Talking B2B Tech: Alice de Courcy, CMO, Cognism
Moving through the marketing gears at a rapidly scaling tech business
05 Minute Read
- Joined Cognism as Head of Marketing in 2019, moving into the CMO role in July 2020
- Scaled Cognism from 3M to over 20M+ and growing
- Member of Revenue Collective, a private membership for high-growth operators who are looking to thrive in today's evolving business world
- Winners of UK LinkedIn top start-ups award 3 years running & top 10 winner of Deloitte Fast 50 21 award
There’s nothing quite like taking on the CMO role at a fast-growing tech business. When she walked through the door of the sales intelligence platform Cognism, Alice de Courcy knew that she was taking on a very different challenge to any she’d faced previously.
“I’d come from a legal tech background, working for Thomson Reuters and then a start-up in that sector – and the pace of growth at Cognism was unlike anything I’d experienced before,” she says. “You don’t get that level of change in large corporates. You’ve got to learn to be very adaptable and very focused on the data. I’ve really discovered elements of my skillset that I hadn’t emphasised before – and which turned out to be really suited to the scale-up challenge.”
The first element of the challenge that de Courcy identified was defining marketing’s role in driving growth – and building a sense of structure around how the team would play it.
“When I came in, marketing felt more like a business enablement function than anything else,” she says. “If we helped land a deal it was a nice thing to happen, but it wasn’t predictable in any way. My job was to develop a model where we could be hitting a predictable target in terms of the percentage of business revenue that’s marketing sourced. We set it at 50% and we’ve been exceeding that for the last two and a half years, so we’ve now moved it up to 53% and we’ll look to increase it going forward.”
A clear revenue target that’s consistently exceeded at a business that’s powering along in growth terms: many marketing leaders would be happy to settle for that when it comes to demonstrating their department’s contribution. De Courcy isn’t one of them, though. She sees delivering on revenue targets as one phase in building out a growth plan for Cognism. It’s an essential foundation but one that it’s crucial for marketers to push on from.
Escaping the MQL Hamster Wheel
“Marketing is increasingly asked to be accountable for a revenue number – and that’s a good thing,” she says. “It allows you to have that closer relationship with sales because you’re talking the same language and working towards the same goal. We’re able to measure the impact of marketing more easily and show that to the rest of the business – and because we’re aligned against revenue, we’re able to drive forward some key initiatives that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to.”
Those key initiatives focus on building out marketing’s role at the top of the demand funnel, taking greater control of future pipeline – and demonstrating the value to the business of doing so.
“We’re on a journey where we’re moving away from the MQL hamster wheel type of traditional lead generation marketing – to focus on a direct demand model,” explains de Courcy. “We’ve learned that investing in brand pays back over and over again in terms of driving demand, as long as you’re investing in the right places. We’ve got to a point in our growth where we’ve earned the right to be a bit more creative and move away from that strict lead generation piece.”
It’s content that’s taking on a key role in building the Cognism brand – and filling the demand funnel from the top. De Courcy puts the emphasis on paid social, primarily across LinkedIn and Facebook – and often ungated.
Helping people put themselves in-market
“We’re removing all friction from the process of engaging,” she says. “As a result, we’re seeing an increased number of direct demo requests from people coming to our website and asking to speak to us. I’m fond of saying that, as a marketer, you don’t put people in the market – people put themselves in the market. We split our tactics so that we can focus on capturing the 1% that are in-market and looking for something right now, while actually creating demand in the other 99%. It’s a change of mindset: thinking about how much you’re willing to pay to get your content consumed by your target audience rather than how much you’re willing to pay to grab an email address and push someone through a funnel.”
The content that de Courcy invests in is built around pillars such as the Revenue Champions podcast, on which she interviews sales and marketing leaders about everything from demand generation marketing to prospecting tactics and cold calling. “The key has been building up authoritative content in our space – and we’ll be investing in increasing the scope and quality of that content again next year,” she says. “For these things to work, what you’re putting out has to have real value.”
Penetrating new markets with brand and demand
De Courcy’s move to a fuller vision of demand generation is a move with real strategic purpose. It’s supporting an expansion of Cognism’s markets, building on strength among Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs) and supporting sales in penetrating mid-market and enterprise accounts.
“We built out a mid-market pod of marketers, and we’re using our own intelligence data to generate demand there,” she says. “We’re able to deliver high-touch, personalised campaigns that respond to event triggers like people leaving or joining – or funding rounds. However, the mid-market and enterprise also benefit from the awareness and brand play, and that’s another driver for levelling up our content.”
Clear decision-making through data
A full-funnel view of demand means that Cognism can plan more effectively for future growth. It’s also helped to drive efficiencies with a clear view of the tactics that deliver most value. In recent years, that’s helped to sidestep some big challenges for demand generation marketers.
“We were lucky in that we’d already made a strategic decision to move away from events, before the pandemic,” says de Courcy. “We did a massive deep dive into the data and found that they didn’t really stack up for us, in terms of ROI. Instead, I wanted to focus on channels that could scale more consistently: the podcasts, paid social, search ads and SEO.”
It’s the type of data-led decision-making that de Courcy has made a priority since joining Cognism; the type of data-led decision-making that can bring clarity to the strategy for scaling a rapidly growing business. In fact, for de Courcy, clarity on strategy is what technology should always deliver. If it’s obscuring the way forward, then it’s not doing its job.
“I’m a big believer in staying in touch with MarTech trends,” she adds. “I’m always interested in whether technology enables you to do something more efficiently. However, that’s not to say that you have to measure every little movement – or that every penny has to somehow be traced back to ROI. The bigger and more important questions are whether technology is getting you in front of the right audiences and delivering value to them. In its purest form, data-led decision making should actually be quite simple.”
Keeping things simple while moving fast. It’s a great mantra for a tech business on the move.
Interested in hearing from other tech marketing leaders, including Signavio, Lenovo ISG, Unit4 and more? Check out the Tech CMO Corner from LinkedIn.
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