The Dark Funnel & ABM Marketing

Overview: Latané Conant CMO at 6sense talks about the “dark funnel” and how to expose it into something that is useful.

About the speaker: As CMO of 6sense, Latané is passionate about empowering marketing leaders with effective technology, predictive insights, and thought leadership so they can confidently lead their teams, company, and industry into the future. As a “recovering software sales woman” she is keenly focused on leveraging data to ensure marketing programs result in deals, not just leads.


Billy: All right, everyone. I’m here with the great Latane Conant, how you doing Latane? 

Latane: I guess I’m great. I never thought I was great. But hey, I’ll take it. 

Billy: Everyone at the demand gen summit is great.  

Latane: True.  

 Billy: Before we hop into it, today, we’re going to talk about a lot about your book, No Forms, No Spam, No Cold Calls, and how that relates to Demand Gen. But before we hop into that, just give us a little bit of your background. And you’re currently CMO at 6Sense and a recent author and I’ll let you take it from that. 

Latane: Okay, yeah, I am currently the Chief Marketing Officer at 6Sense. I’m a recovering software salesperson. So that’s how I got going. I also was an accountant and a CPA for a little bit. But I’m dyslexic, so that that didn’t take, that one didn’t stick. And then I just accidentally got into marketing and the rest is history. It’s the coolest most fun job ever. I feel blessed.  

Billy: Marketing is the place to be. And I can understand recovering CPA, my wife’s a little bit of that right now. So. Okay, so let’s hop into it. You recently wrote a book. The title is No Forms, No Spam, No Cold Calls. So, in really relation to Demand Gen. How do you build demand without any of those things? 

Latane: I know, it seems like a radical move, right? This is, these are the fundamentals. It’s so funny, I was asked to do a futuristic podcast. And they said, Well, No Forms, No Spam, No Cold Calls. That’s not really that radical. I’m like, you understand where we are today? This is literally the fundamentals of b2b demand gen.  

I think if you zoom out for five minutes, and think about any book on sales, on marketing, on customer experience, and the fundamentals are your audience. Delivering value and connecting with your audience, if you go back to the core of what we’re trying to do. If you think about that, as being the core. How do you connect and add value and understand their problems? Then you juxtapose that with the way that we’re set up, which is forms spam and cold calls, it becomes super obvious that maybe we need to make a change. 

 I think what the scariest thing about the change is the MQL. Yeah. That sort of has that’s created a problem that we don’t need.  I even argue with board members about this, right, where they everyone’s used to an MQL, even though it sets us up for kind of these poor behaviors and isn’t really a great indicator of demand. Because we know how to use it, and we know how to track it. It’s kind of like lie to me but lie to me consistently.  

 When I work with people about this approach, the first thing I say is like, pretend you don’t have to track MQLs, like you just don’t, I’m a magic wand. I’m your godmother, and you don’t have to deal with them. Now, what do you design? Like what does an amazing process putting, customer or future customer experience at the center look like?  

You quickly see, you’re not going to use a form. You’re not going to just spam. You are going to use all different tactics you’re going to be more relevant. You’re going to be looking not to pass a lead or a contact because if you think about b2b, it’s a whole buying team. And so really, what sales and marketing start to collaborate on is who is the readiest to buy and ready for sales to engage. That’s typically a buying team of multiple people. 

 So yeah, those are some of the philosophies in the book and when applied, you actually start using your dollars and your time, way more efficiently than ever before. It actually is a more effective way. 

And going back to the MQL measurement, I think another problem that marketers have is, we created this, somehow this nomenclature of account-based marketing got spun up, which has, which is a step in the right direction. Yeah. But sales have always been account based. So, they’re like, What the hell’s your problem marketing? Like, what are you talking about? 

Billy: I would even say, account-based marketing really is b2b marketing and getting away from the spray and pray and like, think about who are really my customers? 

