What do B2B marketers need to know about customer engagement in 2024, and why is it more important than ever to utilize all relevant channels for making connections?
Kris Rudeegraap, CEO at Sendoso, knows the importance of both, and for the newest episode of our Elevate B2B Marketing Podcast, he sat down with our founder Lee Odden to explore the power of customer engagement when B2B marketers are able to take advantage of all available channels, where to find joy in B2B marketing, and much more.
The Elevate B2B Marketing Podcast features uniquely insightful conversations that inform and inspire by some of the world’s leading B2B marketers, with each episode digging deeply into the issues and topics that are vital to B2B brands today.
In this interview, Kris shared his insights on many of the key issues B2B brands are facing today, including:
- Heightened focus on the customer
- Customer engagement in B2B marketing
- Utilizing all relevant channels
- The power of handwritten notes
- Prioritizing intent data
- Making B2B marketing fun
- Finding the whole data story
You’ll find the full interview podcast here, and you can also listen on your favorite podcast platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Libsyn:
You can also check out the full video of Kris’s fascinating conversation with Lee here:
Be sure to also subscribe to the Elevate B2B Marketing Podcast to stay up-to-date as each new episode premiers.
B2B Marketing Insights From Kris Rudeegraap
You’ll also find a complete transcription of Kris’ fascinating podcast episode below.
Lee: Hello and welcome to the Elevate B2B Marketing podcast, the show where we have conversations that inform, include, and inspire with the best in B2B marketing. I’m your host, Lee Odden, co-founder of TopRank Marketing, and today we’re talking with Kris Rudeegraap, CEO of Sendoso. Chris has extensive experience in the B2B space, is a entrepreneur, an investor, and an advisor. He’s got a lot going on, and I’m really excited about sharing his insights with you today. Welcome to the show, Kris.
Kris: Thanks for having me, Lee. I’m really excited to be here.
Lee: We actually met at the BtoB Summit in Paris, and what a great experience that was — sharing insights in English to people in France. It was my first time speaking in France, I don’t know about you.
Kris: Yes, it was my first time speaking in Europe. I’ve gone to a couple of panels, but this was my first time leading a keynote.
Lee: When we met, you shared a brilliant idea, about something that you implemented early on and you’ve continued at Sendoso, where you’ve been nurturing and managing a community of influential leaders in the industry in which you operate. Can you share more about that and what it does for you?
Kris: I call it my personal industry advisory group. Another way to think about it though is that I have a community of what I call micro advisors. What’s different about this than what most founders, entrepreneurs, or CEOs do is that a lot of founders and CEOs will create a kind of executive advisory group — maybe 5, 6, or 7 people. They might also have a customer advisory group that again, might have 10 or 15 people involved in it. My program has a hundred plus people involved.
It includes folks who I’ve met along this journey over the last five years. There’s a group of customers who are a part of it. There are CMOs, CROs, CCOs — the gambit of different types of people around the world who I will provide an update to once a month, giving them highlights and milestones and interesting updates on the business.
I’ll also come to them with optional asks throughout the month, probably one or two asks that could be related to, “Hey, can I get your feedback on X, Y, Z?” Or, “Can you be a part of this talk track and case study, or a blog post we’re writing?” Or, “Can you help me with some market research? I’m thinking about X, Y, Z — can I get your opinion or referrals? Can I get your referral for someone who we’re hiring or someone who we’re trying to get a meeting with?”
It’s been quite unique, and quite fun seeing that group grow, meeting with them virtually and in person over the last few years, and really having this kind of mini think tank group who I can go to, who all are personally interested in seeing the success of Sendoso happen.
Lee: I think that’s so smart on many different levels. I mean, you’ve got this brain trust, this collective wisdom that you can tap into. And at the same time, I suspect a lot of these folks are influential in their own right. You know, everyone’s influential about something. There are a lot of companies that do what you’re talking about in terms of a customer advisory council or a board of advisors or something like that. And a lot of times they even go and implement influencer engagement types of initiatives, but they usually stop at these small numbers, you know? The idea of you managing a relationship, or building a community really around something that everyone can understand and be invested in, really provides motivation and inspiration for them to help you be successful. I just think that’s great. It’s like influence at scale almost, and from my biased perspective, it’s pretty impressive.
