Martech Stacked Episode 8: Marketing automation software for B2B marketers - with Charles Dolisy
16th July 2020
Today’s episode of Martech Stacked features a man who believes that high quality marketing automation shouldn’t just be reserved for larger organisations. Back in 2014 he was struggling to find a marketing automation tool to fit his own needs - so he decided to build his own one! Welcome to the co-Founder and President of Plezi.co, Charles Dolisy.
#1: Plezi Marketing automation software for B2B marketers
#2: Zapier: Connect your apps and automate workflows
#3: Ahrefs SEO Tools & Resources To Grow Your Search Traffic
David Bain: Today's episode features a man who believes that high quality marketing automation shouldn't just be reserved for larger organizations. Back in 2014, he was struggling to find a marketing automation tool to fit his own needs, so he decided to build his own one. Welcome to the co-founder and president of Plezi, Charles Dolisy.
Charles Dolisy: Nice to meet you, David.
David Bain: Great to have you on Charles. Of course, you can find Charles over at plezi.co. So Charles, explain what your business does, and how you use your own marketing technology and also other marketing technologies to make it better.
Charles Dolisy: Of course, Plezi is a marketing automation software. We provide B2B companies with a solution that allows them to implement an inbound marketing strategy. In general, marketing technologies play a significant role in our development, as it represents 60% of our revenues. We generate nearly 2000 leads per month, and most of them come from SEA, SEO, or webinar, or live events. So marketing technologies allow us to implement this marketing campaign above all they allow us to identify the people with whom we will be able to discuss business quickly, and the ones that need more time to advance.
David Bain: And so would you just confirm, what's SEO, SEO? What does that stand for?
Charles Dolisy: SEA is like Google AdWords, LinkedIn Ads, et cetera. SEO is, is when you type something on Google, and you are looking for something-
David Bain: Got you.
Charles Dolisy: ... and your natural search results. In general, marketing technologies are making a commercial team more efficient as they can focus on creating new opportunities, rather than finding new leads.
David Bain: So 2000 leads per month, that's a wonderful amount. And that's just obviously your business by itself that you're talking about.
Charles Dolisy: Yeah, of course, not our clients. We are talking about leads generated by Plezi.
David Bain: Okay, great. And so in general, what areas of marketing technology are you finding to be the most efficient, effective at the moment, to really enhance and really improve the number of leads that you're generating?
Charles Dolisy: It's very easy to improve the number of leads by paying Google AdWords, or to making SEA, but the most effective piece of technology is SEO. As this come from all the content you are building on your website. We write a lot of blog article each month. We do a lot of webinars. We do a lot of web conferences that makes the brand, Plezi, stronger as you can find the brand easily on search engines. So that's more a longterm approach to generate leads than a short term approach with the SEA or those kinds of stuff.
David Bain: Wonderful. So obviously a business can spend a lot of money on things like Google Ads, but unless you have your conversion rates right, and a great call to action, then you could be losing money potentially.
Charles Dolisy: Of course.
David Bain: Later on in the conversation we'll talk more about your content marketing strategy. We'll dive into perhaps what you do to convert leads. What kind of calls to action you tend to have on your website as well. I'm really keen to find out more about your SEO strategy, what you do for your webinars, how you drive people through that, into actually signing up to use your service. So I think that that'd be a great conversation to have. But let's actually start off with your marketing technology tools that you use. Plezi and other tools as well. So starting off with tool number three, what are your top three tools in your current MarTech stack and why?
Charles Dolisy: Number three, it will be two tools actually. It will be Ahrefs and Google Search Console. As most of our SEO strategy comes out of these tools. Ahrefs is perfect for having a global SEO vision of your website, but also on the website of your competitors. So it allows you to follow back links, to do audits, to analyze keywords and therefore lay strategies. And the Google Search Console goes much, much further because it's the real data coming from Google, but you only have this data for your website and not for your competitor's website. So it's for example, ideal for finding article ideas. And these two tools allows us to identify keyword opportunities, article ideas, but also to follow the keyword on which we are in the first three results in order to implement corrective action if that changes.
David Bain: Got you. So Ahrefs is one of the big players, certainly in that particular market, alongside SEMrush, what made you decide to use Ahrefs rather than SEMrush or perhaps some other piece of software that's similar?
