Episode 45: Every SaaS Founder Needs To Hear This with Mark Stouse

I caught up with Mark Stouse who is a GOD at using Linkedin polls.

His polls attract A LOT of attention. His insights caught my attention.

The Ex-CMO of Honeywell’s Aerospace arm is now the CEO of SaaS platform Proof Analytics.

A marketing analytics company helping B2B companies to forecast, prove, and optimize ROI on marketing.

In this podcast we dive into Mark’s Linkedin journey, B2B marketing analytics and how brand can make or break SaaS startups.

Mark is one of the most influential analytics leaders in marketing and you’ll see why in this episode.

Follow Mark on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/markstouse/

Follow β€˜Mellonie Francis’ on LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mellonie-francis/

If you want to be notified when we drop another podcast like this one, hit follow.

And I would very much appreciate you leaving a review so my podcast can help others crush it on LinkedIn and in business.

Transcript:

Mark:
The biggest challenge that a SAS startup has is that it has no awareness. It has no confidence, and it has no trust. Exactly right. And those three things are essentially brand in a nutshell. And so if the founder or founders don’t have really strong personal brands themselves, the whole green is bust, it’s just not going to happen.


Mel:
Hey, everyone, welcome back to innovative minds. And I have got a innovative mind here today, marks Deus, who is the Chairman and CEO of proof analytics. Now, I don’t know a lot about proof analytics. But Mark has caught my attention on the LinkedIn feed. And that’s what’s so super cool when you see founders and CEOs grabbing attention by saying cool things, or enticing marketers, or anyone out there by just you know, finding out a bit more. And this is the opportunity where Mark’s been posting some really cool posts, I would say is one of his, you know, core formats I see him doing often. And we’ll get into that as to how he comes up with those awesome questions. But hey, Mark, you welcome. And you’ve really grabbed my attention with you know, your content, and I want to learn more about you and your company, and so forth.


Mark:
Thank you so much. It’s great to be here. And I’m, I’m happy to, to, let’s talk, let’s go


Mel:
tell me tell me about the journey. Like when I look at your LinkedIn, and when you grab my attention, right, what I saw was how you evolved into a CEO, you know, you’ve come from different parts, your CMO, your content, sort of cmo kind of style, I would say, of content that you’re sharing a lot of the times, and now you’re a CEO, what’s that journey been like? And yeah, tell me more?


Mark:
Well, I would have to say that the journey has been extraordinary. And that doesn’t necessarily mean all positive, right? I think that anytime you become an entrepreneur, and particularly with SAS, you’re going to learn a lot about yourself. And some of it you’re going to enjoy and some of it you are really not going to enjoy. And and I think that it is kind of binary, it’s a binary experience. And in that respect, It either makes you a much better person going through this or it doesn’t. You know, I A lot of times will say that being a SAS entrepreneur, is a lot like what they say about money and power. Right? It doesn’t corrupt you as much as it reveals what’s already in you. You know, and, and that’s, that’s certainly been my experience, you know, up down and all around, you know, I mean, none of us are perfect, but it’s been a it’s been something I wouldn’t trade for anything.


Mel:
It’s interesting. Do you think that the journey is different for a successful entrepreneur versus a normal entrepreneur?

Mark:
Yeah, I mean, we can simplify it by just contrasting SAS with a services professional services business, right to be an agency could be ever. The complexity in SAS is just monstrous, right? Anyone who tells you that SAS is simple, hasn’t done it. And I think that it’s like a lot of things in life. Right? The more you know about it, the more questions you have. That’s sort of the definition of an expert is, what do they realise? They don’t know? Right? So I think that whereas if you are if you’re selling time, if your your time, other people’s time that works for you, whatever, right? It’s a very straightforward, kind of set up for the most part. And this is one of the reasons why, you know, particularly in marketing, right, someone can go from being a CMO to being ahead of a startup agency, and they can hit 5 million in revenue fairly quickly. You know, if they have any kind of reputation at all for good stuff, they’re gonna they’re gonna hit that pretty fast. Hitting 5 million ARR in SAS. is a multi year journey? And there’s just no no question about that. I mean, there are always going to be that 1/10 of 1% that defy that statement. But it’s not normal.

Mel:
Yeah, it’s interesting. Use compare. I mean, the journey you talk about for most entrepreneurs is one that I’ve seen off similar. So my first business was assess platform. It was a platform, which empowered beauty professionals to basically have tools so they can be online, right? And I remember not coming, and I failed it right, I failed miserably because of my lack of experience a in funding a, you know, a successful round. I had to learn software. I don’t know if you came from a software background yourself.

Mark:
I was I was pretty pretty far along in that respect.

