Shane Murphy, SVP of Marketing at Intercom, joined FirstMark’s B2B CMO Guild for a private conversation focused on org design, brand-building in B2B, and more.
What’s your current Marketing org structure?
At Intercom, we believe there are three core types of marketing:
1. Product Marketing — goal : position the product
2. Brand Marketing — goal : bring the emotion
3. Demand Marketing — goal : get the name out there for revenue
Our team is roughly 75 people and is organized by capability, which is unique at this level of scale. My direct reports include:
- Product Marketing
- Brand Marketing
- Brand Marketing is orchestration-focused and is responsible for awareness, communications, integrated marketing, and cross-channel coordination and alignment. Social lives here as well.
- Creative Studio (execution focused and is tasked with creating concepts, building creative, and developing brand assets)
- Demand Generation (includes Marketing Ops —highly technical)
- Content (Sits separately, but could roll up under Brand eventually
- Senior Manager of Planning & Project Management: a role that has proven indispensable at our scale; effectively plays the role of Chief of Staff and helps coordinate cross-team planning. Background like, e.g., Chief of Staff or ex- consultants are great.
How do you use agencies?
We use agencies in three specific scenarios:
1. If demand for a given use case is choppy. Agencies are great during peaks or troughs of work. If you try to staff in-house, you’ll end up over-staffed (if you staff against peaks) or under-staffed (if you staff against troughs.)One concrete example: site illustration work; this is an infrequent need -- which in general, doesn’t really require strategic context or alignment.
2. So we don’t drink our own Kool-Aid. If we have a large brand campaign launching, we use agencies to keep us grounded that our storytelling will actually resonate vs. just sounding good to us internally.
3. To get out of a hole really quickly. Related to the first scenario, if we have a super quick turnaround campaign, we’ll turn to an agency to augment our team’s throughput and speed up time-to-launch.
What’s in your Marketing stack? And how are new tools adopted?
In general, the marketing stack at Intercom doesn’t include much that’s new or shiny--the team focuses on proven tools that enable team members to do great marketing work. For example:
1. Marketo & Intercom (both link into Salesforce)
2. Madkudu for lead scoring
3. ZoomInfo for enrichment
4. Heap to consolidate our data infrastructure
How are new tools adopted?
Most tools are adopted bottoms-up. For example, our social listening tool was evaluated and chosen by our Social Media Manager. The one exception is if the tool is critically important or cross-functional (e.g., CRM) -- then we’ll run a more structured evaluation process.
What’s your campaign planning process look like?
We typically look one year ahead for overall strategy (aligning on which audiences to focus on, big stories we want to tell in-market, etc.). We have quarterly campaign check-ins, which in effect turn into a bi-annual readjustment process -- as in, over a 3-month period, you’re still executing and making minor adjustments to the original strategy. The 6-month checkin is the first where enough has changed -- in terms of data, our product, the market -- to really re-set the annual plan. Note that it’s really important to be way ahead of planning campaigns -- and to synch those campaigns tightly to the Product roadmap. I’m a firm believer in building the thing you’ll sell and selling the thing you’ll build.
What metrics do you focus on with your Board and with your team?
The metrics we review with our team are very much aligned to those we review with our board. The team metrics are somewhat more granular and tactical than what we review with the team. Those metrics cover brand, demand, and other key areas.
For Brand, we measure:
Awareness (aided + unaided) & Sentiment
How? We use SurveyMonkey. They also have a great feature where you can set up panels that they’ll send to a qualified target group (for us, CS and support leaders).
Rough cost? $25K will get you a decent survey, you can go all the way up to $100-200K (global vs. US)
As a rough benchmark: are you able to share any brand metrics and what you’ve learned?
If we were to survey startups, our awareness would be easily 50%+, but for companies with 500+ FTEs, we’re probably closer to 10-15%. Best in class is 75%+.
Note: awareness metrics really depend on how you define your target market. The tighter the focus on one buyer the better -- all the effort goes after that one buyer.
