Leading an agency comes with myriad responsibilities and concerns. There are the struggles of handling multiple accounts, preparing reports, and managing different tools and software. Luckily, there’s a platform to solve all of these problems and help you generate advanced B2B demand in a flash: the AirborneApp.
Joining us in today’s episode is AirborneApp CEO Lee Gladish. Their product is an excellent sales engagement platform created to help agencies. Lee shares with us his playbook for successful B2B demand generation. He explains how having a keen insight into their market’s concerns helped them launch a product like no other. We also talk about the importance of pairing proper sequencing with automating.
Listen to the full episode to know more about how you can find success in B2B demand generation!
Click here to read transcript
[02:51] Trent: All right, please join me in welcoming Lee to the show. Lee, my man, welcome to the show. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
- Lee: Hey, Trent. Thanks for having me.
[02:59] Trent: No problem. So I’m still laughing a little bit because just before we hit the record button, Lee was experimenting with a different mic, and he sounded like zorga from outer space. So I’m going to attempt to stop giggling as we get the show on the road. So this episode is co hosted by myself and my good buddy Stefan, who did the previous episode with me and we had such a good time that we thought we would do it again. So to help kick off the episode, Lee, for the people who are listening who don’t yet know who you are. Let’s start there. Who are you and what do you do?
- Lee: So my name is Lee Gladdish, co-founder of Airborne. Airborne is a sales engagement platform built for lead generation and marketing agencies, helping them obviously manage their outreach via phone, LinkedIn, and touches through social, LinkedIn, other other channels that you may be using as well. So the difference with Airborne though, that you’re probably not familiar with compared to most other sales, engagement platforms, is other platforms in the market are used for, more geared towards individual reps, as opposed to Airborne is really built for agencies.
[03:41] Trent: Okay, and that’s the actual tie-in to the show, is a lot of my audience is you know, people who’ve listened to my show for a while know, I do a lot of stuff on e-commerce, and a lot of my guests are from the e-commerce space. But I also do interview agencies that serve the e-commerce industry. So that was a really good tie in because I’m sure some of those agencies would also like to be able to figure out how to use outbound and sales engagement to get more clients. So let’s start off with what do you think some of the biggest challenges are in sales engagement, in particular, in the B2B space for your agency clients? Then let’s talk about some strategies to overcome those challenges.
- Lee: Yeah, I think when we look at an overall market in sales engagement, there’s obviously a lot of noise. There’s a lot of products out there that do all the same thing. And, you know, the hard to really differentiate the products in the market for the logistic, the average general buyer, unless you’re really into B2B tech, you probably know all the products out there and you’re probably using something that everyone else is using that you know from another company that you’ve heard of before. In the market though, because there has been just a whole bunch of new entrants into this market, it makes it harder to kind of figure out what’s going on in the space today. So you have your data providers, you have your lead nurturing, cleaning, phone, dialing systems, and you have sales engagement.
I think today, when we look at the market and where it’s going, we really are moving more from like very much automation, very high touch, very low touch spring, to narrowing down on single accounts, and being a lot more focused into the account, the buyer, the prospect, and how you manage all those touches within a sequence, as opposed to the old days of five years ago was upload a list of 5000 people and send four messages and, you know, whatever happens happens, and then I’ll just buy another 1000 people, I think that’s, that’s still there, there’s still gonna be those those buyers out there that are gonna be buying that tech. But I see that slowly moving away from that,
[06:31] Stefan: Does this fall under what is called account based marketing? So in B2B, ABM became a kind of a newer catchphrase after inbound. The distinction is one of the things that you mentioned is that you were going after very specific accounts, and you’re hitting them across not only different platforms, but for that matter, incorporating analog, non-digital touch points, etc. So do you find that that fits under that umbrella somewhere? Or that’s some of your customers or that’s not relevant at all?
- Lee: No, it does. ABM is something that’s been a little more popular in the last few years. But actually, the run, complete ABM playbook is really tough. Right? Like you have marketing on one side, you have sales, you have VP of sales, sales leaders SDRs, like how do you manage and orchestrate that playbook? It’s tough. But I feel that ABM is definitely coming to the forefront with a lot of the things that we’re seeing, and that we’re able, that we’re trying to do within Airborne as well.
[07:34] Trent: So if we can, let’s try and turn this interview into more of a story, maybe about one of your customers, maybe there’s a before and an after that we can talk about. I know we didn’t flush this out in the interview, so I’m totally putting you on the spot. But can you think of one of your customers, that we could talk about them in the story format?
- Lee: Sure. So when we, before we even started Airborne, we interviewed close to 100 customers, and we didn’t know what we were going to build. I came from the sales engagement space, my last company was in the sales engagement space. And, you know, had a pretty good understanding of what the market, where we were, what people needed. But we still want to go through the practice with understanding what the gaps were in the market. When we spoke to sales teams, individual SDRs, or account executives, they always wanted features. Like, it’d be nice if I had a feature where maybe if I sent an email that, you know, maybe the AI would book a meeting for me automatically, those were nice features.
But when we spoke to agencies, what highlighted were problems, problems of I run an agency and I have 50 accounts that are managing. I have 10 salespeople that I’m running. I have three different phone systems that I’m integrating with and I have to build reports manually for 50 different customers. The products that were in the market today. We’re all geared towards the individual rep, not the agency. So one of our clients, to give you a perfect example, they have about like 60, 70 accounts, they have around 30 reps. They were buying different instances of three different software vendors, three of our competitors because one rep one was comfortable with one platform, as opposed to the other rep was comfortable with another platform that was maybe better for verifying data. The other one was maybe better for a phone dialer and the other one was better for maybe sending emails.
