CMO Insights: Peg Miller, Vice President of Marketing, Tax Guard

October 11, 2017

This week’s guest on CMO Insights is Peg Miller, Vice President of Marketing for Tax Guard.

In this video, Peg talks about

  • Marketing to a tight niche which requires focus on middle of the funnel more than top of funnel for leads
  • Working closely with sales to develop marketing that drives conversions and closing those conversions to actual customers
  • The importance of her small marketing team to be willing to learn new innovations and stay agile in their approach.

Learn more about Peg from her LinkedIn profile and follow Tax Guard on Twitter.

For more great CMO interviews like this one, please check out our CMO Insights Playlist on our YouTube channel.

Full Transcript

Jeff Pedowitz:

Hello, welcome to Revenue Marketing Television, the CMO Insights Series. I am your host, Jeff Pedowitz. Today, we have with us Peg Miller, who is Vice President of Marketing for Tax Guard. Peg, welcome to the show.

Peg Miller:

Hey, thanks for having me, Jeff.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet. So tell us a little bit about what tax guard does.

Peg Miller:

Right. So tax card, we were going to very narrow niche of the market, helping commercial lenders do due diligence on their customers. So we go directly to the IRS, gather data and provide that to lenders so that they know if customers are going to be good for their loans or not. It’s very niche, interesting market to work within.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Oh, that sounds really fascinating. So from a marketing perspective, then whether some of the bigger challenges that you face,

Peg Miller:

Right? So, as I said, because we’re pretty narrow niche. Our lead funnels are not traditional and fat and wide, like some high volume lead funnels. We’re very narrow and targeted in what we do, which can be an advantage and it can also, you know, cause you to really stretch yourself. But we really focused downline a lot and mid-funnel and below so that we make sure we’re converting the people that we do talk with. Once we, once they understand our value proposition, they tend to convert well. So we’re less about very high in the funnel and more about mid to bottom funnel.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You said that your, your market is niche oriented. So are you employing more account based marketing techniques?

Peg Miller:

We actually are doing some account based work and sometimes it’s as basic as having our CEO go make an introduction at an industry event and follow up with another CEO and then kind of turn that off to decision makers and work through our sales team. So again we’re, you know, at times we’re deploying just sort of good old fashioned sales and marketing alignment, tack team tactics. I’m not doing a lot of automation there, but it’s more getting the team in the room, making sure anybody who touches a customer really understands, you know, who our key accounts that we’re going after.

What is their role, you know, from the presales on up to the CEO, through the sales and marketing team, and even with our post-sale, you know, kind of our tans or our customer success team that works with customers, post-sale we want to make sure everyone’s in line and really understanding the needs of that account, whether they’re in the prospect stage or they’ve become a customer with us. And like I say, sometimes it gets pretty old fashioned and manual, but that seems to be producing good results for us. And, you know, we’re winning business from customers like American express and bank of America. And so very large enterprises, even though we’re a, we’re a small company in the space,

Jeff Pedowitz:

Honestly, that’s really exciting. And it’s also very validating, right. That the bigger companies they’re going to, they’re going to invest in what works regardless of what the company sizes. So tell me a little bit then about metrics. What are you being evaluated on?

Peg Miller:

Right. So we’re evaluated, you know, we’re very closely aligned to sales and revenue. We look at the traditional marketing metrics through the funnel and we do a monthly review, both in our team you know, amongst the marketers, but then we share that out with the leadership team and of course with the CEO and COO to make sure we’re all in agreement, the things that we’re testing are they coming through the way we predicted and what have we learned through our experimentation models that we’re doing. So, you know, to get specific about our metrics, it can vary anything from conversion metrics on the website, how many people are converting into demo, what are their are they accepting a sales call after they’ve asked for one, are they converting after the sales call and how long are their days to close?

So, you know, it kind of moves into the typical sort of SAS metrics that you would think of on the revenue side of things. And interestingly enough, through some of the tests that we’re doing, we’re learning that you know, I’ll just give you a case study because I think it’s been interesting. You look, why not? But you know, before, all right, get a cup of coffee, something but the point is, you know, before I got there and, you know, the, the kind of marketing efforts that we were doing, we weren’t really being very aggressive on our website to convert people through our funnel. So we had, you know, a situation where we just, we upped the conversion, we changed the website, we fixed bad forms. We put fewer fields in where necessary. And then most importantly, we added just a good old fashioned, like I say, schedule my demo button at the top of our site and the navigation, and also embedded in the content that’s actually performing very well for us.

And so what we’re seeing is about, you know, we, we thought it’d be about half a percent of our website traffic, and that’s about what it’s running. Okay. Which, you know, is a decent conversion for that strong of a hand raise, honestly. And once we can get them on the phone with our sales team, we’re like I said, we’re seeing a conversion in the 25 to 30% rage and the days of close have dropped from nine months down to like 14, 15 days. So we’re seeing good solid hand raises there. And again, it’s, once people start to understand that value proposition, we sort of warm them with, you know, our, our white papers or our webinars that kind of explain where we fit into their due diligence process once they get that. And they start to understand it. And especially when we’re talking to the underwriters who, you know, are dealing with this every day, they get it and the conversation becomes less about, you know, why should I do this? And how would I actually implement your tool inside of my process? So we feel like we sort of crossed that line then into that close part of the sales process.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s awesome. So from a customer perspective, cause you said that you do at least in pre festival or you’re doing more mid and lower funnel. What, to, what degree are you involved in lifecycle marketing with your customers after the sale onboarding expansion or renewal?