Charles Dolisy: I'm not the main user of Ahrefs in the company, so that's one of the big players, but most of the time it's because you feel more comfortable with the way the data is displayed. Understanding the data coming from those kind of tools is always tricky. So having a habit of using a specific tool is something quite important. So that's not because of the functionalities they have, that's mainly because we feel more comfortable with the way they show the information.
David Bain: And perhaps it just integrates a little bit better into the way that you do business yourself. So we've had conversations with people like Lukasz Zelezny, and Lukasz recommended SEMrush, and obviously you use and recommend Ahrefs. I think it's really important for the listener to compare both tools or other tools out there just to get the right platform for them, but both would be wonderful I'm sure. So that's tool number three. What is tool number two?
Charles Dolisy: The second one, I think is Zapier, because Zapier is a tool that allows you to connect all the application you are using. In today's world, a marketing manager is using more and more tools. So Zapier is a very simple solution to automate a number of processes. For example, just to know a bit about how we use Zapier, one of the main functionality will be to automatically create a lead from one tool to another. For example, when we organize a meeting with Eventbrite, people who attend the meeting will be automatically created to Plezi, so it saves a lot of time. But I have other example in mind, for example, during a B2B trade show, we developed a small robot to strap up the webpage in which the leads encountered and the standard went up. And thanks to Zapier, these leads are automatically created in a marketing automation tool.
Charles Dolisy: So 10 minutes after being on the stand, they receive a thank you email. So even if you don't have any technical skills, it's very easy to automate processes. It's also, what we're to do in the past weeks with Zapier is to enrich data in order to make more targeted campaigns. For example, you can connect when a leads comes to Plezi, you can send a message to Zapier to get back more targeting information about the lead like the activity of the company, the technologies used on the website, et cetera. So you can do plenty of things and for a marketer with using more and more tools, it's very convenient to be able to connect them.
David Bain: Yeah, Zapier is just a wonderful platform and there are well over a thousand different connections, including ContentCal that you can get on there now. And a marketer can almost get lost in the possibilities-
Charles Dolisy: Of course.
David Bain: ... that can be created. And it's also a wonderful way to actually think of different business ideas, or new ways you can serve your customers, or introduce you to new software tools as well. I guess the only danger is that you try and do too much, and you get a little bit too complicated with the number of Zaps that you have. Do you have that kind of concern? Do you try and keep things as simple as possible in Zapier?
Charles Dolisy: No, that's totally true. We try to make things very simple, and to have as less Zaps as possible, because if you have too many Zaps run at the same time, it's going to be a mess because you want to understand where data is coming from and what is going on, on all of those Zaps. So most of the time we activate Zaps for a specific campaign, and then we turn them off.
David Bain: That's a great idea, because then you'll probably end up with Zaps that are trying to do the same thing or competing against each other.
Charles Dolisy: At the same time.
David Bain: Yes. And that's not so good.
Charles Dolisy: Yeah, true.
David Bain: I was talking to Teresa Heath-Wareing for episode three of MarTech Stacked, and she was saying that she actually moved to Kajabi, which is an all-in-one business platform. And she's got the type of business where she's got an online membership site and does a lot of interaction and training on there. So it's easy, or it's easier for her to have the one piece of software and to not use lots of different software and tie it together. Do you try and limit the quantity of marketing technology that you use in your business, or would you prefer to have quite a few different tools and use the best tool for just one specific activity?
Charles Dolisy: That's a good question. I think too much different tools is always very difficult to handle, because you have to export data from a tool, import the data to another. So it makes, when data is in different tools, it's makes very difficult to build campaigns. So we have, in our case, the main tool we use is Plezi, that's the first one I wanted to talk about, because in Plezi, that's where we are going to find all our marketing contents like blog articles, web pages, e-books, et cetera. That's where we're going to find all our contacts. That's where we're going to again, make a landing page, web forms, marketing campaigns, et cetera. So that's where all the data comes. But for each different topic, for example, when we organize an event, we use Eventbrite. When we organize a webinar, we use GoToWebinar or Zoom. So for very specific things, we will use the best tool in the market. But what we want is to make very easy to connect those tools with Plezi so we can have everything in one place to make segments, target people, et cetera.