Mel:
Yeah, yeah. So imagine that for me, I didn’t have software. So I’m learning software. And we’re learning how to manage agile development. And then on top of that, after I get to the end of that, and I’ve released this pretty cool product in the market, here, I am going, how do I market it, and I’m going to digital agencies and marketing agencies. And this growing me left, right and centre and just eating up all the cash, and I’m not funded, you know, on top of that, to have the runway to experiment. So SAS, I think, can be very challenging. But I think the product market fit of that product is so unknown, as well. So the journey is even more difficult than a service based journey where you go, okay, someone’s going to need consulting, or someone’s going to, there’s already businesses like that. Yeah,

Mark:
I mean, there’s in SAS, and it’s not limited to SAS, but so many unknown unknowns, right. So like, for example, you have no idea whether from a market timing perspective, you are right on. And most of the time, it feels like you are, but it’s sort of delusional, right? Or where are you like, looking back on it. So we’ve been doing proof for about six years. I think that we were about three to four years early. Yeah, you know, where things really changed for us in a palpable way, was about six months into COVID. When all of a sudden, everybody realised that past was in no way prologue. And that if they didn’t have some way of forecasting, looking down the road and around corners, and modelling this and modelling that they were going to be in trouble. And obviously, some people realise that faster than other people. But it is it is definitely, you know, one of the things you really see in the analytics, which is actually very humbling, it’s extremely humble, is how literally you control. Like the you build, you build an analytical model, improve or in any other tool, right? And on balanced 65% of that model is going to be factors that you do not control. This is the wave that we are all attempting to serve. Right. And so what you find is that, that’s far from being a statement about, well, you know, health doesn’t really matter what I do, actually matters a tonne. What you do, right, you have to, if anything, the fact that you don’t control 65 70% of the equation means that you’d better damn well control the rest of it really, really well. And that you have to be able to sense have a feedback loop is what I really mean with what’s going on with the wave and shift your body, shift your board, right, do all these things correctly. That’s what really separates whether or not you wipe out or you end up on the beach with a flourish. Right? I mean, that’s, that’s kind of it. And so that is, you know, you start to really realise that none of us are masters the universe, except sometimes in our own head.

Mel:
I love that. Tell me more about proof analytics. So tell me what it enables and who it enables to do exactly what?


Mark:
Sure. So the the math in proof is is not new, right? In fact, the math in general that does most analytics it digging in a business context is not new. The big issue historically has been operationalizing analytics into the business into the business decision making process, so that it’s relevant. Right? So what has been historically the problem? You know, just kind of putting it in plain language, is you have a data science team, and they’re working on all these different models and everything, and they show up with these answers. And the business leaders go. Well, damn, you know, I mean, that was really cool. But that’s time has already moved on past all this, like you’re too late. Right? Like, even your forecasts are in the past today, when you’re showing it to me, right? Like, what am I really supposed to do with this? And that was certainly what I encountered, you know, in, in large corporate roles, global roles. I was a huge champion for using analytics. But we had to spend mountains of money and hire lots more data scientists, just to deal with that latency issue with the throughput issue with the timely timeliness and relevance issue, right. And it just was pretty freakin obvious to me anyway, that this was an automation play Deluxe, right. And so we proceeded to build proof, which is an automated version of multivariable, linear and nonlinear regression. Right? It enables, there’s kind of two parts to prove. One is for the data scientist, and one is for the business guy, the marketing person. And, on the analyst side, we’ve used AI and automation to dramatically accelerate the modelling process. So instead of many, many days to create a model, right, it’s now done in two to three hours. So you can proliferate models, you can really scale it far, on a far greater basis than you ever could before. And then on the business user side, the big question has always been man, you know, I’m looking at all these graphs and everything else, and it’s like, freaking Greek to me, right? Is anyone going to like explain this to me? And so instead, I mean, the classic approach is with analytics tools has always been to give the business user kind of a dumbed down version of the analysts screen. And it doesn’t work, right. And so we, we came up with a number of UX approaches, that made it possible for the normal business person, the normal marketer, the normal sales leader, whoever, right to look at this and say, Damn, I totally get this, right. And it’s because it works. So every business decision, at its core is like a navigation decision. I know where I am, I know where I want to go. I’ve got this path ahead of me. Right, that I’ve mapped out. That’s usually the forecast. Right? And my question then is, what do I need to change? When do I need to change it? And by how much? Do I need to change it? Given what’s going on around me that I don’t control? So we think about the GPS on your phone, right? This is traffic? This is whether these are all these things that ultimately make you reroute, right? Yeah. Same thing in business. And so we give it to the business user, whether they’re a marketer or whoever they are, in those terms, right. And they’re like, and then we give them an ability to reroute. We give them ability to war game a response, to, quote, get back on track, sticking with the GPS analogy, right? What is that going to take? What is that going to look like? How much time am I going to save? How much time might I still be a little bit late achieving this goal? Right? And so now it’s all about being able to see it, explain it, optimise it, so that everybody can say, Okay, I totally understand what’s going on here. I totally know what to expect. Right? And we’re, you know, we’re going to move forward another month, and we’re going to recompute again, so that we can see, well, we were we more correct this time.


Mel:

Got how then I’m curious to know how deep the tool goes. So for example, I understand your tool can help forecast to get to a x revenue like, hey, based on currently the traffic, that you’re, you’re bringing in to your funnel, and then the CTR of that, and how that moves, and then how that converts, I can now help you forecast exactly what you’re going to make. And then like 12 months based on the current situation and the data that you have, now, if you can move the traffic up, then this is the projection, this is how it can move the needle for you.

Mark:
Or if your CFO comes to you and says, Hey, you know, I’ve been really impressed with what’s going on in marketing, and I’ve got an extra 3 million. What could you do with it? And what would it mean? And How fast would it make an impact? Right? That’s the time lag piece, which is super, super key, right? And you model that right? You can model that right and proof and say, Well, you know, if we spent 3 million in the following ways that would do X, Y, and Z to these projections to these forecasts. And then it’s a business decision at that point, do I want to spend the money that way or not?

Mel:
Correct. And when you are analysing that traffic, and you’re giving that adult analysis to the business, they’re clearly able to see all the different variants of traffic and how much that cost to bring that traffic in, and the throughput that we talked about of that traffic, like they’re able to go all the way and see each different sources at that level.