Peg Miller:

Right. Well, that’s why I love what I do and where I’m at, because as I mentioned, we’re a, we’re a moderate, we’re about a $10 million company, a private company. And so growing at a pretty high rate. But the nice thing is there’s an appetite for innovation inside of the organization and also a very good sort of understanding of how marketing can implement and help drive not only the presales process and the closed process, but also the post-sale process. And I come from a background, obviously, you know, I ran the customer success team at Kapost when I was there. And I’ve always kind of had this love in my heart for the sales process, even though I’m a marketer, most of my career, I’ve worked in these other areas too, but I’m marketing first, but I really have an affinity towards pre sales and post sales.

So one of the things that we’re implementing right now, we’re in the process is sort of re-engineering our onboarding process. And that includes, you know, all the content that we’re providing and the scripts and the, you know, the guidance for the Tams of what you talk about when and reselling the value proposition. One of the most important things I’ve seen in the post sale process is often, especially in SAS and software, your user is different than your buyer. So you may have the sales team completely well equipped to close the deal and the buying decision gets made, and then you move into implementation mode post-sale and you realize, wow, these users don’t even know who we are or why they purchased our product or service. So we’re getting much better about re-educating that initial user, helping them understand our value proposition again, and of course, teaching them how to use our tool. 

And then just making sure that that process makes sense setting up key milestones, like what, how, how do we measure success? What is proper utilization of our tool? And how are we moving people along to get there? And so we’re, we’re just getting into those, you know, rolling out those processes and benchmarking it. And another cool project that we’re doing with our marketing automation provider, who I’ll put in a plug for happens to be net results based in Denver. And I knew to them, I’ve only worked with them at this company, but it’s just kind of in a light version of some of the marketing automation tools that I’ve worked with, which has been the right fit for us. But one of the things we’re doing with net results is we’re actually building an API between our customer portal and their automation system, so that all of our all of our customer outreach moves into our marketing automation system.

How it’s been in the past is that those are sort of disjointed coming from two different systems. And, you know, they’re sometimes at odds or, or you don’t know the total communications that you’re sending to any customer on any given day, week or month. So we’re really trying to tighten that up, set milestones and thresholds and triggers, you know, that cue up through our marketing automation, but also then send an alert to the Tam, Hey, this particular customer has been ordering 30 reports a month and they’ve dropped down to 10 what’s going on, let’s reach out to them. So what I love about this is, you know, in past organizations, I’ve had to use two or three or four or five tools to get that done. And now we’re sort of patching that together into our primary tool, along with our marketing automation and of course, queuing that at Salesforce.

Jeff Pedowitz:

That’s great. So, and it sounds like you’ve been taking kind of like a right sized approach to MarTech and in terms of how you build your structure.

Peg Miller:

Yeah, it’s true. I mean, you know, I have a four or five person team, so again, I’ll just say we don’t have a ton of resource. But we do really well with what we have and we still have a fairly complex staff, even though we try to, you know, buy things that fit us well,

Jeff Pedowitz:

It’s never easy, is it?

Peg Miller:

It’s not, I mean, you try to keep that creep down and make sure you’re not adding too many tools, but we’ve got, you know,

Jeff Pedowitz:

So I’m curious because you do have a small team I’m sure a lot, a lot of marketers in your position, we want to know, how do you pick, like what, what are the right skills you need in a team that size to get everything done you need to

Peg Miller:

Right. Well, I’m, I’m fortunate in that I inherited my team and they have a lot of industry experience. And so I’m really, they’re teaching me about the industry and I’m teaching them about marketing best practices. But I found that what I look for in a team is that range, that ability and when you’re in a smaller organization or even a mid market organization, need to have that range to take on additional new projects. And I think if you’re curious by nature, that can help you, whether you’re doing industry research or competitive research, or figuring out a marketing automation problem, or taking on a new content project, or what have you. So honestly, it’s, I’m just very fortunate that my team is ready, willing, and able to take on new, different things.

They never get bored and definitely have a variety of workload. I would say the other thing that we do pretty is we push our MarTech vendors to help us with projects that we can’t necessarily fit through, you know, the snake can’t swallow the mouse, our team. So and I’ve found that the people that we work with have been very helpful in, you know, offering to augment where our team can’t fit in or, or turn me onto an agency or a contractor or a freelancer who can help augment what we’re already doing. So we’re getting by.

Jeff Pedowitz:

No, that’s great. So what advice would you give to your fellow marketing executive on approaching the ever transformational process of marketing today?

Peg Miller:

Right. Well, I would just, you know, I always go back to stay close to the customer and your sales team, because any time you really understand the customer and your team really understands the customer that is going to carry you through and give you the answers that you need there, you know, there might be shiny objects along the way, but honestly, if you have a product or a service that is filling a specific customer need, that makes our marketing and sales jobs so much easier. So I just really recommend talk to real live customers beyond your surveys, beyond your percent of work beyond anything that you’ve done. As far as research gathering, you know, I was, we’re rolling out a new feature here in a few weeks and I was on some customer calls yesterday and literally it was taking down verbatim quotes that we’re going to use in our marketing materials. They’ve given us our messaging. Yeah. So what I’ve found is that your customers will give you the actual messaging that you need for going to market with any product feature or launch activity. So again, I just go back to that, listen to your customers, ask them questions, get to know them, learn about a day in their life. And when you understand that everything else just sort of falls from there.

Jeff Pedowitz:

Sage advice from Peg Miller, great stuff as always. Thank you so much for being on the show today.

Peg Miller:

Thanks, Jeff. It was fun. I appreciate you having me.

Jeff Pedowitz:

You bet. Talk to you soon.

Peg Miller:

Alright. Take care. Bye bye.

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