But the problem was, the reps had to go into three different systems, which they had zero visibility into knowing what the reps were doing during the day. They had to create reports in three different systems, so nothing was in one system. Even visibility for their clients to understand what the data and what was working on a given day, they had to build everything manually. So that was a problem that we want to solve. They’re running hundreds of spreadsheets, with reps with zero visibility into what they’re working on, and we brought that all into Airborne so they run it in one place, one login for the whole team, one click reporting visibility for their, for their management, and for their clients. That’s why we built Airborne and that’s why we feel that, you know, this niche that we started is a great niche for us.
But what we also found through this process was that a lot of agency owners want to build their own tech, a lot of instances owners we’re talking to they’re building their own tech and it’s problematic because they’re not developers, they’re hiring developers. So one of the things that we’re doing at Airborne is we’re building our entire library and of APIs where agency owners are really anybody can come on board just like Jira, our own instance or they can install it in their instance. They can build anything they want with our tech around any of the processes and systems they have. So they don’t have to buy Airborne as a license, they can license our tech and build whatever they want, and top of their stacks or their client stacks. That’s what we think that we’re, you know, the long road for us is where we’re going to win.
[11:09] Trent: And the agencies that deal with you are roughly how big on average, how many people on the sales team?
- Lee: So we just launched like, we were in beta. Technically, we even still think we’re, you know, we’re in beta in like January, but we launched in January of this year. So we’re like just under 100 clients right now. Okay, so an average client, I’ll give you an example, a client with 5 or 10 licenses will pay $400 a month, as opposed to a client with 50-60 licenses pay about $4,000 or $5,000 a month. So that’s the range.
[11:44] Trent: So for folks who aren’t using your tech, and maybe don’t want to use your tech, one of the things that I want to make sure people get out of this interview is some best practices, just for B2B sales. So as you mentioned earlier, a few years ago, you would buy a list of 5000, you’d upload it to the software, and you send the same exact message to all 5000 people, and they’re gonna get four messages. If they don’t reply, kind of that’s the end of that.
Then we’ve seen this evolution to where there’s tech now that allows increased levels of personalization in your messages, maybe you can put in some custom images, or some custom placeholders or what have you. As I’ve browsed the various Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups that I do on this topic, there seems to be — and even just in the Twitter sphere — there’s people who are strong advocates of one, and then there are people who are very strong advocates of the entirely manual approach. If you use any level of automation, you’re the devil, and it should never be done. There’s probably some folks in the middle who just aren’t maybe saying as much. So I’m interested in your take on, you know, just the evolution of prospecting, to book appointments in the B2B space.
- Lee: So, we all remember, well, Yes we’re still around, remember, Yesware? Some of us probably used Yesware. So I remember Yesware, it’s probably, you know, 8 years ago, whenever it came out, 10 years. When I first saw it, it was like I saw someone invent the light bulb, or fire for the first time, it was big, and you know, someone being able to open my email, and I can see it when they opened it, and it would automatically, you know, tag into Salesforce and was fantastic.
Then SalesLoft came around. SalesLoft was really the first one to scrape information off of LinkedIn, and create the cadences and it was amazing. And it still is. Then, you know, we got very much into being really lazy. Because anytime when something’s new, it works really well. Automating emails, and taking a list like a data.com, back in the day, and you take that list of prospects, and you upload it, and you sent five emails over a period of three weeks. It’s amazing, you set it and forget it, and you’re booking meetings, everyone was booking meetings.
Then we got to a point where now we have a lot of data providers, so you can find emails and phone numbers. Then you have a huge influx of LinkedIn generation companies now. Now, you’re not only getting emails automated, you’re getting LinkedIn messages automated, which really doesn’t have a tie in between email and LinkedIn, because what happens is someone replies on LinkedIn and you still want to send them an email, you got to make sure there’s that bridge, so you don’t, you know, double up on that email campaign.
Then you have ABM, that you get thrown in here, which is who’s targeting what and when. So it becomes really messy. So the first thing I was looking at is you know, you have to understand your client when you’re selling so if you’re selling a big ERP system manufacturing $100,000, $200,000 system, you’re probably not going to want to send out your, you’re probably adjustable market there is probably maybe 1000 customers or so that you’re selling to. You’re not going to, the warehouse manufacturer, the warehouse manager is probably not going to be sitting in the warehouse waiting for your email. You have to find a different way to prospect, as opposed if you’re selling into it and a VP of Sales chances are you get them on the phone and LinkedIn in an email.
So the first thing I would say is have a playbook. What does that playbook look like? And to your buyer, is your buyer, where are they? Where are they hanging out? Are they on groups, forums, communities, podcasts? Try to find out where they are first and how you think that they’re buying, or how they’re gonna respond to you. I know trade shows, everything thrown out the window, that was a big revenue generator for a lot of people. Those are those that are gone for now.
So when we get really down to it, there’s no, and I’m, like, get really upset with this all the time when I talk to people, there’s no silver bullet, there’s no one way that it works for everybody. You have to figure out what works for you. If you’re terrified of the phone, don’t call, hire someone to do it for you. If you don’t know how to write an email, which I don’t, and even though I built an email automation company, I’m terrible at sending emails, because I would prefer to call you and get you on the phone and give you my value prop. But we still send emails out and thank God, I have a great guy to write emails for me.
But my point is, you have to try a little bit of everything because you’d be really surprised by picking up the phone, and it would work for you as opposed to sending LinkedIn connections and sending an email. The point is, having a process is more important than anything as far as what channel you’re working on, and figure out the process that works for you. So maybe day one, I want to send, maybe campaign one, I want to just try emails, if that’s what you feel comfortable with. Then if you want to try your hand at maybe doing some LinkedIn automation, give that a shot too. Then maybe try to pick up the phone as well.
