Have you ever heard the saying: history repeats itself? Of course you have. Patterns are par for the course — whether it be history, relationships, or processes used for growing a business.
As I like to say, I’ve been doing internet stuff since 1997. Lately, I’ve been fortunate to help companies like Segment, Gorgias, G2, and Metadata scale from zero to millions of revenue. I’ve aptly been named “mad growth scientist,” – and I’ve got news for you today.
A new stack is emerging, and there is good historical data to prove it.
Nothing radically new is being done. It’s all incremental changes — coming in waves of construction and destruction, saturation and desaturation. Or, as we say in SaaS: bundling and unbundling.
A Bit of Internet marketing history
Outbound To Inbound Exclusively
It started all bundled. From around 1999 to 2010, the old old stack was focused on email marketing with companies like Marketo, Eloqua, and Pardot. It wasn’t a saturated market. Until it was. All of a sudden, marketing teams were all using the same software, sending similar-looking emails with similar strategies. Conversions started going down, and marketers needed an out.
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And that’s when a major shift towards paid happened, circa ~2005. (Remember, Adwords launched in 2000 but was very marginal at first). At the time, companies didn’t have a lot of data to work with. Email marketing was for post-sign-up only, and cold emails were reserved for B2C spam.
Honestly, it wasn’t that great of a time. We were spending our budget and flying blind.
HubSpot Leads The Way To Bloated Inside Sales Teams
In the early 2010s, brands like HubSpot, Sales Loft, and Segment enabled some of the transition towards feeding people with leads and driving them towards an inside sales team — you know, the people at the office always taking calls.
Funny enough, given what we know of HubSpot today, that time is a time of unbundling. We got a combination of cheaper acquisition (hello Inbound Marketing, where teams invest upfront and reap the reward of low CAC leads thereafter), much-improved user behavior data collection, and some level of sales automation.
B2B market acquisition had some good CRM data and systems of record to work with, allowing for a sort-of automated cold email process. It was profitable in the U.S. but only lasted around 4 or 5 years before starting a new decline.
Reinventing How Outbound Is Done
When I worked for Segment in 2018, I avoided bundled systems like HubSpot, Salesforce, and Outreach. Seeing the lessons from the prior decade, I knew that when you act like everyone else, you get the same results as everyone else. And performance drops. Bundled vendors aren’t excellent at anything, and I always strive for differentiation.
In my opinion, marketing’s goal is to create a competitive moat in itself (read: without help from the product).
In order to differentiate, creating a moat means a better user experience than my competitors could offer. In my mind, that means knowing more about my potential customers than they ever could.
We had to create a custom-built in-house solution that took data from sources like CRM, marketing-driven and product-led leads, and publicly acquired data like reviews, visitors to sites, etc., and then identify who was most interested in the solution and prioritize outreach to those folks.
The only issue? It was expensive. Like, really expensive.
While working at Drift, the budget was $270,000 in tech, with a massive 66% discount — (Hey, one has to use their leverage for the success of their company!). So around $800,000 worth of tech plus 3 back-end engineers. Expensive, sure, but it amounted to approximately 1300 demos, which was pretty good for us at about $1,000 per demo. But who else can afford that?
Most companies don’t have millions of dollars lying around for marketing experiments.
The good news is a new set of tools is starting to emerge that allows engineering-minded growth scientists like me to implement this stack without making those extravagant investments upfront.
The goal of outbound sales isn’t to generate demand and spam people. It’s to intercept potential future customers before they go to your competitors.
This is the future of outbound sales.
The Most Definitely New Stack
A new stack is emerging for a few reasons:
- Intent data is available as our work lives have moved online. Once upon a time, there were only one or two data vendors, such as Bombora. Now more are popping up like G2, Predictleads, Crunchbase, Store Leads, and Charm.
- The emergence of product-led growth. People sign up for free trials because no one wants to talk to a salesperson. Now they have more data, can reach out in a more personalized way, and do it at scale.
- Better availability of contact information. The more time people spend online, the more information is available.
- Intelligence and machine learning. More availability of folks can implement machine learning and help with predictions.
- Sales teams are bloated. It’s expensive, and the reply rates aren’t what they used to be.
In the old stack, the system was massive, intricate, and time-consuming.
In the new stack, previously human-driven experiences can be automated and personalized.
In the old stack, it cost a million dollars to gather leads.
In the new stack, achieve the same (or better) results at a fraction of the cost.
In the old stack, there was little data to work with.
In the new stack, there is more intent data available than ever before.
This perfect storm of accessible information and need for targeted automation creates an opportunity for a solution.
All you have to do is jump on this Bandwagon. To succeed, you need to be willing to stick your neck out and be on the cutting edge. Keep in mind that everything depreciates, eventually.
I’m very excited to be working with some of those emerging vendors to make this future possible. Vendors like Ultrarev, Predictleads, AmpleMarket, make what was once impossible for most companies… possible.
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