17 min read

Demand Gen for IT Services During COVID

2020 October 8 13:48 GMT-06:00

This transcript has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Islin:
Hey, my name is Islin with Theia Marketing. Today, I’d like to talk to Andy Jonak with Vicom Computer Services. Vicom is an IT solutions and service provider specializing in multi-cloud infrastructure. Vicom serves the New York Metro area and the tri-state area, and they also work nationally and internationally opportunistically. And I’m so excited to have Andy here with us, and he is the marketing director for Viacom.

Interview with Andy Jonak

Andy:
Well, thanks. It’s a pleasure to be here, looking forward to it.

Start of the Vicom Blog in 2013

Islin:
Exactly. I noticed that the first blog on the Vicom blogging page was in 2014. What made you guys start blogging?

Andy:
Yeah, so it’s interesting. Thank you. And I appreciate you noticing my blog. You would comment that on one of my blog posts earlier this year, I think it was, and I did see that and pinged you. So, thank you for doing that again. I appreciate that. I started blogging back in 2013 and know what I was looking for was that I wanted an outlet. I am thinking of a way to get the things that were on my mind to share my thoughts and experiences as it pertains to the world.

The way I look at it is I’ve always felt that if you’re supposed to be an expert in something or a purported expert in something, then the world should see that. So, I mean, that includes social, and whatever vehicle you choose, there should be something out to the world that shows that.

So when I first started blogging in 2013, I was director of professional services, sales from the organization. I’ve been at my firm for 17 years. I’ve had a lot of different roles and took over as marketing director in 2018. I was responsible for helping firms with IT solutions to help drive more services, sales, and professional services to help firms where they were trying to accomplish.

So I would go out and speak to lots of people, present. A lot of people do many Zoom calls. A lot of people, we did caseload the trade shows. We did vendor events where we’d go, and we’d speak in some way. And the way I’ve always looked at it. And we said, well, if I’m focusing on professional services out to the world, and then the world should see that in some way. And that’s, that’s why I pretty much did that.

I still publish monthly. I forced myself on once a month. Self-imposed once a month to get a post out there in some way around something around the IT world. So my next one’s about to go out. I’m a couple of days late. It’s pretty much, it’s about 98% on, I need to do some final edits, but that will continue. I think it’s important that it’s an outlet for me to show what I need, but the world needs to see that if I’m supposed to be some expert, like I said, or perceived as an expert, then I think the world should see some content out there that supports that. So it’s important. So my blogging all about and why it’s really important to me.

Islin:
Wow. That’s great. And we say professional services; you’re trying to get more of the IT solutions into people’s hands.

Andy:
Yes. So we might sell us a solution that might be a new network for the organization. We would provide the manpower to come in to speed it up, to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do when it helps support that as time goes on. So the people to help make sure that the stuff does what it’s supposed to do and provides value to the firms.

What makes technology firms grow today

Islin:
That’s great. What are the mechanism that makes it and technology firms grow today?

Andy:
Okay. You mean like us or what our customers would? The answer is pretty much the same, but in what capacity do you mean?

Islin:
Growing AR accounts receivable, it would be for you guys and your customers. I think for us. It’s, it becomes really obvious, it’s relationships with other companies and other people.

Andy:
Yeah. Interesting. Because that’s exactly what I would say. So for firms like us, I would say it comes down to having great people that are willing to go above and beyond. I believe that is one of the most important things out there to grow a business. If you have great people and great leaders, then all of the other things where you should focus, what you should focus upon. I believe that will all be figured out in some way.
It’s not that that’s not worker everything, but it starts with great people. We were not overlooking it too lofty as a firm in what a firm is looking to do, right. If you make sure it’s really good to focus on making sure it’s for us, it’s IT solutions and services.
So we really try to focus upon that. We focused on us as an example since 1982; this is what the company was founded for. So we’ve done that for 38 years, and that really hasn’t changed our strategies. Our tactics have changed, but in the end, we don’t lose sight of what we are and what we’re supposed to focus upon. And that serves us well and continue as well. And I think that’s where that’s what helps firms continue to grow in all capacity, particularly firms within the IT industry.

