How Leadfeeder is Marrying Demand with Brand with Andy Culligan
Lindsay Tjepkema: You know, I talk a lot about authentic conversations. They're the lifeblood of relationships, which means they're the foundation really great marketing. And now, more than ever before, at least in most of our careers, authenticity and relationships and connections, they really matter. Which is why I am so excited about today's episode with a great friend and former colleague of mine, as he talks about his life as a CMO in the midst of a pandemic. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted, the first and only marketing platform built around branded podcasts. And this is our podcast. Here, in today's episode of the Casted podcast, we're talking with my good friend, Andy Culligan. He's the CMO at Leadfeeder, but before that, once upon a time, he and I actually worked together. He led global demand gen and I headed up the Global Brand and Content for a SAS company. So although he's in Austria, don't be fooled by his lovely Irish accent, and I'm here in Indianapolis. We worked really, really closely together as brand and demand often do. So now we've both gone on to do, I might be biased, but some pretty cool and different things, I was so very excited to catch up with him and see how his life as a CMO is treating him, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic. Listen in on this, our last episode in season three of the Casted podcast, where we've spoken with CMOs around the world. I mean, Andy's in Austria, about how their strategies have changed in the midst of COVID- 19. Stay tuned also to the end of this episode, where I have got some really big and exciting news about a brand new show coming from Casted.
Andy Culligan: My name's Andy Culligan, I'm the CMO of Leadfeeder.
Lindsay Tjepkema: All right. So Andy, we go way back. I am excited to hear what you are doing now with Leadfeeder, and with everything that's happening in the world today, how you have adjusted strategy? And you were relatively new there to begin with before everything started, so give me kind of a picture of how you got things started for 2020 and then how you had to change things when COVID- 19 hit?
Andy Culligan: Yeah, so you mentioned that I started there recently. I started there at the start at December, so very, very recently. Within my first six months I've seen some interesting changes happen in the world around us that we haven't really been able to do much against. Yeah, so coming into 2020, I had very specific plan for the brand. I was hired to bring the brand down a specific route. We wanted to put a real focus on building a category, but also, at the same time, bringing the brand to the next level, updating slightly. And also from the growth marketing perspective, make sure that we're hitting crowd targets month on month. So myself and the CRO are basically joined at the hip, and it was like that all the way from the start. Throughout the entire interview process, everything, it was spending a lot of time with the Chief Revenue Officer, Jaakko, and just making sure that myself and himself were very well aligned in terms of what's expected for me. From our perspective, as a company, we're very focused on inbound, inbound being a massive revenue channel for us. Most of our businesses is actually done through inbound, which is obviously massively supported by the Marketing team. So how do you scale that even further, whilst at the same time reducing cost and whatnot? What we were trying to do is... I used to hate this when it came up in talks with coaches and different things about creating a lean team and all this. I was like," I'm sick and tired of hearing about lean marketing teams and lean sales teams." But we've actually managed to create an incredibly lean team, so the Marketing organization is now one of the smallest teams within the entire organization. But as I said, a lot of the inbound side of things is coming directly from marketing activity. Part of the plan was to lower paid budgets anyway, and start putting more resources into things like content building. So when you asked me, how did our strategy change? I don't think our strategy changed massively because I was already lowering budgets anyway in terms of what we were putting into paid. And then at the same time, I was also bringing more money across to put into content. Now, instead what we've done is we probably haven't put as much money into content as we probably wanted to, but we focused on really hyper growing the content in terms of what we're focused on, in terms of what we're writing about, in that very short space of time. And the different content activities that we're doing, so to give you a couple of examples, webinars. Over the past six weeks, we've run six webinars, out of which we've registered like 7, 500 people. In six weeks, right?
Lindsay Tjepkema: So 7, 500 people in six weeks?
Andy Culligan: In six weeks, exactly. So we've grown our database significantly, and the content is getting broad reach in it. Not only am I able to push the brand a bit further in terms of podcasts and different things... For example, Lindsay, you and I know each other anyway, but other people are reaching out to me and saying," Hey, I've seen these webinars. Can you come and do an interview with us?" So we're getting further brand reach just by the webinars, for example. In order to get those... I spoke with somebody yesterday and they said," Well, you obviously spent a lot of cash bringing those numbers of registrants in." I said," We've spent like$ 300 for 7, 500 registrants." And the$300 was just for testing some stuff out on Facebook just to see if it would work, and then we said,"You know what? We're not getting the volume from there, let's just focus on email."
