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Revolutionizing Sales Engagement: Insights from Ollie Whitfield

Ollie Whitfield, Marketing Team Lead of VanillaSoft

For this episode of Wytpod, Harshit Gupta, Director of Business Alliances at Wytlabs interviewed Ollie Whitfield, Marketing Team Lead of VanillaSoft.Explore the creative dimensions of B2B marketing, unraveling the impact of originality in strategies. Uncover insights into successful podcasting journeys, with a focus on breaking away from conventional rules to make content engaging, dynamic, and relevant.

The VanillaSoft sales engagement platform keeps your sales team busy and focused on engaging your leads and growing revenue.

Ollie Whitfield
Marketing Team Lead of VanillaSoft

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of WYTPOD. My name is Harshit, and I’m the Director of Business Alliance at WYTLabs, where a digital agency specializing in SaaS, e-commerce, and SEO. I’ve got Ollie Whitfield with me today, who’s the marketing lead of demand generation at VanillaSoft and Autoklose. A big welcome to you, Ollie. I’m so happy to have you with me today.

Thanks for having me.

Great, can you provide a brief overview of VanillaSoft and its sales engagement platform?

Yeah. So simply for a sales engagement platform, it’s something salespeople use to do their calling, do their emailing, and occasionally SMS, occasionally other things. But in the bulk, that’s what it is. So instead of picking up your phone and dialing a number, you click a button and it goes to your headset and so on. There’s a lot of people in the space. Our theory is that a lot of the time a person can do whatever they want, but it’s their unconscious decisions that cost them.

What strategy or approaches have been recently proven effective in exceeding your demand generation lead commitments for both Vanilla Soft as well as Autoklose?

I don’t know if you call it a strategy, but I try to take inspiration from places that are not where I do my work. For instance, if I want to do a podcast, I don’t take inspiration for a podcast from other businesses. Much of this just becomes ever more true as we go along. Every blog, they’re all the same. Every company’s podcast is pretty similar. I tried to do something different, and obviously, it can’t be crazily different, but it doesn’t make any sense or if it doesn’t belong in business. But I don’t like much TV. I watch a lot of YouTube videos, so I take inspiration from what’s popular there. Now on YouTube, a lot of the popular content is challenge-style content. It’s, Can you call 10 people in a minute? I made that up out of nowhere. You probably can’t. But it’s that style of content as opposed to how to call 10 leads. Basic. Anyone can write that. Any AI can write that. I try to take my inspiration from that. Or if in pop culture there are certain TV shows or songs or things that everybody knows and you just say the words and everybody knows what you mean.

Everyone understands the format. You can take that. If you can do it in such a way that it makes sense and it’s not off-brand completely, then you don’t need to tell what the format of this webinar is because they get it. After all, it’s a play on the TV show or it’s a play on the Black Friday thing that you’re trying to poke fun at, or whatever it is. I try to do that rather than just do a webinar, do a podcast, do a blog, and do things as everybody does.

Yeah. Even virtual conferences like your Give-a-con and Growth Month have been very successful for you in the past. How exactly have you evolved from the start to right now?

The first one I ever did was the Give-a-con one. That was for one of our target markets. I have to give some props to our team here on the inside for VanillaSoft. They have all of the connections to the speakers that we worked with. I don’t have any of them. They had to help out a lot with that. We learned a lot of things the hard way, and I’m sure we all look back on that with a smile, but it was pretty hard work in the changes doing it. From that, we did Growth Month, which was completely different. I had all of the connections and got all of the speakers myself. It was 45 speakers, and we decided that a lot of these conferences there, one day, couple of days type thing, and it’s hard to tune in. You might miss something. You don’t want to spend two business days out of action, so you miss a lot of it. You don’t engage with it much. Instead of doing that, we picked a month, and we’re going to do two sessions a day, every business day. Let’s say 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, which means you might be able to tune in, you might not, but you can still watch the recording.

There’s going to be a certain topic from a certain speaker, and you can come back and watch it. But at least we’ve got the whole month to talk about it. Not just one webinar is tomorrow at 2:00 PM. I can only really talk about it up until then. And then you’re trying to repurpose, but it’s not quite the same. Whereas for a whole month, all I’m talking about is, so tomorrow we’ve got this and the day after, oh God, we’ve got that, and the day after we’ve got that as well. It just keeps going for a whole month. So we got a lot of promo out of it and a great deal of lead flow and a lot more impressions and that type of thing. We’re very visible in the market because of that.

