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The Investigative Journalist: A Secret Weapon To Your Revenue Engine

March 01, 2024 Gary, Andy & Tiana Season 1 Episode 13
gtmPRO
The Investigative Journalist: A Secret Weapon To Your Revenue Engine
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome PROs!

Is the key to unlocking your B2B company's potential hidden in the most unexpected of roles? Join us as we introduce the hero of the B2B world—the investigative journalist—whose curiosity could very well be the linchpin in refining your Ideal Customer Profile. 

In this episode, we reveal how these 'Buyer Advocates' go beyond traditional market research, offering unparalleled insights into the needs and decision-making processes of buyers. 

This is a must-listen for anyone eager to understand the profound impact that a deep dive into the buyer's world can have on your company's go-to-market strategy, segmentation, and ultimately, buyer-led growth models.

Andy:

Started on movies and critics. Man, that's a close second to politicians. Noise me is pundits about movies. It is the biggest. Follow the leader. Like nonsense I was just. I was just watching the preview for dune 2. I'm big fan of the first one, which is a remake by the way watching it tonight. Yeah, so I was watching the preview and they were like comparing it to Empire Strikes Back and then the Dark Knight and I'm like Empire Strikes Back, I totally get as probably yeah, exactly, so you understand, but night is Exactly my problem with all of this.

Andy:

It is not that great of a movie right. It's okay and everybody like touts it as this thing because somebody said that somewhere and it became like a thing that like, oh, the Dark Knight's great, it's, it's a mediocre movie. Yeah we'll compare that to Empire Strikes Back. That's offensive.

Gary:

Welcome to the GTM Pro podcast, your essential audio resource for mastering go-to-market discussions in the boardroom. Here we share insights for revenue leaders at B2B software and services companies, especially those with less than 50 million in revenue. Why? Because the challenges faced by companies of this size are unique. They are too big to be small and too small to be big. This dynamic pushes revenue leaders into executive leadership without a lot of help or support. We are here to provide that support.

Gary:

Your journey to boardroom excellence starts now and scene Okay. Today we are gonna talk about a topic that is near and dear to us and something that we have Honestly yet to see. Any company, any company shouldn't say any company, any company certainly the lower middle market do well yet, but Believe and have seen glimmers of its power, and that is what we call the role of the investigative journalist. And so, for context, what that means is a person on the team whose sole focus is to Understand and explore every aspect of your buyer their internal dynamics, their organizational structure, how they make decisions, what's top of mind, what's, how do they think about problems, how they are evaluating solutions, which is, more typically, where and you'll see Pockets of the role of this investigative journalist already today across the company, as we describe that so well. Of course we have product doing its research. We have sales people listening to calls for for film review and sales training. We have marketing doing interviews and case studies. We have pieces of this, but the challenge is that In in almost every case, think of it as biased research, because we're going in asking questions for an outcome that we would like to see drive versus truly seeking to understand in the power.

Gary:

The ability to Bring this all together, all of this pocket of knowledge and have a really deep understanding, is unbelievably important, and here's we play it out, here's what we see right after. You get A lot of times that knowledge is wrapped up in the founder, and that founder now has been with the company for seven, eight years. We've grown to 10, 15, 20 million dollars in revenue. We've probably had multiple marketing people Through the company, multiple sales leaders through the company, potentially multiple product people, although sometimes their founders as well, in that that domain expertise is presumed and wrapped up in in one place and we do a superficial job of Pushing it down. I'm getting an interruption from a dog here wanting in the room I but Not doing a very good job of synthesizing it down and we provide relatively superficial depth of knowledge of the buyer and then we expect salespeople to be able to walk in and Understand and we ask them to do discovery questions and so kind of rambling there a bit, but it's it's.

Andy:

The comprehensiveness of the knowledge is more important than it has ever been voice of the customer has been brought, typically Religated to local Optima. To your point, each group Probably does their own version of that. If we think of win-loss analysis, we think of you know, you know customer interviews, qbr's with customer success and so on, and those all have a local purpose. The goal of the investigative journalist quite simply is to bring that to the higher level and have it synthesized, the entire customer journey. And the beauty of that is those, those customers that have been doing that on a local level are going to be the beneficiaries of doing it on a more global level.

