In this episode of Cybersecurity Marketing Unplugged, Shaina also discusses:
- A comparison between generating leads through impression-based tactics and using third-party content syndication programs.
- Advantages of driving traffic to your own landing pages including control and customization.
- The power of leveraging third-party brand loyalty and trust to validate your content and offerings.
- The importance of not putting all your resources into one tactic, but rather blending different approaches for a more robust lead and demand generation strategy.
- The potential impact of AI on the future of lead-generation tactics.
Shaina Lanchin Zarrin is the Head of the Digital Department at the pioneering B2B marketing powerhouse – Xtra Mile, an Israeli-based marketing agency that specializes in lead generation for B2B technology and cybersecurity vendors. Shaina has worked within the online marketing arena for almost 18 years and her expertise is deeply rooted in data-driven strategies and a solid commitment to performance-based marketing.
Further down the line in her career, she moved over to VP, Marketing and CMO positions with various startups. Landing at Xtra Mile just over 3 years ago, she’s working with some of the greatest B2B marketing companies, from SaaS to medical.
This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
Mike D’Agostino: [00:20]
Welcome to another episode of Cybersecurity Marketing Unplugged. I’m Mike D’Agostino, the general manager with CyberTheory and your host for today’s program. Thank you for joining us. So in a recent Cybersecurity Marketing Unplugged episode, we spoke with Freya Ward of Headley Media about the benefits of guaranteed lead content syndication, utilizing third-party media and publisher outlets. The strategy seemingly makes sense: capitalize off the subscriber base and third-party validation of existing reputable brands to syndicate your lead generation assets. These outlets typically offer a variety of mechanisms to distribute content assets, with many utilizing modern intent-based segmentation and targeting, and many offering guarantee the program’s taking away much of your risk, meaning they will syndicate your content to a targeted audience until they generate as many leads as agreed upon. But are you better off trying to procure leads yourself via your own channels and tactics? Use search engine optimization to drive organic inbound leads and traffic, PPC programs, social media, both free and paid, programmatic display and retargeting, lots of impression-based tactics? With these strategies, you’re effectively in complete control, driving traffic and potential leads back to your own website and landing pages with complete transparency. So what are the advantages and pitfalls of each strategy? To help us unpack it all, we’ve asked Shaina Zarrin, head of online marketing at Xtra Mile, an Israeli-based marketing agency that specializes in lead generation for B2B technology and cybersecurity vendors to offer her insights. Shaina, welcome to the show.
Shaina Zarrin: [02:31]
Great. Thanks for having me.
Mike D’Agostino: [02:33]
Great to have you here. And just to kick things off, for anyone in our audience who is not familiar, please, if you could spend a minute or two, walk us through a quick background on yourself and Xtra Mile and provide a glimpse into your experience as a lead generation marketer.
Shaina Zarrin: [02:52]
I’m Shaina, I work within the online marketing arena for almost 18 years. I come from a background of performance-based marketing and coming from the industry of gaming and gambling, where everything was measured worldwide, basically. So any money you were spending, you needed to make sure that you are showing pure profit on them. And further down the line in my career, after 10-11 years within that industry, I moved over to startups where I was VP, marketing and CMO in a startup, and eventually landed at Xtra Mile, and been here for over three years, and been working with some of the greatest B2B marketing companies, from SaaS, to medical. We have B2B, we have everything.
Mike D’Agostino: [04:03]
That’s great. And you have such a long history of managing these types of lead generation campaigns. I know some of the industries that you mentioned are highly competitive and numbers and results oriented. So I would imagine that you have a ton of experience managing high and significant volumes of traffic moving toward lead generation exercises. Why don’t we jump into our discussion points as we have a number to get through in the next 15 minutes or so. So as you stated, and I understand, you become an expert in what I’m calling impression-based or traffic driving tactics to produce leads and move them through the buyers’ journey. And I’m sure you’ve learned so much throughout your career thus far, but can you touch on from a high level like, what do you perceive as the ultimate benefits to taking that type of approach when it comes to lead gen.
