Episode 84: Optimizing the Marketing for a Sales Funnel – Hardy Kalisher

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 84: Optimizing the Marketing for a Sales Funnel - Hardy Kalisher
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The top of the funnel and improving, augmenting, and optimizing the ability to start conversations with whales on a consistent basis for higher revenue and a higher lifetime value is at the top of most listeners minds. Hardy Kalisher is the Executive Director of  Parallel Path out of Boulder, CO. He is here today to talk about more of the marketing side of things.

His focus is generating awareness and serving up those great opportunities for us. Parallel Path is a digital marketing agency, and Hardy shares his strategies for getting quality responses to bubble up to the top, so that we can get these potential clients into the pipeline and start those all important conversations.

Episode Highlights:

  • How sports create a certain amount of discipline and focus.
  • Getting too many minow leads that are muddying up the pipeline.
  • How digital marketing is best implemented on the outreach side of things.
  • How sales and marketing are both working towards the same goal of growth.
  • Foundationally building a data collection infrastructure for marketing to feed the funnel so that the sales team can engage.
  • Optimizing the marketing for a sales funnel that creates revenue.
  • Optimizing for campaigns that actually close deals.
  • Parallel Path has a proprietary solution structure that closes that loop.
  • Holding on to clients by making relationships last and closing the loop end-to-end and continuing to optimize.
  • Finding the lifetime value of customers.
  • Finding a cost per lead threshold that makes sense.
  • Creating solutions for sales and marketing people to work together to create the golden leads.
  • Having a checklist that leaves no stone unturned.
  • Working on process for efficiency and effectiveness even though each deployment will be custom.
  • From data collection to implementation in three weeks. Challenges are related to allocated sales and marketing resources.
  • The unlimited potential of the future state of digital and marketing.



Marylou: A lot of times, I make analogies to sports. I don’t know if it’s because sports to me seems more disciplined, and there’s something you’ve got to continually wake up everyday thinking about or doing. If you’re not actually in your area of expertise, you’re not practicing your area, you’re building out other areas like diet, and sleep, and food. It’s just making sure that you’re not losing sight of the fact that this is a continuous loop.

Hardy: Yeah. It’s a continuous process and I think anyone who’s out there and looking to hire leaders and managers, just successful A team players in their business often are attracted to those who have played sports or competed at the high school and collegiate level, and athletics, there’s a certain amount of discipline and focus that you know they’ve brought to that discipline.

I think, it was actually interesting last night, I was listening to a podcast from the sports psychologist for the Stanford University soccer program. Stanford university, obviously, if you are going to play collegiate athletics at divisional level, you have to be very good at sport but also to play it at somewhere like Stanford, [inaudible 00:01:49] the admissions for the athletes, anyone who’s playing athletics typically had a sport like soccer is coming in from being top in their school as well academically. What’s interesting about the Stanford program there is they just won the third national title in a row for soccer, and then they won the women’s national title as well. Both the men and the women won the NCAA Division 1 national title this year just this past week.

The sports psychologist of the program was saying it’s not a coincidence that outstanding students become outstanding athletes, which also might become outstanding leaders, and members of the community, and business leaders and whatnot. There’s direct parallels, and their ability to focus and be achieved and oriented.

I’ve always been drawn, whether we’re hiring interns, and teaching them the way of the digital marketing world, or if somebody is coming in at more of a senior level, coincidentally they happen to be collegiate athletics or high school athletics. We can’t help but be attracted to those types of members of our team.

Marylou: Right, right. We’re still gathered here today talking about top of funnel. Most of my audience is interested in improving, augmenting, optimizing the ability to start conversation with those whales on a consistent basis so that it has high revenue, high lifetime value.

I asked you to come to the show today because I know that you’re coming from, if I say this correctly, more of a marketing side of things to serve up those great opportunities for us and help generate the awareness and all things digital in getting people to bubble up to the top so that we have more quality coming into the pipeline.

Hardy: Yeah.

Marylou: For those of you who don’t know Hardy, Hardy Kalisher is the Executive Vice President of a company called Parallel Path, that’s out of Boulder, Colorado. We met a few years ago when I was working with Aaron Ross on an account. I think they have since been bought out actually, but they were looking to look at other ways besides the outreach program in order to generate buzz around their product service, and also they had this issue, which I still see today, Hardy, and that is we get a lot of leads in, but there’s some minnows in there that are kinda mudding up the pipeline and creating a lake out of it instead of a nice flowing machine.

I’d like for you today to tell us about some of the things you’ve learned over the years and how digital marketing is best implemented, especially if we could focus on the outreach side of things and trying to target those accounts that are going to give us high revenue potential, high likelihood of closing, high lifetime value, whatever that marker is for you guys that allow you to keep a client of all time happy, and generating revenue for the company.