Lindsay Tjepkema: So essentially nothing?
Andy Culligan: Nothing. No. We spent time, time and resource. At the same time, myself and my head of content are sitting down almost daily being like," Okay, what are we writing about today? What's the world looking like around us?" When we started with the webinar stuff, it was like," COVID has just struck, how can we do something that will be interesting to people right now?" Because what I'm seeing, and I'm still seeing, is people being like,"Oh, people don't want to hear about the COVID stuff because it's boring, leave that to one side. Let's focus on normal day- to-day stuff." People that are doing that right now. They're pissing me off because you're ignoring the elephant in the room, and the elephant in the room was like smacking people across the face and saying," Talk about it. At least a little bit. Don't make it your main subject matter, but at least address it." And people are just not addressing it. I seen that like six weeks ago, so I was like," Let's pivot our content strategy." I said to my head at content," All the content that you've got your copywriters working on now, put it on hold. This is what you're writing." And we came up with a strategy and we came up with different blog posts, as well as content strategy for webinars and whatnot. And it's just working. We did one blog post which was around SDR templates, email templates for COVID- 19, and it drove like 11,000 users in the past couple of weeks.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, because that was a huge topic, even for us too. How do you reach out right now? How do you talk to someone right now? I mean, you don't want to be taking as tone deaf, but you also want to talk to people about something that could really help at this moment. So yeah, I'm sure that was really useful.
Andy Culligan: Absolutely, and it's just been... So in terms of, to go back to your original question, what have we been doing differently? I wouldn't say we've done anything differently, it's just really given me a kick up the ass to make sure that we're focused on doing the original plan, but faster. And sort of adjusting ourselves to the situation and keeping very... Again, another word I hate to use is agile, but we have been incredibly agile. Because agile typically means like," Do everything and focus on nothing!"
Lindsay Tjepkema: Just faster!
Andy Culligan: Exactly, fast, quick. And this is something, like when I first stepped into the tech game, I worked for somebody that used that word quite a bit and it was a nightmare. But I think really it's been about reaction and making sure that we're able to react to what's happening around us. And it's changing daily. So yesterday, again, I sat down with Anna, my head of content, and was like," Okay, look, the topic of really pushing forward with COVID-19 stuff, people are getting a bit exhausted of it now. So let's make sure that we're putting more of a focus on the part that it's about. Like let's say it's about sales or marketing, let's make sure it's really hyper focused on marketing or sales."
Lindsay Tjepkema: Nimble. I like the word nimble instead of agile.
Andy Culligan: Nimble is good, it's better than agile. For sure.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. I think the companies right now that are... And you can be a very small company and you can be a very, very, very large company, it doesn't matter. I mean, the more you are willing to say," Okay, what are we doing today? What are we doing this week?" As opposed to," Okay, we have this huge, massive strategy. How are we going to change things?" Those are the companies that are winning, because it's about knowing your audience, reading the room, and saying," How can we help right now? How can we really be helpful to our audience?" I want to dig into something too, because in our past lives, you ran demand gen and I ran branded content. How has that come into play for you as a CMO now seeing both sides? You're talking a lot about working with your head of content, how does that come into play anyway, but especially now with this crisis going on? How has that come into play for you as a CMO?
Andy Culligan: So since we've been working together, Lindsay, it's been a couple of years now, I think having that demand gen experience has always helped me attach a revenue figure onto anything that I'm doing. I come from a past of being in sales myself, so I've been in sales roles and I've been an SDR as well. I understand the pain from that side, and at the same time I have a feel for brand. I have two opinions on this, I'm a bit mixed when it comes to brand, because at one hand, I'm like my opinion doesn't really count as the opinion of everybody. But I've backed myself enough to know when something doesn't look good and it bothers me. You know, when you have your own brand, you own the brand yourself, I see this as my portfolio. As a CMO, I'm like," This is my baby. I need to make sure it's dressed up well, I want to make sure that it's well-fed, and make sure that it's nice and clean." Right? So previously when we were working together, I was like," Let's just make sure we're bringing the leads in the door. I don't own the whole brand."