At the conference, you gave a keynote presentation as you mentioned, and the topic was full-funnel marketing. In the session description, it talked about seven plays that you can add to your playbook today, and I was wondering if you could share a takeaway, and give our audience a short version, if you will, of what advice you shared with those B2B marketers in Paris.
My goal for the conversation was really talk about a lot of the changing trends we’re seeing, and one of them is the heightened focus on your customer, especially over the last year and a half where times have been difficult, with headwinds from the macroeconomic situation.
It’s five times more expensive to find a new customer than it is to keep your existing customers. With that, a lot of people have been using the term ABM — account-based marketing — for years and years, and some of it implies that you’re going to be doing marketing to your existing customers for expansion. But I wanted to debunk that, and really call it full-funnel marketing, mainly because I see a lot of marketers kind of end with the one opportunity and they’ll say, “OK, I’m doing ABM and I found a target account list, and I’m going to run targeted ads and run programs to target these prospects, and then I’m going to help sales get them to the finish line, and then our job’s done, and we’re going to do more of that.”“It’s five times more expensive to find a new customer than it is to keep your existing customers.” — Kris Rudeegraap @rudeegraap of @sendosohq Click To Tweet
For me, it was really like, well — are you doing ABM to market to your customers? And if not, here’s a better way to look at it from the lens of full-funnel marketing, and really the takeaway with that is rather than really thinking about expanding your customers as a salesy sales motion, think about driving usage, adoption, and advocacy. And once you have those really honed in, then expansion comes easier after that. I talked about some of those nuances.
That’s great. It’s kind of like an adage we have, in our case, the best investment in marketing is the quality of the product, but you know, it’s the usage of the product, the adoption of the product, right? Because no powerful form of marketing exists other than word of mouth and advocacy and that sort of thing. As you mentioned, there’s a lot going on in the business environment right now, including generative AI, AI in general, and autonomous AI — these challenges both economically perceived and real. In the midst of this sort of uncertainty and chaos to some degree, if you had to pick one thing — and I know this is a tough question — but if there is a feeling of uncertainty for a market or a business leader in the B2B space, what’s one thing you think they should focus on first?
You mentioned the AI piece, and I’d say tangential to that, I think it’s really worth marketers being educated on what are the trends in AI and which are the solution providers they’re working with, and how are they leveraging AI so that they’re not left behind? I think that’s table stakes.
If you were to ask what is one thing, I have to go back. I know data is kind of all encompassing, but if you have a strong data strategy, you can really use that when you need to use AI, or when you’re looking at personalization, or when you’re prioritizing ABM target lists. So I think data is still the core foundation for a lot of the new things that are coming out. And if you don’t have data right, it’s going be harder to do anything else on top of it.“Data is all encompassing, but if you have a strong data strategy, you can use that when you need to use AI, when you’re looking at personalization, or when you’re prioritizing ABM target lists.” — Kris Rudeegraap @rudeegraap of @sendosohq Click To Tweet
You know, that makes so much sense. And of course, data, just what is that? That’s customers interacting with things, and the evidence of those interactions are your North Star, right? To always know what you should be doing, if you believe in the idea of finding out what people want and giving it to them.
When I was back in my early sales days, more than a decade ago, there was a phrase that stuck with me —”If it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen.” And the reason really behind that is because you really need the whole data story in order to layer new technology and reporting on top of it. I think that’s critical — even for this new AI stage — if you have some new AI copilot that’s going to overlay on your Salesforce data to provide smart insights, if you have bad data from the start, it’s going to be bad AI.
I think that going back to the foundation, and a lifelong lesson for me, was if it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen —it’s something that’s still really critical for today’s business, even though that’s a saying from a couple decades ago.
