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The Holistic Approach to Marketing Growth: Inbound and Outbound Strategies

Eric Quanstrom, Chief Marketing Officer at CIENCE

Dive into the world of sales development and marketing strategies with Eric Quanstrom, CMO of CIENCE. In this captivating interview, Eric shares key insights and strategies that have propelled CIENCE to triple-digit growth rates. Discover how CIENCE balances inbound and outbound marketing, leverages AI for lead generation, and navigates challenges in the ever-evolving landscape of email marketing. Explore innovative approaches like AI-driven chatbots and webinars, and gain valuable insights into the future of marketing and sales development. Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or a budding entrepreneur, this interview offers invaluable wisdom and inspiration for driving business growth in today’s competitive market.

CIENCE is a leading provider of AI-driven sales development solutions, helping businesses achieve triple-digit growth rates through innovative strategies.

Eric Quanstrom
Chief Marketing Officer at CIENCE

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Wytpod. My name is Harshit, and I’m the Director of Business Alliance at Wytlabs. We are a digital agency specializing in SaaS and e-commerce SEO. I’ve got Eric with me today, the Chief Marketing Officer at CIENCE Technologies. Now, this was founded back in 2015. They are a pioneering global company in lead generation software and services. A big welcome to you, Eric. I’m so happy to have you with me today.

Thank you, Harshit. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Great. Can you share about your journey in marketing, from journalism to becoming the CMO at CIENCE, please?

Yeah, sure. Personally speaking, I consider marketing to be a craft, and myself a craftsman. That said, professionally speaking, I’ve been a multi-time CMO and have been the CMO here at CIENCE for the last six and a half years. We’ve done a lot of exciting things in our business. I’m sure we’ll get into some of them. One of the things that I think is interesting, if you want to get to know me and/or our brand, we’re very aspirational. CIENCE is a company that has always been on the bleeding edge, if you will, of trying new experiments and generating new techniques to help our client companies grow. That’s the mandate. That’s what we do. That’s why we exist in the world. If our clients aren’t growing, then we’re not doing our job. That’s what it’s all about.

Got you. What are the key strategies you have implemented to achieve the real triple-digit growth rates? Such a tremendous, awesome growth that you have projected over all these years. So, please.

Yeah, we’re very big believers in the holistic practice of marketing, growth marketing tenets, if you will, of both inbound and outbound, and concentrating on a channel-by-channel basis and being as effective as possible, getting our brand, raising awareness for CIENCE as an industry leader in the spaces that we occupy. We also have software and services-based components for our business. What’s exciting about that is we began life as an outsourced SDR as a service company, also providing custom or bespoke research for the first, call it, six years of our lifespan. For the last couple of years, we’ve added on to that a comprehensive, essentially multi-module SaaS platform that all of our team members use as part of our services offering, but that we also sell separately for other companies to bring that software in-house and do everything that they would want A to Z from a prospecting and sales development standpoint.

Got you. Because I think this is going to be interesting because you’re doing it so well. How do you balance inbound and outbound marketing strategies? What role does each play in CIENCE success?

They work more closely together than I think most people realize. We’ve started to coin a couple of terms over the last few years. I’ll start from the outbound side. One of the things that we typically see in a lot of our inbound traffic is what we call outbound assistance. When we know we’re targeting an account or the contacts within that account. Typically, you won’t get 100% response rates. Outbound is not like that. It’s a land of low single-digit engagement rates. But if you’re effective, you can be forever moving those engagement rates, percentage point by percentage point. At any rate, when you’re running outbound campaigns, especially at scale, one of the things that happens is you raise awareness. You raise awareness amongst the target audiences that you particularly concentrate on. We call it an ideal customer profile or an ICP. Going after each one of those ICPs, typically on multiple channels, email, phone, LinkedIn, advertising, and web, it’s not uncommon for us to produce the residue of people taking a look at CIENCE themselves, going directly to our brand, and then coming back through an inbound front door. Because we have access to our CRM and we can see who was loaded into a sequence and who came in inbound, especially direct or organic search with our branded name, we can infer that this was an outbound assist.