Andy:

The other dynamic here to Gary, to that point, is companies that have grown from Zero to whatever they are, let's say, in five years time. To your point, they've had a number of different leaders in in the revenue roles often times, but also their product has evolved quite a bit. Oftentimes what, how they're serving their customers has evolved, and so therefore, the the moment of value which I harp on a lot, has also evolved. Right, that the type of customer and how they get value out of the product has also evolved, and Oftentimes what we're encountering is only now are we starting to see a pattern with that, both in whom the target customer is and how they're getting value out of the product. So you couldn't have done this a couple years ago because really a pattern had hadn't even emerged yet. But once you've matured a little bit you can start to extract that out, and that's that in my mind.

Gary:

In a nutshell, is what that Investigative journalists is trying to decipher you bring up a really good point, andy, which is and and we advocate, of course, for the biolet growth model, which is building blocks, sequential steps, and the investigative journalist is largely around Steps two and three, which are Jobs to be done in biodynamics. But you can't do that well if you haven't done segmentation well, if you don't really understand the customers that are your target customers whether it's by an industry or a use case or whatever that may be, but very, very well defined then it's going to be very hard to be a good investigative journalist in your organization, because you're chasing too many variants of that, do you?

Tiana:

think the investigative journalists can actually help here. Can they actually detect that the ICP is pretty much not really grounded on what it really should be?

Andy:

I would argue that the starting point for ICP is going to be what we would almost call your typical segmentation analysis. You know where your revenue concentrations are. They're concentrated and oftentimes that's biased toward pharmacographic data, but it allows you to narrow that down. I would absolutely say, tiana, that an investigative journalist can shape the ICP, especially around almost the more important dynamic, which is behavior, which is situation, which is a trigger around where they realize they had a problem that needed to be solved by this very thing, and, at a minimum, it validates the ICP regularly. That's not a static thing either.

Gary:

Right, and without that segmentation in place, I think to your point, the investigative journalist could actually point out that that segmentation or uniform agreement about what that segment is is not there, because they would point that out right. And to put a finer point on that, we often say that if you take pharmacographic, you could take two companies, and the point that Annie's making about going a layer deeper, that is where that level of understanding really becomes powerful, because you can take two companies that on the surface look exactly the same. They are of a certain size, they sell to a certain company, they're growing a certain rate. At the surface they look great.

Gary:

These are two companies that could be great customers for us, but one of them organizationally the way they run their organization is decentralized and so they have divisions and they have a different way of thinking about things and they report differently and they have different metrics internally for success. And one of them is more autocratic and more centrally controlled. Your product may actually be a better fit for the decentralized organization. That is not something that Zoom Info is going to tell you. That is not something that the pharmacographic data is going to tell you. The only way to get in and understand, that is, to be able to research the organization, understand why that's a fit where the dynamics of the organization exacerbate the problem that you solve.

Andy:

Yeah, a big piece of all this is pattern matching and ideally you have enough data, meaning customers who have had success and are having success with your product that you can first of all identify that and there's a little bit of you know, nuanced certainly to what is success. It's not they're really high ACV and they have great retention Like that's going to be an indicator. Certainly, you want high ACV, but it's not necessarily going to mean that they're having the best success. That means they're paying you, they're paying you every year, they're high retention. But success really is in a lot more nuanced things.

Andy:

Product data would be great to really show they're using multiple features, but it really comes in talking to them and in really understanding okay, we're doing this and, by the way, speaking of product being a customer, of this process, that's going to be a great feedback loop for them because they're oftentimes probably not approaching that research at that level and from that dynamic, which is how are people having success?