But have a process as far as who your buyers and where they are and where they’re hanging out and figure out there’s a pattern, you’re gonna see the patterns, right, the patterns are always there. I know recently that my email and my LinkedIn have worked really well. But it’s not just the method or the delivery of it. It’s about what’s behind the delivery and the method is almost more important. So I’ll give you a perfect example. Recently, we decided that we wanted, and I think this is how we got in contact as well. We want people in B2B that have a lot of deep domain experience to write for us.Because it helps the community, it helps them. It helps everybody. We don’t want to just read about like what our perspective or narrative. And it’s not only it’s not always about just keyword research, we can rank and get better leads. It’s about part community, but part hearing from people who really know better than we do.
So we reach out to a lot of people, ask them to write for us. It creates leads, it creates connections and network effect for us, which drives lots of traffic for us in result. We’re creating a five, ten thousand ebook, okay. People are like “E-books suck, it’s not gated, we’re not gating it, it’s given away for free.” But we have 20, 30 sales coaches, consultants, trainers writing an ebook for us, giving us best practices and playbooks and processes and and, you know, like how to frame work anything in sales and in different topics. Again, it’s not from us, it’s from people who’ve been there and done that. So again, there’s lots of different ways that you can just, instead of saying, here’s my product, it’s almost now, what aren’t you saying is almost as important as what you are saying? If you get my flow here,
[19:09] Trent: So you talk, I was assuming because you’re a relatively young company, you’re still doing a lot of one on one conversations with your customers, your agencies, the leaders of these agencies, is that right?
- Lee: Every single one.
[19:25] Trent: What are they complaining about most, one of their greatest frustrations with respect to you know, trying to book meetings, to land new clients?
- Channels become harder, email deliverability has even become harder, getting into the inbox. We’ve seen in the last year, you never even heard about email warm up. Now it’s everywhere. Domain reputation, email warm. So that’s one— Burner domains, right? You even have companies now out there who are creating, because recently LinkedIn really cracked down on a lot of these LinkedIn automation companies. They were sending, you know, 1500 a month, now I think they allow maybe like 100 a week to send out LinkedIn automation connections. But now you see a whole bunch of companies spinning out these fake burner LinkedIn connection personas, so they can send out more. It’s just like people are gonna find a way to send out more. There will always be that market.
But the biggest problem is getting into the inbox, managing those delivered mail, managing the deliverability and not running out of the right prospects to sell to because we’ve got into such a problem with, “I’m just going to mass email outreach everybody and not have any strategy internally.” It’s unbelievable that how many companies I speak to, because some of our agencies represent some of the biggest companies in the world. It’s still like, “I need 10,000 emails, and I gotta send them out tomorrow.” It’s still crazy to hear these things. Yeah, the big problem that we’re getting is, is getting into the inbox and getting the attention because we’ve all been so like, mute to another LinkedIn connection or another email, and how do we stand out. Video is another big one, that actually not enough people are doing.
[21:16] Stefan: You mentioned earlier, at the beginning here, that there are platforms that were better at dialing, platforms that were better at data scraping or data providing, and platforms that were better at email management. I guess, for those listening, that haven’t had a chance to go to your website, which is Airborneapp.io, can you just give us just that brief summary of, I guess, all of the platforms that that you are able to cover. So, you know, is SMS covered, is messenger, I guess, there’s a number of different platforms that my clients use to keep in touch, email is one of them, SMS is another one. Messenger and SMS compete between my clients because they have a 90-plus percent open rate.
LinkedIn is another and then frankly, there’s other channels as well. I know that some of the CRMs that my clients use are a hub for all of that communication. So that, for a couple of things, number one, tracking where it came from. The reason that’s relevant is if a client DMs me or a prospect, DM me on Twitter, I’m not going to reply via email.To me, they have positioned what their platform priority or preference is to me, and I’m going to respond to that. So a platform that keeps track of where that communication came from, not only for tracking purposes, but so that I can respond to them via that same platform. So I don’t know what yours does, and doesn’t do but I guess talk to some of that.
- Lee: Yeah, so we’re very much email first, phone, is a channel. SMS is not done in bulk. It’s done manually via task. We don’t do any Instagram or Facebook. LinkedIn is a manual step, which we’re not going to be doing LinkedIn automation, it’s going to be LinkedIn via your sales navigator account. So like those manual touches, because we believe in the ABM approach is way better to go.
[23:25] Trent: I want to jump in and interrupt you there. Because you said we’re not going to do LinkedIn automation. So one of the things that I’ve had quite a bit of success with is some level of LinkedIn automation, where, for example, the if you were doing something manually, so you’re going to email, you know, Tom, Dick and Jane, and they don’t know you, and you’ve got your well crafted pitch in that email, versus you can send them a message with high levels of relevancy. For example, you both attended the same event on LinkedIn.
“Hey, Tom, I noticed that you attended the same thing as me clearly, well, we’re both interested in this thing. I’d love to connect with you and chat and you know, see what opportunities come up.” That is very easy to do with automation. Anytime I created campaigns, where I would scrape using one of the tools that’s in the marketplace, a list of people who commented on a post or attended an event or responded to a poll, my connection rate was always 60 to 80%. So people who poopoo the automation, I don’t understand why they would do that, because it’s extremely effective.