Yeah. Even your podcast grew pretty significantly. I would love to understand what adjustments you make basically to sustain or enhance its popularity. What are those areas where you work hard on to increase the visibility and all of those things?

We tried our best with the 0 to 5 Million podcast. We’ve had to pivot away and do a different one now, which is about to launch. But for two years, two and a half years, we did it. The first rule that we had was that we were not going to follow the conventional rules. We can upload a different format. We can upload a longer episode. We can upload two a week. We can upload a debate, a solo episode, an interview with a guest, a whatever, provided it relates to the target audience, of course. That made it fun. If you ever listen to other podcasts, you can tell when someone’s not having fun. You can tell when they are doing it, even if the cameras and mics are not on. That’s what we tried to do. We’re aware that we’re doing a podcast and it’s to be recorded and booked and things like that. But we tried our very best to make it us having a good time because that makes everything that you do after that infinitely better. Every clip you produce just looks better because you’re not bored and you’re laughing about something or you’ve made a good point because you were thinking in the moment.

All of those things helped. And beyond that, we just tried to do one a week. We sometimes did more, took a couple of weeks off over the holidays, and those things as you do. But it was, let’s just not be what everything else is in the market, which is a, Yeah, I agree. Great point. Next question type podcast. There’s a lot of that, and that’s fine. But we wanted to try and see if we could do it a little differently, me and my co-host.

Okay. If you have to rank the top three channels that are working really in your favor with respect to your lead generation, what would those be?

Google Ads would be one. I would say Google Organic, but I don’t oversee that on my team, so I can’t take credit for that at all, but that would be a big one for the company that I work for. After that, email marketing has been pretty good. We’re able to do some things with that. After that, events, in-person things, or virtual have been pretty useful too, just to get in front of new people that we haven’t met before.

Okay. Email marketing is getting tough, man. With the recent updates, Gmail had an update, Yahoo, and Bing, everyone is being very strict with respect to the rules. Cold outreach is becoming very difficult. What’s your take on that? Or are you facing any hurdles or faced something in the past and you overcome those? Please share your experience with regard to that.

Not a lot of change for us. To send a HubSpot email is still very much the same as the previous one. We’ve read the HubSpot release about it where they’ve discussed it, and pretty much everything that they have said is, have your deKind records or your demark records, have the things that they would say anyway that they said before. Also, in terms of HubSpot, not a great deal has changed. The only thing that I see anecdotally as the changes come in, it’s one that you just keep an eye on. But if everyone’s scared of sending emails, then okay, cool. You can stop sending emails if you want to, but you won’t know anymore. You might as well give it a try and try within your means and what you think might be right. But at the best level, adding quality rather than quantity is pretty much never going to work no matter what you do. If you wanted to try and have an email list that’s engaged rather than a big one, that’s fine. You’re never going to have problems with that. Particularly if people are engaged, you just need to look at how. If there’s a pivot, that’s the one we’ll make.

All right. I’m sure content marketing, because you’re leveraging so much, is one of the biggest areas that your team must be working on. Would love to understand your approach towards content marketing, and what that typical process looks like within your organization.

Yeah, a lot of people, a lot a lot of work all at the same time on different channels. One thing we’ve been trying our very best to do in the last few months and now for the rest of this year is that we don’t just make blogs every week because we need to make blogs for obvious reasons. It’s more that If we make a podcast about it, all right, let’s not have to make a separate blog. Let’s use a transcription tool so that it’s easy to generate a blog out of that. Then we didn’t have to work as hard. Then the ebook that we want to make, let’s never make an e-book from scratch. We’re going to have to say, let’s have these 10 blogs and the 10 blogs combined make the e-book. It’s a lot of, let’s just not work as hard as we maybe did before or could if you didn’t think harder about it. That’s our main thing. It’s whatever mediums we need is fine. We can just always find a way of reusing each other. Even a blog. Why couldn’t I just read out a blog and make it like an audiobook?

Why couldn’t that be a thing? No marketers in B2B do audiobooks. Why? I don’t know. Maybe we could upload it as a podcast of just the stream of things that we produce. Maybe it wouldn’t work. Why haven’t seen anyone try? So it’s a few things like that.

That’s interesting. I would love to know because we’re looking into your recent webinars, could you share insights for one that stood out in terms of the impact or lesson learned? And how do you measure the success of your webinars? I would love to know those KPIs as well.