Shaina Zarrin: [05:09]
I believe in this approach in the sense that when you’re doing very impression-based targeting, you’re taking charge of how your target users are going to perceive you and how they’re going to see you, meaning that you can pave the way from how they will see you the first time they encounter you to how they will continue encountering you on an online marketing funnel, and based on what your target audience or the pain points, you can create a personal funnel for them. And I think that’s why I am a big believer in this because, for example, you have bigger brands that are very B2C as well, or B2B, that have high brand awareness around themselves didn’t come in one day, Coca Cola, Microsoft, they didn’t just happen, and therefore, that they are one of the number one brands in the world. They put a lot of effort in brand awareness and making sure that the thoughts you have for them are based on the way they wanted us to perceive them. So I think that’s why I am a strong believer in that matter of pushing your marketing efforts. In that way, I can decide on how I want them to see the first impression they have with me and how they’re thinking of me. And then afterward, when I start talking about my solutions and what I can offer, then also there, I can make sure that it’s I, as a company, want my target users to see me. So I think this is why it’s an important way of doing your marketing on.
Mike D’Agostino: [07:27]
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, quite literally. I’m hearing that as well. And some side benefits of taking that approach, which is the awareness that’s being generated. So in addition to being relevant for lead generation, you’re also creating some brand awareness and equity and doing so in a purposeful manner. But if we talk about on the lead generation front, how would you compare this approach? How would you compare this approach to the guaranteed lead generation content syndication programs via third parties?
Shaina Zarrin: [08:13]
I think firstly, and importantly, as both are great to have, I must have both of them. I think it’s important to have third-party leads coming in. But I think it all depends on how you’re going to nurture them, because when you’re getting third-party leads coming in to your marketing automation system, you need to make sure that you’re also flagging them accordingly, making sure that we’re asked the least, that I would be providing, if I start from awareness to consideration to conversion, from the top of funnel to the bottom of the funnel, I can control the messaging, I control how I’m going to speak to them. I’m basically controlling how they are coming into my marketing system, meaning my HubSpot and Marketo, whatever system I’m using, whereas when I’m getting the third-party leads, I can offer some kind of assets, but I don’t know what they’ve seen before. I don’t know which journey they’ve been until they met me. Have they been influenced by anyone else? There’s a lot of “what if” so I think it’s important when you have these two different kinds of leads. When they get into your marketing automation system, you make sure that you nurture them differently, you make sure to provide them with a different funnel there. And that’s how I would do that.
Mike D’Agostino: [09:46]
So you need to do both. Understood. And there’s some benefits to both. But isn’t it easier to pay a third party and have them do whatever they need to do in order to produce the leads via some content syndication for you, let them worry about segmenting their database sending, however thousands of emails or whatever promotions they utilize to generate engagement, as opposed to you doing all the work?
Shaina Zarrin: [10:20]
Well, it depends. When in the funnel, where you want to influence them, it’s easier just to receive leads and not worry about the preimpression that was taken on them. But again, this is where we need to bear in mind that these leads that are being pulled into our systems, they’ve already been conceded, they’ve had some kind of impression around us, and we don’t have the control. The question is, if you do want to have the full control you want, you’re willing to let go. And so it’s a bit hard to have this, there is no right or wrong answer here, it depends on how you want to influence them. And yes, it’s always easier to get these leads ready. But on the other hand, it’s much harder to eventually convert them down the funnel, as you don’t have the preknowledge of what they’ve been exposed to. It’s just important when you have third-party leads that you somehow make sure that you identify these leads, and trade list of them, and then provide them a nurturing plan that’s personalized for them in order to not justify, but to make up for you not being part of there at first impression funnel. And I think that’s, in terms of third-party generated leads versus the ones that you’re generating yourself.
Mike D’Agostino: [12:22]
Yeah, that makes total sense. And I think what you were alluding there to a certain degree is that intent data, understanding what they’ve engaged with beforehand, that’s in your control, when you are managing the impression-based tactics or the ads that you’re serving, or the emails that are sending out, you’re in complete control of understanding what that user has done, what they’ve clicked on, what they’re reacting to, when it’s within your own ecosystem. Otherwise, if you’re relying on a third party, they’re saying, “trust us,” they’ve done those actions and here’s your lead report. But there is something else to consider, though, about going through third parties. What about the third-party validation aspect? It’s one thing to send a promotion for a white paper, let’s say to your own in-house subscriber list that’s originating from your brand, but it’s another to have a third party who already has built up significant brand loyalty and trust with their subscribers to have them syndicate a piece of content on your behalf. There’s a built-in transfer of trust, which is very powerful, in essence, vouching for you and your assets and providing the “okay” to their subscribers to trust you and your content. How do you replicate that on your own?