Outbound really strong play in generating that lead in the first place. That then leads to an appointment, then thus is carried through a sales cycle, hopefully, to close one business. The flip side is also true. The flip side is where, and this is something that I feel like we’ve been on the bleeding edge of for a while now, a lot of the people that end up in our outbound sequences, they’re put there because of what we call inbound-led outbound. As we’re attracting people to our website, we think that this is the best and best motion that you can take in a sales development context. We like to look at the people who come to our website, match our ICP, and effectively do nothing. They go away without filling out a form or raising their hand to become a lead. We’re no different than a lot of other companies where that’s 97% of our traffic. So 97% we’re attracting through various means, various channels to our website, but they’re essentially going dark on us because that’s what humans do Most people don’t raise their hand, don’t fill out a form on their very first visit unless they’re really deep into the buying journey and ready to talk to sales.

We assume that allows us to then put those people first. You got to identify them. Part of that identification process is de-anonymization of web traffic, to put it simply. We have tools that do that. They work hand in glove with our data asset. We can de-anonymize companies that are visiting our website at a pretty decent clip relative to traffic. Then we can even take it down since it’s first-party data and they’re visiting our website, and we control our website, including the terms of service and how we handle PII, we can identify down to the individual contact level in a certain amount of cases. Those people who also match our ICP then become leads in outbound sequences going forward for our outbound teams. That inbound-led outbound motion has been highly successful, and super relevant because most of those people are buyers in a buying journey or doing buying homework and research. They tend to close at a higher rate for appointment setting as well as for closing one business. For us, it’s a matter of lead prioritization when we’re doing outbound smartly so that we can take advantage of our tools and go after the traffic that is most likely to be in business with us anyway.

Got you. Can you tell me one more thing? Because you have such diverse skills like SEO, SEM, content development, and so much more. How do you prioritize these skills in your overall marketing strategy? Do you have one, I love SEO more. You invest more in that, Fred. How do you take that strategy decision?

I’m a big believer in SEO and have been for a long time, but I never use the term SEO internally. What I All SEO for our internal teams is discoverability. The reason why I use that term over search engine optimization is because discoverability gives you a wider aperture for what we’re trying to accomplish. What we’re trying to accomplish is, and I think I’m breaking no new ground in saying this, over the last two decades, really two and a half decades, the world has been trained, especially the B2B buying world, has been trained that whenever you have anything you want to learn, anything you want to research, research, any products you want to bake off and compare, any type of questions that you may have around need, you go to Google first. We’re Bing, but 93% of the time, Google. For the most part, people, when they’re contemplating, I have X problem within my business. I have X KPIs I want to hit. I have these objectives. Oftentimes, that translates into going to Google and starting to research solutions, research products, the answers to my questions, or the fit to my needs. I like to think of that as being, how do I meet those people where they’re at on that journey?

How do I become discoverable at the moments of truth when those folks are passing through Google? Because Google is also a hub and spoke system where I go to Google first, that’s my hub, I ask it questions in the form of keyword phrases, and I go down a spoke. The top 10 results including paid PPC, are all my interpretation of me finding what I need. If I don’t find what I need on that search journey, I go back to the hub. I modify my search, I get to a different record, I view the top 10 CERP number one, then number two, the number three, whatever the case may be. But ultimately, what I see and find on that journey becomes a discoverability event. When I break it down in that fashion, I think that creates the proper connotations for then how to structure an SEO approach, how to structure site ranking and domain authority, and how to structure where I even want my backlinks to appear. It can structure other interesting things like, what referrers should I target for partnerships. What directory should I be on as part of a visibility or discoverability effort? What advertising should I place while on that journey?

So at any rate, it has a lot more components than just pure content-led on-page SEO. And for those reasons, I think that discoverability is a better term. At least.

Yeah, I like the sound of it. To be honest, it does the same thing. All right, you mentioned one very good point you look into the backlink aspect as well. I would love to understand that approach altogether. Is competitor strategy something that, again, may top-ranking competitors for a given set of keywords, you study? How exactly does your approach work there?