David Bain: Great. So you've preempted my next question, which was, what's your number one tool? Obviously, your number three tool is Ahrefs supported by a Google Search Console. And number two is Zapier. Number one is Plezi. So you're using that more than any other tool out there. And naturally, because it's your own platform as well. So let's maybe dive-
Charles Dolisy: But it could be another one.
David Bain: ... Oh.
Charles Dolisy: I think it could be another platform. It could be a competitor for sure. We develop and sell Plezi, so that's quite normal that we use our own tool. But I think a marketing platform who going to centralize all your data about all your contacts, et cetera, is something very important in a marketing stack.
David Bain: Let's dive a little bit deeper into your own content marketing strategy, because you touched upon webinars. You touched upon face-to-face events. Face-to-face obviously, we're in a strange time in history at the moment where there's been a lockdown and we haven't really been able to do face-to-face events. Have you got any face-to-face events planned over the end of the year?
Charles Dolisy: Yes, we had. By the end of the year, we don't know. We have a lot of events, which should have took place in March, and we organized now in September. So I hope those events will be possible, but we don't know at the moment.
David Bain: Well, let's still talk about face-to-face events, and see what you've done in the past, which has been effective. Because I think it's really important to blend what digital marketing can do with traditional marketing, and even offline activities as well. And it sounds like you're doing this quite effectively by using Eventbrite, if I heard correctly? So can you talk through-
Charles Dolisy: Yeah.
David Bain: ... how you run your physical events in essence to act as a lead generation opportunity.
Charles Dolisy: About live events. We do mainly two or three events like this. There is a big trade show in France in April, in general. So that's three days in Paris, and there is a lot of editors in this place. So its where we meet people who comes to have information about what you are doing. There is also conferences in these kind of trade shows. And so traffic on the stand doesn't come from us. So it's a good way to meet new people. Generally, in this kind of event, we generate about 200 leads, but that's very qualified leads and they all come to know more about what you are doing, to have information about your features, et cetera. So it's a good way to meet very qualified people.
Charles Dolisy: But one of the difficulty of doing this kind of event is to be able to carry on, on a new conversation just after meeting them during the event. So I were talking about an example of what we've done in the past with Zapier. So what's very important is to be able to send them a very targeted campaign, based on what you learned from them, to be able to define the next step of the relation you will have with those people.
Charles Dolisy: And so that's a quite big event. And after that, we do a lot of very small events, generally, it's in our office in Paris. So that's events with like 10 to 20 people. And in general, we do a testimonial with a client to better understand how he implement Plezi. What's the value he is having using the tool, et cetera. So that's a good way to go one step further with people you already know. So most of the time, those kind of events are not a way to meet new people, but it's a very good way to make things go faster with the people you know.
David Bain: Got you. So people that perhaps aren't customers, but you have a relationship with already. It's an opportunity to build that relationship, get them to trust you, and then hopefully turn that relationship into a sale, and cement the relationships with existing customers. Let's dive into webinars, because you mentioned webinars. You do quite a few webinars as well. So how do you decide on your webinar strategy and what kind of call to action do you have at the end of your webinars?
Charles Dolisy: Most of the time, our content strategy makes us do a lot of piece of contents based on the same subject. So for example, we are going to write an e-book about one subject, and there will be several blog articles about the same subject. There will be a webinar, maybe even a conference or something. And all those different kind of contents will be related to the same subject. So when we do a webinar, we are going to talk about a specific subject, which is treated in an e-book. And then we will ask people to download the e-book to know more about this particular subject. So the next call to action is quite easy to find. When you try to speak about the same subject on different channels or forums.
David Bain: And you'll create the e-book before the webinar.
Charles Dolisy: Yeah, of course. Most of the time it's a three month plan and it starts with writing an e-book. And then we are going to write blog articles related to this e-book, and then we're going to organize a webinar, et cetera, et cetera. So everything is related. Sometimes we can do videos. So videos and blog articles are here to drive traffic to the website, and then the webinar or the e-book will be there to drive conversion.
David Bain: And what are some of the more effective ways of driving traffic to webinars at the moment?