Hardy: I appreciate that. Parallel Path, going on the 13th year, has been very focused on feeding the lead funnel and particularly in the B2B space. Majority of our clients are ultimately trying to drive those qualified leads for the sales team. Most marketing consultants or marketing agencies are brought into the mix from the CMO level and we’ve always been fascinated by the challenges that are brought to the table from the sales team. Ultimately, everybody is answering to the goals and the objectives of the CEO, or whatever the instructions of the organization.

Over the past five years in particular, I think what Parallel Path has been focused on not just driving traffic, because anyone can really get traffic, and not just driving leads, because as you said, not all of these are created equal, but we’re really getting to the root of how do we drive the highest quality of leads that are ultimately gonna convert into revenue. I think what differentiates our perspective on marketing is we’re all working towards the same goal for our business growth and revenue growth.

I was speaking at a digital marketing conference recently with 700 people in the audience and I asked the question, “How many marketers are not held accountable to revenue?” Expecting no one to raise their hand, but actually three people did raise their hand, and we had a good laugh about it, some job openings  coming up in the area. Ultimately, we want to be business driven because that’s why we’re in this game. The joy of the hunt, the thrill of the catch that is experienced on the sale side, we also experience on the marketing side.

Foundationally, what we do is it’s important to build what we call the data collection infrastructure of your marketing program to be in place, not only gives you that end to end or 360 degree data view of the quality of your marketing activity. If we’re feeding the funnel, then ultimately, it’s gonna enable our sales team to engage and qualify their sales accepted lead. We wanna be able to make sure that the marketing activity, the marketing strategy, and the tactics that are involved, and the optimization that’s involved in that marketing program can be optimized all the way through, and on the actual revenue and the sales deals are closed. That’s what we’ve identified as the holy grail.

Let’s say we’re running a typical page search campaign, if we know page search ads are driving traffic and ultimately driving leads, we want to know which campaigns are also driving the closed deal, then we can optimize our program and invest more deeply into that channel, and those tactics, and those strategies that actually turn into revenue, and that’s where we want to optimized too.

Over the last five years, what we’ve been able to do is build a proprietary custom solutions that close that loop between sales revenue, sales activity, marketing activity, and be able to push that data through our marketing strategies and tactics, and the day to day optimizations, whether we’re running paid search advertising or organic search, distributing content on social media. All of that ends up driving how we build the content and the messaging, and the value proposition.

Going back to traditional marketing, a [inaudible 00:09:41] so that we’re continually optimizing the strategy in this process to making these real connections and these connections that last in driving this revenue. That’s how we’re able to hold onto clients for four years and watch even for our longest running clients, the clients we’ve been working with for seven years, having record breaking years because we have so much data that we’ve been able to close the loop on the data from end to end and continue optimizing proof. And that’s really the holy grail.

I have great conversation with marketers where they get so excited about just getting leads or something, a lot of the potential distribution channels that are out there whether Facebook, for example, and their lead generation on [inaudible 00:10:28] one click, and Facebook scrapes all the contact information from the individual who merely clicked the ad and that link pushed them to your CRM. That’s great but volume is gonna go up, your cost per lead is gonna go down, and you’re gonna be spending a lot of time filtering what ultimately is the digital equivalent of throwing a business card in a fishbowl. Again, it’s about how do we determine then what is the highest quality marketing activity of revenue.

Now, we get into some of the important things that you write about in your books at around ultimately what is the lifetime value of these customers, the average order value of these customers, and really identifying what is a proper cost per lead threshold that makes sense for driving this quality traffic.

That’s kind of the foundation, our why of what we do and who we do it for. I think some of the uniqueness from our perspective is hold us accountable as marketers like you hold your sales team, like the entire company’s held accountable, which is ultimately to revenue growth. Whether that revenue is coming from new business which the sales team is focused on, going out and getting the whales, dropping the rain makers and driving in that new business. That similar approach can also be applied to back end sells or loyalty sales or your current revenue sales, or ultimately looking to grow revenue there as well.

Marylou: In your world, do you really need to have the handshake between marketing and sales be pretty tight? Because as you said with the 360 tracking capability, or the ability to do that full circle, sounds to me like there’s some sales conversations, snippets, or wrap ups, or milestones that you need to have?

Hardy: Yeah. We’re really not interested in throwing the leads over the wall. We do want to have sales executives, sales operations team in particular, having a seat at the table as we map out the strategy, particularly getting to the data collection side, because there is a handshake that has to happen there often.