Andy:

What was their journey around solving this pain point they had? And then, lo and behold, they use your product, maybe even in a way you never even intended, like it's a part of this bigger engine. Whatever they're doing, and that's something you want to tell product about, but it's absolutely something you want to see. If there's a pattern, a pattern of a common symptom, set of folks, problems, those conditions, that deeper set of conditions around the ICP, you're creating that pattern match. And then how are they using the product From you know we talk about, from the mundane to the ridiculous. You want to have it all laid out because it's you never know up front what those patterns might be until you've really laid it all out and kind of looked at it.

Tiana:

So, this person's almost like a detective, but at the same time, I feel like he or she they really need to be communicated with, like every department in the company. They need to talk to product, to sales, to marketing and to customer success. And actually that drives me to the question like who do you think? What's the profile of this person? Like, what's the background or to what department should they belong? Or is it like more than a one person team Like, is it like a two person effort or a three person effort? Like what do you think that would work better for this to like be efficient and also to actually like drive an impact to the company and what like the purpose of it is?

Gary:

Yeah, that's a great question and as you were describing it, andy, and as you asked the question, tiana, the word buyer advocate jumped into my head right. The detective slash, investigative journal. The idea behind the investigative journalist detective is another good analogy is that you know, if you think about an investigative journalist, they aren't necessarily an expert on a particular topic, but they are judicious and thorough in how they go and research the topics so that they can present the facts on. You know a point of view of what other people say. And so, if you think about it as the one person in your organization who is and this is why we think it's so important is that, because the functions of the investigative journalist are split up into departments, there's no one person who is ultimately waking up every day with their mission being seeking to understand the buyer. With everything that they do, we just get drowned. Inevitably. Everybody is drowning in the operational needs of the business. We focus on us taking the initiative to allocate capital to this position and make them the effectively as if they were a buyer and helping us understand everything that they're going through. They don't have to do all of the things, but they are pulling and they are the central point, to interrogate all of those things so that we can, as an organization, get that out to the buyer. So obviously they need to be intellectually curious.

Gary:

I don't necessarily think that there's a depending upon the industry. There's not necessarily a requirement that they have some industry background. However, it probably is helpful. Right, the role is most likely going to live inside of marketing, although sometimes we've seen it loosely tied to some voice of customer role to product.

Gary:

I think the challenge with that is that it very quickly becomes they're in service to what we should build versus what we should understand. And this is a person who absolutely needs to be able to synthesize their research and their thoughts from a variety of whether it's written or interviews or what have you. And be able to write this doesn't mean writing content with a little C right Blog posts and ebooks and things like that. Almost think of it as a manual or the buyer advocate guide, from which everything else emanates. Marketing material, sales discovery guide, onboarding, even product roadmaps all emanate from this centralized understanding of the buyer and that's why I think the investigative journalist I think does a decent job of describing the mindset and skill sets required. I think buyer advocate is actually really what this person is doing.

Andy:

Yeah, just like business model design is really the function of buyer led growth and that can't just reside in one department, although you're like, well, it's revenue, is that a CRO type or a marketer? It's really the CEO and this is really the layer, in my opinion, that informs a well functioning buyer led growth motion, which is like that's business model. I think a key aspect of this role is tenacity, like if you're talking to a customer and they're gonna tell you and what do we hear? When we hear of a case study, it's a pretty superficial thing. Usually it's like okay, we've talked to XYZ customer and they did these things with our product. It falls way, way, way short of somebody else coming in and actually being like aha, that's me and I really like I see how this works for me.

Andy:

This investigative journalist will turn that on its ear and will get to and oftentimes have to get past the proverbial gatekeeper, which is the typical point person that customer success talks to in doing their QBRs. We wanna talk to a few more people, oftentimes as an investigative journalist, to say like who's the one that really found us? How did you find us? How did you know we were the right person or we were the right product. And how did you get to this point where you're doing all this with our product, like that can't be just that one person a lot of times that's the shepherd of things that CS wants that company to know. So it's deeper and that takes tenacity and they're gonna have to like as nicely as possible, say I need to talk to more people than just you, although you're the person that normally talks to my company.

Tiana:

Yeah. I actually wanted to ask like, how, exactly? Like does it differ like too much from customer success? But I think you just answered that. A question, yeah.