Yeah, absolutely. That’s part of discoverability, too. If people are searching for like vendors in a given category, it’s incumbent upon us to know that, and it’s also incumbent on us to have strategies. For instance, one of the best lead magnets that we ever produced was a stack ranking of ourselves versus 237 of our closest lead generation services providers. There was a favorable outcome and measurements that suggested that CIENCE was the number one player in the space, but we built out us versus those 237 other competitors as individual landing pages. The reason why that was important is because we now show up in branded search terms for a lot of the competitors that, frankly, we compete against every single day. I love the idea of getting into somebody else’s buyer’s journey at a lower phase, a lower part of the funnel, so that we can then also tell our story and not miss out on those opportunities to put our best foot forward and see, let the best company who can provide the best services win.

That’s interesting. Did you use programmatic SEO to scale this operation, or was it a manual task?

It was a bit of a manual task and a labor of love, but it became programmatic because we took the same approach for building out, say, all 237 of those pages, if that makes sense. Our ability to also get those pages, point to them from our social channels, build up backlinks to those pages, and ultimately have relevant content on those pages. We went through multiple iterations. There’s a host of strategies for making tactics like lead magnets effective, and we probably use it, just if not all of it.

Makes sense. Eric, because you’re using email marketing extensively, I would love to understand after these new strict rules by Gmail, Bing, and Yahoo, if are there any challenges that you’re facing or if there are any tips for people to a way around. It’s a tough landscape now compared to a few months prior, for sure.

The really interesting thing is I think that Yahoo and Google had announced several changes beginning on February 1. It caught a lot of headlines, but nobody read below the fine print. Really what do those changes affectations to the parts of their services that they control, i. E. @gmail.com and @yahoo.com email users. For the most part, those changes didn’t affect CIENCE and/or our clients and sales development one bit. The reason is simple. We don’t usually target the B2C address as the harshit@gmail.com. If we were prospecting you, we would go after your white lab’s email address, your professional address. For those reasons, the limits that were placed and the way that Gmail and Yahoo were trying to curtail bulk emailing to their user bases of B2C users was the thrust of a lot of those policies.

Let’s talk about CIENCE lead generation, and especially with your unique blend of AI insights and human intuition I would love to understand that aspect better, please.

You bet. We’ve been very big fans of AI and have gotten on board the generative AI train building on top of or into, integrating, if you will, generative AI tools into the platform, the Go platform itself. I’ll talk about a few particularly interesting modules. The first of which is what we call Go Campaign AI. Go Campaign AI enables us to take an audience from any of our audience creation tools, primarily Go data, but could also be Go show or Go intent, and move those contacts into Go Campaign AI. What Go Campaign AI can do is essentially build out sequences services, email, SMS, phone scripting, and LinkedIn channels, using data on those contacts, so you can think of personalization, the ability to examine profiles, marry it up with prompts that are relevant to the businesses that we work with around their products and services, as well as what I like to call telling the AI what role it needs to play and what it needs to accomplish in a deliverable state. We load all those prompts together to produce essentially a bespoke output. What AI then does a fabulous job of is essentially, if you have a sequence of 10 people, 100 people, or 1,000 people, we will write the sequence steps all germane and relevant to those those individual contacts.

What then happens is that contact or that sequence is pushed over to our sales engagement platform or part of the platform called GoEngage and is ready for send-up. That’s when our SDRs, our humans can interact with all of that free written but not templatized content and thus put it to work for them. Essentially, you can think of it best as an SDR that has a copilot, an AI copilot working with them from a messaging standpoint. We found that to be pretty darn effective at helping SDRs become a lot more efficient and a lot more effective at their job.

That’s brilliant. Now, Eric, with over 2,500 businesses as clients, could you share a success story that is fairly close to your heart or a case study highlighting CIENCE’s impact on that business?