Marketing challenges can be around the dependency that we would have on IT support, Sales Operations support. For example, we’re using a popular CRM like Sales Force, there needs to be some Sales Force engineers in collaboration with our developers because we’re gonna be doing some custom scripting, and some custom integrations into CRMs. We’re CRM agnostic in our solution.

But yeah, we have to collaborate, and that’s where the sales executives and the marketing executives need to come together and support the value of being able to have this end to end view so that we can do the 360 degree optimization. They’ll have a better close rate, they’ll be getting better leads if we’re ultimately having to fill the pipe with quality leads from the marketing end that are based on that revenue. Everybody has a stake in the success with this type of program in place. And it takes the kind of vision and leadership on the client’s side to be able to champion that and sit down at the table and make that happen. Not every organization has a very collaborative relationship as we all know between the sales and the marketing team. The mature ones and the successful ones are heading in that direction, or have already headed in that direction.

We would love to see, it doesn’t happen very often but just as much as we were working with the marketing teams, sales teams, sales leaders can definitely champion not only sitting to the table and say we’re closing the leads, but there are solutions out there that can help deliver these golden leads, and ultimately they can bring, we’re a very consultative approach, but consulting [inaudible 00:15:09] that can implement that type of solution. Handing it over, but we all have to work together to make that happen. Often, the ideal situation is maybe that sales and marketing leadership is the same person, but sometimes it’s not.

Marylou: A lot of times, especially up market, we’re gonna have a Sales Director, a Marketing Director, a Sales Operations Director of some sort. And now there’s this thing called “sales enablement” which is yet another thread in there, but I’m curious. I had a call with a colleague of mine who outsources getting the door opened, that’s what she specializes in. I was telling her my timeline when I work with clients is typically from an internal point of view, it takes four to six weeks to get the assembly of the super highway in place. Four weeks is the ideal, six weeks is more realistic. And then we activate after that. She can do exactly what I do in four weeks, she takes two weeks, and I thought, “Wow. Okay. That’s awesome.” But she’s like I got my people, I already know who’s gonna be working on the account, she’s an agency as well. She said, “I already know who’s gonna be working on it. We have the contacts into these larger companies, this is a large complex sale type of agency.”

I’m curious with the work that you do, Hardy, can you give us some sense of a timeline of what’s typical, and essentially the benchmark is we’re doing more complex sales, perhaps longer sales process and multiple stakeholders. What’s a typical great client coming in and assembling and then activating and then optimizing?

Hardy: Great, great question. [inaudible 00:17:10] generally onboarding a new client going into our sales process. I always have to be careful because if I have our data scientists and engineers in the room and developers will always say, [inaudible 00:17:25] done real quick. It’s easy when you know how to build a rocket ship.

Marylou: Yes. I have a gigantic checklist of things. I don’t leave a stone unturned, and that’s probably why I take longer, but it doesn’t mean that the results are just as good with my colleague but she just knows how to cut things to the chase.

Hardy: I would say efficiency and effectiveness are two areas where we spend a lot of time working on our process and trying to make it as frictionless as possible for our clients to onboard and for us to implement these solutions. Ultimately, every deployment is gonna still be custom.

I think to your point earlier, there’s different stakeholders, and depending on the size of the team, we definitely work with enterprise clients and we work with mid-market challenger brands. They all have their different infrastructures that are in place. We would work towards an initial what we call our data collection kick-off to implementation. I know that that can happen in three weeks and it has. We recommend that’s going to take four. And then the challenges of potentially some bottlenecks coming into place. We’re gonna try to resolve those through our project managers, and our consulting team.

The biggest challenge that can arise can be related to resources allocated to sales, and marketing, and operations. If they have a lot on their plate, then we will often have to escalate the initiatives we’re working on and get those to become more prioritized. On the front end, working with our clients and really driving the priority of these initiatives that they’re investing in, and these are investments that they’re gonna expect to see a return on, that’s how we ultimately get them pushed through in a reasonable time frame. We generally shoot for four weeks.

Now you start running the data, the data is coming through and you’re optimizing. The four weeks is really building the piping in place, that ultimately is dependent upon the volume of the client and if it’s a high average order value, longer sales cycle type of B2B or even B2C business. It takes longer to have the data, to ultimately be statistically relevant for us to be optimizing against it.

A lot like your proposition of predictive sales, the future and the kind of work where we’re always working towards and probably another conversation I’d love to dive into is what it means to truly be data driven in our marketing efforts is really moving towards the round-up machine learning, predictive modelling machine learning, and ultimately even artificial intelligence, running our marketing campaigns, which is a really exciting thing that we’re investing our resources in. [inaudible 00:20:45] people in technology to ultimately building our marketing programs based on actual machine learning to help improve the quality of our marketing efforts [inaudible 00:20:57] putting a lead in front of a person to follow up on and close the deal.