Charles Dolisy: Actually, at our webinars, most of the people who attend webinars are people that we already know. We do a little bit of paid campaigns, for example, on LinkedIn to have new leads. But we've seen that all the prospects who became client in the past, have attended to a webinar. So it's a good way to build the trust. But for us, that's the way we bring new traffic or new leads, it's not with webinars, it's mostly with blog articles.
David Bain: So it's mostly with blog articles and ranking them in SEO and search engines through the power of SEO and using Ahrefs to target keyword phrases for those particular blog articles. And just to finish up on webinars, in terms of the subject matter that you select for your webinar and for your e-books, are they industry-specific? So you'll focus on a very specific vertical, and then reach out to your relationships with people from that vertical to get them to attend the webinar.
Charles Dolisy: No, most of the times they are quite general. We have a lot of clients in the software industry. So sometimes we build specific contents for this industry, but that's an exception.
David Bain: I think that's a good lesson as well, because I think a lot of businesses, a lot of presenters tend to reinvent the wheel or try to come up with a completely different subject for every single webinar. And I think it's sometimes good to have a core message that you can incorporate as part of a presentation that you're doing, because you get known for that of a brand, you become more of a thought leader. Is building yourself as a thought leader, has that been part of your marketing strategy as well? C harles Dolisy: Of course. Having a strong brand I think it's one of most important thing when you build a software company like Plezi, because if you have a strong and well known brand, if tomorrow you launch a new product, things will go much more faster. So I think that's something that is very, very important. From day one, we wanted to build a brand. At the very beginning of Plezi we were adding superheroes on the website. That's not that we are fond of superheroes, but that's a way to remember the brand. Because, "Ah, I've seen those little characters on the website. I remember them." So that's a good way to stay on top of mind.
David Bain: Let's return to marketing technology, and perhaps an area of your business that you're not being quite so effective at the moment in your use of marketing technology. So as your business grows, what's an example of a process that you currently do manually that you may wish to automate using marketing technology in the future?
Charles Dolisy: Over the years, we've built a database of 40,000 qualified contacts. So today we have data concerning those contacts in several tools. For sure Plezi for the marketing, but we also use Salesforce for the commercial part. In addition, a lot of solutions exist today to allow us to enrich this data. For example, I was talking about services that allow us to know the technologies used on a website. So having this data in a structured way would allow us to set a very specific and very targeting marketing actions depending on the tools they already use.
Charles Dolisy: So being able to activate easily all those data will be very useful for Plezi. Today we do those kind of stuff quite manually. Like we have to export data from a tool to enrich the data with other tools to launch a specific campaign. So that something that we do, but automating the construction of this database will allow us to save a lot of time and to be much more agile in launching new marketing actions. So I think in the three free years of Plezi the main point were to build this database. Now we have touch a lot of people in France, in the French market. So I think now it's going to be time to get more from the data we built during the first three year.
David Bain: Well, what are some of the most important data fields that you're referring to?
Charles Dolisy: For example, being able... So marketing technologies that people use, for example, it's a great way to talk to someone, to make outbound campaigns. For example, if I know that you are using Google Search Console on your website, I will be able to trigger a campaign saying, "Okay, we have a connector with the Google Search Console, which allow us to get all those fantastic information on Plezi." So, that's a way to be more specific about the way people already work. So it's a way to maximize the conversion of a specific campaign.
David Bain: And by campaign, are you talking primarily email and taking data out to see what pages of your website-
Charles Dolisy: No.
David Bain: ... people are browsing? No?
Charles Dolisy: No. It can be email. It can be retargeting. So that's the main two tactics that we use.
David Bain: Great.
Charles Dolisy: Because if you can put in a tool like LinkedIn, or Google, or Google Ads, et cetera, a population of people who have something specific in common. You can send them very targeting content.
David Bain: And are there any particular platforms that you're finding really effective at the moment for retargeting? You mentioned LinkedIn, are you using that for retargeting just now?
Charles Dolisy: Yes, we do. We do a lot. The main platforms that we use are Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google. We don't do much on Facebook.
David Bain: Why is that? Have you tested it and found it to be not as effective?
