On Monday, Jan. 11, Liz Pearce, CEO of LiquidPlanner, joined Bizible for a fireside chat during the monthly Pipeline Marketing Playbooks meetup. Pearce began her marketing career with PlayStation, before moving to Google and then Amazon. In 2005, she decided to break away from the big guys and began her own consulting business. It’s through this business that she connected with the founders of LiquidPlanner.
She was hired as VP of Sales and Marketing in 2007 and then moved to COO in 2011. When Pearce took over as CEO in 2012, LiquidPlanner was 15 people. Today they are around 65, with 7 full-time on the marketing team.
Below, read the key takeaways from the discussion and learn how Liz Pearce grew LiquidPlanner from a startup into the top project management software for technology teams.
Pearce says success does not happen overnight. You must be willing to put in work and take on responsibilities in new areas.
“We went to market and then we were like, ‘oh we have to sell the product’ and it was me and five developers, so I was like ‘I guess I’m going to do it,’” she says.
LiquidPlanner had a consultant for one week of bootcamp training and then went to work on the phones. After that, all decisions were based off of instinct.
As they started to sign customers they realized they needed to support those customers. At that point, they began to make a small number of hires in key areas. They’d hire a single marketer to create demand, then a single sales person to fill that demand, then a single customer success person to serve those customers. That process remained for five years.
LiquidPlanner began as an idea. And with any great ideas the next step is to determine demand. Once it was clear there was money to be made in project management, LiquidPlanner went to work developing its product.
Since the company was only five people, everyone worked on the product development team. The key was to be in constant communication with customers, take their feedback and implement it into developing early versions of the product.
“We’ve always had a product-first view in the way we approach demand generation. It always comes back to the product,” says Pearce.
Buyers these days are savvy and want to understand the product right away. In order to achieve this, you must develop a strong marketing plan that creates consistent, easily understood messaging.
Get excited about your product and pass that emotion on to your customers. In the early days, word of mouth advertising can be the tipping point for a company.
Once you’ve developed the best possible product and created the messaging to showcase it to potential customers, it’s time to get to work on deciding which channels are the best fit to market the product.
In the beginning, the main priority for any company is to get its name and product out there. Because of this, it’s beneficial to use any and every channel available to establish a presence. Pearce says that LiquidPlanner did tiny paid search campaigns with a budget of around $500 per month. They were blogging, using social media and networking to spread the word in their community.
At a certain point, the company grows large enough where it can pick and choose which channels are the best for marketing its product.
Marketing attribution tracks all of the touchpoints a lead has through the funnel and assigns revenue credit to each once the lead converts to a customer. With this information, it’s possible to see which channels and marketing activities are having the most impact on revenue.
For Pearce and LiquidPlanner, accurately optimizing channels was a struggle for the first 8 years of the company.
“We could not get Google Analytics to give us the right data, so we had directionally which channels were leading to the top of the funnel, but we had no idea which activities were leading to customers,” she says. “We’re fortunate now to have good marketing attribution in place, and it is a huge game changer. We’ve improved our efficiency at the top of the funnel by 30% in three months.”
Now, during planning meetings goals are based on a reverse funnel. Pearce says they start backward from revenue to see how many deals they need to achieve the revenue goal, back to how many opportunities they need to achieve their deal goal, back to how many leads they need to achieve their opportunity goal, and so on.
Everything is based on attribution data.
In the past, LiquidPlanner was marketing to anyone and pushing those leads into free trials. But now that they’ve had true attribution data for three months, it became possible for them to create a good outbound strategy.
Planning for 2016 really came together around account-based marketing and moving upstream to sell to larger deals to bigger companies. With an account-based approach, they’ve defined their target customer as technology teams and are laser-focused on selling to that customer segment.
“It’s different than executing on the 2015 plan, we didn’t have nearly the data we do now,” says Pearce.
Although it can take time to sync up thoughts and actions between the sales and marketing teams, attribution has pushed that process along for LiquidPlanner and has their sales and marketing teams working together in a way they never have before.
“I think it cannot be successful unless marketing and sales are in a good place,” Pearce says. “It’s like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with only the peanut butter, it’s just not as good.”
Join us for the next Pipeline Marketing Playbooks featuring Peter Hamilton, CEO at Tune.