Latane: Yeah but it’s also who, I think that when people think about an ABM campaign, they think. I’m going to get my list of fit, they think. Okay, I’m going to do one to one or one to many, or when I’m going to get met, and I’m going to proactively target these folks. That’s not bad. I’m not saying that’s bad. But I think we’re not giving equal weight to, who are we actually not going to sell to? Right, who are we not going to spend time on? 

Because that’s where more problems and wasted time and energy happen. So, it’s just as much as like. Not every account is created equal. Understanding that ICP, and then more importantly, that I in market ICP, and be able to being able to focus more energy on that, and almost like disqualifying people that you don’t think you’re a good fit is just as much of it. 

Billy: Agreed. Agreed. So, you talked about customer experience. And as marketers sometimes we would neglect that experience by throwing up the forms, gating the content, saying, No, you know, like, you have to be our ideal customer, give us all this info to talk to us. Why do you think we’ve neglected that experience? And what can we do better as marketers? 

Latane: Well, the reality is, technology is the catalyst for change. And if you have good data, and good technology, you already see them coming. I don’t have to put a form up because I see you, I know you’re on my website. And I know what you’re doing. I know what I know, I know that you’re in demand gen. And the head of digital is also on my website. In addition I know that your top keyword is predictive analytics, or CDP or towel or tam or whatever. So why would I not use that? Why would I, if I can be a lot smarter and savvier about how I engage? You actually don’t you don’t really need a form. 

Billy: Yeah. Agreed.  

Latane: And I think the big benefit of that, is we spend so much money, trying to get people to come to our website, trying to get them to learn from us. You know, trying to challenger sale is all about like, teach tailor, take control. I’m trying to have them connect their problem to our point of view. Then it just makes no sense to them stop that process. Just when it’s getting good, just when they want to actually look at your eBook and maybe for an it around. Seems kind of silly. 

Billy: It is I agree with you there. So, let me ask you then this. In your book, you talk about the dark funnel. And you’ve got to get some insights into your dark funnel. Will you lay out that dark funnel and how we can leverage the dark funnel as marketers with the right tools. 

Latane: You want me to lay out how what the dark funnel is? So, the reality is, and you can look at whoever you want to quote, it’s anywhere from call it 60 to 90% of the sales cycle that is happening anonymously. It’s happening anonymously across, not one, it’s not b2c, it’s not one person, it’s probably three, four or five, six. And when I started in marketing, it was like the rule of an eight to 10 touch campaign.  

That’s what we talked about, and we designed well now like just a cadence is 22 touches. Tons of noise. All these buyers, majority of it anonymous. And what you have is, is a dark funnel, right? Only 13% of sales and marketers have any confidence in their data, their first party like CRM data. That is not a funnel. Your real funnel is this dark funnel, it’s actually a hairball, I should call it a dark hairball of stuff. What’s so frustrating is there is gold inside of that dark funnel.  

 Yeah, there are teams of buyers that literally have the problem you solve for, and they’re out there researching how to solve their problem. And you just don’t know about it. So the whole notion of uncovering your dark funnel is saying, Okay, how do we start to expose that to you, and not just expose it as a big blob, but expose it as a known funnel that’s lit, that shows you, hey, these are ideal Billy, these are ideal accounts for you to sell to.  

They are early stage in their journey. You just as a marketer need them to know your brand. These are ideal accounts for you to sell to. And they’re starting to progress. They you want them to learn from you. So, make sure that they’re engaging with your content. Guess what now they’re at a different phase, they’re actually at the ideal phase for sales to engage. Let’s make sure sales engages in that sweet spot.  

 That’s what we talked about, because the reality is our old school form, spam, cold call model, what happens is, we wait for an inbound, that’s too late, when I get an inbound, I’m pissed. If it is an inbound and one of our ICP accounts, I’m like, how do we miss that? Cuz I want us to be engaging, like in that sweet spot, right? When an account is like, ready, and I want to be the first person that welcomes them to this wild world that is an ABM. 