Charles Dolisy: Yeah. That's not that it's not effective, but we didn't succeed in driving qualified traffic on our website from Facebook. Most of the time, people are not relevant based on what we are looking for. So that's something that we do not do anymore, just a little bit, but not so much. So for us, the big players in our case are LinkedIn, Twitter and Google.
David Bain: Interesting, because obviously Facebook Ads tend to cost less, but you have to go through a fairly convoluted process of ensuring that you're speaking to the right audience and they're at the right stage to actually consider buying from you. And perhaps they're on a platform where they're not interested in considering what you're offering at the moment. I was also talking to AJ Wilcox. He's a prominent LinkedIn advertising expert. And he was saying, LinkedIn advertising costs so much more, but you get so much more value out of it. So it is great to hear from people, like yourself, that is actively using LinkedIn and getting a lot of value from that. Did you actually struggle to make it profitable to begin with?
Charles Dolisy: No, in fact I heard everybody saying that it cost a lot, but in our case, per lead, it cost less than Twitter. So maybe that's because the person who is building these campaigns is very good at LinkedIn. I don't know? But we have great results for a fair price.
David Bain: What is something that you have in mind that would be a wonderful piece of marketing technology that perhaps doesn't even exist yet, and you would love to see created?
Charles Dolisy: At Plezi we like to rely on data. Most of the time data exists, but the exploitation requires specialized skills. So it's very difficult to benefit from the data. So building an SEO strategy and implementing operational actions takes a lot of time, for example. So because of the data we are working on comes from multiple tools. And most of the time the data is very difficult to actuate. So I'm thinking in particular of a Google Search Console, which is full of valuable information, but it takes a long time to process. And at the same time, more and more solution make it possible to evaluate the quality of the content you write from an SEO point of view. So having an easy to use tool, which would aggregate all of this data, and which will be capable of rendering it intelligently will be a real plus to build and implement an effective strategy.
Charles Dolisy: Imagine you want to write an article on a given topic, imagine an assistant who gives you the best article on the web on this subject. This result give you the main intentions associated with these keywords to help you structure your article. And imagine an assistant, while you write your article gives you the expression of the same semantic cocoon as a keyword you target, you will also make recommendation on internal and external article to link to. So I think what we are thinking at, at Plezi, is how do you present the data to somebody to make it efficient, useful and actionable?
David Bain: Yeah, I think that's a really good suggestion. People have talked in previous episodes about tools like SEMrush, like SEO Monitor, like what you've suggested; Ahrefs as well. And they're wonderful platforms, but they give you a lot of data, as well as the tools that you're talking about there. So I think if that kind of information was presented on a silver platter for you to say, "This is the one topic that you need to write about today, or publish a video about, and you need to make sure that it's this long, you need to make sure that it incorporates these elements, because these elements are missing from other articles out there. So just do that and focus on that." That would save a whole lot of time for many marketers.
Charles Dolisy: Yeah. And this information is available, but to get and use the information, you have to have a lot of skills and to spend a lot of time. So making this data easier to use will be very valuable.
David Bain: Wonderful stuff. Well, what would you say is the key takeaway for the listener from today's discussion?
Charles Dolisy: I think that in this particular period, we've been in lockdown for long weeks. During this period, it was almost impossible to reach people. So outbound marketing, were not something that were working anymore. People were at home. They were not at the office. So it was not possible to reach them on the phone. The only things that were still working is content SEO, SEA. So if a website, if people, if companies had a strong content strategy before the lockdown, they would have generate leads even during this period. But people who have not built a very strong content strategy are lost when in this kinds of case, because they don't know how to people, people are not trying to reach them. So I think that in the future, we have all to rely on a strong content strategy to be able to carry on doing business, even if it's kind of crisis happen again.
David Bain: Absolutely. Absolutely. If you're not doing it now, get doing it tomorrow. It's so important to integrate this as part of your overall marketing strategy. Charles, thank you so much for your time and your tips today. What's the best way for the listener to find out more about you and what you do?
Charles Dolisy: I think to talk with me, LinkedIn is a good one. And you can learn more about Plezi at plezi.co. The website is in English. So we are trying to reach English to start selling Plezi on the UK market for a few weeks. So everything is in English. You can learn more about us on the website.
David Bain: Wonderful stuff. Thanks again.
Charles Dolisy: Thank you very much, David.