Gary:

I think you know, if you think about it's kind of a blend of roles. So the Well first it goes back to it probably most likely lives in marketing for a variety of reasons. It needs to have some autonomy from being sucked into the tyranny of just producing content and generating leads for marketing, because if that's the case, then you've lost the very purpose of the role. They need to be able to float above all aspects of your business and access any point where we have interaction with the customer. So, as an example, back to the point of they don't need to necessarily do anything, but they need to be able to extract information from motions that are already happening and or and influence them so that we get to those insights. So examples would be classic cases just listening to sales call recordings right, the wealth of information there, and not to listen to them to to coach salespeople, but what are? Well, the outcome will actually be that I really want to be part of this.

Gary:

But what is the buyer telling us, what questions are they asking? And then ideally, informing sales leadership on thinking about hey, if we actually knew this upfront, we would be doing a better job from a sales perspective. So that's almost the enablement side of the role. But let's not start there with the investigative side. First there's the onboarding calls. When we are bringing a customer into our product, we're probably asking a bunch of questions about what are your goals, what are you trying to do, who's going to be involved. Those are all peaks behind the curtain of what's happening there. And if you're listening with the filter of I'm seeking to understand what the company's trying to do and how they're structured and how they make decisions and who's involved, then you're coming at it from a different angle than your traditional customer success or onboarding approach would, which is I'm just trying to get you to an outcome. Ubrs is another example. Listening to those Product research whatever product interviews are calls that we've had Win loss analysis.

Gary:

They may. Frankly, I would suggest that they actually do the win loss analysis. There's product marketing interviews, there's surveys, there's share voice studies. Andy, you mentioned product usage information. They don't necessarily need to have all this, but they need to be able to have access to all of that and then be able to have their own conversations. The idea is that they are the person that is sitting inside of your company, who is so close to the buyer and understands them so well that when we are producing content or we are doing a discovery guide or we're onboarding, they're the only one in the room who can speak to. Yeah, the customer doesn't care about that, or they're not going to understand that, or we haven't considered what they have to deal with here. Here and here they're informing the organization to enable the buyer to buy, adopt, activate and expand on your product.

Andy:

Yeah, you mentioned win loss. You mentioned CS sales, doing even competitive research with a purpose around certain things, I think is another avenue. You mentioned sales and demo calls, for example, and I think that's going to be a manifestation of this over and over for a company, which is, demo calls are often feature vomit. You're going in there and you're just saying everything the product does and a manifestation of this done well would be you understand that prospect a lot better, even going into a sales call. Therefore, you have narrowed it way down. You're talking about a couple features and you're not even really talking about the features. You're talking about a system that prospect can create by doing this thing with this product happens to use a couple of these features that they're definitely going to get value out of. You're very confident they're going to get value out of that because they resemble these other customers based on.

Andy:

Maybe there's some discovery that can happen offline, maybe it's stuff you can just research to your point about. They do have multiple locations and we were able to figure that out prior to going in through looking at their website, not Zoom info, but we did find they have all these locations where they have operations. We knew that about them and we knew then that our product can do this for them and that's what we demoed. We didn't just go through a laundry list of stuff it does. That almost assuredly will be more effective, especially when you hit it. If you miss on that, I don't think you're going to pay a huge penalty. You can always go back and they could say yeah, that's not us and you can recover from that. If you hit that, that's almost always going to be more effective than just going through a bunch of generic stuff.

Tiana:

Yeah, what's the main impacts of having an investigative journalist in your team? What do you think is a good moment for you to introduce someone like this to your team? For the company? I mean from the cycle of the company?

Gary:

Well, cycle of company. I think you definitely need to be on product market fit. I think at that stage everybody. But this is a role that we see classically in the lower middle market. You have a customer portfolio, you have, obviously, product market fit, you're growing. It's kind of a broad question because it can be applicable in a lot of places, but specifically for lower middle market, we see this as a force multiplier. So, again, the CEO's primary job is to allocate capital to the organization to produce an economic return on that capital. Capital in software and services. Businesses is people and how those people spend their time, and so this is a decision to allocate capital in a place that, frankly, is very hard to measure. But it is a compounding bet on what's going to enable the organization and so the companies that are in the lower middle market call it even as little as five, but certainly 10 to 20, 30, 50 million in revenue. They don't have this role. And now we're getting down to brass tax.