Mark:
Yeah, you could do that. But But I mean, actually, most C suites couldn’t care less about that level of granularity, right?

Mel:
They know how much money

Mark:
they expect the marketing function, or whatever the function is, right? Yeah. You know, their business well enough to have that under control? Yeah, what they’re really interested in saying is, okay, what are the trend lines here? And what do we need to adjust? And how much do we need to adjust it by in order to get where we need to be? And are we spending the right amount of money on marketing or whatever, right? Or are we past the point of diminishing returns? Which basically means that I can keep spending money, but it’s not going to mean anything, right? Or are we way low on the S curve? That’s the optimization curve. Right? So but we’re killing it, but we’re low. Right? So that means if we spend more and more and more money, we’re gonna get more and more and more of that same level of return, and even maybe a better level of return at some point. In which case, if you can afford it, you’d be crazy not to do that, right. I mean, it’s kind of like if I just said, Hey, if you give me $1, and I give you $3. Back, yeah. Wouldn’t you do that? As long as you had $1?

Mel:
Yeah, absolutely. I guess the, the interesting thing you really point out is the time and the time, it takes just because you gave me that dollar, how quickly can I you know, spin that dollar into $3? is the biggest question of all right, that’s the most? Because that’s right.


Mark:

That’s exactly right. And actually, timelag, I did a keynote several years ago at South by Southwest, and it was all about timelag being the CMOS greatest enemy. Yes. Because if the problem with time lag, is it everybody says, well, marketing takes time. Okay, we get that. Okay, but how much time? I mean, and that’s a computable idea, right? So you don’t you don’t there’s no guessing on this, right? The problem is, most marketers don’t know that. That’s the case. And most business leaders don’t know that that’s the case. And so they’ll spend all this money on like, brand random investment. And, and nobody will ever set the expectation with the C suite. That you know, I mean, you’re not going to see an impact, a measurable impact from this investment for nine months. So what happens is, is that in the absence of expectation setting, and follow up, right, analytical follow up, the C suite starts to say, freaking hell, man. We spent 28 million I’m making this up. We spent 28 million on brand, right? And we can’t see any benefit at all. So then what happens? Well, then the murmuring starts to happen about well, maybe we have the wrong cmo and you know, all this kind of stuff, and then you know, to two and a half years into it, he or she is out the door, right? And then all of a sudden it starts to kick in. But they don’t realise why and what’s caused it. And so they ride it off to other things, other cool things that usually they have a hand in themselves, when in fact, it was the original investment in brands.

Mel:
I know, I know, an average cmo lost about 18 months in SAS, particularly in a role. And that’s, that’s that’s,

Mark:
ya know, it can. I mean, you know, the biggest challenge that a SAS startup has, is that it has no awareness, it has no confidence, and it has no trust. Exactly, right. And those three things are essentially brand in a nutshell. And so if the founder or founders don’t have really strong personal brands themselves, yes, the whole thing is, is a bust, it’s just not going to happen. No one’s going to move fast enough to be able to bootstrap that business. And probably no one of any consequence me way, is going to invest in an either, right, and so the whole thing dies, when it’s, it probably was not the fault of the product. It was the absence of these three really super important things, awareness, confidence, and trust. And combined with the risk aversion in most customers today, and the fact that many, many SAS customers believe that SaaS companies lie to them, in order to get their, their buy in. It’s just but it’s become a fairly toxic situation, and it’s become really, so much harder to start something like that. I mean, if you’re not really well funded, if you’re, if your seed round, you know, isn’t several million minimum, right, you’re gonna have a really hard time.

Mel:
Absolutely, you said something so powerful there, with the awareness, confidence trust, and you said, then that if the founders themselves, don’t build that early on with their respective investors, with their respective partners, that it will just the brand itself will fail. And it’s really interesting that you have the same viewpoint that the founders lend their brand, to their companies initially, like it’s them, almost introducing the confidence into these this particular brand often going, or they’re the people behind it, especially in these earlier days. Is that why you? You have gone out there and really, you know, arouse the market with your brand awareness and actually being out there so much as a founding yourself.

Mark:
Yeah, I think that that is probably true. You know, I think that one of the things that has changed for me over the particular last five, five years or so, is I think I am still very provocative in my posts today. I think most people would say that that’s true. In the in the earliest days, though, looking back on it, I mean, it’s not like I intended it at the time. But looking back on it, I think I was pretty much insulting. You know, I was so provocative that I was insulting. And it certainly got a lot of attention. And so it definitely filled in the, the awareness piece in a big way. Right. I think also, you know, the fact that I and others on my team had such a command of the facts of this. Built a lot of confidence, but I don’t look back on it. This is where I would really do it differently. If I had, if I could time travel, right. Is is, is I don’t think I’ve built a lot of trust. And, you know, we all have, you know, one of the one of the challenging things about having an epiphany in your life or your work or whatever, right? Is it unless you are really on top of yourself. It’s not too long after that epiphany that you become that you forget the Epiphany, and you just become very proud of your knowledge, your special knowledge, right. And I think that particularly when we founded proof. I was probably and probably still in way less than one way less than five CMOS in b2b who have ever done this at scale. No words, not only proven the impact that marketing had on the business in a very complex, multifaceted kind of business, but to actually be able to calibrate it and recalibrate it, re optimise it as we went along. That was I mean, that’s, that’s still a very rare thing. In b2b, it’s not in b2c

Mel:
buying decision in b2b is so much more complex, so much more multifaceted.