Shaina Zarrin: [13:52]
I think that’s definitely something. It’s not like you’re using ZoomInfo, for example, and you’re getting a list and you have a company and then you have these leads from this. It’s like using a third party, it’s like using influential marketing. You’re using someone that’s well-known, has a trusted name and the audience knows that they can trust them and therefore, you’re getting in on a heads-up there, so I’m definitely with you. If these are the third party, what I then do is always recommend that even though when you’re getting your leads through influencer or a trusted company like ISMG, then I would even take these leads and I would then create a new funnel for them which you can do with tools like inFlow 2 or Apollo, where you can target the same. You have the list of these leads and you can control them together with, for example, Salesforce, so I can say, “I’m going to target Mike now even though I’m not trying to get a lead from him because he’s already in my system.” But now I want to try to start influencing him when he goes on LinkedIn or if he goes on Google ad networks, and I want to reach him with these different messaging, and that would be something I would put as an ad-on. And because I’m not going broad, and I’m with few small lists, it’s still going to be minimized and the impetus to add that funnel into my marketing efforts. So the third-party leads depends on where are we getting from them, who are providing them? And then also, what am I going to do afterward, even though someone strong gave me these leads, and they’re coming in because I have this. This, I wouldn’t call it free trust. But it’s fee trust, because an influencer came in and push my name. And I still want to make sure that I somehow afterward are going to follow him and control a bit of what he’s going to, his image of me afterward, because it’s not enough that Bill Gates is going to say that, and that you miss a great company example. But I need to make sure that afterward, I’m following up on that right after the first impression, then I’m making sure that I’m living up to my name. So that’s also something that’s important when you’re using third-party leads, especially coming from someone a trustee.
Mike D’Agostino: [16:35]
So if I’m hearing correct, it’s the third-party validation gets you in the door. But you need to make sure your practices afterward are up to speed. We talked about these guaranteed lead content syndication programs, takes a lot of the onus and work off of you. There, supposedly, many of these entities are going to utilize some form of intent data or engagement data to target people, you’re capitalizing off of their third-party validation. But what about the downsides and the risks? What have you seen when it comes to utilizing these third-party media outlets? You’ve already touched on one of the big ones, which is, you’re getting this contact, it’s seemingly entering your database almost randomly. You’re targeting them, you have certain criteria that you’re going after, but they’re almost anonymous before they enter your database. What are some of the other risks or downsides that you’ve seen when utilizing these types of programs?
Shaina Zarrin: [17:53]
I think that’s the strongest ones that you just mentioned. The problem is that you’re pushing leads into a database that are of non-interest, we’re not necessarily even at the stage that they even want to hear from you or talk to you. And you’re making it a – I don’t want to use the word dirty because it’s not dirty, but your CRM and your marketing automation system needs to be clean and smart with the leads, and like in drinking water, I’m putting something that is unhealthy, it could be anything but if I’m polluting my clean water, then I start having a problem. It’s like it’s growing in it, because it’s going to be harder for me to understand who are the right target audience that I want to utilize my budgets that I have. And a lot of B2B companies don’t have huge media budgets. So we need to make sure that when we’re spending our advertising money, we’re spending it on people that we know are of interest or want to engage with us, and not just anyone that has the right title. So I think this is the first biggest downside of using these third-party companies. And then also sometimes in general when you’re pushing in. For example, I take a list and I start targeting them on LinkedIn or on Instagram, wherever I watch on Google and Bing, and if I can reach them there. Unfortunately, what happens is that because they aren’t always at this place where we’re there, even in the interest of getting to know, you can become spammy, meaning you’re showing up in their emails, being without them recognizing you and/or approving it, and you can show up over across everywhere, they’re surfing online, and that can basically bring you to their first impression, or the second mode is very negative. And it’s hard to get out of that afterward. Because then you’re just going to be a spam material for them. And I think these are the two things, it’s important to make sure that you’re not getting there. Because if you’re going to start annoying your target audience, just because if they’re going to hear from you that day, they’re not going to have the next step with you. Even if you have a great product, they’re not going to even be willing to take a demo with you. And I think this is one of the bigger risks.