Gary:

If you think about it, in marketing the most common place we see this. If you were thinking about the resources that you either keep or swap out or what have you would be this idea of the problem marketer. This is really that person. This is the buyer advocate who's understanding the buyer. A lot of times, there's a content marketer in place and the content marketer's role is to kind of be that, but they're so busy producing SEO, blog posts or whatever that is that, honestly, would probably be the first place that I would go is to elevate that person into being that buyer advocate role. They are still producing content, but they are producing content for the consumption of internal teams, and that becomes the enablement factor. And it may be that there's a you know, call it a wiki or a guide or a document or whatever it is that is a complete understanding and constantly updated about what's.

Gary:

Because you're not only are we changing as a company, but the market is changing all the time. Understand the competitive landscape, so, and then now imagine. So your company any company of size is has a 20% of its people that are, that are a tritting every year. So you're replacing 20% of your company across the board every year and if you're growing, even modestly, you're adding several new people every year. Well, in two or three years time, half of your company is different people.

Gary:

Now imagine if you have this central body of knowledge that brings people up to speed and makes them subject matter experts on the buyer and the industry and the products and the competitive landscape, and everything very, very quickly, because that work is always ongoing. There isn't some magic training that needs to happen, it's just there's this whole body of knowledge around here. Consume this and we're adding to it all the time. That is it. That is a massive game changer, as now these people who are new to your organization but come with skill sets, can deploy those skills against understanding what to do and why, because they understand the buyer.

Andy:

I'm thinking about the flying car content. Remember, we talked to a candidate about this very role and she was. She was talking about her boss saying, right, right, content about a flying car, and it was like something you know it was lower middle market B2B, saas, I believe, was the industry, and it was completely irrelevant. And you know that was that was like. The thought was well, it's, it's buzzy content that we can get eyeballs, you know, onto our website. Ultimately was, was the thought process right, but you just think about, you know, I was also talking about just generating website traffic.

Andy:

With display ads, you can put something, really catch you on the display and get people to your website. This is the the inverse of that, which is you're starting with what these people care about, what the mindset of the buyer and that's what that's what this role is is trying to permeate throughout the company, and obvious early manifestation will be informing that upfront content that will, you know, orient, orient that possible customer to what you are about and what you're trying to help with or how they can help themselves in a general way around something that's related. So it's it's the role of this is, throughout the whole life cycle of a customer is to orient the company around. That it's amazing. It's amazing to me how little companies sometimes really do understand about their customers.

Gary:

I think, andy, I think it goes beyond that. I think, in the environment that we are now in and will rapidly moving towards, is, for companies in the lower middle market, an abundance of too much choice. Hundreds of tools in a particular category. I'm not going to review hundreds, I'm not going to review 10. I'm going to review three. And the proliferation, constant proliferation, of information, video, audio text, written. I'm like I'm just completely overloaded so that when I seek to do there's just so, so much noise.

Gary:

The level of specificity with which you need to communicate your message has never been tighter.

Gary:

You cannot, even if you're off, two clicks if your frequency is off, just a couple of clicks.

Gary:

You go from being thoughtful, informed content to noise, and I think a lot of organizations are struggling with that change.

Gary:

Is that because we want we're addicted to volume and so we want content marketers, as an example, to put out blog posts about the seven hot tips that fill in the blank which, by the way, ai can produce for you in seconds today and we're going to publish that.

Gary:

And it's gotten to the point where those posts are so abundant that Google isn't even indexing some of that stuff because they see it as redundant and they're like, eh, not value-added. So in a lot of ways, this role of the investigative journalist is becoming imperative, because it's the only way that you can understand with enough depth where your buyers are and what they really want and need from you to understand so that you can create content that you can build product, that you can understand what they're navigating from a sales process, that you can truly understand the buyer. It's becoming non-optional, quite frankly, and it's going to be a very hard change for folks because it you know, this goes to a whole another topic of discussion, which is around the rapidly transforming business model of a B2B SaaS business, moving from transactional to, you know, a more thoughtful approach.