Biggest Sales and Marketing Lesson of 2020

Islin:
That’s great. Going along that route of having great people, 2020 has been a pretty tumultuous year, so far with the pandemic. What is the biggest sales and marketing lesson you’ve learned as a firm?

Andy:
Yeah, 2020 has been really interesting. The biggest lesson that we’ve learned and me from my role here is that it can all change very quickly and be ready for it if, for when it does. So my role is marketing director and conferences, pretty much everything around marketing, right? The brand, reputation, image, content, website, social demand, and generation events, probably a bunch more that all fall upon me and my responsibility for the firm.

But the most important thing that I’m focused upon and judged on, by the way, is the demand generation part, which is how do we bring new customers into the firm? So I’ve been with the firm here for 17 years; various management roles took over as marketing director in 2018 beginning of 2018. So in 2018, we kind of built a new foundation for the marketing piece.

2019 really started to execute on that. And as of the beginning of 2020, things really started rolling. So we had great momentum at the beginning of 2020 regarding new customers, really good things were happening.

And then the pandemic hit, and it all slowed down firms were not spending money. [Firms] didn’t want to buy new technology. Everybody just hunkered down, including us, to some degree, of course, but so we had to rethink on the marketing side, we had to rethink what we’re doing and how we’re doing it revamp things.

What caused me to realize that we can’t forget kind of the basic blocking and tackling if you will, the customers still need the solutions and services that we provide, and we need to be there to provide it to them. We hunkered down focused pretty much on the foundational stuff and the foundational stuff, by things like emails on cold calling and telemarketing, the occasional events we’re doing. And that is where pretty much all of the focus was pushed into. And the biggest lesson is a shortcut and change quickly and be prepared to react quickly when things do.

Nurture Strategy in Demand Generation

Islin:
Wow. When things were changing, what is your company’s marketing strategy now that you had developed in 2018 that built momentum over time? What were the different things in that?

Andy:
We put together this whole multipronged approach that they talked about, encompassed, and nothing in marketing is necessarily rocket science, right? It’s things like emails. It’s events, it’s calling, it’s follow up. It’s a nurture strategy using your website, your social, all of those other things, but, but where my role really, and the strategy continues to be, as we built upon the things in 2018 and talked a little bit about it is focused on the demand generation piece. Even though my role is director of marketing, it is the director of marketing and demand generation.
So the most important thing is whatever we can do to focus on getting new customers into the business. It is the emails, the telemarketing, the working with our strategic vendors, creating good content, with the web and the social piece for reinforcement.

Our approach is pretty straightforward, and it’s pretty straightforward and foundational. Cause I truly believe that those foundational things work and will continue to work in the midst of the pandemic. Things have slowed down a bit, but they continue to work. I’ll be it a little bit slowly, but over time they will continue to prove themselves out those foundational things as the things that will help us continue to grow and bring in new customers for the company. So that’s our strategy, demand generation. How do we continue to find new customers and do the things that we need to enable that?

Balancing Upsells and New Demand Generation

Islin:
That’s great. Do you guys also try and upsell existing customers too? Or is it after an IT project is over, it’s kind of hard to continue to upsell them or how? There are some stats out there that say your current customer is worth more than a new customer and do you, but then you go and look at a different publication, and they’re like, no, you do need to focus on demand gen. So like what, how do you balance those?

Andy:
That’s a great point. That’s a really, really good point. I’m sure it’s looked at differently depending on which firm and what marketing’s responsibility is for the firm. What I’m focused upon is new customers into the organization.

We deal with hundreds of customers that are existing customers to provide an icon that we continue to sell to and upsell to you. That’s primarily done through the sales team. They will continue to account manage and work with their customers to continue to sell, upsell, sell new things to them, and continue to provide value to them.
That is not where I focused on my marketing strategy right now. So we’ve pretty much taken a look at marketing and decided from ownership on down with me being part of that, that we want to focus on getting new logos, new customers in and focus primarily there and let the sales team grow their existing customers. So pretty much everything I’m doing all the content, the web, and the social that helps reinforce and help our new customers grow. But the foundational elements I talk about around dimension are all around trying to find new customers.

