the brand strategy, the go-to-market strategy, all of the approaches that you are taking to grow Lucky Orange? How? So the first question is, how do you document those things? And to how often does your team review these documents? 

Sarah Bond  6:03  

Well, first off, I would say kudos to you, Kenny, for knowing that part of the battle is documenting these right you, you want to make sure that you have your go to market strategies that you have your goals or your objectives for the year documented so that you can come back and revisit them. One of the systems that our marketing team at Lucky Orange uses is a system of okrs, which stands for objectives and key results. And there’s a great book, if you’re not familiar with what objectives and key results are. It’s called measure what matters. And it’s written by John Doerr. And if you know, John Doerr, he sat on sits on the board of Google. He is a venture capitalist who has invested in a lot of very successful very big tech companies. And he wrote this book about the OKR system, which originated at Intel. But OKRs are a system for you to set objectives. So the high-level goals that you’re going after, and then you have key results that map up to that objective. And Lucky Orange, we use OKRs, we set them on a quarterly basis, we start out the year and we say, Okay, here’s what we’re going to work on. And here’s how many kind of looking at it from a quarter to quarter basis when we’re going to achieve these different objectives and key results. And each team member has responsibilities for different key results there. And we meet monthly with our broader leadership team. 

So with our CEO and co-founder with our head of customer service, and sales in with our head of product development, and the whole marketing team. And we go through all of these okrs. And we report on the progress that we’ve had against them in that month, and also talk very openly and transparently of where around where we might have gotten hung up on something where we need help or where we aren’t on track to meet one of those key results that we’ve had for the year. 

And that really helps us to make sure that we’re doing meaningful work throughout the year that we’re not just getting lost in the busy work. But that we can also go back and say, you know, at this point in the year, we can look back and say, hey, we’ve been really successful, look at all of these great things that we’ve accomplished. Look at all the progress that we’ve made so far against these things that are really meaningful to help grow our business.

Kenny Soto  8:31  

I’ve seen marketers, and it’s I guess it’s kind of like an internal debate. I’ve seen marketers use KPIs over OKRs. Some people don’t like using KPIs. They like saying SMART goals. Have you experimented with any other frameworks in the past for goal setting,

Sarah Bond  8:51  

the thing that I think is really key to goal setting, regardless of the framework that you’re using, is that you’re being honest about it. So I’ve worked in very big fortune 500 companies before where the goal-setting system was one where you said, Okay, we have to make sure we’re showing progress, because we don’t want to show up on a dashboard that’s showing in red. And it’s really counterproductive to the purpose of having a goal system in place, if people are sandbagging and really trying to fudge the results just so something shows up in the green on a dashboard or that you’re seeing positive growth.

So regardless of whether you’re using KPIs or OKRs, or any other sort of system, the key is being transparent and open and honest about what you’re accomplishing. And also creating an environment where people don’t feel like they’ll be penalized or, quote-unquote, be in trouble if they don’t achieve that, but that it really is a tool to have an open and honest discussion around what worked and what And what needs to change so that we can accomplish those objectives?

Kenny Soto  10:04  

This is a perfect segue into talking about tools. Can you describe for the audience what is Lucky Orange?

Sarah Bond  10:12  

Absolutely. So, Lucky Orange, probably the easiest way to think of it is it is a tool that helps you find new ways to grow your convergence on your website. So if you’re in a b2c space, it may be growing the number of sales that you’re getting, if you’re in the b2b space, generating more leads, but Lucky Orange offers a set of what is called conversion rate optimization tools for CRM tools, if you’re familiar with some of the lingo in the space, but we offer dynamic heat maps that allow you to see where people are going on your website and the things that they’re clicking on. 