- Lee: It is truly effective. So I’ll backtrack here for a second. So the LinkedIn automation, we, again, like everyone else will, we’re very targeted and on our LinkedIn automation very much like you use, we won’t build the LinkedIn automation within our platform. So I will let, if you want to use LinkedIn automation, there are some great products out there that I’ll recommend that you use in conjunction with our product. But as far as our roadmap of where we want to build our product, I don’t want to be dependent on LinkedIn cracking us down and spending six months of building my product. That I don’t want to do because I don’t think that it’s going to go anywhere.
But I know enough vendors and very close vendors that have built LinkedIn automation, and it’s like a continuous cycle of rebuilding retweaking and rejigging every single time. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna go the approach of if you want to do a manual touch, and send a LinkedIn message via our system, you can do that. But as far as automating, like 100 people via LinkedIn is something that we won’t do, we’ll look to integrate with other providers, but let them deal with the headaches of working with LinkedIn and how they want to keep them open or keep them closed.
[25:53] Trent: You guys have Zapier integration?
- Lee: We do.
[25:57] Trent: Okay. I agree with your assessment of that completely because platform risk is just such an incredibly significant risk when you build a large code base around LinkedIn or Amazon or whatever. Then you get, I like to say, Amazon, in that they’ve changed their API, they’ve changed something, and it literally can destroy you in no time flat. I mean, Apple and the iTunes Store is famous for this with apps. You know, there’s lots of the big companies that have done this many times, on many occasions. So I think that’s a very wise decision on your part and how I get around that is all stitched together, using Zapier, best of breed application.
So earlier, you’d mentioned well, how do you avoid double dipping? For example, if you’re sending messages on LinkedIn, and you’re sending messages on email? If any of that is automated, how do you avoid double dipping? It’s absolutely possible to avoid it, if you build your tech stack correctly, because you’ll say to you know, when you’re designing your tech stack, you can say, “Hey, I want four messages to go via this email app into their inbox.” If they reply, great, that’s the end, turn the campaign off, and I’ll now take the conversation manually. But if after the fourth message, they still haven’t replied, wait x days, then send a LinkedIn or connection request. If they accept the connection request, then send the sequence of messages. I mean, all of that is relatively easy to build and so if someone decides they want to use your app, it’s just because of the Zapier connection, you could be just a part of that tech stack. That helps.
- Lee: So our workaround for that right now, because again, we don’t want to build on top of LinkedIn. So we’re building conditions, workflows, triggers in our system. So that way, we can create all these conditions based on what happens if there’s a LinkedIn request, or if there’s a connection, if there’s no reply, or even if there is a reply, maybe I want to schedule three automated phone calls to over a period of five days. So we’re building that now to kind of work along with some of the LinkedIn integrations out there.
[28:11] Trent: Okay. Stefan, is anything along—
[28:13] Stefan: Yeah, curious about things that you saw. I know, I’ve got clients that have ActiveCampaign as a CRM, for example. You know, I noticed you’re not calling yourself a CRM. But one of the problems or maybe one of the benefits, but it also is a problem with ActiveCampaign is, it’s a very robust platform, my experience with my clients, and I want to make this delineation, you know, Trump is a, Trent, that was not a—
[28:37] Trent: You’re fired.
[28:39] Stefan: So that was not a Freudian slip there. I know that Trent’s audience is primarily like SAS founders and SaaS companies, and my clients are more kind of solopreneurs, or broker owners of real estate or mortgage businesses or insurance companies, etc. But my clients, they find themselves attracted to the robustness of ActiveCampaign, and then they don’t implement literally 80%. I’m sure Salesforce is similar for a lot of companies where there’s a lot of features, but it’s overwhelming for the business owner to figure out how to implement those features and build them out, and they can’t afford a $25,000 implementation consultant to come in and build it out for them. So talk to me a little bit about what that’s like for your clients. Do they have to get additional help? Do you onboard them and help them build out? How does that work? That
- Lee: Yeah, that’s an awesome question. I’m glad you asked that. So first of all, CRM is a very dirty word. We don’t use that around here. Because people get very confused with CRM, and sales engagement and like, “Where do we start, and where do we begin?” So we won’t get into that today—
[29:48] Stefan: Think of that for a second. Actually, I think that’s good content. Why don’t you take a second and delineate between if there’s confusion in the marketplace, clear that up like look, CRM ends here and sales engagement starts here?
- Lee: Yeah, so CRM, we’re all very familiar with CRM. CRM is very much pipeline management, like leads, opportunities, customers, even customer success support to a certain extent, and it’s actively managing a client. Sales engagement system is what you do before you actually get a lead or prospect or that client. You want to nurture a group of prospects. You want to put them into a cycle where you’re getting them into a point where you can actually start conversations, and once you start a conversation, then you move them to a CRM, what we see happen all the time is I need to set up Salesforce. I hear about this almost every day, “I need to buy Salesforce.” Tell me about your company. “Oh, we just launched, but we’re buying Salesforce because we’re gonna grow into it.”
Like, you can go Pipedrive, Copper, HubSpot way before Salesforce. Streak, like there’s 100 of them. So let’s not get into the Salesforce thing, because again, it’s a big beast of a system. So I need to put all my prospects, my 10,000 people that I’m prospecting into Salesforce, and then I’ll move them into Airborne and start sending emails and like, junk in junk out, like, what are we doing? Why don’t you just take those 10,000 people, put them into our system, it will take you 30 minutes to get set up and the email being sent 30 minutes and under. It’ll take you longer to create a template to send out an email from our system.