For Demand Gen, we measure:
- ES1s - expected S1 leads generated. This is a custom internal metric that we really believe in; think of it as halfway between an MQL and an SQL -- it’s an “expected stage 1” lead, that our scoring indicates is likely to turn into an actual opportunity.
- LTV:CAC for paid, as well as our overall program
- Uplift in conversion rates
- S&M attribution
3. Existing Customers
- Onboarding velocity (time from signature to live)
- Activation across products/feature
4. Additional Note
- We’re shifting GTM from primarily a PLG model to a combined PLG and sales motion.
- For this reason, we’ve started to report these metrics against various customer segments.
What drove the shift from a primarily PLG sales motion to a Sales-led motion?
The decision was driven by a product penetration insight. Initially, our PLG self-service approach was: a user signs up → we remove as much friction as possible → and they’ll start using 75% of the product on Day 1. Many of our more advanced capabilities are “add-ons” so we looked closely at add-on attach rate (AAR). For PLG (or self-serve customers) AAR was very low—around 10%. But for sales-led customers it was 75%. We also saw a 35X (!) greater LTV for sales-led customers. There was clearly a tradeoff for higher level of friction with sales-led motion; however, we were comfortable with fewer customers if they resulted a significantly higher LTV.
Any quick tips for getting started with PLG?
PLG is not just a mentality—you need to invest in a Growth team. That team should be a collaboration between Marketing and Product with access to dedicated analysts and engineers. You also need to make sure that you give that group clear KPIs that they’re driving as well as a mandate that they can execute against.
Related: one mistake I see marketers make time and time again is that their core focus is still on email as the core channel to drive PLG. But in fact, your app experience is one of the best marketing assets you have. Marketers always fall into the trap of thinking, “Oh, it’s our product… the Product team owns that.” That’s not true. Things like in-app messaging, product tutorials, and cross-sell are where the real uplift happens. You’ll truly drive PLG from your website & in-app experience, but not from email, and Marketing needs to take a leadership role in that.
Any growth initiatives that were easy wins?
Two quick wins come to mind:
1. At a previous company, we had experienced our first plateau of growth after a hyper growth period. What unlocked our second wave of growth was an intentional shift from a heavy demand gen focus to a more balanced diet of brand & demand focus. Brand marketing is like fertilizing the crops and demand gen is like harvesting the crops. If you’re too heavily weighted towards the latter, you’ll have an amazing first year, but then growth will hit the skids because you haven’t nurtured the market enough.
2. Most marketing teams don’t truly understand that they need dedicated headcount for pricing and packaging. It’s not simply about finding the right pricing, it’s equally important to create the right pricing experience with packaging. Too many companies don’t have clearly dedicated focus there. At Intercom, we have a dedicated pricing & packaging person as well as a cross-functional company program that works on optimization together. That group includes representatives from Product, Biz Ops, Analytics, and Sales.
How are you using paid marketing and how does it play into your marketing funnel?
When I joined, we were too demand focused. We’ve seen that paid performance has grown substantially while branded lead gen has tapered off because of 1) better attribution and 2) addressing the brand. Of our paid spend, ~35% is going to direct response although once our hero campaign launches, we’ll be closer to 60% with a 50/50 split between DR & brand/media. The purpose of the latter is to drive demand. We’ll then track awareness delta and site uplift.
Any non-obvious paid channels that have given you leverage?
1. Direct mail has been really impactful. Something about really thoughtful direct mail, if you do it right. We saw a 50% increase in conversion rate from lead to opportunity with our direct mail companies . Sending digital gifts during COVID. Using Sendoso is key.
2. Niche media is emerging for different buyers. Podcasts are great for niche, highly-targeted impact. Speak or buy on them… and don’t trust when an agency says, “oh, you can go mass market for $X and reach 100,000 listeners on this NPR podcast.”. Instead, get on the podcast that has 1K downloads squarely in your addressable market. Two other niche media options to consider are newsletters and small leadership communities of your target buyer. Explore accessing those audiences via targeted partnerships.