So you see, a visual overlay, if you think of it in terms of when you see a weather heat map how the hotter areas you see oranges, the cooler areas or blues and greens, apply that same principle to your website. And that’s what we can help you see where people are clicking where they’re moving your mouse. We also offer session recordings. So you can essentially see a playback of what someone did while they were on your website. You can see what they clicked on how far they scroll down a page, if they encountered an error on your website. And then there are other tools that also augment that like live chat and live view that can help your customer support teams engage with people at just the right moment when maybe they’re going to abandon your website, and you would lose that conversion. 

You can say, you know what, I know that someone’s been on this page, looking for shipping policies for 30 seconds, I’m going to prompt them with a live chat and ask them if there’s any questions I can answer. And we also offer surveying tools that allow you to ask your customers questions directly. You know, if you’re a user experience professional working with your marketing team, you might ask them what they thought of your new website? Or if you’re focusing on maybe what inventory you need to add to your website, you could say, Hey, would you be interested in this item or that item? Or you can ask them you know, as a marketer, we all want to know which acquisition channels are working, you might do a survey and ask them, How did they find out about us. 

So it’s really a suite of tools that is designed to help you understand what people are doing on your website. So you can make that experience even better for them so that you can grow your conversions, your sales, the leads you’re generating the customers, you’re having sign up for your blog, or your newsletter, if you’re more content-oriented?

Kenny Soto  12:46  

How does Lucky Orange use Lucky Orange?

Sarah Bond  12:51  

That is a really great question. And I’ll tell you one of my favorite ways that we have used Lucky Orange that I think your marketing audience will really appreciate. And this is near and dear to my heart. Because like I said at the outset, I am a lover of the written word I really enjoy reading and blogs and consuming content myself. And one of the cool ways that content marketers can use Lucky Orange is by using what’s called a scroll heat map that allows you to see how far down a page the majority of people are reading. And it does this by showing a colored overlay. 

So the top of your page is going to be read, because everybody is going to see that. But then as people scroll down the page, and they start to leave, that gets lighter and lighter. And you can see the point, which is called the effective fold. So you know if you know about an effective fold, and in a newspaper, when people say above the fold, meaning it’s all of that content before you unfold the newspaper? Well, you want to find that point on your website where that guaranteed point where you know, the majority of people are reading. And you can use the scroll heatmap on a blog post. 

And it can be really helpful to determine whether or not your long-form or your short-form content is working. And we use this on our blog to see our people more engaged in that really lengthy content that, you know if you’re following some SEO best practices is telling you Yes, yes, yes, you should have long-form content, because that’s going to help you get higher rankings on that content. But to what end? If people aren’t reading that content, and they’re not seeing your calls to action? Is it still worth investing all that time? So we look at scroll heatmaps to see are people actually reading through the content? Are they getting to our calls to action? Are they taking the intended action that we want? 

And we also use them to look at the types of content so we earlier this spring, posted a blog about our new brand identity and work we’re doing on a new version of our software and we use the scroll Heat Map to see if people were actually reading that. And if they were interested in these sorts of updates from us, because it’s not the typical content, we would post and we did see that people were reading all the way to the very end of that post. So for us from a marketing standpoint, that was something that we could then take and share with our broader team to say, hey, these sorts of product updates are really great content for our blog. And we should start to infuse more of this in our content strategy because it’s really engaging for our readers,

Kenny Soto  15:34  

How often should a business leverage giving out a free trial?

Sarah Bond  15:40  

I think it all depends on what your approach is, and the stage that you are in, in your product. So this also ties into the concept of are you looking at product lead growth, or sales lead growth, if you have a product that can really speak for itself, that, you know, if you get it in the hands of your users, that they’ll be able to catch on quickly, they’ll be able to use it. And that is sort of, you know, the proof in the pudding, so to speak, have let them use it and you know, that will help them convert, then you absolutely should do a free trial, get it in their hands, let them try it out, where you might want to deviate and maybe switch it up. 