Marylou: I think of all the disciplines that I work with, the marketing side is probably gonna be the first to activate that type of machine learning in the sense of having those conversations queued up, the right person at the right time, at the right place, in the right context. And then sales will probably follow with that because they’re still having those one on one conversations and we still are in need of the reps wrapping up their conversations in a meaningful manner, which is what I see is still a challenge for us. But since we don’t use a lot of technology to do that yet, it doesn’t mean we won’t in the future.

Simple things like taping a phone call are legal in some states. There’s some things that we can’t do, we have to rely on the reps to close that conversation and wrap it up in a meaningful way so we know what themes, paintings they talked about, next steps, the things that would allow us to then quickly change this conversation of any type of campaigns that we’re using to more quickly focus on the areas of challenge that the actual person has, the buyer has. Still, it’s an opportunity more so than a challenge by the way. We definitely need to work on that in sales.

Hardy: Yeah. I think in the world of the more complicated sale, there’s always gonna be the human element. But with machine learning and the implementation of these algorithms based on actual behavior, and creating these predictive models for ultimately improving, delivering more relevance for the potential customer or client and ultimately delivering more relevance for the sales professional as well. What that is going to mean a “much shorter sales cycle,” a more efficient cycle. I don’t see any time in our immediate future the elimination of the human element.

Positions are at risk in the whole team of marketing to sales or positions such as the analyst. I think as an analyst right now would be getting an education on machine learning as well, because there’s just too many variables, we have access to so much data. Big data’s intimidating, we can try to make it smaller but also look at how big all those big data engines have the right tools in place to help decipher the behavior that’s happening on the front end [inaudible 00:23:55] lead to ultimately optimize our marketing effort.

For example, if the website is getting enough traffic, we can look at the way people are engaging in the content of the website without necessarily downloading assets that might get them into a lead scoring funnel of some sort. Just like how they’re actually engaging with the website as a predictor of whether or not they would potentially become a qualified lead and then being able to tie that back [inaudible 00:24:31]. Those type of behavior sets ultimately lead to close deals, then we can start looking at how we [inaudible 00:24:40] change the way we look at the way we build our website, the type of content that we put on our website, the type of assets we put on our website, and building that is going to require a lot more than just a human analysis.

I recently heard that before Google serves a paid search ad to an individual search query, they look at 5,000 different variables. When somebody is managing a paid search account, they’re managing it from their home office and they’re just kind of learning the craft, to where you have a sophisticated, experienced team like we have here. If you’re just doing it on a human level, that’s just not where you can take it, you can’t optimize against that many variables and be successful. You can only start to cherry pick.

Marylou: Right, exactly.

Hardy: We would rather take it to the level where we’re really using machine learning to do that type of optimization. It’s exciting for us. One of the questions asked, what are we up to these days, we’re continuing to deliver in and out and we have resources and brighter people than me working on what the future state of digital is also going to look like. It’s fun to that because at the end of the day, we’re a tight boutique shop here in Boulder, but we’re able to attract some very bright people that want to work on these types of projects and then maybe go mountain biking at lunch.

Marylou: Of course. My son who lives there, he loves going snowboarding. He just have a  snowboard for travel on the back of his backpack kind of thing, so yeah, it’s great.

Hardy, thank you so much for your time. I’d like to end this by you letting people know how they can get a hold of you, and we’ll put some of the links on your page so that if you’re driving, you don’t need to take down his information but let us know how we can reach you and what’s the best way to have a continued conversation if people listening are interested in whether or not you’re a good fit for them.

Hardy: Yeah, sounds good. We’re always looking for the right fit. A lot of our client partners are kind of even middle to late adopters and they really need a trusted digital solutionist to help support them in the building of their digital marketing program. We really are end to end, we can watch an entire program from scratch, or elevate someone’s marketing program that’s been in place, and we also can come in at a channel level as well. Our website is parallel.com. We’re excited, we actually launched a new website. If anyone has any questions, they can always reach out to me and all my contact information will be there, hkalisher@parallelpath.com. Happy to have a good conversation with sales professionals.

Marylou: Thank you so much. I wanna end this by if you weren’t listening at the beginning of the call, Hardy is also an elite Soccer Coach. He’s just so impressive, and he was nominated this year as a National High School Coaches Association, Soccer Coach of the Year, so congrats on that too.

Hardy: I appreciate it. Lots of parallels between.

Marylou: Yeah, indeed. Thank you so much for your time and I appreciate you sharing with us where things are going.

Hardy: I appreciate it. Thank you, Marylou.