Andy:

Yeah, shooting at everything that moves comes to mind too. Like when you're, when you're starting out as a company seeking product market fit and trying to just generate customers, you're gonna take all commerce. And part of the hazard of that is, as you grow you start to extrapolate that a little bit and you know the, the product team, which oftentimes is led by that founder who's like we do everything for everyone. It kind of exacerbates that. So you start to think, well, I can communicate that way out to the market and to your point, gary, that that just really becomes noise very, very quickly. And we, I think all definitely here and firmly agree I mean adamantly believe that you're better off missing the target once in a while and being really, really specific than being too general. It's, it's almost always gonna be a winner now, just because you're, you're, if you're too general, it just it goes.

Gary:

It goes over people's heads and what's what's really compelling about that is it feels like you're getting overly small, but we're really honing in on this particular niche, and that feels scary and the reality is you are, but that's the only way that you're able to get that success and begin to compound that. You get this capital efficient growth. It also, if you're, if we're practicing what we preach, we're so in tune with what the buyers are dealing with and we're thinking about the jobs, it's going to open up opportunities for us to think about new products. New because all of a sudden, people are solving a job this way or that way. We like, hey, we now know this, this is a gap.

Gary:

We're bumping up against this. There either isn't a solution that's there, so we can build one, or there there are solutions that are there and we should think about acquisitions, so we can. We can complete the stack and be a single source solution for the product. Either way, that incredible insight gives you the next bowling pin, the next step in the equation is it a new buyer segment? Is it a new job within that same buyer segment?

Tiana:

but either way, it's the next bowling pin and we create that clarity, so it actually is a catalyst for growth when you get this specific yeah, and I feel like it also like gives something to every single department in the company, like, since they're really listening to everything the buyer is doing, I think product can benefit from it, marketing can benefit from it, sales can benefit from it, from sales pitch to to content, to actually what features are working in which aren't, and like it's it's all about, like the ones that you already have and the ones that are are starting the buyer process, and that's what buyer zones are also for yes, exactly, that's the, that's the enablement part of it which you know, really thinking through what that artifact looks like and again, like we've said, we've seen pieces, we've all seen pieces of it.

Gary:

We've seen in my experience people go through win-loss in a season and it's typically because they're losing more deals and so they want to go. Understand that. But it's never, ever ongoing customer surveys and research, something comes up we want to survey our customers and then then we survey the customers and we go away, share voice in the market. There's seasons to this stuff and we have a need or a reason and so we go and we get that insight and then we stop doing it. And it really is because it's a project or a certain thing and somebody says they need that product. It may be product, it might be marketing, it might be sales.

Gary:

Whatever, the reality is that this, the, the, the decision from a CEO to allocate capital to this role is. I'm going to make sure that this is always on, that this is something that we are. We are going to invest in and bring this all together and my hypothesis is that you'll actually it. It'll actually be a net zero investment, because the amount of money that you put towards this role will actually free up all of the other things that people are doing. You know hit or miss, and it's definitely up to your point. It's a compounding role, because now everybody in the revenue engine, even through product, has access to this same information and we're, all you know, using it from the buyer's perspective powerful powerful yes, all right.

Gary:

Well, that was a good one. We will put some more structure to that. You'll hear us be. You'll hear us talk about this because this, frankly, is one of our core pillars of what we believe B2B software and services, companies in the lower middle market in 2024 and beyond that. This is absolutely something that people should have. So you'll hear more about it, but until then, till next week. See you then. Bye. Thank you for tuning in to GTM Pro, where you become the pro. We're here to foster your growth as revenue leader, offering insights you need to thrive. For further guidance, visit gtmproco and continue your path to becoming board ready with us. Share this journey, subscribe, engage and elevate your go-to-market skills. Until next time, go be a pro.

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