Yeah, we have I think we just crossed the 120 mark of number of case studies on our website. If you go to CIENCE. Com/case studies, you can find all of these and read through any one of them. They’re all near and dear to my heart, to be honest with you, because one of the things that I love most is helping businesses, especially those businesses that haven’t used Outbound as a channel and have found success through it. Now, we’ve helped a lot of businesses scale their outbound as well, where we’re taking companies that a lot of them happen to be venture-funded, but they’ve got a real need for growth. The ability for us to walk in and turbocharge anything that they’re doing additionally is very gratifying. But if I’m super honest and maybe a little bit biased in my own heart, I love taking the businesses that are going from zero to one and helping them succeed at growing their pipeline and hearkening back to something that I said at the outside of this interview. This is the name of the CIENCE game. We have most of our services-based business model even tied to what we call a performance model.

What that means is we’re going to give you a price per appointment at the outset of our services. Ultimately, if we’re not setting appointments, if we’re not effectively leveraging your brand with your ICP to generate appointments for you and your sales team, then we don’t make money. For that reason, goals are very neatly aligned. The overall effect or net effect of that is when we’re successful, our client businesses are successful, they’re closing net new business, and they’re growing, and all the virtuous cycle things that happen with that, including potentially expanding or building more with CIENCE.

That makes sense. Just curious, Eric, how’s the churn rate in your company?

The churn rate is a really interesting question. On the software side, it’s practically negligible. On the services side, Are we talking about headcount churn? Are we talking about client churn? I won’t disclose numbers, but one of the things I can say is that outbound is typically a very hard business and one that we like to be at least two steps, if not three, ahead of not only our relevant competition but One of the things that makes the business hard is that we oftentimes do see churn at the top end of the market. What do I mean by that? It’s not uncommon, and I’ll give you just a very colloquial version of this, but it’s not uncommon for clients, especially when we were a services-only company, to tell us the following, and I’m paraphrasing a little bit. But CIENCE, you guys are amazing. This was great. We did generate all those appointments. This playbook was fabulous. Now I’m going to take everything in-house because I want to run my own SDR program and I want my SDRs under my four walls or my roof, largely to groom them for future account executive or sales executive status.

It hurts when you churn any client at the top end. It’s a pain that losing by winning just sucks, if I’m super honest and maybe a little vulnerable. One of the things that is a very true statement is that’s one of the reasons why we started down the path of creating our software platform. Because then at the end of the day, one of the things we never need to say anymore is, Oh, okay, so you want to do all this yourself and no longer use our services component? Great. Here’s a platform that your team can work on just like our team worked on for the same success. And so now no more do we have that fear, if you will, of doing well for a client only to watch them walk out the door with success.

It makes sense. Are there any other programs that you’re running which is helping you with the customer retention bit?

Yeah, we manage every single client with a main point of contact. We call them growth managers in our particular world if you will. The growth managers are responsible for several different things. If I could, I’d dovetail back to some of the AI colors that I was giving earlier. We also have a module within our platform called Go Expert AI. One of the big challenges that you’ll learn fast when you’re a services-based business of any Stripe is you need to learn to live as the client brand. You need to learn their products or their services, their industry, the ins and outs, the nomenclature, the tricks of the trade, so to speak, that are relevant to that particular client in that particular industry. Oftentimes, what that presents is a learning curve or a gap between your people, your team that you’ve hired, you’ve trained on lead generation and/or outbound and/or sales development, but they don’t necessarily know biotech, or they don’t necessarily know computer software, or software development, or human resources, or banking, or whatever the industry that we happen to be working in is, and the ins and outs. What we do is we use Go Expert AI so that we can essentially train our people to be even more effective, as well as our AI models.

Part of Go Expert AI, what we load into, you can think of it as our large language model or LLM, where we’re feeding all publicly available information that we can get our hands on from that client and then building out an LLM for them within the Go platform. What this does is it allows our SDRs, our growth managers, and anyone who’s going to touch that campaign for that client to come up to speed even faster. Because AI is amazing at understanding whatever training materials you give it and then formulating back not only great messaging but also key variables, hooks, and value propositions that are resonant for the team that is now representing that business. It’s almost like a crash course in training on the client and their company. We get to mimic almost being in-house without being in-house in that regard. That’s one of the reasons why that module within our platform and leveraging AI is such a smart move.