And instead of doing a free trial, maybe offer a free product or a freemium product is if you’re at an early stage in launching your product. And you really just want to get a ton of users on your platform, so that you can start to get more word of mouth out there about your product, then you might try doing a very like low threshold, maybe you only allow certain features, or maybe its usage limitation, where you have a free product where you can get people into the product using it and then they can tell your friends and they can grow it that way. And then if you’re in an organization, you know, both of those are examples of product lead growth, where you are really letting the product do the customer acquisition for you to some degree. 

Now, if you’re in a sales lead organization, where you’ve got a big sales team, and you need people to go through that sales product, you know, maybe it’s because you’ve got a very high dollar product that you’re selling. And you really need to convince them and walk them through the benefits of your product or service, then you might not want to do a free trial in that perspective. Because if it’s very complicated, or if it takes a while to realize the return on the product, then doing a free trial might not be the right fit and might actually be counterintuitive to that process.

Kenny Soto  17:51  

Oftentimes, marketers will find themselves in a situation where they have to work with customer success or customer experience. And the product team in regards to one. Sometimes it seems like an insurmountable task, which is optimizing an onboarding funnel. So my next question is how can b2b SaaS companies optimize their onboarding funnels? And what are some common mistakes or pitfalls that you think they should consider?

Sarah Bond  18:25  

Fantastic scenario, Kenny. And that is one that I have experienced myself. And key to navigating what should be in that funnel and making the right choices is going into it with a discussion around, hey, we’re trying to make the best choice to ensure that our customers get just the right amount of information that they need. 

So they can quickly get into using the tool and experiencing value. It’s not about a discussion of who’s right or who’s wrong marketing maybe wants to collect all these data points or user experience feels very strongly that they need to tick off all of these tasks on their checklist. Or maybe you’ve got someone from the sales organization that also says I want to get this and this information so that if I’m bringing them in on a trial basis, I have enough information to determine whether they are a PQL or not. 

And really, you have to be willing to set all of that to the side of your own individual motivations of what your department might want or need and say, what how can we make this the quickest experience possible for our customers to get the information that they need, not that we need, but the information that our customers need to get into our product and start using it and experience value as soon as possible and you really have to put on that lens and put all of these other motivations aside because believe me there are times when we get a new customer and I want to understand what type of organization are you from, you know, how big is your organization? What do you care about the most? What are the goals that you’re trying to accomplish and get all of this wealth of marketing information that can help me refine who I’m targeting. But that can also slow your users down. 

So you really have to be picky about the things you’re asking for. And then look at points later on in that customer lifecycle where you can circle back and ask them that information. Maybe you’re asking them after they’ve upgraded, and you’re saying, hey, how did you find out about us? Or tell me a little bit more about your role? Or would you be interested in participating in a survey to help us better meet your needs? And so you can do all sorts of things like that further down the line, but it really just comes down to your onboarding should be all about getting your customer to the greatest value in the fewest number of steps possible.

Kenny Soto  20:59  

One of the reasons why I love doing this podcast is because I’m able to learn new things in real-time. And I don’t want to assume that I know what this acronym you mentioned stands for. So can you tell the audience what a PQL is?

Sarah Bond  21:12  

Sure, sure. PQL is a product qualified lead, similar to a marketing qualified lead, or where you would have someone who comes in, they’re using the product, they’re looking at it, and they’ve had a high degree of engagement. 

So you know, if you’ve got two people who started in a free trial, and you have one person who signed up for your free trial, and maybe they logged in once, but never logged in again, and then you have another person who signed up for your free trial, and let’s say they’ve logged in 10 times, they’ve navigated to multiple different areas of your app, you may have a scoring system in place that on the product side says they have done all of these things, which indicate that they are very likely to upgrade to be a paying customer. So you’re really letting their usage of the product qualify whether or not they are likely to upgrade and become a paying customer.

Kenny Soto  22:17  

Three more questions. What’s the best way to build out experiments? And how should marketers set a schedule for experimentation?