Sure, and it really resonates. It’s funny, I recently gave a presentation talking about man versus machine, or human versus machine, and about AI. And one of the takeaways there was, “Garbage in, garbage out.” You know, AI makes you more of what you are. When you put poor prompts in and poor data in, yes, of course, you’re going to get garbage out. Can you tell us the Sendoso origin story? How did the company come to be, what are the key offerings, and who are you selling to?
I probably should have started with this, so listeners can understand what Sendoso is for those who don’t know. Sendoso is a gifting platform that helps other companies send out different types of gifts — whether it’s swag, promotional products, handwritten notes, wine — you name it, we can get super creative with it.
It’s really helpful because it integrates into your tech stack, whether it’s through HubSpot, Salesforce, Outreach, or any of the marketing tools that you’re currently using, or your sales tools or your CX tools.
About a decade ago when I was in sales I had really seen first and foremost the power of email, and how people were super responsive. A decade ago, I could send a hundred emails and probably get like 95 replies, and then that started diminishing. It was pretty quickly when these mail merge tools came out and it made it so easy to send a gazillion emails with personalization. It kind of commoditized that space a bit, at least for me personally.
So I said, “Hey, when others are zigging, I’m going to zag.” What other creative ways can I get in front of prospects or build better relationships with customers? I found myself writing handwritten notes and mailing them out. I’d find myself on a call and hear a dog bark, and follow up with a dog toy from Amazon or these different one-off little gifts or thank yous —different ways for me to build better relationships and break through that digital noise that was harder than ever to do. And it worked really, really well. It was just super manual and time intensive to pack boxes, to click on tracking links, and to make expense reports.
So all those things happened, and I said, “Hey, what if there was a platform where you could just click a button or set up an automation, and wallah! — behind the scenes things were sourced, things were kitted, things were shipped and delivered, and things were tracked. That was really the early “Aha!” moment, and it was really about the time ABM was starting to get going too, which was even more of an aha moment for us in our first year as well. It’s kind of snowballed from there, and now we’ve seen millions and millions of things being sent through our platform — tens of thousands of of customers using the platform, and hundreds of millions of dollars being spent across this channel.
Wow, that’s amazing, and really speaks to how important customer engagement has become, right? And to differentiate and stand out, when you have something tactile. I mean, I don’t think there’s anybody who isn’t — especially after COVID and the increase in getting packages from Amazon and others — you know, everyone especially now loves getting stuff, right? Who doesn’t like getting something that is gifted to them?
One interesting stat is that FedEx boxes have a one hundred percent open rate. If it’s at your door, there you go — no one is taking a FedEx box, seeing it at their door or on their desk and saying, “I’ll just throw it in the trash immediately.” There’s too much human curiosity, and willingness to open a box at the very least.“One interesting stat is that FedEx boxes have a one hundred percent open rate.” — Kris Rudeegraap @rudeegraap of @sendosohq Click To Tweet
You can’t argue with that a one hundred percent open rate, right? I’m curious, what are some creative use cases that you’ve seen from your customers when it comes to gifting?
There are a couple of favorites that stand out over the years, in terms of creative ways people are using our platform to send things. One was from one of our sales reps, probably three years ago — right before COVID — was at a conference, and someone was coming by from one of our named accounts on crutches, and he mentioned that he had broken his ribs in a snowmobile accident. We had some conversations back and forth, and our sales rep followed up with a rack of barbecue ribs in the mail that was delivered when the person got back home with a funny note mentioning something like, “Here’s an extra rib for you, and enjoy these, which are my favorite.”
So again, it’s personal and quirky, and how can you not respond to that? It’s personalized, it’s unique, and it’s kind of clever. It has that creativity and that human-to-human touch that I think people really want to see. So that was one example.