Lindsay Tjepkema: Oh, I remember.
Andy Culligan: Yeah, you remember. We've had some good discussions around that, Lindsay. But I see the bigger picture now as a CMO, to be able to be like," Okay, you need to maybe take away a little bit of the demand gen piece to focus on brand, and vice versa.' But I find myself working on a lot of different things. I just released a white paper, an ebook in the past couple of days. I'm seeing a gap in the market right now based on events, so I know from my own demand gen experience that events are something that drive a lot of pipeline for sales teams. And I'm saying physical events are not going to happen, at least for probably six months to a year. Even in 2021, if people are running physical events, are people really going to want to go to physical events?
Lindsay Tjepkema: It's going to be different, yeah.
Andy Culligan: People are going to be super sketchy about it. I don't know, it's not going to be how it was a year ago. For sure not. It's going to take a while to build up. So you have companies like SaaStock and SaaStr and those other companies coming in and saying," Okay, what we're going to do is we're going to run virtual events." What I've seen is," Okay, how can I use my experience from a physical event perspective and creating pipelines there, to be able to bring that experience over and put it into something that will help people from a virtual events perspective?" Because it's more or less the same thing, but one is digital and one isn't. You can still make an opportunity out of it if you really try hard and if you have the right structure. So I know that's in my brain, it's not necessarily in my head of content's brain. Like I said, Anna. She doesn't have the direct experience of running events herself, because she doesn't come from the demand gen background. Same as maybe when we were working together, it was a little bit different as well. What I've been able to do is I've worked together with Anna to come up with an ebook, which is very much focused on helping people out from that perspective, whilst at the same time putting our brand the next step forward as well. It's hard for me to put it in a way that makes sense, but I think by helping people out, giving them actionable information for free right now, and making the brand look good at the same time, it's pushing the demand generation back in as well to the top of the funnel. So it's like both of those things together are really working well right now.
Lindsay Tjepkema: One thing that we've been talking a lot about lately is seeking first to connect, which feels really fuzzy, and it feels very gray, and it feels fluffy and soft. And if it feels that way to me from the brand and content side, it must feel very, very soft for you. But it's so important because that's trust and that's relationship building, and that's what fuels the entire funnel and pipeline and all the things. That's the beginning of it all. And if you can establish those relationships, whether it is in person at events back before COVID, or now. I mean, that's what it's all about. That's the beginning to it all. And again, the companies that are nimble and are looking for new ways to do it, like you're doing these webinars and it's working, those are the ones that are going to win.
Andy Culligan: Again, it's like even with these webinars, so I had a conversation yesterday with somebody who said,"Well, I guess you're probably pushing Leadfeeder quite heavily with them?" I said," No, we're actually not. The only thing that we're doing really is that the deck is the Leadfeeder deck template.." In my opinion there, the best pitch from that perspective is no pitch at all. So what we're not doing is," Leadfeeder can do this this and this, and solve all your needs right now," because people don't want to hear that. They don't want to be pitched to. In the longterm, if you keep on banging the drum, the Leadfeeder drum, people will hear it for sure. People will remember our brand. They'll say," I've got this problem to be solved. I know that they solved this particular problem. I've been on a number of their webinars and I've downloaded a bit of their content, and I've heard them talking about this side or the other." You're more likely to win then, but you need to be a little bit patient on it.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, so with being patient, as you look out to the rest of the year and into next year, what does that look like? Are you just taking it day by day, week by week, quarter by quarter? Do you have things that you absolutely changed your mindset about ongoing? What does the horizon look like for you?