Mike D’Agostino: [21:06]
Yeah, it’s that brand continuation, so you get in the front door, utilizing a third party based on their brand equity, but then it’s falling in your lap. And it’s left up to you to continue on with that and totally understood with regard to data management, because you’re relying on third parties, you need to be extra critical in terms of anything, from validated email addresses, phone numbers. And otherwise, if you’re going through great lengths in your own database, as far as data cleansing goes, you want to make sure anything that you’re importing is up to the same standards. And some third parties might not have those same standards that you do. And you’re missing out on the engagement and intent data. That would be a signal to you in terms of how to follow up, other than just that one single asset access. But you did bring up something here, which is in terms of: we keep using this terminology “lead generation” but after you acquire those needs, it turns into demand generation. Once you acquire a contact, you want to continue to bring them down the funnel. So, this is somewhat of an endless conversation and debate. And what I’m starting to take away is that there is no one “be all end all” solution, and most marketers would probably recommend not to put all your time and energy and budgets into one tactic. So perhaps the best path is to do both. How would you recommend potentially utilizing both the traditional impression-based traffic driving techniques, combined with content syndication through third parties? How can you work with both to make it even more effective?
Shaina Zarrin: [23:06]
I wouldn’t even say more than both. It’s all about not putting all eggs in one basket, I think both need the third-party leads; you need the media buying and the PPC campaigns, you need your social media intact, you need to do all your search campaign, as well. And supporting it, if it’s even connecting at events, and if you are a brand that can, it depends on the audience that you’re trying to reach. But offline campaign also. So I think it’s all about doing everything or trying to do everything and then making sure what’s working and optimizing toward it. But I think if you use a bit of everything, and combine it and create the right strategy and a funnel of how someone is going to perceive you and meet you across the different channels, that’s the only right way to do online marketing. So, for example, if I do get third-party leads, and eventually down the funnel, after I know that they are based, for example, you’re doing a scoring plan within your marketing automation system where you’re doing a lead, eventually they’re all going to get the same strategy, eventually when you know that they’re all at the same place at the same time. But until then, you need to make sure that you’re either not spamming them too much, not trying to push on them too much, that your awareness is behind the scenes, that they feel they know you when they’re going to start, that you’re going to start approaching toward them and they already feel comfortable with you, they feel that they already know you and then start providing them with added values that can help them in their day-to-day work and then afterward, when they feel comfortable that you are trusted not only by them, them hearing from a trustee or from an influencer, but also directly getting feeling because at the end of the day, B2B, B2C, we’re all people there. It’s about touching into people and feeling that they can trust you, and you are an added value to them, and then afterward, eventually, the funnels get together, and then you start approaching them exactly the same way. And then they go into the same nurturing plan. When they all get into a certain stage within that, and if that means that they get into a demo, and then they’re not ready to complete a purchase yet, or whatever that is, then they eventually go into a new nurturing flow, then they’re all combined. So I think it is like, when you have as many rivers and eventually they all go into the same lake, or the same river. And I think that’s what’s important with marketing that eventually all your different sources, they lead the same way. Or if you’re all sitting on the bus, and eventually the bus is driving the same way, even though you’re sitting on different seats, and I think that’s super important when it comes to marketing.
Mike D’Agostino: [26:37]
Absolutely. And I’m happy to hear “take these leads and hand them right to your sales team.” Everything that you’re saying is about follow-up and nurture and continuing buyers’ journey. And we’re being very sensitive here between lead generation and demand generation. Lead generation is the exercise of acquiring a contact based on them interacting with your brand or assets in some way, shape or form. But then demand generation kicks in. I think far too many marketers and sales organizations, whether they are utilizing third parties for guaranteed lead content syndication, or they’re driving traffic to their own website, they’re using one single action, one single brand engagement, one single asset download, and they’re equating that to a sales ready lead. And that is for the most part fiction. You may find some diamonds in the rough that are potentially ready for a sales conversation, but the name of the game is nurturing and having a strategy to create that demand. But ultimately, what I’m hearing from you is I think we’re in agreement that both approaches are beneficial. And what an interesting approach might be is utilizing third parties. Your first stop is to do these things on your own, you should have an SEO program in place, you should be utilizing PPC and social media channels, you should be engaging in programmatic and retargeting. But if you’re utilizing third parties for lead generation, take those leads, those first-line contacts, import them into your own systems, and then use these other channels that you already have in market to continue to nurture them, continue to create demand and continue to bring them through the buyers’ journey until you’ve identified through lead scoring program, or otherwise, that they are ready to engage with sales.