[31:43] Stefan: Is that using, so again, I’m going to be representing the dummies out there on this platform. So is that using my I’m acme.com? I’ve got Stefan@acme.com email from a company. I now want to start doing this cold outreach. Did I go to a data provider? Or did I get that from you? Can I also find people through platform or do I have to go buy—
- Lee: We work with partners that can help you find data.
[32:12] Stefan: So I found the data, I’ve got my data. I have got, you know, whatever, email@example.com is a thing, or so, is all of these emails, I’m using your system, but they are writing off of my existing email server or wherever that may be, whether that be sweet or?
- Lee: So you’ll have your Acme com email, maybe you even have five burner domains acme.co, .co, .com, .io. you’ll connect them via Gmail or Outlook through our system. We are sending through Gmail or Outlook very much like traditional like all the other providers do. You create your steps, email, email, LinkedIn, phone, email, LinkedIn — whatever it may be — over a period amount of days, as long as it’s going to take you to build those steps, which is probably going to be a copy and paste that you’ve already created. Then you import that list, will take you two seconds, emails will start sending out within 30 minutes. So up and running really, really quick.
Going back to the marketing automation, a lot of people, I hear this is the same thing, too, I use Mailchimp to send my cold emails. Mailchimp, and all these other systems, they have their place in the market, the place in the market is newsletters. That’s it, that’s where I leave and start this conversation. If you’re sending a newsletter to an opt in group, use Mailchimp. If you’re looking to book meetings, generate revenue with people that you don’t know, use a sales engagement system.
[33:44] Stefan: So the key there being opt in, right, so if you have a group of people who have opted in, whether you had a lead magnet, whether you gave a speech, and you had a giveaway or whatever, if they’ve opted in, you’re saying it doesn’t matter if it’s Mailchimp, or any other platform out there, those will all deliver newsletters or any other email that you want to send fine. If you are looking to put an email in the inbox of somebody who does not know you and has never opted into any of your marketing, then that’s when you want to use a sales engagement platform. So here’s the key question for me. Is the key value proposition because you’re going to keep me on track? I guess what I’m getting at is I’ve got my 10,000 list. I can load that up into Gmail extensively and I realized that Gmail puts a limit on what I said, but so so too, would you be bound by that. So let’s imagine it’s 400 emails a day. Ostensibly, I can send 400 emails to these people I don’t know directly from acme.io, or whatever it is. So, is the value proposition that Airborne is bringing in is that, “Yeah, you can do that. But then good luck figuring out what happened or who to follow up with or what happens next.” So it’s really the sequencing and the automation and the next steps. Is that Airborne’s primary directive?
- Lee: There’s a few things there. So the first thing is, you’re sending, let’s say, let’s use this case. You take your 10,000 list and you want to send via Mailchimp. First of all, Mailchimp is most likely to get you in the promotional folder. Very goes much into promotion. It’s not sending from your email address, your domain, it’s sending from Mailchimp. Okay, so it’s gonna go into the promotional folder.
Second of all, you’re not gonna be able to create any type of sequence or step as far as when I need to follow up, if I need to make a phone call, if I want to connect on LinkedIn. You want to slowly drip. You’re not going to send 10,000 emails in one day. What happens, you get 100 replies, you’re not going to get back all these people. What you want to do is you want to test and iterate. So maybe I want to set my emails to 300 a day or 200 a day, we allow you to connect multiple emails to a sequence as well so we can rotate those emails for better deliverability.
More important, if you need more volume, what’s gonna happen is that you’re sending from different email addresses, so that way, you’re not going to get fingerprinted on Google. So that’s a little technical, we can get into all those things a little bit later on another time. But what you want to do is you want to slowly drip 25, 50 people a day into the first step of the sequence every day. So that way, you’re setting 200, 300 emails a day, but you’re dripping slowly into the campaign every day. So that way, you’re not hitting a ton of people, you can change this, you can change the messaging, you can pause the sequence, you can see who opened, clicked, reviewed, replied.
Then you can continue from there and move them into your CRM and have conversations. It’s a system that you’re gonna continuously just keep improving on, importing those lists. So here’s another thing, what happens if you send those 10,000 people and no one’s in, let’s say you, you have a whole group of people who haven’t replied to you. You want to create filters and reports and understand who those people were and re-nurture them into another campaign, with a click of a button.
Marketing systems are very much again, very much newsletter based, we want to think sales, right? We’re thinking, marketing automation, those are for marketers. Those systems are expensive, maybe not Mailchimp, but those systems are expensive. There’s no $10,000 setup costs, you’re up and running in like $60 or $80 a month. Really simple, really easy to use. And again, it’s about the repetitions, the steps, and getting good at booking meetings and generating revenue.
[37:19] Stefan: You mentioned you have a phone, and I’ll give it back to you in a second, Trent, but I’m just trying to fully understand the whole platform here. You mentioned, the telephone was involved, is that dialing from your system, or I’m making the phone call in my cell phone and then logging it in like I do on this?
- Lee: Right from our system, we have integration. So you could click a button, you upload the phone number in the CSV with the LinkedIn profile, if you have a LinkedIn profile. When the day comes to make a phone call, you just hit the button and it calls and records and tags and everything, all the good stuff there. So you just click a button, you’re good to go.
[37:53] Stefan: Alright, my last question for you for now is, have you started to figure out a formula for success? What I mean by that is, you’re saying that your touchpoints, your primary touch points, or your touch points period, are email number one, phone and LinkedIn. So have you figured out that there is a magic sequence to saying “Yeah, you actually start LinkedIn, then you send two emails and you make a phone call and bing bing, bing, you’ve got an appointment?”