Mark:
Yeah, and your feedback loop, typically faster, you know, all that kind of stuff. They also, they also use the, you know, the math in proof, and have for 30 years, right? I mean, Procter and Gamble, Kraft, all those companies were the first, this would have been like in the mid 90s, to create what became marketing mix modelling. And it has substantially evolved and modernised over that period of time. But being it is like, I mean, like you look at major Fortune 1000 b2c brands, the number of them that aren’t doing marketing mix modelling is really small. Whereas the number of b2b, you know, it’s a, it’s you want to talk about Greenfield, that’s, that’s b2b on this issue. Right? So yeah,

Mel:
yeah, we’re way behind. we’re way behind where we don’t? I don’t know. It’s just completely different, right. And we’re still figuring it out this whole world of?

Mark:
Yeah. Yeah, I think and I think the other big problem here is, is that, look, this is more of a human statement than a marketing statement. But, you know, human beings want simple solutions to complex problems. The problem is, is that those, that’s rarely the case. Right? It doesn’t work that way. And so what you’ve seen in terms of marketing is, they have tried so many different ways to solve this problem. multi touch attribution is a recent phenomenon that has now gone down to defeat for the most part, and was was mathematically always flawed, it was never going to be the right answer. Does that mean that a great customer journey map with all that data isn’t valuable? It’s valuable, it’s really valuable, right? But you can’t look at that and say, Well, this is how I’m going to place my bets. from a budget standpoint, you just can’t. So there’s some laws of gravity here. And and, you know, people don’t like laws of gravity, you know, unless it unless it’s helping them out. And otherwise they don’t.

Mel:
So you’d said something earlier about your content. And I want to touch on that you said, you know, you didn’t build trust. And the main thing that we talked about was awareness, and trust and confidence. And you said you didn’t instil enough trust in your content? What kind of content strategy do you believe that instils trust in some

Mark:
empathy? just demonstrating that you really care, you know, and I think that it’s sort of like being a black belt in some martial art, right? I mean, you know, that if you get into a fight, you’re gonna win. So what does that mean? Does it mean that you’re more likely or less likely to feel like you have to get into a fight? Well, I mean, most practitioners of kung fu or Taekwondo or whatever, will say that they were exponentially less likely to get into a fight. And so I think the same thing is true here. You know, I, I think going back on it, you know, five years ago, I was trying to make a point. A lot of times when what was really needed is me having confidence that I really understood what really was really going on. And taking that and turning it into the freedom to be empathetic people and to approach them where they were, instead of saying, You need to come over here. Not necessarily to me, personally, but you need to come over here to this perspective, and you need to do it. To sweet, right. And I think that that was, well, I don’t think I know that that was. That was not the right approach. Right. And that was a, that was about a flaw in me.

Mel:
Got it. You’re saying it’s a warmth of maybe telling. But come over here and the warmth of empathising, and you’re saying that the wolf was maybe

Mark:
she’ll see a lot. So one way that I express this today, is that while it’s still do posts, in my feed, right, from my page, what I do far more of is, I go to where there’s a hot conversation, and I began to share and go back and forth with people, and

Mel:
how do you find the hot Conversations?

Mark:
I’m now connected to so many people that they, a lot of times they alerted me to them, you know, tagged me into it, or they’ll send me a note and say, You need to go over here. I

Mel:
got it. Oh, getting the notifications as well.

Mark:
Yeah. And so, and I, and I just and I try, I just stay very non argumentative. Yeah, you know, tell me where you’re coming from. Tell me what your experience, what are you struggling with? Right. I made a post over the weekend, and that that performed at a level that is still astonishes me. And it was all about why analytics initiatives fail. Yes. Right. Well, it’s

Mel:
such a pain point. You know, it makes you feel something as soon as you say that, in my heart, like, I feel irritation come in all these tools, like, you know, I think about and they said, they’re going to do this, and they’re going to do that, and you try and put it in, and then you’re like, Oh, my God, like, it’s so irritating, you know that. So when you say that arouses an emotion, and that’s why probably people gonna want to read this.

Mark:
Ya know, I think I think that, particularly, if you are not a trained data scientist or a trained analyst, you feel helpless. Right? And so, I, you know, and this is where, for me, it’s kind of become this fusion of who I become as a person with what I need to be as a CEO. Right. And that is, I’m, I am now far more interested in your pain than I am in my solution to it. Yeah, I do have, a lot of times I do have a solution to it. Right. But, but I don’t start with that. I, you know, I started at the other end.

Mel:
So that’s how your content strategy has evolved. But when I talk about content strategy, I’m also including comments, because I know some people that don’t see comments as actually part of your content strategy. But one thing, the way you actually grabbed my attention was through your commenting of a post. And I think

Mark:
it’s far more interesting for everyone. Right? It’s sort of like, you know, we back, you know, when everybody was still doing a lot of events, and there were multiple keynotes and all this kind of stuff, right. I used to say, I used to walk up and I’d say, Look, you know, I’m going to talk about apps for about 10 minutes, right? And then we’re going to do 20 minutes of q&a. And if you’ve only got 10 minutes of q&a, then we’ll just finish early. Right? Because I mean, there’s nothing worse than a talking head. Yeah, you’re right. I mean, everybody wants a conversation. And so I would say just enough to prime the pump. And everything else was a conversation. And what you see me through on LinkedIn today is very much an extension of that. I also just started kind of feeling that it’s a little ego centric, to say, Hey, I’ve posted this really cool thing on my page. All you guys no matter what else you may be doing, come over here and read this. Right? I feel like I’m really I’m far more effective if I go where other people already are, and I just add some value, you know, where the spotlight? Again, this is sort of like the lesson out of the analytic, right? It’s not all about you. Yeah, it’s really, really, really, truly not right. It’s been probably one of the greatest releases that I’ve ever experienced in my life was the realisation that in my heart, not just in my head, that that was true.