Andy Culligan: So I'll break it down into two types of projects. You've got your long- term projects and your short- term projects. Long- term projects are still ongoing, and my team over the past couple of weeks have been pushing me hard as well, saying," We're jumping around a lot here, Andy, what can we still be focused on?" And my answer was," You know what the long- term projects are. Don't stop working on them. Keep working on them, but I'm just going to keep on jumping from thing to thing at the moment because that's what's working." So that's how it's working on a day- to- day. I feel it calming a little bit, because people are getting used to this new normal, and the guys are seeing results as well, which everyone's happy with. The guys are seeing results and they're getting lots of praise from investors and everyone, so they're like,"Okay, what we're doing is working, so obviously we're going to listen to this guy." But in terms of longterm, as I said, we've got a couple of different plans like making sure that the brand is up- to- date, more structured, and consistent across everything that we offer it on. Like looking at the website, how do we maybe make the website a bit better? That's a project that's ongoing that hopefully will be done by the end of Q2. We're rebuilding our paid strategy, which Dara, my head of paid, is managing at the moment. He's doing a great job. And that's going to take another little while to build. There's all these sorts of things that are being built in the background, whilst in the forefront of things we're still going to keep on doing things that are working. So, for example, webinars. I'm just going to keep doing them until they stop working.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, that's what I'm hearing a lot of. We're doing the same thing, we're working on our website as well. Yeah, it's kind of like what's happening in front and then what's also happening in back. Because we have the time, not the abundance of time to do the work, but it's to work differently, to focus on different things. So you talked about your team. You were remote already, but this obviously changes things because remote before meant something very different than it does now. We're all home with our others, our people, our pets, our significant others. What has that looked like? Kind of twofold, what does it look like for you, I know you have a little one, and how have you stayed focused? But then also, how have you lead your team through this craziness?
Andy Culligan: From my side, it's tricky but we're managing. We really are managing. My wife is also setting up her own online business at the moment, and she has been for the past six months, that's tricky in itself because there's limited time when... Because my daughter is now going on four, she's four and all of this. We did the math on it recently, she goes to kindergarten and she typically is under somebody else's care, whether it's kindergarten or a babysitter or grandmother or whatever, for about 25 hours a week. That's like a day in an hour that we don't have right now. So we're trying to just juggle this, whilst at the same time helping her learn more. And we are seeing from her perspective, it's actually great as a father to be able to see that she is managing to learn a lot more. I can see it and she's gone through a massive development phase since she's been home, which is challenging on one hand because you need to keep that going, you need to keep her fulfilled, and keep on giving her things to do in different ways. Whilst at the same time, it's really impressive just to see," Okay, maybe she needed that bit of a break from kindergarten and different things. Maybe she needed to be around us a little bit more." It's challenging. We're trying. I put some time in my calendar every day to help my wife out a little bit. We're just coping. It feels like it's a constant sprint, like just run, run, run, run, run. You know how it is. But at the same time, I'm finding from my side that I'm managing to get a lot more done being under the type of pressure that I'm under. To say," Okay, I have to get these things done. If I don't, then I'm in trouble." So I'm managing to get everything I need to get done done, and it's just about being super focused and super planned. What I've started to do, and I've always done this but I've been more focused on doing it, is creating a list of things I need to get done every day. And I genuinely get pissed off at myself if I don't manage to cross all those things off.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Right, because there is a hard stop. There is no staying late at the office. It's like,"It's time."
Andy Culligan: No, exactly. Exactly. As you mentioned, though, we're a remote company anyway, so 80% of our workforce is remote. But yeah, it's challenge with families and kids. I also have a seven- month- old dog, which is arguably our larger challenge than the three year old, so there's that as well. But for the team, I think you just need to be super understanding of people's personal situations. You can't give out to somebody or you can't be disappointed in somebody if they're really breaking their back and trying to do all they can in order to get the job doing whilst juggling everything. One thing that I can't stand is people that use things as an excuse, like," Oh, the current situation makes things a little bit more difficult, and therefore I can relax a bit more, chill out a little." From my side, I work at a hundred miles an hour when I can and I expect the same of the guys, and the guys do that. And if somebody says to me," Hey, look, there's this, that, or the other that needs to be looked after," I say," Absolutely." You need to have the empathy there to understand the situation is difficult. You can't do it all at once, but when you're there, give it your all, and then it's fine. That's my general view on things anyway, even before this situation. If people needed to get stuff done family- wise anyway, absolutely. It's never a problem for me because I know how it is, having a family myself.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Exactly. Yeah, and that's what we've said a lot here is I don't really care. I genuinely don't care when you work. Bring your best whenever. Whatever that looks like minute by minute, hour by hour, that's going to change. Our focus is all different, we're not all in the same situation. But just bring your best, do what you say you're going to do, communicate, and figure it out.
