How Cognism Optimised Its Marketing Pipeline in 2023
Many things influence marketing strategies, like economic climate, business needs and ultimately the goals you want to achieve.
And starting this year, the Cognism team were challenged with a new approach - switching from a ‘growth at all costs’ mentality to an ‘optimise efficiency’ mindset.
Out of this strategy change have come several new tactics that we’re using to optimise our processes and unlock opportunities in new areas.
We thought we would break them down for you - so you can find out if these tactics would work for you 👇
Cognism’s strategy shift
At the end of 2022, while the Cognism leadership team were deciding on the company’s next moves, the economy shifted gears quite significantly.
Conversations went from ‘how much revenue is marketing bringing in?’ to ‘what kinds of businesses is marketing bringing into Cognism, and are they the type to stick around?’
Alice de Courcy, Cognism CMO, said:
“While reviewing the metrics, we discovered that many of the businesses that marketing brought in had fairly low retention rates. They were more of what we’d call a ‘automate’ or ‘velocity’ type business.”
“We were able to hit our revenue number with these accounts. But looking at long-term ROI for the business, we realised that this could be better.”
So the focus for our B2B marketing strategy became:
Can we replicate this growth and success in inbound requests but change the makeup of the organisations we attract? Can we bring in the growth+ and enterprise businesses that tend to stay for longer?
And what did success look like for us? We decided on a ratio of LTV to CAC of 3:1.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what we mean by each of these terms.
We segment our customers and potential future buyers like this as it helps us to understand how each of these groups behave and create different routes through Cognism accordingly.
Defining what a good customer looks like
It’s all well and good saying ‘let’s bring in more long-term customers’ - but what did those customers look like?
After some digging, we realised that the size of the sales team at our customers’ organisations seemed to make a big difference.
The bigger the sales team, the better the ACV and retention rates.
Now that we had these customer segments, we had a better way to target the customers we wanted to reach.
And while we wanted to reach more of those growth+/VIP customers, we also wanted to find a way to be a better solution for those automate/velocity customers who were dropping off the radar.
So we went channel by channel - trying to crack the code on each.
Why did we need to change the strategy?
VP of Marketing at Cognism, Liam Bartholomew, said:
“The problem we always faced with Facebook is having a small audience, we would tend to reach very high frequencies quite quickly. While also not really reaching our entire audience.”
“As we tightened our audience to align with our new strategy of targeting growth+/VIP accounts, this problem only seemed to be accentuated.”
What’s our strategy for Facebook?
Our Global Head of Paid came up with a theory. By switching the objective from reach to conversion, we should be able to get in front of those most likely to convert.
And importantly, our frequencies would drop, and we’d be able to generate more pipeline as a result.
And he was right.
Instead of Facebook just showing the same ads over and over again to the people who tended to interact with them, it was now serving ads to those who were most likely to convert.
In conjunction with this, we were overlapping our audiences using Metadata and Cognism; this meant we could expand our audience size without becoming less targeted.
We thought with a smaller audience, we’d have to reduce spend - but after this strategy change, we increased spend by 5%. This resulted in a 500% increase in pipeline.
Why did we need to change the strategy?
Similar to our battle with Facebook, we needed to refine our audiences on LinkedIn. Another goal was to increase our impression share for our most valuable accounts.
Stealing some words of advice from Silvio Perez, who said:
“Positive keywords give you visibility and exclusions give you focus.”
Now while he was referring to Google ads in this statement, we thought we could apply this to our LinkedIn strategy.
What’s our strategy for LinkedIn?
The idea was to use exclusions to focus and refine our audience. This meant we had to create a process to create these exclusions.
We did this by:
- Job title.
Our PPC team went through a detailed process of looking at who our ads were reaching. Then, they picked out the companies we knew that Cognism wouldn’t appeal to, e.g. B2C companies or sole traders.
Then they created exclusions to remove those people and tighten up our ad audiences.
We applied a similar lesson as learned during our Facebook optimisations: we were looking for companies with substantial sales teams.
We went through a huge list and found all of the companies with less than four sales reps. We uploaded this list to LinkedIn to create a matched audience, excluding them.
In addition, we also revised our definition of ‘enterprise’ from 500 employee count to 1000.
“I’d highly recommend paying attention to audience insights. It should be your best friend on LinkedIn.”
“Because you might think ‘oh yeah, I’m covered - all these companies within these parameters are seeing my ads.’ But when you start to deep dive, you might see that some companies are taking up a massive portion and you might want to exclude them.”
“Maybe they’re just too large for your organisation right now, or maybe it doesn’t make sense to be spending that much money on say, the Salesforces of the world.”
After we made all of these changes, our engagement rate on our ads rose by 43%, and importantly, our growth+ pipeline grew by 26%.
Optimising Google Ads
As Google Ads is an intent channel, it’s a slightly different beast.
Some might say there’s not much you can do to influence an intent channel - and while you could upload lists, it’s not a very scalable option.
Why did we need to change our strategy?
Before our strategy updates, we set up our campaigns more broadly. And we didn’t break our competitor campaigns down to have control over each specific keyword.
Meaning we weren’t looking at the individual keywords, such as ZoomInfo pricing or ZoomInfo reviews, and then breaking down campaigns in each of these.