Mel:
Wow, the comment I remember that caught my attention was something about around brand, as a decision insurance was a comment that you made to recall, too. Oh, yeah, very much. Tell us about someone that’s listening on. What did you brand as a decision insurance?

Mark:
Yeah, I mean, actually. I guess it was probably about four years ago, five years ago, I was in a meeting for the proof has just started up. And I’m in a meeting with the CMO of four seasons, hotels. And we’re talking about brand, we’re talking about awareness, confidence, and trust. And she said, yeah, she goes, you know, that’s the whole business model here. We sell trip insurance. We sell hotel insurance, if you can afford to pay us what we’re asking for a room, you know, that two things are true. One is it’s going to be damn near perfect. And anything that goes wrong, we are going to fix it immediately. Period. Right. And I thought, you know, that is actually really powerful. And then I was talking with a Gartner analyst, that I’ve known for a long, long time, who basically said, you know, if you stop and think about the industry analyst, business model, we sell decision insurance. Right? We if we validate your technology choice, and it goes sideways, you can always say to your boss, man, I did what Gartner told me to write, and that’s sort of like a Get Out of Jail Free card. There’s that old saying, you know, this is now several decades old, but you know, that no one ever got fired for buying IBM. Same deal. Right. So again, going back to what we’re talking about earlier, just real fast. I mean, startups have very, very limited ability to offer decision insurance. If even if they have a great product, and if the big huge company has a sucky product, right? They can offer decision insurance. And it’s their brand. Brand stands for and so yeah, absolutely I, I’m a I’m a big. And so what what I think is so important, like in SAS is to do everything you can wherever you are in your evolution as a SaaS company to increase the decision insurance and decrease the risk, real and perceived. Right? And so for example, price, I mean, price is one of the four P’s of marketing. And yet, if you talk to most b2b marketers for last 15 or 20 years, you won’t hear anything about price. Nothing. And yet, it all what happens, it always gets negotiated, heavily 4050 60% discounts, right. Why? Because they’re looking for insurance against the evil day. Right. So that’s, I mean, I just think that that is that’s key.

Mel:
Marketers don’t think though they have the right to influence price. I think that’s a business decision. And that’s where in their mind, they don’t see that, you know, they should be coming in saying, Hey, this is the price they think the price is set, and then they come in right after doing everything they can to sell something but what you’re absolutely saying is it’s actually their responsibility to let the teams as a team let them know that you product just got to de risk the product. The reason why marketing is not working. It’s just too risky. Your price stout, and it’s too high risk to take.

Mark:
Absolutely 110%. Right. I mean, it is, I think unfortunately, it’s an you know, what it’s really an artefact of is that most b2b marketers have very little customer contact. Right? It’s an arm’s length relationship that they have with the customer. Absolutely. Yeah, they will, they will do voc surveys, and they will, you know, they’ll sit in and in focus groups and stuff like that. But that’s not what this is. Right. This is, I mean, like, when we were working on our pricing model. I sat down, so I had the connections to make this happen. And I, you know, I, I admit that, but I sat down with procurement teams, not just procurement leaders, right. And I said, Hey, you know, let’s talk about SAS and SAS pricing. Let’s talk about like, not only, you know, like, we all know, kind of like, how it goes, but like, what’s behind it? And if you could write your own ticket for a SAS vendor, what would that look like? Understanding that they got to make a living too, otherwise, you’re not going to have that product around very long, right? So there’s the this is a balance situation, right? But what would that look like? The things that came back even more than price, right? We’re, I hate annual pricing. No words, annual contracts, right? Right. Because you’re basically, particularly in the in year one, right? You’re saying, Okay, you’re gonna take this whole risk, let’s say that the, the deal value is 200k, right? And you’re gonna make me pay it within 30 days of the contract. And then after that, when loser draw, no matter how great it is, or how much it sucks, or how much you misrepresented its capabilities, or whatever, right? I’m stuck. There, like, you know, more like I talked for the very large company that said, we’re just not doing that we are moving away from your one annual contracts. We will do quarterly contracts. We prefer monthly, month to month contracts. But we understand that a lot of software companies can’t do that. So we’ll do we’ll do quarter to quarter, right. And once it’s proven out, and once it’s real, and we all know it’s real. Right, then yeah, sure, we’ll do an annual contract, we’ll even do multi year contracts with you. Right, but that first year, not so much. A

Mel:
great, a great, that’s great. Every founder, every SAS founder needs to hear that what you’ve just said. So I’m probably going to actually call this title that every SAS founder need to listen to this. I’ve got just a couple of things before I let you go. Duck social Chris Walker, big on duck social is a big thing. You know, you can’t really capture all the data, you know, you’ve just got to ask for it. I had Laura Erdem, who’s from Dream data on saying, well, that’s not really true. Because you know, that last point of asking, getting what they ate last, you know, week, let alone how you’ve got to be multitasking. What Tell me about your view on dark social, because it’s real, and it’s happening, we are sharing stuff that you cannot. It’s a real thing. So with your forecasting, on proof, right? And when there’s this other phenomena happening, which you are very part of that you’re in it, and you’re doing it yourself, right? Yeah. So how can we really, truly full cost to understand the impact of marketing where there is dark social?