- Lee: I want to lie and say yes, but there’s not. So I’ll tell you what’s worked best for us, though. What’s worked best for us is we first, and this is our playbook, this is what we do. We like to send a LinkedIn connection with a piece of content. “Hey, Trent. Hey, Stefan. Here’s an article on the difference between CRM and sales engagement, I think you’re really gonna enjoy this article. And by the way, we’ve had, you know, Bob over here who wrote an article about like, the top 10 tips of getting better podcasts? Not that you need one.”
[38:51] Trent: Is that in your connection request?
- Lee: That’s in my connection request. Yeah, I’m saying yeah, so my connection request, not just like connection request, no content connection request. Here’s a piece of content that I think you’re probably going to really enjoy. We’re building whatever you want to add into there. But connection request with a piece of content, then we send two emails, then we make a phone call, then we do another LinkedIn connection request, and we finish off with a phone call.
[39:23] Trent: And what is your acceptance rate on that playbook? So on the connection requests, what percentage of the connection requests using that strategy are accepted?
- Lee: So I have to go into my campaign and look, it’s really high. Like it’s booking us 15, 20 meetings a week. Okay? Like very easy. 15, 20 means a week it’s booking us. But there’s a reason why. It’s not only because of the content that we’re sending, it’s different because most people are just like, “Hey, I was on your site, and we have a mutual connection. So let’s connect.” It’s like, “Here’s a piece of content that we think you can get educated on,” and people are getting educated on the content. But more importantly, we’re only messaging like, we only know our niche of who we’re targeting. It’s very specific, and we’re only messaging those people. We understand you have a problem with how you’re currently running your agency. We know we can solve that for you.
[40:19] Stefan: So help me understand why the agency, look, we talked about recently on an episode we talked about how you kind of find your ideal customer profile or avatar, whatever word you want to use for it. So I 100% appreciate that you guys are crystal clear on who that is, and that clarity and targeting is what is getting you the conversions and giving you those 20 quality meetings a week. So I get it completely.
But from a platform perspective, it seems to me that the problem that you’re solving, the way you’ve described the product, I can’t imagine a B2B company that wouldn’t benefit from that same. So help me, was it just that, “Look, we have to pick a lane and that way we can speak their language and we can really know their problem,” or is there some aspect of what your product does that somehow is an agency-related thing that I don’t clearly see right now?
- Lee: So today, we are, our processes, like, you know, we want to walk before we can fly. Like, that’s how we’re starting here. We wanted to pick a lane. And we want to, we want to go to a mark that we think is growing, especially with COVID. Hiring SDRs now is hard. Remote training, it’s tough. Agency market is exploding. So we’ve decided we want to go into the agency market. Now, here’s the big reasons of why agencies would use our product. I’ll give you a perfect example. So not only as an agency using 5, 10, 20, 50 accounts, that they’re working on behalf of their clients. So not only do they have to buy 50 different licenses of another software app, but they have to report off every single, they have to report for every client. They have to provide reporting to each of those clients every week, every month.
To do that alone today takes dozens of hours. We’ll give you that report with a click of a button. We’re building a white label report, which is almost being released, where you’re gonna be able to give your client a link and your client will have that data in their hands in seconds. That alone saves hours. The visibility into what your team is working on today, remember, each license you buy today from any other provider. It’s one license, one rep, one login. People are sharing logins and moving into different IP, so they can log into the same account and get visibility into what their team is doing. They have no idea what the reps are doing most of the time.
You just upload your list of all your reps into our system, every rep logs in, you assign your reps, what accounts they want to work on, you click a button, you know everything that rep did the whole week, every minute of the day. So the problem and there’s always a problem, there’s no like, “I built a software app and it’s it’s amazing. Everyone’s gonna buy it.” There’s transition, people understand, like, “Why would I use you and over somebody else?” That happens all the time. As software founders, we all run into that problem, like how do we advocate of like, why you should use our product, and it’s one customer at a time. That’s our focus. One customer at a time, and the product roadmap that we built, we know that these agencies have big problems.
Then next year, we will be releasing our sales team version. But the reason why we won’t release that yet is because we don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. We want to figure out how can we make sales teams better as opposed to what’s already out there in the market. And again, I may not want to, I’m not gonna compete with the enterprise clients. But there’s a lot of SMB players out there that I think are doing a really terrible job, and we want to go out there and do a better job at it.
[43:43] Trent: I think the takeaway from Stefan’s question and your answer, if I may be so bold, and this applies to every founder of every company, is this concept of positioning. I want to read you a sentence from April Dunford who is very well known, she’s got a best-selling book on Amazon. Positioning defines how your product is the best in the world at delivering some kind of value that a very well defined set of customers cares a lot about. There you go, obviously.
So, I mean, this is something that we at Flowster are going through, because as I think, you know, you and I might have talked on our previous call, Flowster, whose process management software could be used by anybody in any industry, any company size. That’s a really hard market to market to, unless I have a billion dollars to spend on ads, and just carpet bomb the entire world. So I think, Stefan, correct me if I’m wrong, what you were asking is much the same thing. Your software could be used by anybody in B2B who needs to book more appointments. Sure, how did you pick your lane? And so—
[44:55] Stefan: —that was focused on like, I guess what I was wondering is, is there something that agencies are doing? By the way, are we talking when you say agencies, that means a lot there’s advertising agencies, marketing agencies, sales agencies—
- Lee: No. Lead generation and marketing agencies that are doing demand gen. So if you’re doing outbound booking meetings, re-nurturing leads for clients, that’s where you’d use our product. Agencies, typically—
[45:20] Stefan: So you’re doing B2B? Like, you’re a wholesaler in B2B in the sense that you’re selling to companies that are selling to companies.