That makes sense. Can you please share some key insights or best practices on the enterprise Sales Development, basically, podcast that you have?

Yeah. It’s a really fun podcast because I get a chance to recruit. I go after a lot of the leading lights in the sales development world, people who are making noise, people who have an opinion, people who have insights to share. We bring them onto the podcast and we get It’s a chance to talk. Usually, most of our podcasts average about 40 minutes in length. We’re going deep into some of the key issues of the day or the key lessons learned. Again, key insights from experts around the best ways to structure a cold email. The most recent episode that we just had was email deliverability tips from an email deliverability expert. The founder-owner of a company, that’s all that they do. At any rate, the enterprise Sales Development podcast is dedicated to producing thought leadership around those issues so that our audience can take a few things out. Number one, they can run their businesses more effectively and they can do sales development at a super high level. Number two, we benefit from CIENCE internally. Some of our biggest listeners are our employees and our team members, who get to hear and get leading insights on the world of sales development directly from our podcast.

Then we get to cast a bit of a halo, I think, around our brand because we’re forever working that cutting edge, working into the insights that we discover on the podcast, back into our approach, especially as a service and also as a software business.

Makes sense. Is it also helping you with your lead generation sales?

Yeah, although that’s not the reason that we do it. But yes, there’s a positive effect in that regard. One of the things that we do with every form fill that we have for leads coming inbound to our site is we ask them, How do you hear about CIENCE? It’s not uncommon for us to have the podcast being cited as one of those reasons for coming in as a lead. It also helps mid to late funnel where our sales team members are sharing key podcast episodes with our would-be clients. That gets back to that halo effect that I was talking earlier about, which is CIENCE strives to be the aspirational company I talked about before that takes a very sophisticated approach to lead generation. We want to be the experts in this space, and we aspire to, frankly, better knowledge of how to do our job effectively. Then our relevant competition.

I think you have been in the company for quite a time now. I understand. Was there any notable challenge that you would like to point out?

Oh, my gosh. Where do I start? This could be a podcast for literally hours and hours. One of the things that you learn when you’re growing as fast as we have is that growth is super challenging. There were times in our business when we were onboarding north of 20 clients a week. As a services-based business, the best word I can use to describe that is bananas because you have a headcount associated with that many clients. You have that many clients associated with them, they’re all special. They’re all unique. Each one of those clients has their own goals, and they want to achieve and grow. We need to solve that problem both in a, I want to word this fairly delicately. We want to solve that problem where they feel really good about the results that we’re able to achieve for them with their standards in their way. Because, again, at the heart of all All of what we do on the services side of the business relates to their brands. We’re not cold calling people saying, Hey, this is Eric on behalf of US Bank, or Eric on behalf of Amazon, or Eric on behalf of Visa.

We’re just acting as if we are that brand. So CIENCE never enters the picture, and no prospect ever knows that CIENCE is part of the alchemy. Again, it’s incumbent upon us to inhabit those brands, really understand the use case, the problem space, really understand what message is going to be relevant to the ICP that we’re reaching out to, really practice lead prioritization around which leads are most important to reach out to when and why. And ultimately, that’s the path to the most success.

That makes sense. Now, I Can you tell what excites you the most about the future of marketing and sales development.

I think where CIENCE can grow and go in the future is even more growth mindset. What do I mean by that? I mean that our ability, we call them growth managers for a reason. Our growth managers are put in place largely to become campaign savants, to become new idea generators, to become the people that, Forgive me, I’m going to go on brand for a second here. People who take a CIENCE approach to lead generation. They form a hypothesis. What’s going to work messaging-wise, attack plan-wise, again, lead prioritization-wise with this particular audience, and how do I get to YES for that appointment, that meeting, that demo, that next step in the sales process with them? A lot of that is just using clever growth strategies to figure out a path forward. When you do that, it gets exciting. One other feature that I forgot to mention, it’s still in beta, and so we haven’t fully released it wide. But on the AI front, we also have AI voice, where our team members are augmented by AI callers. Our caller happens to be named Alex, and when Alex calls, she identifies herself as an AI right away.