Sarah Bond  22:28  

Oh, good question. I think the best way to approach experimentation in marketing is always to start with, what is the desired outcome that you want to achieve. So whether you’re doing something like A/B testing, or whether you’re piloting a new paid advertising and acquisition channel, you really want to go into it and say, Okay, what do I need to accomplish to have this experiment be successful. And if it’s A/B testing, then maybe you’re looking at, hey, I want to have I want to see this percentage in lift from conversions on this version of a landing page for versus that version. 

If you’re looking at paid advertising channels, it may just be going in and say, you know, I understand what my customer lifetime value is. And this is what the expenses and so I’m going to need to get a positive return on adspend, I’m going to need to at least get these this many people to sign up. So really, it starts with knowing that end goal. And then I would say from there, when you’re thinking about your experimentation strategy, look at the different segments and the different users of your business. Maybe you’ve crafted personas, or maybe you just have a good understanding of the different areas of the market you’re targeting. And then make sure you have experiments or pilot projects that will help you reach all of those different areas. 

So that way you can get a feel for Hey, this medium may work really well for this audience, but might not work well for another audience. And that, you know, you have access to really good data behind that because all of your experimentation and your piloting efforts will fail if you as a marketer don’t have the ability to go and then access that data and tell your teams and your leadership. Here’s the data that proves that this investment that we made against this experiment was successful and helped us to grow the bottom line.

Kenny Soto  24:30  

What core skills and these can be hard or soft skills have you leveraged throughout your entire career?

Sarah Bond  24:38  

I would say one of the skills that has really helped me throughout my career is being willing to be the first to take on a one of those BHAG projects, the ones that have the big, hairy, audacious, goals, and being willing to just figure it out, and sometimes It can be very intimidating to take on a project that you don’t have any background or experience in. But I have found that those are the product projects that, candidly, I enjoy the most. Because I get to learn more, I don’t feel like I’m getting stagnant in my skills when I take on a brand new project. 

And it really helps me to figure out how I can take what I learned about this new project, this new area of marketing or new area of the business, and then start to apply that in other areas. And I know in your podcast before, you’ve talked about the concept of the big team marketer, me taking on these projects, where you have not a lot of area of expertise is a great way to really grow that kind of T shaped marketing skills where maybe you have your core competency, but volunteering for a project that is outside of your area of expertise will really help you round out your skills as a marketer and will open up a lot of other opportunities for you. 

And then the other thing I would add to that, that I think is really essential for any marketer, and sometimes marketers shy away from this, because maybe like me, you are more of a communicator, or you’re creative. And that’s why you got into marketing in the first place. But it’s really embracing the data and analytics, and cultivating your skills and your ability to show how the work that you’re doing maps to a really meaningful metric, like your conversion rate, or growing customer lifetime value, or helping to reduce churn, showing exactly how your work has impacted a quantifiable number associated with the business will help you succeed in marketing, if you’re looking at your work. 

And you’re saying, gosh, I’m doing all of this marketing, but I couldn’t tell you how it helped or hurt the business, I can’t point to any numbers on a dashboard that my work has actually impacted. It’s time to rethink your work. And if you’re stuck in a marketing organization where your organization just doesn’t care about that, maybe it’s time to rethink the company that you’re with.

Kenny Soto  27:19  

Speaking from my own experience, I have struggled with data until I guess part of it is starting this podcast and listening to other experts talk about data. But also, I’ve been thinking about data as an extension of empathy. And that’s helped me out tremendously because I’m normally like a creative kind of like content, heavy marketer. But now data isn’t as daunting, if you will, because I’m thinking of it as a listening tool. 

The data that you have before you isn’t overwhelming as a marketer, if you see it as just, this is another way your customers are telling you how they feel. And whether the data showing that your experiment has succeeded or it’s failed. 

That’s a signal that you shouldn’t ignore. tying back to something you mentioned earlier in the episode is something you shouldn’t try to like adjust in a report either because you are essentially hurting yourself and hurting the business by one ignoring the data. And by to not letting the data tell the story that your customers are literally trying to tell you from their actions.