Another one that I liked, which was just as interactive involved those red and blue decoder glasses. They’re pretty simple, I mean, they’re nothing high tech or anything, but again, the interactiveness of sending those glasses with a note and some other things in a box, and you know, you are curious — the curiosity of like, well now that I have the glasses and the note, let me see what it really says. I like that interactivity as well. For listeners, if you go to Sendoso.com slash customer-examples, there are hundreds of examples, along with some statistics on how they work, and some of the return-on-investment (ROI) on them. I love sharing other customer examples.
Thanks for sharing that. I’d heard of Sendoso and I had a rough idea, but then I thought about the digital and the real world combination, and how important it is to engage with people these days, in the sea of information overload and distractions. So those are great examples.
These days I think there’s a lot going on in terms of what’s effective, and there’s a bigger push for personalization now than ever before. I’m wondering what you think that means for how companies should be implementing their demand generation, their ABM, and their go-to-market?
It goes back to the importance of good data, number one. I think the other thing is there’s now interesting tech that you can bolster onto your tech stack to really personalize all aspects of your ABM programs or demand gen markets. Whether it’s personalized ads, landing pages, or your website that changes based on visitors or emails or gifts. I think at the end of the day, you have to personalize, and now it’s easier than ever to personalize every aspect of your marketing touch-points, and every channel. It does create some complexities for B2B marketers because there’s so many moving parts, but I think it’s one of the core competencies that really successful companies do — using personalization at scale.
It’s an expectation, isn’t it? You know, you get this sheer volume of inbound to you as a potential buyer of something, and when something is thoughtfully personalized — and you talked a lot about what really resonated with you about gifting is the thoughtfulness. I don’t think it’s just the gifting, it’s the thoughtfulness behind the gifting, and the thoughtfulness behind personalization — winning combination for sure.
A hundred percent.
You know, LinkedIn* — which I’m sure we’re both equally friends with — we love. As B2B folks, their research shows that 95 percent of buyers are out-of-market, and that leaves only 5 percent in decision-making mode. At times like these, it seems like B2B marketers are focusing 95 percent of their efforts on just that end of funnel, that just that 5 percent. I’m curious if you have advice about how to find a balance between warming up your buying audience and actually engaging them for sales?
I think this is an interesting topic, because I think intent data is very over-hyped. At least the focus of saying, “Hey, you should only focus on intent data in market accounts, and focus all of your energy on going after those.” And to your point, what happens to all those other accounts that are not getting hit up, that likely are good fits, that maybe don’t know you exist yet, or aren’t searching yet, but when you hit them up, they could become interesting and they could become interested in converting too. I think there is a bit of a fallacy there. I think pre-intent data in this, like in market data, people were always focused on, “How do I prioritize better?” When intent data and in-market — that 5 percent of accounts that are in market — I think the pendulum shifted over to that field very quickly.
There’s a lot of thought leadership content around that right now, and I think there is a balance. At the end of the day, I think you should still focus on intent data accounts and how you prioritize them — potentially with a subset maybe of a group of your sales development reps or account executives who are focused on those, while also looking across your closed one customers, your close loss customers, your ICP, and really looking at what are these named accounts that you have that you want to go after, that should be marketed to, should be running ABM programs to, should be having sales reps outbound to, that aren’t “in market,” but still look like good fits. I think it’s just that a combination of focusing on one versus the other isn’t going to be as beneficial to pipeline or close one revenue.“At the end of the day, I think you should still focus on intent data accounts and how you prioritize them.” — Kris Rudeegraap @rudeegraap of @sendosohq Click To Tweet
It’s kind of like responding to short-term opportunities, obviously with good insight, makes sense. But it’s also kind of like a brand investment in familiarity, trust, recall, and all those other things that shorten the time it takes for someone to go from, “Hmm. I’m not even sure I have a problem,” to “Gosh, who’s the best solution?” You want to be the best answer. You want to be the first choice in someone’s mind when the time comes.
Demand creation and demand capture — and I know those have been talked about for some time now — but I think it goes back to that, how do you capture the people that are already in-market, but then how do you drive awareness for people who don’t even know they’re in-market yet, but should be? You don’t want to miss out on either of those.