- Lee: Yes. 100%. Here’s a good example. We have quite a few HubSpot agencies. Now, HubSpot agencies are reselling HubSpot. They’re very much marketers. But they also do a lot of demand lead gen for their clients. Going into HubSpot and buying marketing for their clients are expensive and they’re like, “Hey, I need a simple, easy solution to manage 10 of my customers in one place.” That’s Airborne.
[45:53] Stefan: Okay, you know, it’s funny about HubSpot. They coined the term, inbound. But a great book written by Dan Lyons exposed the fact that in the basement of HubSpot was a huge call center of outbound.
- Lee: Thousands. I think the last count I heard was like 700 telemarketers are outbound.
[46:15] Stefan: Yeah. So I really struggled with that because I was a big… I really bought into that whole concept of inbound, that build it, you will come, that look, you value content, you’re saying that your outreach begins with content. So I am a big leader, look., that’s why the microphone is in front of my face, like I love content. I’ve been in media and I help people be creative around content. But the truth of the matter is that I’m saying this for all of those listening, that I really hope that content can be the beacon of inbound, this idea that if you build enough great content, people are going to raise their hand and want to work with you.
By the way, it does ultimately work in the long run. But if you’re looking to have food with your meals, if you enjoy putting money in the bank, you also have to hit short-term goals, and I will tell you that inbound in the short run is not a payoff. It’s why HubSpot knew that and they had a basement of outbound phone callers, because all of their great content was not landing enough short-term revenue for them.
- Lee: Yeah, so we started content a while ago, but for us, it’s you know, we understand the market, the niche, we understand the value prop, and it’s a lot of outbound. It’s a lot of meetings, it’s a lot of transition of why we’re better and why we’re different, or why we’re better for you really is, is the answer. It’s not why we’re that, you know, all our systems are very similar. But there’s some very unique things within our platform that are, you know, very geared towards agencies that no one can even touch with what we’re doing.
That’s the goal of taking time with content over years, that it’ll soon pay dividends. But right now, it’s a lot of like, pushing uphill. But one thing I understand from building a few companies is that it doesn’t matter what competitors there are, or what they’re doing, or how big they are, how much money they raised. It’s always about people. At the end of the day, it’s, you know, it’s your mission, it’s your vision, it’s your values, it’s how you build your company, how you grow that business with the people around you, because it’s always about people, it will never change. So as long as you’re really focused on position and adjusting where you are, as a company, you can go build anything. Maybe not as big as you want, but you’ll go build it.
[48:32] Stefan: Could a company like Trent’s Flowster, you know, a very lean team, could they use your, even though you’re focused on marketing to a particular group, that doesn’t exclude somebody who stumbles upon Airborne and says, “Oh, this looks like a good solution. I want to use it.” So could Flowster be using Airborne today successfully, despite not being an agency?
- Lee: Sure. Yeah, someone like Trent can spin up one license and start sending outbound campaigns tomorrow. The only difference is, the value with the agencies is you manage, you know, dozens and dozens of companies in one platform. Trent is just managing his. We have customers that do that as well, but our focus is, you know, we’re building for agencies. Yeah, we’re building a lot of features for agencies, which, again, correspond to sales teams.
So yes, 100%. And again, we are going to be pivoting later on to sales teams, but we want to make sure like, just like we build the product for agencies, we want to be, you know, have that unique proposition. We’re going to do the same thing when we launch for sales teams. It’s just, we feel that we have a little secret of you know, success for the recipe of that when we launch our sales teams and they’ll come out sometime next year.
[49:43] Stefan: Great, we look forward to have you back and talk about that one.
- Lee: I was gonna say we can talk about you, know, where we are now, where I fell flat on my ass from now between next time and then we can share those we can share those learnings.
[50:02] Trent: Alright, gang, our guest today has been Lee Gladish, founder of Airborneapp.io. Thank you all very much for tuning in. It’s been a pleasure to be here, Lee. Thank you. And Stefan, thank you very much.
- Lee: Thanks, Trent. Thanks, Stefan. Appreciate your time. Thank you.
Thank you so much for listening. To get to the show notes for today’s episode, go to brightideas.co/368. If you really enjoyed today’s episode, I would love it if you would take a moment and like, rate and review the show on your favorite podcast listening app. Thanks so much. We’ll see you in another episode soon. Take care, bye bye.
Lee Gladish’s Bright Ideas
- Know Your Market
- Try a Little Bit of Everything
- Automate and Sequence
- Make Use of Content
Know Your Market
Before developing their product, the AirborneApp team interviewed close to 100 agencies. Their research helped them identify what the market needs and how to solve their problems.
They found that agencies had trouble with:
- handling many accounts at once
- delivering reports for their clients in a systematic order
- visibility in what they’re working on
Lee says about their clientele’s pain points: “we brought that all into Airborne, so they run it in one place, one login for the whole team, one-click reporting visibility for their management and clients.”
Try a Little Bit of Everything
Lee emphasizes that “there’s no silver bullet, there’s no one way that it works for everybody.” Thus, you have to try a little bit of everything.
In particular, Airborne’s B2B demand generation strategy involves phone calls, emails, and LinkedIn. Here are the steps in their successful playbook:
- Send a LinkedIn connection with a piece of content.
- Send two emails.
- Proceed with a phone call.
- Make another LinkedIn connection request.
- Finish with a phone call.
Lee’s advice: if you can’t do something on your own, have somebody else do it for you. He is not good with emails, so someone from his team manages this.
Automate and Sequence
It is easy to automate everything that you send out to your prospects. This strategy may get you a few leads here and there, but adding sequencing into the mix is what’s going to boost your B2B demand generation.