Mark:
So number one, I don’t think it’s most of the equation yet.

Mel:
Got it? Yeah,

Mark:
great. 25%, maybe, right. There’s actually all kinds of problems with it too. Because kind of like what we’ve seen with peer to peer communication, in a political context on social. This can be kind of the blind leading the blind a lot of times. So just because you’re talking to someone that you feel like is just like you write about a product. That’s not everything you need to know about that product or about that problem that product is solving, right. So that’s a that’s kind of over to one side. So let me you ask specifically about Chris. US. Number one, I am I am a, I’m a big fan of anybody, including Chris Walker, who is trying to crack this nut. I will tell you that statistically speaking, mathematically speaking, what he is really doing is correlation without math. Right? So he’s he’s running tests. He’s saying, just ask these questions and accumulate these responses, right? And you’ll see kind of what’s going on. Yeah. Now, is that true? Or can you like, make a make a bet? In your marketing mix based on that? If you look at his customer base, they are startups. And they are typically running pretty simple marketing programmes, their marketing mix, is not really multivariable. Right?

Mel:
Maybe one to two. They might be.

Mark:
Right. Yeah, yeah. But it’s not a it’s not a killer. Right? Yeah. They’re not they’re also not global, or even multi geo multicountry. For the most part, are the volumes

Mel:
not their problem? Volume that they need to know.

Mark:
As a, you know, as a parent, I use the phrase age appropriate. Seems like a lot, right? If what he’s suggesting is stage appropriate, particularly, particularly if the business has fairly rapid feedback loops. But you also, so the factors that it doesn’t deal with effectively at all, are the fact that we live in a multivariable world, right? That includes, as we’ve discussed, stuff that we control and stuff that we don’t control. He’s not talking really about time lag effects at all. He is not talking about the fact that things that we do, and things that we don’t control, combined together, either positively or negatively, or some combination of the two, right to propel us to a particular outcome. So you can’t you can’t get all the way there with his approach. Now, does that mean that it’s bad? No, I think it’s age appropriate or it’s stage appropriate, right? Complexity appropriate, whatever you however you want to say it, right? Is he helping companies that probably aren’t set up yet? To use a tool like proof? Or for that matter, to spend several million dollars a year on marketing mix modelling with Nielsen? Yeah, absolutely. Right. He is doing that. And he should I applaud him for it, he should be applauded for it. A, there’s a cap, there’s a ceiling on what he’s proposing.

Mel:
I totally agree. And I think it’s important people understand what staging there and what they need at that stage before they go and over capitalise or investment they don’t even have the volume to enable, you know, a product to perform at its best. And I


Mark:

also say something about the dark social part of the question. Yes. Yes. One of the one of the cool things about modelling, about regression modelling is that it works both ways. So you can kind of move back through model right or forward through model. And there are there are definitely a lot of situations today where we may not be able to capture dark social data. But we can clearly establish that it’s there. And that it is playing a role in these different equations, these different models that is substance substantial or not. Right. And so you can you can kind of I mean, because we are talking about private conversations for the most part, right? And, and I’d be the first one to say that the day that we can fully account for dark social, that is a scary place that we have brought ourselves, right. So I would kind of oppose it on general principles, being able to pierce that veil. But we can already model the impact of dark social, red kind of like retroactively or, or what I really mean by that is by reverse engineering it right in the model. It’s sort of like seeing a black hole, you don’t really see the black hole because it’s black, black, black, right. But you can using radio signals, and you can establish the parameters of the hole. And that’s very much what happens with analytics.

Mel:
Yeah, we’ve done what’s really interesting in the organic play, and you know, how big can you truly get in organic unless you’re really big influencer. But what happens right now, what I’m saying is, if I could have 70k, or 80k view, on a, on a organic one, post, the leads that you bring in, you know, massive in terms of following and so forth, but the actual leads, like what actually comes in gets booked in for demos or services, whatever you are selling, you know, you’re looking at about an eight to 10. Put for that post that you did just that from one. I mean, there was multi touches before that they knew you when you’ve just come up and you’ve really hit a nerve, like the one you’ve seen, but in paid that same views won’t get you the same conversion. But you having an organic, and it’s fascinating for me right now watching, why not? You know, why is it that when it is when it isn’t organic? Is you know, why? Why can you get more? And when you pay for it? Why isn’t it maybe yes, it’s a more cold audience. But so you’re even hitting sometimes the same audience, it’s in your mind, just the same network, you still don’t get the same impact. And I think when I look at that, it must be the social aspect of so many people commenting on that post so many people giving it that credibility that trust that engagement. But you’re looking at it that paid we don’t have that so people don’t look at it the same way, you know, the same piece of content, you got well, this will take it over to paid. And I’ll model that and I’ll grab a you know, if I spend 60,000 will grab eight leads, right? You think that’s the natural? Why not? It’s the content, the content sustained and putting it in front of the exact same buyer? But it’s not? It’s not it’s not the same?