Business Comes Down to Two Factors: Getting and Keeping Customers

Islin:
That’s great. In that same vein of trying to get new customers, in the IT world, there’s something about, you know, getting so many seats, like getting so many users. What would your advice be to a company trying to get their first hundred seats or their first hundred customers?

Andy:
Yeah, it’s a, it’s a good one. There’s no silver bullet to anything that we do in marketing. As you know, it’s more a multipronged approach. But what I think I mentioned this a little bit for, you have to have great people and master the foundational stuff to get things moving. That’s what you need to do to get customers. You can have great systems, and you can have great websites and social and all these other things. But if you can’t use that somehow to bring in new customers, then I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing. I think firms need to focus on the value that they bring. So we try to do, what value do we bring? How do we differentiate ourselves out in the market as a company, as individuals all across the board, use that and try to make that be a differentiator for building the business?

Look, we all sell the same stuff pretty much around the same price. That’s just the IT world and the way things work. So what are the differentiators?

Generally, in many cases, it tends to be the people that you work with, the relationships you build, and the foundational things that you don’t lose sight of as you try to build the business and focus maniacally on trying to figure out what it’s going to take to get customers in, to bring those new customers in. That’s what I believe it takes. It’s not rocket science, right. But I think people forget that stuff, the foundational stuff that pretty much all businesses are built on getting and keeping customers.

Islin:
It’s about getting and keeping customers. So you see, the foundational marketing for you is emails and telemarketing. You had mentioned something called content telemarketing, which I haven’t heard of before.

Andy:
I look at that and the way I probably wrote that we do a lot of, again, foundational stuff. I look at it, emails followed up by phone calls and telemarketing, and I truly believe that those things continue to work. So what we do is we’ll send out lots of emails, focused around specific pieces of content that will get out there, and then we’ll follow up on them. We’ll collect link clicks. We’ll see who opened them, who clicked on links, who took additional action, and then we’ll follow it up by phone calls, and then we’ll continue to market to those people and nurture those people. So I look at it kind of like that good content followed up by aggressive follow-up, and that’s pretty much worked with us.

Islin:
That’s great. What are the different marketing channels that you’re using today? We had talked a little bit about events and email and others. What’s your channel approach?

Andy:
Yeah. Do you mean the types of firms we might work with or lean outside is, well, so let me answer the way I think you’re you guys? If I’m leaning on outside firms to do things, I will make lists and use your data to build out my database where I lean on other people and lean on firms and sometimes make appointments to help augment what I’m doing with our telemarketers. I occasionally use some firms to make explainer videos, such as those short, nice videos that some of what you do, because people are looking for quick nuggets of data to get out there.

But I also have the tools to do it internally. I just would be taught some times because it’s easier. Any of the content or things like that, the writing, the brochures, the blogs, the solutions we do any web social that’s done internally. And by internally, I mean, that’s pretty much me cause I’m, you know, I have a very lean team. We gotta get things done. Is that what you’re asking?

Islin:
Everyone has a different definition of what a channel is. You can ask someone on social media, website, blogging, or Facebook, Instagram. There are those types of channels. There are the channels that you’re talking about.

Andy:
I liked the email and the telemarketing piece. And I know it keeps saying that, but for me, that seems to work.

I look at things like social and web for our website is important. I think we have a nice, good clean website. It’s got good information we update regularly. But I look at that completely from a nurturing perspective. I don’t use that as, as a way that we’re driving business to the company. It’s a way to help reinforce the message we get out there when they go and look us up. And for me, that’s the same with social as well. We have thousands of followers, and between all our different accounts and we try to put the good stuff out there on a regular basis that we think is intriguing, insightful, that hopefully is eye-catching in some way.