Shaina Zarrin: [28:52]
Exactly. And it’s so important we see it all the time that we won’t lead you on these. They get the leads, and they contact them directly. It’s like taking a woman on a date. Sometimes it works to go too fast and sometimes it usually doesn’t. And I think it’s just about going too fast. And we see it all the time. These leads don’t want to talk to us when they don’t know us yet. You need to understand that yes, you got them already, the first step into the door with some trust from our valued company that is promoting you guys and giving heads up, but it’s not enough. You guys need to show your own value as well and you can jump over that phase and I think it’s important and I wish that more people would understand that, but I also want to add that when we sit with clients and we explain them what I do, and sometimes I let a client, “You want to go. Would this style this way? Let’s try and I don’t agree with ABC. But let’s try it,” and then they see what’s happening. And then they agree to, “let’s try it the way that you guys recommend and then we go that path and that shows better results in the end of the day.” We can measure everything by numbers, that’s the end of the game. I can measure that conversion rates are better, or the CTR is, and how we’re retargeting our audience and how we are re-engaging with our audience based on what are their needs, how they are acting. Each campaign is created differently, based on their engagement, how we will retarget them. If it’s people that go to the website, and how long they’re staying on the website, or someone that goes to a forum, and they might be engaged, so this is important. People need to understand that you can just skip over it even when you get third-party leads from different places.
Mike D’Agostino: [31:14]
Absolutely. Well, this has been great. And I have one more speculative one for you: AI. Do you see any implications when we talk about this type of lead generation and demand generation? How do you think AI is going to have an impact?
Shaina Zarrin: [31:35]
I’m not sure how it will play or have an impact in the long term, only time will tell. I think the way people are searching the internet is becoming different now. Because before we would type in keywords, now it’s more about typing in the right questions in order to get the right answers. And there’s a lot of tools that’s going to help people do online marketing, that’s for sure. And it’s going to be easier and, but long term, I think at the end of the day, what will happen is that people want to go super AI and maybe going into having everything automated or thinking that AI will give us the answer to figuring out that when it’s not AI and when it’s not created, a human being is going to create it, that your online marketing strategy is going to be better still – I don’t know, only time will tell. But that’s how I see that everyone thinks that automation is going to help us and creating and machine learning and non-machine learning, but artificial intelligence is going to be the new future. But what’s going to happen is they’re going to see that campaigns in the end of the day, people know people and we will know how to talk to people, even when we’re going to get into the types of more robotic language. And I think then the human talk is going to be the one that’s going to save us from, or going to be, showing the better results. But it’s just a guess out there. So I don’t have a real answer unfortunately for you, Mike. But it’s going to be interesting to see how it’s going to impact, but I don’t think it will be able to substitute people and talking in that way. I don’t think that it’s going to be able to substitute that.
Mike D’Agostino: [33:46]
Absolutely. No one can predict the future. I think it is somewhat here to stay for the time being and if anything, definitely has some good marketing and sales implications, even if it’s just for basic content generation. But yeah, even offs. As far as our experimenting with AI goes, nothing can replace having a human oversight. You need a human even to prompt what you’re looking for. But even after something has been generated, to think that you can just take the output as it is and post it is a little bit of a misnomer. You definitely need human interaction or human intervention there. And maybe everything will come back around full circle and we’ll just be using AI as a crutch in the future.
Shaina Zarrin: [34:37]
Like fashion. It always comes back. I’m seeing my kids wearing things that I wore, always somehow come back.
Mike D’Agostino: [34:45]
Do they have the bell bottoms on the pants yet or not?
Shaina Zarrin: [34:50]
They’re not there yet, and I thought that would never come back!
Mike D’Agostino: [34:55]
Give it a couple more years and I’m happy that you used the dating analogy for lead generation, I use that all the time. This has been great. Appreciate your time and insights here, you’re definitely an expert when it comes to lead generation. Again, main takeaway from me is that no one size fits all, you need to be doing both. And there are probably strategies for incorporating both traditional impression-based lead generation tactics with guaranteed lead content syndication via third parties. Don’t put all of your budget into any one specific tactic, you should be trying to coordinate and orchestrate and trying to make the best out of all of them. And probably the most important thing for me is that we’re talking about lead generation, not necessarily sales qualified leads, no matter if you’re generating a “lead” through a third party or it’s coming through your own channels. You need to do more work after you acquire those leads before the handoff to sales. But this has been great. Really appreciate your time here. Thank you for contributing to another episode of Cybersecurity Marketing Unplugged, and we’ll have to do it again. Thanks for having me. All right. Take care. Thank you for everyone for listening.