But that is one of the things that she does on the phone, essentially working her way towards that next conversation in a way that, frankly, humans don’t do the same. We’re very eager and anxious to roll this out wide and see the response we get in the market along those lines.

That’s interesting. I have seen a lot of people are now moving to cognitive AI chatbots. There has been a bit of a shift from generative to cognitive. What’s your take on that?

Again, I’m going to sound like a broken record, but another piece of the puzzle for us with the GO platform. We have our chat clients, and we put those live on our client websites. Again, this is an area of exciting future development as we continue to let generative AI start to handle even more chats than we would have otherwise that were SDR-assisted or just chatbot-flavoured in the current or present day. Again, in the future, a lot of these, I guess you could call them tactics or channels that we use as part of our tactical approach, they just get a lot smarter. Our outreach continues to evolve and get a lot better. One of the things that I think we could all acknowledge on the buy side of any business, especially yourself running or being a leader in your organization, it’s probably not uncommon for you to prospect and to find, frankly, the level of discourse, at least is how I feel about it subjectively, to be very uninspired, to be very bulk, to be very mediocre at best. I think that a world where the table stakes are raised, where the relevancy hurdles are ever greater, is a world that I want to live in.

I want people to take a very smart approach when they interact with me as opposed to a cheap, bulk, one-size-fits-all approach that is spray and pray.

Well, makes sense. Eric, apart from your podcast, are you also doing these live webinars or any other channel that’s helping you out with your initiatives?

Yeah, we are. We’ve done a series of webinars in the past. We’re probably going to restart that fairly soon again. Largely, we’ll probably do a lot of live training on the platform and introduce people to some of the concepts behind the methods of our madness, if you will, going forward. I think we had done several LinkedIn Live in the past that had gone well along those lines, where we had started to give people a peek behind the curtain, and they tended to be very helpful for generating leads and net new sales.

Any other new initiative that you’re excited about? What’s the new genre you’re exploring?

I talked a bit about AI, It’s funny, AI is on the front of everyone’s brain, and I think a lot of people are at the point of exhaustion of talking about generative AI. But I also am one of those people that I’ve lived through in my business career, several shifts, internet, cloud, mobile. I think AI is bigger than all three of those, to be perfectly honest with you, because the nature of progress that I’ve seen around AI and especially generative AI, is staggering. I don’t even know where the relevant ceiling is on how work will be redefined the world over. I think we’re only scratching the surface. We’re in the early innings, to use an American sports metaphor, of a very long game that pretends to be or portends to be very exciting with a lot of twists and turns.

Eric, 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.

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

Given that the second one is probably going to happen with AI anyway, I would say speak to animals. Okay.

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

You know what? I would go back to just one click, one generation earlier Because I think that my parents’ generation was a fascinating time to be alive for a lot of different reasons.

Okay. Now, what’s the fastest speed you have ever driven in a car?

In a car, probably 150-ish miles an hour. In a train. I had the occasion, pre-pandemic, to visit a bunch of worldwide offices that are now closed. But I went on three of the 10 world’s fastest bullet trains in Japan, Europe, and China. My speeds there got up to, I think that if I translate back to miles per hour, it was like something around 300 miles per hour on the bullet train in in China, the Maglev, if you will.

Coming to my very last question, what’s your last Google search?

My last Google search. Oh, man, I think it was researching the indexation of some of our web pages. I was doing some deep dives on indexation rates within Google Search Console and their speed if you will. Getting super geeky on SEO stuff that, I don’t know, maybe your listeners care a lot about.

They’re going to love it. Thank you so much, Eric. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the company. I appreciate your time here with me. Thank you so much.

You bet. It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

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