Mark:
No, I mean, here’s a look at Airbnb, right? That’s been very much in the news lately about its marketing. Its concentrating its marketing spin. That’s a classic awareness, confidence, trust play, right? Because if you’re the person making the family vacation, prep, right? Your nightmare, okay, is that you get to the hotel or the house or the villa or whatever. And your your spouse or your kids goes, Mom or Dad, this sucks, right? And everyone knows that it sucks. And yet you’re stuck there for a week. Right? So what Airbnb and this is why PR actually even today scores, so high in in MMM models, right in terms of its impact on revenue margin, cash flow is it’s a, it’s a, it’s all about confidence and trust, right. And so by doubling down and even, you know, I think actually they’re spending five times as much on PR today as they were before COVID. What they’re really saying is when you’re going to make sure that you understand as a customer of Airbnb, that what you see is what you’re gonna get. And now we’re back for four seasons. Right now we’re talking about insurance, right? And the problem, the problem is that for the most part, paid, paid channels are not any good on confidence and trust. They’re just not because they everyone understands exactly what they are. They are your opinion of yourself. Right? They are propaganda, right? So one of the things that we see a lot in the analytics is that customers will mine what you say in paid and owned channels. They will take it all right. And then about halfway through the customer journey, they will almost completely abandon those channels. And from that point Forward, they’re totally focused on what could be broadly called earned. Right? Which would include dark social, by the way. And it and it’s because from in the back half of the funnel, their whole purpose is to mitigate risk. And their primary risk from when you talk to them, when you have a really honest conversation, their primary risk is you as the vendor. It’s are you telling me the truth? Is this real? Can I really depend on this? So this is all confidence and trust type questions. And that’s why they don’t care any more about what you say about yourself. They only care about what other people say about you.

Mel:
So I’ve got a final question. Before I let you go for you. And I’m curious about your content process. So how do you go about producing at the volume? And how do you come up with the amazing questions and thoughts? You know, get us to think?

Mark:
Oh, boy, it’s kind of a combo, right? The way, the way that I would kind of really try to explain this is that I probably have, you know, a lot of knowledge in the space, right. And what I’m looking for today is I’m looking for signals from other people on how they want it explained to them. And so from time to time, I will run across something like that. And I’ll go, Dane, that’s like, really awesome, right? I mean, what the way they phrased the question or the, you know, whatever it is, right. And so I will develop it further, right, and I’ll feed it back into the system. And, lo and behold, right, these, these kinds of posts tend to score pretty highly. I also use a lot of surveys that are I spent a lot of time on them, because I don’t want anyone to think that there’s some sort of sales trap. You know. By the way, this also, I learned a long time ago on LinkedIn that I can’t sell to people and be helpful to people at the same time. So I typically I got the number of people who can say that they have ever connected with me and gotten into the, you know, immediate follow up of some sort. And the sales way, is probably less than five. And they were like a long time ago. Right? So if you connect with me, and if you respond to one of my polls, you are not going to suddenly be subjected to a blizzard of stuff from me. Yes. And so I made that choice. But I also I want to provoke people to think, you know, because there is a lot of belief in the world. Let’s just say marketing, right? There’s a lot of belief in marketing, there’s a lot of belief in sales, circles. And a lot of that belief is surprisingly true. Like, marketers have correctly intuited a lot of what works, they just can’t prove it. Right. But there’s what they what they don’t acknowledge to very much to their detriment, is that in periods, particularly in periods of high volatility, high velocity change, a lot of the stuff that used to work for them, no longer works, or no longer works as well. And so they, they just keep doing it out of belief. They keep turning that crank because, you know, sooner or later, it’s all gonna work. Right. And that is not a that’s not a an open mind. That’s not that’s not being willing to learn. That’s not being willing to say, you know, what, I understand that I don’t control most of it. And I understand the world is changing a lot. And oops, maybe I need to kind of have some help here. You know, a pilot pilots actually went through a similar evolution on this. You know, when you’re flying a fighter plane and World War Two at 500 miles an hour. You needed about five gauges You know, in your cockpit, and you were either a really good experienced pilot, or you or you weren’t, this is kind of the fly by the seat of your pants era. This is the intuitive pilot era. And then all of a sudden, 10 years later, the sound barriers broken, and everything is going multiples of the speed of sound, multiple mock, right. And the other side, your, your opponent is doing the same thing. So closing speed becomes like for mock, right? And, and you’re like, Whoa, there’s no way in all of this back and forth. And sideways at that speed cannot keep up. Human human brain just goes, you know, fries. And so what happens, they start adding instrumentation, they start adding automation, they start adding kind of early AI. And now there’s quite a bit of AI in those planes. And it’s all geared to aiding the pilot to make a better decision on a few things that’s going to result in mission completion, and him or her staying alive. That’s it right. And so, there’s no shame at all, if you’re a business leader, if you’re a marketing leader, say, you know, what world is a really complicated place. And I, I know, because the research is so clear that I my brain, just like your brain, and everyone else’s brain can’t handle more than three or four variables at any given time. And if any of them are heavily timelag, then I’m screwed, for sure. And so I need help, I need augmentation, I need to be analytics lead, I need to be doing all that stuff. To so that it makes me better. It doesn’t replace me, makes me better.

Mel:
Awesome. So when these amazing thoughts come to you as a thought leader and deep thoughts, and you said, you know, it’s because you’ve got so much knowledge, do you note them down? But you haven’t? Like, where do you put it? Put it in your phone somewhere? Like, do you? Do you take an audio note?