But I don’t look at that in some way that will bring business into what we’re doing. I look at that as that’s nurture. We might’ve had a call with an organization. They’re going to go to a website, look us up. They’re going to see what we’re doing on social. And that’s going to help them hopefully their decision-making process, whether they would like to work with us or not based upon that. But some of those vehicles, I don’t think are going to, at least for us, fruitful in accomplishing what I need to, which is to bring in new business. I do like doing events. I used to do a lot of events. A lot is relative. But we used to do definitely onsite events in the New York Metro area where we do kind of lunch and learn type things where you bring people together.

You would do a short presentation at some restaurant or something and use it as an opportunity to network. That’s pretty much stopped right now that we’re going to do a couple more in a virtual type capacity between now and the end of the year. So I do like the events, but those can be expensive.

Frankly, what I like about the email and the telemarketing piece, it’s a cost-effective way to get things done.

I also really like webinars. I think webinars are a terrific thing. The challenge is everybody is doing lots and lots of webinars now. So being able to compete for the eyeballs to get people to come to your webinars is not really an easy thing right now. So we still continue to do them. I like doing them. I like recording them, getting up on our YouTube channel, getting them up on social, promoting them, and using those as part of the email stuff we do. But, it’s not easy to drive people to webinars because I think people are being webinars out in terms of the number and types of webinars they’re being approached about by all the different firms out there now, while we were all kind of locked down, working without the ability to be in front of people.

Islin:
Who was Zoomed out on webinars out right now?

Andy:
I think we all are. I mean, I do dozens and dozens of Zoom calls a day, as I’m sure you do as well. That’s what we do.

Tracking Basic Metrics for Demand Gen

Islin:
That’s true. Talking about the demand gen, what metrics do you guys report on when you are looking at your demand gen process, your marketing process? Are there vanity metrics, or do you know how many website visits translate to a customer or how that works?

Andy:
Yeah. For calling, we pretty much just track everything kind of your basic foundational stuff, right? The number of calls, how many connects, meaningful conversations appointments that are pretty straightforward.

I need to measure how many good quality leads that marketing brings over to the sales team. So when I do the website visits, I track that, but I don’t use that. And that might surprise a little bit. I mean, I don’t focus there. So I know the web traffic, I know what I’m monitoring. Still, I feel it’s pretty much for nurture only, as I mentioned for social, thousands of followers, good quality stuff out there, but nurture only, not necessarily a vehicle for business with the emails and stuff that I do, I do track opens and clicks and stuff like that. And we do use that as we continue to nurture people.

I need to measure how many good quality leads that I bring out to the sales team, whether they on target was the solution that we contacted them. We set up the call about what it was supposed to be when you had the phone call? Do we have the next steps? We track that information that helps them refine and improve what we’re doing around marketing to continue to do it better. Of course, the ultimate piece is how much revenue, how much business did these new leads bring to the company? We track all of that as well. And we do that through a really good CRM. So we use Microsoft Dynamics as our CRM system. We track everything within there because you have to. If you don’t track things well, it makes it difficult to see how you can improve. If you don’t have good stuff to measure, you know, how do you know what you’re doing? Right.

Islin:
Awesome. How do you differentiate between like an MQL and an SQL, a marketing-qualified lead, and a sales-qualified lead, or do they all get lumped?

Andy:
Yeah, that’s a great point. Of course, everything we always want is sales qualified, right? SQLs. So, and that’s what we hoped to try to bring most of the time. We’re actually trying to focus on the SQLs for the sales team. I try to set something up that is as qualified as possible. By the time the sales team gets it, then it’s, you know, there’s serious solution discussions that can be had, now that’s Nirvana, right? That’s what you want. That doesn’t always certainly happen. So I try to bring as many of those as possible in the efforts that we’re doing, but there are times when we’ll do you know what we’ll have fairly good marketing, qualified leads to that need a lot more nurturing.

