9 min read

Episode 26: Smarketing with Varun Bhandakar

Episode 26: Smarketing with Varun Bhandakar

Welcome to Episode 26 of HubShots!

Interview: Smarketing with Varun Bhandakar (@vahroon) - Channel Consultant at HubSpot

Recorded: Friday 12 February and Tuesday 15 March 2016

In this episode we interview Varun Bhandakar, Channel Consultant at HubSpot for HubSpot Asia Pacific and discuss:

- the value of re-assessing buyer personas
- useful tips for how to approach buyer personas
- the need to include non-fit personas
- the 30-second tent ?
- typical campaign durations
- smarketing, and the push for alignment with sales and marketing
- why we love Canva (follow them @canva)

Follow Varun on Twitter at @vahroon

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Interview Transcript

Ian Jacob: Now, Varun, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at HubSpot.

Varun Bhandarkar: Cool. My name is Varun Bhandarkar. I'm a channel consultant here at HubSpot. To break down the role, I work with our partners in agencies to help them do inbound marketing better for themselves and for their customers.

Craig Bailey: Great. Our audience is marketing managers. You're dealing a lot with agencies and seeing success. The agencies are working with marketing managers. What are some of the characteristics of successful companies that you're seeing through your work with agencies?

Varun Bhandarkar: Sure. I'd say something that makes a lot of companies really successful while working with agencies is realistic goal setting and expectations. I personally have asked a lot of agencies when they're sitting down with their customers, and a customer says, "Hey, look, I want 100% increase in my website traffic," I've kind of asked them to push back and say, "Where are you getting that number from?" Are they pulling it out of air? Is the goal realistic? I feel like a lot of agencies who do that really well are setting themselves up for success in the long term.

Craig Bailey: Great. Are you saying, like, building on that, a marketing manager if they have a focus on one goal, realistic expectations, but also what ROI means, it comes down to actually what is return? Would that be true?

Varun Bhandarkar: Absolutely. I think that kind of creates a good segue to something that we were talking earlier about - smarketing. I've been pushing that regardless of if it's an agency or if it's an organization. I'm always telling them to have a smarketing-based approach. Now, smarketing, as you guys probably know, is the alignment between sales and marketing. A lot of times traditional organizations they complain that they don't get enough lead from sales, and then marketing's like, "We're doing enough. We're sending you out with this, and you're not really closing it." That's because there's lack of alignment.

It's the start of the year 2016. Sit along with your sales team. This is my advice to a lot of marketing managers. Sit with your sales team. Sit with your sales director. Find out what they're looking from you. See if it's realistic. Come up with a good plan as to how you can actually execute it. That way there's harmony, and you guys can at the end of the week not worry about missing targets, but rather than that sit down and have a beer together.

Craig Bailey: Excellent insight.

Ian Jacob: Now, understanding that, what are some of the strategies you see agencies helping marketing managers implement or do that's working really well?

Varun Bhandarkar: Sure. Something that I've found happening more often lately is a lot of agencies are going back to their marketing managers and asking them to reassess their buyer persona. I know this sounds like a very rudimentary answer, but that's the basis for success. If you don't have a proper idea of who you're trying to market to or who will be buying your services or product at the end of the day, you're kind of yelling out in the woods, and the audience is sitting behind you.

Craig Bailey: That's an excellent point, because we've seen stats that show that buyer personas, everyone knows the concept, but less than the majority, a minority, actually build them. Do you have any tips on how they can build buyer personas or review those?

Varun Bhandarkar: Yeah, absolutely. Look, if you have services or a product to market, don't think of yourself as an organization with something to sell. Think of yourself as someone in the audience or someone in the market who has a need, and think of how what you're trying to sell or the service that you're selling is going to solve for them. I think when you kind of put yourself in someone else's shoes, the answers to your buyer personas come instantly. I think a lot of people over complicate the buyer persona question by saying, "Okay, we've got something. Who would it solve for?" No, think of who someone is and what problem they have that you can eliminate using your service or product.

Ian Jacob: I think that's great, because that will lead people to really go, if they need to solve this problem, "What service or product can I provide to solve that problem?" I think it's approaching from a totally different angle. Now, another thing I had to ask you was, and I didn't realize this when I started, but you also have the non-buyer persona in your system.

Craig Bailey: Or the non-fit buyer persona.

Ian Jacob: That's right.

Varun Bhandarkar: The negative persona

Ian Jacob: The negative persona, right? Now, when we obviously start inbounding, you talk a lot about the persona that you're marketing to. But as you get down the track, you go, "Hang on, okay, well, what about the non-persona that might end up jumping into the funnel? What do I do with them?" Again, like if I think back, I think having the non-persona is also very important. Now, have you discovered that with people that you're working with, like having the non-buyer persona in the system?

Varun Bhandarkar: Absolutely. I think in some instances a lot of organizations think of it from the start saying this is who it's a good fit for and this is who it's not, but in most instances, you find out who the negative fit is or the bad fit is as you go along. Sometimes you can jump into business with them. Six months down the line, they're like, "Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?"

I think it's quite crucial for a lot of businesses to realize that, and if needed, turn business away. If you can't service someone to the best of your ability, you're actually causing detriment in the long term. I know there's an old saying saying, "If you don't know how to do something, say yes and learn how to do it later." But if you think about it as a smaller agency or as a smaller organization, do you actually have time to do that? You're going to have someone who is going to be on your case saying, "Hey, what's happening? My number's under. You promised me this. You promised me that," and then it's just going to be a very negative relationship, and it's just going to leave a sour taste in everyone's mouth.