Fantastic — that’s great advice. There are a lot of aspiring CEOs, especially with AI as hot as it is, in all the funding recently, that’s being just thrown at AI startups right now. What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs and marketing leaders?
I think depending on the stage, there are a few different pieces of advice. If you’re not an entrepreneur yet and you’re kind of a “launch-preneur,” you want to be there but you’re on the sidelines, you should jump in. I think now’s a better time than ever to jump in and be an entrepreneur, with the tools that are out there — the resources.
For those who’ve made the jump, for those marketers, founders, or CEOs who are already out there, a couple of things come to mind. One is, you’ve got to have fun. You know, don’t take your job too seriously. I know it’s stressful. I know there’s the Silicon Valley vibe of working 18 hours a day and don’t do anything else. I think you’ve got to take a step back here and have fun.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It could be a 10 year journey for you from the time you raised your first dollar to the time you IPO’d or exited, and if you sprint, you’re going to burn yourself out.
Really think about it as a marathon, and have fun running that marathon.
The last thing is to talk to customers every single day if you can. I talk to hundreds and hundreds of customers a day. If you’re a marketer, I think you should be talking to customers. If you’re a founder or an entrepreneur, you should be talking to customers, or to prospects who should be customers, who will eventually become customers. At the end of the day, you’re trying to solve a problem, and you need to talk to as many people as you can who have that problem, and get as many perspectives as you can so that you can market and solve that problem.
Fantastic advice. I’m going to ask you a few more questions, including one about engagement. When you think of engagement opportunity today, and obviously you’re in the business of helping brands create engagement, what is the future of engagement? What should we be looking for when it comes to engagement? Is it some shiny object? Is it data solutions? Is it, if a company’s not prioritizing customer engagement right now, what’s your argument convince people that this is important, and here’s why — what do you say to them?
We are in a world today that has a gazillion distractions and so much noise, so driving engagement through as many different channels and touch-points as you can is going to better your chances of success. You might have one channel that you’ve relied on for years — maybe you’re really good at email marketing — and I say great, go do that, but make sure you’re covering all your bases, because you don’t want to miss out on a customer relationship because you’ve sent them an email and they’re just not fond of receiving emails.
Maybe the next customer is, and maybe they love their inbox and they get to inbox zero every day, and read each and every one of them. But I think you have to diversify. You have to know that it’s noisy out there, and you have to look at every single channel that you can touch them with, whether it’s email, SMS, direct mail, gifting, ads, even the ways that they’re searching and finding you. through, you know, s e m and s e o every specific possible way that you could have an engagement you need to be optimizing for.
It’s no longer a nice-to-have, but every single channel needs to have a focus area.
Great advice — ABO — “Always be optimizing,” right? My last question for you Kris is what is it about B2B marketing that gives you joy?
Good question, and I’ve got to go back to the human creativity side of things. You know, it’s never a dull day in B2B marketing. You have infinite resources in front of you, and you can be as creative as possible. And I think creativity is one of those skill sets that we’ll see that won’t be kind of commoditized with AI anytime soon. It’s something that, sure, you can learn, but the best and most creative people in the world will always have a leg up. Anything that you can do to be more creative, the better. It’s one of the things that wows me when I see an interesting campaign, a really thoughtful message, a really unique way of using a channel, or engaging with a prospect or customer. Creativity — if I had to sum up with one word, is the reason I love marketing.“It’s never a dull day in B2B marketing. You have infinite resources in front of you, and you can be as creative as possible.” — Kris Rudeegraap @rudeegraap of @sendosohq Click To Tweet
Thanks To Kris Rudeegraap For Helping To Elevate B2B Marketing
We offer many thanks to Kris for taking the time to share his B2B marketing energy and insight with us on the Elevate B2B Marketing Podcast, and for his ongoing work to help elevate the B2B marketing industry.
Be sure to also listen and subscribe to the Elevate B2B Marketing Podcast to learn even more from each new episode.
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