 So anyway, so inbound is too late. And just because they want your eBook is too early. It’s finding that sweet spot, and then being able to make sure that you adequately work accounts that are in that sweet spot. 

Billy: So, to you, when is the ideal time to when you recognize that sweet spot and then engage him? Like, what are the flags they’re throwing up? 

 Latane: Yeah, so typically? Well, a couple things. One, what we do is we actually ingest 24 months of historical data. And so, AI is basically looking for a pattern, and telling me and saying, based on deals that you have closed before, this is the type of behavior they do. These are the personas that are typically engaging. This is the recency and frequency of their behavior. It’s all about like, recognizing a pattern, essentially. 

 And it’s going to be a little bit different for everybody, because everyone’s motion is different. And this AI is always getting smarter and learning. Typically, indicators would be like in my model, they’re starting to research, not just generic keywords, but more branded keywords. They maybe have done some first party engagement. There’s not just one persona engaged, there’s multiple. So those are some of the things that that kind of go into this model that’s telling me exactly where they are. 

 And the cool thing is I don’t have to sit there and go to Mark who run sales and say, Oh, my God, my I did all these MQL, we should work these blah, blah, because literally, we back test this model. Mark and I can both see Oh wow. 90% of our revenue was accurately predicted. That’s good enough for me. Good enough for him. So, then it’s just about how we align our teams to work those predictions. 

Billy: Yeah. So, let’s dig into that a little bit. How do you align your team, your marketing and sales, we know that, you know, buying is just not this linear journey? It’s not, we’re going to check all the boxes, and they’re either going to buy or they’re not any number of things can happen. So, what are you guys doing to work together and stay aligned? 

 Latane: So, I mean, I think a critical role as for us, and like the linchpin is the BDR. Team. I’ve done a lot of speaking. I mean, we had in February, we had a BDR Appreciation Week. So, I think it’s a critical role, especially if you have kind of an enterprise b2b motion. They’re on point for like being in the pocket of when the sweet spot hits. We actually treat the tin market the same way you would an inbound. It gets time stamped. And we have a definition of what it has what working an in-market account should look like what good looks like, and we can track what good looks like. 

 We have a lot of, you know, because they can see that things like the keywords. And we have a lot of like guides on the persona. We map the content and cadences to keywords and personas like, we can make sure that their outreach is relevant. So, I don’t necessarily know that I don’t believe in personalization. But personalization is kind of table stakes. To me, it’s about relevance. We focus a lot with that team on the relevance of their outreach. 

 And then we just have we also work really hard on some of the basics of defining our sales stages and making sure we have really clear definitions of those and then I think what’s more interesting, because everyone has sales stages and definitions, but those are again about you. Right, so yeah, still stages, like BANT, or whatever, we don’t use me, but like, whatever, it’s still about you. 

 So, what I have done with my team is I’ve said what, what is the buying team? doing? thinking, feeling? What are they trying to solve? If they’re in this stage? Gartner does a great job of talking about jobs to be done? They call it buying jobs. 

 We’ve really adopted that approach to say, Okay, if they’re stage three, that means that they’re they’re trying to huddle these three groups together, how do we make sure that we have an assessment that helps them assess these three functions, for example. We’re building out our digital experience, and our assets to map to where they are to make sure that we’re continuing to progress them and we’ve got good assets and experience to help them on their journey and help them continue to engage with us, hopefully, to be a customer.  

Billy: Great, great is that, would you say the relevance and putting all that together as part of what you call your next level personalization? 

Latane: Yeah. So, I want to personalize for timing. I want to personalize for the keyword and then the persona. All of those things ideally, come together. 

Billy: Awesome. I think that timing one is the key one of all of them really, personally, I mean, it’s pretty easy to identify the account and like have your bot or your forum pop up and say, hey, 6Sense glad you’re here, but if, if I’m that offer and the timing doesn’t match up, it’s not going to meet anything. Okay let me thank you so much and appreciate the time and your insights. 

 Latane: Oh, Billy, it’s been fun. Thanks for having me on.