Ian Jacob: That's really interesting, because I could take that and say, "Well, look, we're all starting somewhere, right?" If I was a marketing manager, and I'm just learning inbound, or I'm just doing inbound certification, and I'm about to implement this campaign, I could be in that same position, right? We all have to learn. I guess you're probably in a good position, because you're also new to the organization. But I think it's about how you view it.

Now, what do you think when it comes to that and moving people on their journey, especially like in business? Because you work with people like agencies to help other businesses that are just getting this. How do you effectively grow that person, keep them on track, keep them motivated, and keep that happening?

Varun Bhandarkar: Sure. It kind of breaks it out into two different scenarios, right? Sometimes when you open up your service, and you get in a lot of leads, it's very exciting to see the number of leads coming in. As they move down the marketing funnel, they'll obviously trickle down, the numbers will dwindle, but a lot of non-fits or bad fits will still fall through, because they're still interested in your content. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you are the best fit for them.

I was actually having a conversation with one of our partners who focuses on financial services this morning. They're getting a lot of inquiries from customers in manufacturing. They have moved from a lead to a marketing qualified lead, because they meet the criteria. He's like, "How do we funnel them out?" I'm like, "This is completely left up to you guys. If you feel like there is something that you can provide them, do it. I think the best way to do this is by jumping on a call and seeing if they're a good fit or not. They might not necessarily be in the industry or might not be in your ideal persona set, but they might have like maybe a mindset or maybe a need, like an immediate need, that you guys can solve for. Also, a lot of this will kind of be cross-collaboration between your online and offline efforts."

Ian Jacob: That's a really good answer.

Craig Bailey: Nice. Now, I'm just actually going to go back a bit to personas. Getting down to the nitty-gritty of preparing personas, are there any tools that you'd recommend?

Varun Bhandarkar: Without sounding like I'm making a sales pitch for HubSpot, we actually have a brilliant persona tool. Now, the reason why I say it's brilliant is it provokes people to ask questions that you might not necessarily ask. You guys are probably aware we always encourage people when they think of buyer personas to go beyond demographic and into the psychographic information.

A lot of partners who sometimes are fairly new to this ask me, "Man, I don't want to know what they're doing on the weekends." Well, actually you do. If someone is running a business for themselves, they're thinking about their business nonstop. They're thinking about, "How am I going to close this lead?" while they're playing cricket with their children, or they're out swimming.

If you can think of how you can answer that question for that person while he's at the beach, then you're going to hit the nail on the head, and you're going to convert them into a customer. You have to think not only about them as a business but about them as a person. That's how you can get your ideal buyer persona to become a customer, and they move from being a fictitious concept to something that is very real.

Craig Bailey: I love it. Is that the makemypersona.com? Is that the tool you're referring to?

Varun Bhandarkar: Yes, absolutely, yup.

Ian Jacob: That's a great place to start. People who are considering using HubSpot but aren't use that tool. If you've got HubSpot, use the persona tool that's inside of the system.

Varun Bhandarkar: Absolutely. I think HubSpot, you kind of hit the nail on the head. We give so many resources for free, because we just want to elevate the level of marketing all around us. I think working collaboratively, everyone wins, right?

Craig Bailey: Absolutely.

Ian Jacob: You know what, I'll mention the last bit of collaboration you guys did. I think it was with Canva providing some templates for different things, and I signed up to it a few days ago. But I thought it was a fantastic way to collaborate and get people interested in what you were doing but in a more practical manner.

Varun Bhandarkar: Absolutely. I think HubSpot takes a lot of inspiration from Canva. I myself take a lot of inspiration from Guy Kawasaki. I think he's a brilliant man. He's got some brilliant insights into life as we know it rather than just marketing. The fact that Canva you have access to so many free templates and brilliant images that you can use, why not, right?

Ian Jacob: If I was a marketing manager starting out running my first campaign, what do you see on average is a good time period to run a campaign and measure those goals? I know you can run it indefinitely, but what's a good initial time gap, so to speak, that you would run a campaign and review the results?

Varun Bhandarkar: Sure. I'm just going to flip this on you guys just a little bit, because you guys have been around for a while. You've done this. I wouldn't say you guys are starting off in any capacity. How long are the campaigns that you run for initially? I mean like now. I wouldn't say when you started off. How long are the campaigns you run for on an average?

Ian Jacob: Oh, look, I think, for us, probably three to six months, depending on what we're doing.

Craig Bailey: I would say it depends on the channels that you start with. Let's say you had a co-partnering thing with an established brand. That could work really quickly. You can also partner with industry sites. They might have an email list. That could work quickly. But I think the overall question that you're getting at is around general inbound content-based growth...

Ian Jacob: That's right, exactly.

Craig Bailey: I would say it can be longer in terms of building organic strength. Is that kind of what you're saying?

Varun Bhandarkar: Yeah, I think that kind of answer. I think there's no cookie-cutter approach. It's very context-based. It's very subjective to what you're trying to accomplish. If you're a new company, you have no presence in the market at all, would you want to run a campaign for a month? Is that realistic? I don't think so. You guys have been established, and you still say a successful campaign requires three to six months.

Varun Bhandarkar: Inbound is something that will get you wins over the long period. I'd say if you're just getting started, if you're looking at a top of the funnel offer, let it run for an average of three to six months and see how it goes. We can always reassess it. That's the flexibility of running a campaign. If things change in two months, you get the results, well and good. We can close it in three months, and then we could focus on converting those leads that you've generated.

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