Lee cautions against simply automating. According to him, people sometimes mass email everyone in their connections without any internal strategy to manage them afterward.
When companies use email marketing platforms, they cannot create the sequence needed for follow-ups. AirborneApp can do this.
To create good B2B demand generation campaigns, Lee tells us to test and iterate. Rather than mass sending emails to your prospects, you can instead:
- Send 200-300 emails every day.
- Each day, drip 25-50 people in your first sequence. Within this, you can see who opened, clicked, viewed, and replied to your emails.
- If you’ve received interactions, you can now proceed with your CRM.
- If there are groups of prospects that didn’t reply to your email, you can create filters and include them in your following sequence.
“It’s about the repetitions, the steps, and getting good at booking meetings and generating revenue.”
Make Use of Content
Another tactic for B2B demand generation is the use of valuable content. According to their playbook, Lee’s team attaches a piece of content when they send a LinkedIn connection to their prospects.
He believes that inserting content in their messages helps provide value to their customers by educating them. In turn, they leave a more profound impression and make deeper connections with their prospects.
More importantly, Lee says that you need to target very narrowly. Their content and messages are directed towards groups of people who can benefit from their services.
Lee reminds us that “at the end of the day, it’s your mission, vision, values, how you build your company, how you grow that business with the people around you—because it’s always about people.”
However, Lee admits that while creating content is a great inbound strategy, its effects are felt more in the long run. That’s why Airborne is also working hard at outbound marketing.
What Did We Learn From This Episode?
- Knowing your market’s concerns is crucial to building a good product.
- There’s no clear path to success; there’s no particular method that applies to everything.
- Trying a little bit of everything is essential in finding an effective B2B demand generation strategy.
- Providing valuable content helps you create a deeper connection with your prospects.
[03:03] — About Airborne and the B2B Tech Landscape
- Lee is the co-founder of AirborneApp, a sales engagement platform built for lead generation in marketing agencies.
- They help marketing agencies manage their outreach.
- Unlike other sales engagement platforms, AirborneApp is built for agencies.
- Unless you’re into B2B tech, it can be hard to differentiate products in the market these days.
- More businesses are now focusing less on automation to reach a high volume of people to narrow down on single accounts.
[07:21] — Making the Processes Systematic for Agencies
- When they started AirborneApp, they interviewed around 100 customers.
- They found that agencies had trouble managing so many things all at once.
- Because products in the market were geared towards individual reps, there was no one system for any agency.
- That was the problem that Airborne wanted to solve.
- They also noticed that agencies wanted to create their own tech. So, they allowed agencies to license Airborne tech and build whatever they want on top of it.
[12:36] — Best Practices in B2B Demand Generation
- Have a playbook and know what your playbook looks like.
- Know where your prospects are hanging out and how they’re going to respond to you.
- Try a little bit of everything to know what works best for you.
- Your process is more important than your channels when it comes to B2B demand generation.
- They also ask experts in B2B demand generation to write for them, which results in leads.
[18:38] — B2B Demand Generation Pain Points
- The biggest problems are: getting into their prospects’ inbox,
- managing the deliverability of their messages, and
- running out of the right prospects to sell to.
[20:44] — Channels that AirborneApp Covers
- Email, phone, and LinkedIn are their primary touchpoints.
- They don’t use Instagram or Facebook for communication.
- LinkedIn is a manual step, meaning that they don’t do automation on their AirborneApp per se.
- They don’t want to deal with the headache of tweaking their system every time LinkedIn cracks down on automation.
[29:15] — CRM vs. Sales Engagement
- CRM is about actively managing a client, whereas sales engagement is about how you get a client.
- With AirborneApp, a client can bring all of their prospects into their system, and it’ll take only around 30 minutes to set up and send emails to all of these prospects.
- Sales engagement platforms are useful for reaching prospects who have yet to opt into your marketing.
[34:20] — Automation and Sequencing
- Lee recommends sending out only a few hundred emails per day.
- Doing this allows you to change your messaging and pause your sequence if the campaign is not working.
- Understand why people do not respond to you so you can nurture them into another campaign.
[37:20] — Lee’s Formula for B2B Demand Generation Success
- Lee shares their playbook involving emails, phone calls, LinkedIn connection requests, and a piece of content. Listen to the full episode to hear how they tie together!
- This strategy earns them 15 to 20 meetings in a week.
- B2B demand generation playbook works very well for them because they target a niche.
- They only message people whose problems they know they can solve.
[40:37] — Why Agencies Use Airborne
- AirborneApp generates agencies’ reports with just one click.
- It saves precious hours and allows agencies to have a high level of visibility to their clients.
- They focus on one customer at a time, helping them with their problems before expanding to other market areas.
[46:45] — Inbound and Outbound Strategies, What’s Next for Them
- Lee’s team started making content a while ago, believing that it will pay in inbound leads in the long run.
- But since they’re still starting, they recognize that they still need outbound marketing.
- Ultimately, business is about people. It’s about your mission, vision, and values.
- Even a lean team like Flowster can benefit from the services of AirborneApp.
- They are planning to expand their services to sales teams.
Which of Lee Gladish’s bright ideas sparked something in you? What are the tactics you’ve picked up about B2B demand generation? Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us.
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Lee is the former Co-Founder at Reply.io and the current CEO at AirborneApp.io, which is the industry’s first sales engagement application built for Lead generation and Marketing Agencies. He has been in the software sales space for over 10 years. After working with countless (sales) agencies he understands the necessary tactics required to achieve massive results. He’s also helped many other businesses & entrepreneurs build a better sales engine.