I’ll do an email blast. I’ll collect the link clicks and the opens for a particular solution that we’re doing. I’ll give those to the telemarketers to call on. I look at those as MQLs. Those are not anywhere near SQLs, of course, to the point until we’ve had a chance to talk to them and try to set things up through our telemarketing efforts.
When they do that, we hand it over to the sales team, and then it would be more of an SQL. I try to find SQLs when we can mostly.

Still, there are times when some of the sales team, some of the more aggressive people on our sales team, will want some leads that perhaps are just more marketing qualified because they’re looking for some more to work on. I’ll give him some of those, how the email blessings allowed them to follow up on them versus the telemarketing team that I have for. So, um, I always want SQLs. It takes a while to get to them. So we occasionally certainly will continue to nurture the MQLs as well.

Handoff Between Marketing and Sales

Islin:
Great. Is there like a handoff process between marketing and sales? You look at the link clicks and then from like an email campaign, and then you hand those over to sales, or how does that work?

Andy:
We’ve got a really good close handoff system for this. With any lead that marketing brings in, it gets handed over to the sales team, and most of them are set up best cases, how we want them as SQLs our appointments, actual appointments set up for the sales team.

You can see that we have a call set up to call John Smith at next Wednesday at 9:00 AM to talk about X. So they would take the appointments. They provide feedback through our CRM system, where we keep really good records of everything we have to do, and they provide information back to me.

It’s this closed-loop which works pretty good. Not always perfect. Sometimes we need to adjust things a little bit, but the expectations for sales is that if you’re going to get a lead from marketing and we’re going to give you something to work on from this side, we went into number one, we need you to treat it like gold.

We need you to continue to provide detailed feedback because if I don’t have that feedback, how can I be sure I’m providing good stuff for you over at the sales team? So it’s not always necessarily an easy thing. Often, you know, the sales team members, they’re aggressive hunters out there doing their something, and then they don’t necessarily want to focus upon the administrative piece. I totally get that, but we need good feedback. When we get that feedback, we feel that we have a good, a good process, a good system that works for us in making sure that the sales team gets what they need in terms of good quality leads. And I get the feedback I need, so I can continue to refine those and find work. So that piece is absolutely critical.

Islin:
That’s great. You have that good process piece between you and sales, so you’re always constantly refining your message.

Andy:
Trying to. Again, it’s never perfect. That’s why you continue to refine it. Right.

Describe What You Do to your Kids

Islin:
That is true. How do you describe what you do as a marketing director to your kids?

Andy:
When my kids ask what we do, overall, there are two things when I say we do. So I always like to say that our goal is to help firms be better at what they do through the IT solutions and services they provide. Right. My role is marketing director is to help firms see and understand that. That’s what I tell my kids. I try to break it down a little bit. If I tried to tell him about the 64 different things that I do as part of my job, they don’t get that. They don’t quite understand that. So we want firms to understand what we do and maybe take notice. That’s what I tell my kids about that. And then they roll their eyes and they, you know, go out and do whatever they’re going to do.

Number of People on your Marketing Team

Islin:
Great. How many people are on your marketing team?

Andy:
You’d be surprised. It’s a very lean team. As director of marketing, I have a couple of part-time telemarketers and a part-time graphic designer to help me do the things I need. That’s it; otherwise, we do everything as lean as possible. So when I occasionally need to, I lean outside on firms to help me, whether it might be around occasionally calling. Most of the time, content is internal, sometimes on videos or other things, but I lean out outside when I need help occasionally. We have a very small lean team, and it seems to work for us for now.

Islin:
That’s great. That’s great to hear. Thank you very much for this enlightening interview about how you get new demand gen and new customers for IT services and how you view marketing. It’s been awesome, and I hope this will help our viewers.

Andy:
It’s been my pleasure. I like sharing and talking about the things we were doing. And, um, we get nothing. Nothing’s rocket science, right? It’s just putting good systems. We hope in place that we’ll continue to provide fruit and then refine them as we move on. That’s all we’re trying to do. And I imagine that’s like everybody out there in similar situations.

Islin:
That’s right. Thank you, Andy

Islin Munisteri

Written by Islin Munisteri

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