Lead to Revenue series: Interview with Idan Hershkovich

Idan Hershkovich is a seasoned B2B marketer. Today he hails from Cato Networks, a network+security platform vendor, where he heads all corporate marketing efforts. Previously Idan held tenures at Panaya, harmon.ie, and Magic Software. Over time, Idan has collected a sizeable body of firsthand experience in building a replicable and scalable B2B lead gen and nurture machines, primarily on top of a Martech combo of Salesforce (CRM) and Marketo (Marketing Automation). A couple of weeks ago he was kind enough to spend an hour with me and answer a few questions about his approach to implementing Lead-to-Revenue strategies. I’ve taken the liberty to add, in some of the sections, the key takeaways I’ve collected from Idan’s answers.

Q. Take me through your Lead Lifecycle Management process

Idan H: A lead comprises an inbound inquiry. Every lead is nurtured and scored for web visits, clicks, asset downloads and form submissions. Once the threshold has been achieved, the lead becomes Marketing Qualified, or MQL. It is then assigned to an SDR, a member of the inside sales team. SDs need to research and further qualify the lead, which includes getting in touch with them. Ultimately their goal is to set up a meeting with the lead. When such a meeting is booked, the lead becomes a Qualified Sales Lead or QSL, and a field sales representative is assigned to it, and takes the lead from there to a pilot project and eventually to a deal closed won.

Our current performance KPI for content leads, i.e. such that haven’t asked to get contacted, to convert to meeting schedules, is 1/6. There are several things we do to optimize this step. First, when speaking with a lead, SDs use the same tone and messaging as the campaign through which the lead was generated. To achieve this continuity, the marketing team works very closely with the inside sales team.

In tandem with SD qualification and outreach efforts, leads are nurtured based on a carefully calculated content marketing matrix. First, we have identified several ‘demand themes’. For each theme, we have developed 3–6 assets of the same theme and narrative, organized around a pain and its related solution. The 1st asset will focus on the need, the pain. 2nd asset: ways to solve the pain. 3rd asset: how we solve it (this is what I call ‘penetrate and go wide’ tactic), and 4th: video demo, on-demand webinar, i.e. a very product oriented asset.

If, at any point in the process between MQL and SQL, the lead becomes unresponsive or the SD disqualifies them, their status is set to ‘Rejected’, and they get reviewed by marketing. Following the review, their status may be set as ‘Nurturing’ and their behavioral score resets to zero, at which point they will be assigned to other nurture streams.

Takeaway: having a well defined process in place is not enough, need excellent team alignment, especially when you have a marketing-inside sales-field sales trio.

Q. Which attribution strategy have you implemented?

Idan H.: We have implemented separate fields for First, Last and History source data, which, for online leads, we collect via UTM tags in our campaign links.
First Touch attribution: from unknown to known. This is set once and is never overwritten.
The Last touch retains the most recent UTM values prior to the lead being converted, by sales, to a contact and account.
History simply aggregates each UTM data set collected. To be honest, so far we’ve had no real need to analyze historic data. I expect, as data collects over time, that such needs will emerge.

While we collect extensive multi-touch data, the key is in analyzing it and asking the right questions. For example, late last year, I noticed that advertising only performed in the remarketing capacity within a specific campaign. There was no lead generation, no first touches generated by the campaign.

Takeaway: you need a solid launch-analyze-optimize approach to be able to move in all fronts effectively.

Q: What are your Lead-to-Revenue reporting requirements?

Idan H.: Each channel contributing to the campaign is a ‘source’, which make up the ‘horizontal dimensions’ of campaign reports. The ‘vertical dimension’ is being the content campaign or the content journey that was set based on a specific theme/pain/solution. This infrastructure of vertical/horizontal elements was set because of my secondary objective; after generating MQLs, is to know which source contributed the most to MQLs and beyond. Typically within 2–3 weeks from the launch of a new campaign, I can optimize and shift budgets to the best performing channel.

The main KPI I’m accountable for is the number of MQLs generated. For ROI, most of my analysis focuses on sources, because it’s the source that carries variable costs. Today I’m able to analyze each source as a single performance (cost against results) unit. Because Cato is relatively young, our historic leads data has only recently accumulated enough to allow cost analysis on Leads and MQLs. Today I know what each step of the funnel costs my organization. In the future and with more data volume I expect to go deeper into specific asset performance from a certain source.

Q. Is marketing held accountable for revenue?

Idan H.: When I budgeted for 2017, my forecast contained revenue values. So I sort of committed to a certain numbers of MQLs, QSLs, pilots and deals. While as marketing we don’t have a sales quota, we are held accountable when the funnel underperforms. For example, today we know that 90% of closed won deals have started from marketing leads. Whenever sales feel that numbers are running low, they do ask to boost the lead gen machine and they will even budget it.

Also, the management will absolutely request our intervention if, for example, the number of pilots is running low, or if conversion rates in other stages of the funnel are dropping. We, the marketing team, attend meetings with sales where the forecast is discussed, so I feel we as marketing have our finger on the overall marketing-sales performance.

Once per quarter we will be asked to report on lead to {{funnel stage}} costs and results. I believe that today, I have good enough fidelity of data.

Q. What are some of the things you have done that have contributed mostly to the success?

Idan H: There are several things we are doing here that enable the smooth running of the lead gen and conversion machine. First and foremost, a high degree of collaboration with the inside sales team, including almost daily meetings with the SD manager. I request feedback for each lead, why they were rejected. We hold weekly meetings with the full team to understand lead trends, raise issues and address them.

Second, I was able to show that we can produce a linear increase in MQLs if the budget would increase. I feel that we were able to build the marketing-owned parts of the lead-to-revenue machine because very early in the game we were able to show wins and value of the machine in a way that lent credibility to our demands for more budgets and responsibility.

Q. Summarize the key success factors in building a lead-to-revenue machine

1. Achieving quick wins. Proving a lead gen + nurture approach works on a small scale, and gain trust and funding to expand it.
2. Close collaboration with sales. There’s no way around it. You’re as good as your Sales Development team.
3. Building for scale and replication — the machine must be built that way from the start. The perception within the organization is that sales and marketing have built together an ‘assembly line’ of business.

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  1. […] The latter function should be of special interest. In a previous interview with Idan Hershkovich from Cato Networks, Idan mentioned that part of his role is providing the necessary funnel data to allow for short and […]

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About Idan Carmeli

A B2B marketing veteran with a penchant for the written word and a geeky fascination with technology. Through Converto, a marketing services agency he's founded, Idan combines his professional passions to deliver the benefits of marketing automation to B2B organizations large and small, especially through intelligent, well crafted lead nurturing programs.

Category

Lead-Nurturing, Lead-to-Revenue, Marketing Automation, Useful