Andy Culligan: Exactly, like there's no over communicating at the moment I think. I'd rather it just be-
Lindsay Tjepkema: No such thing.
Andy Culligan: Exactly, exactly. And really just make sure that you're being open and honest about how things are for you. Look, I don't need to tell you this because you know me well anyway, but I think of things anyway from a work versus family perspective. The family is the most important thing, so if you prioritize work over family, you and I are going to have a problem anyway. So I think it should always be family first. And then obviously work is very important, but family should always take the priority. You need to be the owner of making sure that the balance works.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. And that balance is in a different place for everyone. What kind of advice do you have for other marketers, marketing managers, marketing leaders, right now? We're all a couple months into this thing, what now, what next? We've all kind of figured out what we're doing right now, but looking out at the rest of the year, what would you say to people listening?
Andy Culligan: I would say what I'm seeing from people that aren't doing well and aren't being successful at the moment is that they're not executing anything. So that would be my first thing, just try something. Seriously, just try something. And if you are trying something, make sure it's content focused. I think content is where you start at the moment. Make sure that it's helpful content, don't be pushing your products. People don't want to hear about it. Like, really. If you are pushing something, give people some achievable takeaways from a piece of content that you're going to push out. If somebody can grab two or three points out of this, and you can summarize it somehow so that it's easy for them to see in how they do things, then that piece of content is going to work. I tell you, if you give people something like," Hey, go back and do this with your team right now in these three easy steps," then it's going to work because people are going to go back and do it. Just execute some stuff. Because really, if you sit on your hands right now, you're not going to go anywhere.
Lindsay Tjepkema: There is no waiting this thing out.
Andy Culligan: No, no. I don't know what the right answer is, but what I can say from my side is that we're just constantly execute, execute, execute, execute, execute, execute. Of course, some things may not work. I was just telling you before, this is luckily, a lot of the stuff that we've done at the moment has just hit home. For the first time in my career, it's the first time that it's actually been that case. So I think that shows a thing as well, that people are super open to content at the moment as long as it's helpful. That's been the main thing that we've been focusing on, make it helpful and give actionable things to take away. Those two things.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love it. Yeah, seek first to connect and to help, and go from there. All right, Andy. Well, thank you so much for sharing your insights and your experiences as we've been all navigating this thing. It's great to catch up, and thanks.
Andy Culligan: Certainly. No problem, Lindsay.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Well, that's a wrap on season three of the Casted podcast. It's my sincere hope that these conversations with CMOs helped you in some way as you have navigated this global, crazy situation that we're all in right now. Don't worry, we'll be back with season four pretty soon. But in the meantime, for more information about Andy Culligan, including the super fun jobs he had along his path to CMO, visit casted. us to subscribe and receive our show as it's published, along with exclusive content each week. That'll help ensure that you don't miss season four when it comes out. Okay, now for that really exciting announcement. One of my co- founders, Zachary Ballenger, is launching a podcast right here at Casted. That's right, you want more Casted, you got it. And even better news, it's available right now. So look for The Tic, that's Tic, T- I- C, like at the end of authentic. For authentic conversations, get it? Yeah, you got it. You're going to love it, so check it out at casted. us today.
We talk a lot about authentic conversations. They're the lifeblood of relationships, which means they're the foundation really great marketing. And now, more than ever before, at least in most of our careers, authenticity and relationships and connections, they really matter. Which is why we're so excited about this episode of The Casted Podcast. In the final episode of Season 3, we talk to Andy Culligan, CMO at Leadfeeder about his life as a CMO in the midst of a pandemic. He and his team have been working to bring brand awareness and demand generation together since he joined the company. When the pandemic hit, Andy knew his team needed to stay the course but become a helping hand to Leadfeeder's audience. Listen in to hear how his team has continued executing their original strategy... but faster. And how their team managed to drive 7500 webinar registrants in just six weeks. This is an episode you don't want to miss!
🏎 Driving 7500 webinar registrants in six weeks
🚀 Focusing on doing the original plan... but faster
🌉 Bridging the gap between brand and demand gen
🚫 The best pitch right now is no pitch at all
👥 Being understanding of your team's personal situations
🙋 Advice for marketers right now