Sarah Bond  28:29  

You can be more right on that Kenny. And I think a lot of times we’re conditioned to fear failure when it comes to anything in our lives. But failure isn’t a bad thing on a project. Because exactly like you said, If you listen to the data, maybe an experiment or project failed, because the assumptions that you went into it with were not right. And failure can be a very helpful and beneficial tool, because it’s telling you that, hey, this isn’t the right approach for this audience or this type of customer base. 

So use that and make your marketing even better when used appropriately. failure can be the best marketing tool because it can help you avoid spending time on things that aren’t working and start to refine and focus in on the things that are really meaningful. And the only way to find those are you got to fail sometimes. And that’s okay, it’s okay to fail. You just have to learn from it and don’t repeat those mistakes. And that’s something that I tell my team all the time, it’s, you know, okay, we had a mistake or we failed or our assumptions were off, what did we learn? And what are we going to do differently from that to make the next effort that much more successful?

Kenny Soto  29:45  

That’s oftentimes the big red flag usually is that you didn’t learn anything, whether it succeeded or failed, or it was a failure. So that’s definitely something to highlight. My last question is hypothetical because time machines don’t exist. But if they did, and you can go back 10 years into the past, knowing everything you know, today, how would you accelerate the speed of your career? 

Sarah Bond  30:12  

Well, I thought about this one a little bit, because I know you’ve asked this to other guests that you’ve had on the podcast. And if I could go back 10 years and rethink something that I did, it would really be around as a marketer. And as an individual, knowing your own worth and knowing kind of where you should draw the line, when you’re with an organization that’s asking too much of you. It can be, especially if you are at the point in your career where you’re continuing to succeed, and you’re getting, you know, praise for the results that you’ve seen, you’re getting promoted, it can be really easy to stick with an organization that is incredibly demanding, and asking a lot from you. 

And I was at an organization like that 10 years ago. And if I could look back on it, I would think I would have told myself, you know, it doesn’t have to be like this. I think when you’re starting out in your career, sometimes you get into an organization, and maybe you know, in your heart that this isn’t really what I want. It’s not making me happy. But Gosh, I seem to be succeeding here. And I, you know, I seem to be climbing the corporate ladder, so to speak. But you end up saying, Well, I guess this is the trade off that I need to work all of the extra hours that, you know, I have to take the call on the weekends or when I’m on vacation. 

And it’s okay, if I—you know, in order to succeed, I need to come home at the end of the workday and be online at midnight, just so I can make sure there are no inboxes no emails left in my inbox that I haven’t responded to. And I would tell my 10 years ago self that not every organization is like that, that if that’s not what you want, if you don’t want to be in an organization that expects you to be on call 24/7, you can still succeed and go elsewhere, and that there are other organizations that will value you just as much and that I think that’s something that a lot of people starting out, you get kind of nervous about that, gosh, will I find another job that gives me these opportunities? Or is as good as what I have here? Will the grass really be greener? 

And I think I would just trust myself more to say, it’s okay to take that leap. And if something doesn’t work out, if you do end up going somewhere that’s not ideal, then just move on to the next place. And it won’t be detrimental to your career. If you know, if your resume has you being at places that are shorter tenure than others that trust your gut. And if you’re having to sacrifice too much, in the name of a job, your work should not be the number one priority in your life. Unless that’s what you want to be your number one priority in your life.

Kenny Soto  33:05  

Amazing. Thank you so much, Sarah, for your time today. And if anyone wanted to say hi, where can they find you?

Sarah Bond  33:12  

You can probably the easiest way to get ahold of me is just to shoot me an email at Sarah@LuckyOrange.com

Kenny Soto  33:25  

You just listened to another episode of the people of digital marketing with Sarah bond and Kenny Soto, your host and as always, I hope everyone has a great week.

Bye

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