Mark:
You know, what I have found? You know, it’s pretty funny, you know, I keep a little little note card and a pin right by my bed. Okay. And and I’ll just note it down, even if I wake up in the middle of the night. And also to have a thought I’ll because I know if I wait, I

Mel:
know it’s gone. It’s gone. That’s, that’s what I mean. But what about if you’re having a thought and you’re not next to your bed and you’re walking around? And you’re in that moment?

Mark:
Absolutely. I do my little thing on my iPhone and just


Mel:

record it down. Write record it or note it? Yeah. Okay. Like, do you record or do you? Do you note take in your notes I record?

Mark:
I record? Yes. Okay. It’s two takes too long to type.

Mel:
Yes, it could be gone by then. Right? It could have gone by the time you’re typing

Mark:
an alternative, you you know, particularly when you haven’t worked at all completely out. There’s so much more that you can convey in the same amount of time talking to yourself, as opposed to writing to yourself. Great. And so yeah, I I also think that so I’m one of those people that finds so many things really interesting. And so I have studied a lot of different things in to varying depths, right. And usually these the subjects have on the surface, nothing in common with each other. Right. So like when I’m not doing all this, one of the things that I’m really passionate about is I studied 15th century kind of pre Renaissance innovation, particularly in the area of military conflict, right, because there was so much in Europe and Central Europe that was technology and innovation was driven by war in that period of time. And so and then you look at the relationships between like Mehta chi and Leonardo da Vinci, right and this reads just like the present day, right you’ve got the sponsor, you got meta chi who is brilliant, right in some respects, almost as brilliant as Leonardo he just can’t actually do it. He needs Leonardo to be actually to actualize it all for him. And he’s sitting there in these letters going Hey, butthead. Right. I know you want to do this fresco. But I’m at war with PISA right now. Right? Yeah. Don’t give me the giant crossbow from hell that you promised me, right? I’m gonna lose and it’s your it’s gonna be your fault and you’re not gonna get any more money. So can we like, Please focus? Right? It’s hilarious. I mean, you just like you’re sitting on man I have I have like, been there. Right. And so I just, I think that my ability to connect dots sometimes is really aided by that, right. And, you know, people who’ve known me a long time will say that Mark is never at a loss for an analogy. And yeah, and it’s probably true, mainly because I’ve read so much about so many things and knock on wood, right. I’m in my mid 50s. I, you know, I still have, you know, a really good memory. Right. And I and hopefully always will.


Mel:

Right. So yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I think polls is a really great strategy. It’s fast. It’s quick. It’s, it does well, I mean, it’s a really an A, for people that are time poor. I think, you know, definitely go follow mark, have a look at how he’s doing it. I think it’s super powerful, because all other formats might take that extra bit more time, you know, and video formats that if you want to put out which I think it’s, you’re incredible on video as well. But I’m sure that that’s just an extra bit of time going. Okay, you need a video editor, you need a team that’s constantly cutting that up and giving you back the content, right?

Mark:
No, it’s true. I mean, I, I will say this on the on the polls, right. One of the most fascinating things that I have discovered and all that, and I’ve discussed it before, and people who do a lot of polling on LinkedIn have exactly the same experience. So let’s say I launch a poll, and I get 30 votes. It’s entirely possible, it’s usual, probable, more than possible, probable that I will get 30 additional votes by by private message. The number of people who don’t want to interact with content publicly, but that consume it is staggering. You know, like, when I was out and about, you know, mainly pre COVID, you know, doing a lot of speaking, being, you know, keynote here and Keynote there and all that kind of stuff. It used to amaze me the number of people who would come up to me and say, I read all your stuff, right? And I just really love it so much. And I And I’m sitting there inside myself, because I would never say this. But I don’t remember ever seeing your name in any of these posts, right? So finally, I asked this guy at South by one time. I said, I’m so sorry. I said I got because I don’t remember you commenting at all, or being you know, engaging at all with content. And he goes, Oh, I don’t. He said, But he said, just in this conversation. I think it’s pretty obvious that I read it. And it was it was totally obvious, right? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Mel:
I mean, it’s kind of like

Mark:
you, other than other than the invite to be on your podcast? I don’t think you’ve ever come on. Right. No, I’ve

Mel:
never No, never interacted.

Mark:
You ever facility though, with the content that I’ve shared? That’s obvious.

Mel:
Yeah. So it’s funny, I didn’t interact because it’s actually one of my employees picked up your comments and sent it to me and said, you know, look at this thought leader would you be interested to maybe send him an invite because he’s like, so I’ve got my employees constantly like looking around for the next thought leader and you know, thanks, innovative mind and sent it to me and I and it was just that comment was sufficient and then went and checked out that you’ve got a style about you and I was like, You know what, I liked that style. And, and I’ve gone and looked at you a few times, but it’s funny, I’ve haven’t voted on anything, but I’m sitting there and looking at it and you know, saying okay, yeah, he’s guy, this guy’s got substance. So we’re always judging and I think 60% of people it’s just looking at and not interacting, according to the LinkedIn report that was released recently. So you’ve got like this silent audience, who are usually investors and people that are going to do business with you, they’re not going to be the people that actually interact. So I agree with you. It’s super cool. I have thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, what a thought leader you are and your depth of knowledge really shines through. I’m excited to release this piece. And you know, I’ve got some snippets there. Actually, I think it’s going to be super cool to the market to show off some great depth in thoughts over there. So thank you for coming on and everyone listening on make sure you follow mark, his details will be in the description.

Mark:
Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

Mel:
You’re listening to innovative minds.

Want More Linkedin Tips And Inspiring CEO Stories?