What’s our strategy for Google Ads?
So our first port of call was to look at each campaign to find out:
- Where our spend was going.
- The conversions that our campaigns created.
- And most importantly, the type of pipeline they created.
This way, we could compare how keywords such as ‘Lusha alternative’ and ‘ZoomInfo pricing’ perform against one another.
So far during this process, we’ve seen Google ads improve quarter on quarter.
YouTube is a relatively new channel that we’re exploring at Cognism. That said, we wanted to find new ways to reach our ICP - and YouTube is where we chose to invest.
We’ve approached it similarly to how we’ve looked at Google, as an intent-based channel - focusing on competitor keywords and searches for companies we know are pushing towards an enterprise audience.
But we were also able to flip this approach on its head and turn it into an audience channel, using Cognism’s B2B data to upload a matched audience.
With this, we created a list of people we wanted to hit with YouTube ads. Then we uploaded the list, and consequently, we generated a strong match rate.
What were the results?
Refine Labs has shared that their benchmark for watch rate on YouTube ads is around seven seconds.
But amazingly, we’ve been able to get an average watch time of about 22 seconds - which we put down to the carefully crafted content and targeting.
We’re still in the testing phase and learning about YouTube, but so far, it’s proving to be very worth our time.
Optimising our SEO strategy
Why did we need to change our strategy?
At the end of 2022, we ran a traditional SEO strategy, focusing on high-volume traffic with keyword clusters.
And this strategy worked for us for a long time. But after careful evaluation, we realised that while we generated high amounts of traffic, no one was taking action once they reached our pages.
So we decided to switch things up.
What’s our strategy for SEO?
We planned to focus on high-intent keywords that were more likely to convert; this was our money keywords strategy.
The theory is if you focus on long tail keywords such as ‘how to gather high-quality data to run email campaigns and fuel sales teams for outbound’ or ‘B2B data contact provider’, you’re more likely to attract the right, solution-seeking traffic to your website.
To do this, we had to go through a process of figuring out what would count as a ‘money keyword’.
- Reviewing the conversion rates on our ranking keywords.
- Reviewing our Google ads - what high-intent keywords are converting on them?
- Reviewing the relevancy of our keywords to our solution. They had to be super relevant to our product.
Having completed this process, we set some rules:
- If the existing content generates high traffic but few conversions, then we optimise for conversions.
- If the existing content generates lots of conversions but little traffic, then we optimise for search.
- To optimise for conversions, our goal is to make better use of case studies in our content - they have above-average conversion rates but generate relatively little traffic.
“Another great thing about this strategy is it gets you to think beyond just the SEO side of things. Instead, you start to look at other ways to improve pages for conversion.”
“We’d look at page style, making sure we’re delivering the value or answers the person searching for this term would be looking for right away. We’d review CTA placement and whether the text and direction for them made sense.”
“Ultimately anything that means your better serving the prospect coming through.”
What were the results?
While this strategy is in its early days - we only started working on money keywords at the beginning of Q1 2023 - we’ve already seen very promising results.
Such as a record-high number of conversions from blog pages - 16% higher in Q1 versus Q4 last year!
Plus, our organic traffic increased by 22.38% from January 2023 to now. Our traffic value rose by a similar amount, 22.12%.
We also registered record blog views in Q1 as we rolled out the money keyword strategy.
Creating a better journey for all customers
It’s easy when moving up-market to just forget about automate customers (those with two or fewer sales reps). But Alice was really keen to avoid this; she said:
“We don’t want to forget the customers that have helped us keep the light on and driven us to amazing growth so far.”
“We just want to ensure we’re approaching them in a way that makes economic sense for the business.”
“That means optimising for a better customer experience - but also doing what we can to ensure that all customers want to stay around for longer.”
This led us to make changes in both the routing of customers and our retention strategies.
Updating our customer routing
Firstly, we looked at how we routed our customers when they came inbound. For example:
We’re trialling a buy-now, PLG approach to allow automate or velocity customers a frictionless way to test out Cognism’s capabilities with a smaller number of licences.
On the other side of the scale, we want to simplify the process for our enterprise and growth+ customers.
It looks like this:
If an enterprise or growth+ company sends a demo request, we route them to an AE using Chili Piper.
This has been very successful so far; we’ve seen a huge increase in the MQL to MA rate and MQL to SQO rate.
It’s a smoother process for the customer, with fewer hoops for them to jump through before they get the information they need to decide.
Updating our retention strategy
We regularly conduct research into the automate orgs that churn quickly.
One of the most common responses to this was price sensitivity. We had a high entry point which made a single-user licence pretty steep.
This led us to review our pricing structures; we still want to be a viable option for those smaller companies that do love and want to use Cognism.
Rather than cutting them out as bad-fit companies, we want to make sensible pricing decisions that allow those accounts to stay with us long-term.
Optimising marketing pipeline: The last word
So there you have it! That’s how we as a team adapted our strategy from 2022 into 2023.
As you’ve probably gathered, it’s all about efficient growth.
And don’t worry, we’ll keep you updated with how these tests go - keep your eyes peeled for more!
In the meantime, check out our DG Playbook 👇