Normally, it’s not a brilliant answer, but it’s just how many register for it. We usually see a pretty standard number of people or a percentage who will come to it. It’s normally about the same. If it increases, that’s good. If it stays the same, I guess that’s good, too. Any time that I hear just a message from somebody who watched it, that’s normally a big indicator that other people enjoyed it as well. Most people don’t take the time or effort or remember to do something like that because they don’t have to at all. But infinitely bigger signal if they then do. For instance, at the Growth Month conference, I had 10 to 20 DMs from people, which was cool. I never really had that before on that scale, which, yes, it was a much bigger scale project. In the same way, if you get one message from a webinar, that’s a decent sign that was good or that what you were on to there was good. Occasionally, if we do a different format, we will ask in our follow-up email, if they reply with any thoughts that they had. That seems to work quite well.

Just because it’s an email, they’re going to reply a bit easier going out of their way to send a message to someone who they may not have connected with, and so on. An email reply is also quite useful.

All right. What’s your process of optimizing your recorded podcast? What does that process look like if you want to increase the visibility of those podcasts, how do you approach that?

With a lot of my team’s help, I can’t take a lot of credit, but our video leader on the team, Daniel, will do a lot of work with me on making our podcast look good. We use tools that enable us to edit in greater detail, for instance. If my mic doesn’t sound very good today, he’s able to clean it up so that just the production quality is A1. If the cat comes in and jumps in front of my camera or whatever else, he can cut that out so it looks ultra clean. And then from that, we also try, if you’ve ever watched a YouTube video and you’ve had an ad beforehand and someone says something like, Don’t press skip. In six seconds, I’m going to tell you how to become a millionaire. Something like that, but not quite as cringy and as clich√© as that, but we’ll do something like that for our content to come up. Those are Google Ads that we can run. So my podcast might be about how to increase your pipeline this year. So my Google Ad version will be, don’t click, skip. I’ve got three ways you’ve not thought of generating a new pipeline, and then we show you a bit of the podcast or something like that.

Those are things that I can do with a lot of help and then put in front of people using ads.

That’s awesome. What are the most notable trends in marketing and demand generation for B2B within your niche currently, and how your organization is adapting to stay ahead of these trends?

Lots of people are going to work for themselves. Lots of people are becoming creators. They want to have a media company in these things, which is cool. It’s been a long time coming for this market, but sometimes the business case or the timing in the industry they’re in cuts them off. If a recession When the question comes, people get cut, and that just happens. That’s universal. Instead of the creators themselves, instead of the person who does LinkedIn videos or whatever that they do, I think it’s probably going to be more about the formats that people do. For instance, people know in America, they know there are certain talk shows and they have certain ways of doing certain things or game shows everyone understands how a certain game show works, what are the rounds, what are the rules, what they have to do and so on. I think, particularly in B2B, where it’s very crowded and not a lot of imagination into what happens, that’s a different thing. A show or a thing that you create can have its brand if you keep doing it. Even if you change jobs and your co-host changes jobs, you could still do it potentially if you wanted to.

Over time, rather than me becoming an influencer because who wants to listen to me, my show might be a great concept that we refine. Over time, the fans and the audience and listenership grow, that can be the thing because that transcends whatever my employment is at that time.

Makes sense. All right, Ollie, we’re coming to an end and I would love to have a quick rapid-fire with you. Are you ready for that?

Let’s do it.

Okay. If given a superpower, what would you choose? Would you rather be able to speak every language in the world or be able to talk to animals?

Talk to animals. I would love to know what my cat thinks and be able to hear what she thinks of me. Yeah, straight Away.

If you could travel back in time, what period would you go?

I would do one day in the ’50s, 1950, something like that, and then come back and enjoy all the luxuries that we now have as opposed to that, just to see what it was like.

Makes sense. Okay. What’s the fastest speed you have ever driven in a car?

Oh, God. I hope the UK-driving people are not listening. Probably 85 miles an hour. Not too bad, but probably a bit much more than I should

Okay. We’re more of a cautious guy. How many hours of sleep do you need?

I need about seven a day. I can get away with a little bit less, but I will struggle a little bit around the edges at the end of the day.

All right. Now, coming to my very last question, what’s your last Google search?

Oh, God. It was a vendor that we were talking about on a Zoom call for work, and I hadn’t heard of them, so I looked them up. All right.

Thank you so much, Ollie, for all the info, and all your experience that you have shared in today’s session. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.

My pleasure. I hope it was useful.

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