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Using CRMs The Smart Way & Practical Promotion with Ali Schwanke – Episode #119

 “When you stop selling, you stop growing…If you think that you’re maxed out right now…what if you lose a client?”

Ali Schwanke is the CEO and Founder of Simple Strat, an agency of expert strategists in sales and content marketing for B2B tech companies. Ali and her team focus on growing businesses through technology and automations, specializing in the implementation of HubSpot.

Ali is a sought-after speaker and co-host of HubSpot Hacks – the popular YouTube channel with over 1M views and 15k+ subscribers.

Questions and topics we covered: 

  • Why is HubSpot the best CRM to use? It’s not just a tool for sales…
  • Are CRMs useful for all businesses?
  • Why do so many CRM adoptions fail?
  • Is Hubspot only useful for marketing teams? (Heck no!)
  • Practical ways to start using Hubspot to start growing sales.
  • The advanced tactics within Hubspot to help grow sales (i.e. progressive fields).
  • Marketing tactics to use for growing a personal brand and an agency.
  • Ali’s tips for creating video content—even if you’re shy on camera.
  • How to bleed your marketing budget and how to avoid doing this.
  • How to tie a marketing strategy to company goals.
  • Scaling growth with old content.
  • How can B2B companies create a solid audience-building strategy? 
  • And more!

Check out Ali’s HubSpot Hacks Youtube channel:

Say hello to Ali via LinkedIn:

Ali’s 30-day posting calendar template for LinkedIn:

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Full Episode Transcript:


Kenny Soto 0:10  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people Digital Marketing podcast with your host, Kenny Soto, and today’s special guest ally swanky. Hi, hi, Ali. How are you?


Ali Schwanke 0:23  

I’m doing great. Thank you for having me.


Kenny Soto 0:25  

All right. So before we hit record, I wanted to just quickly give you a little bit of backstory about the podcast. And now I think it’s very appropriate to get some backstory about you and your career. So Ali, my first question for you is how did you become a digital marketer?


Ali Schwanke 0:42  

Yeah, it was a long, winding road. And I think that a lot of folks that are in our positions have that similar story where you’re definitely just curious about the things around you. So my first job, I guess you could say venture was a photography studio, out of college, and I really loved photography. Now I have a YouTube channel. 


So obviously, that translated into multimedia. But I started doing what I wanted to do as corporate photography, the city that I was in didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities then. And so I ended up doing babies, weddings, things like that. And someone asked me, Can you build me a website? And I said, Sure, how hard can that be? Well, fast forward, that’s kind of been the way that my career has progressed. 


Can you do this? And if I didn’t have a job or an opportunity to do that, I would find friends who wanted to do cool things like kind of like what you’re doing, watch your own podcast, see how it works. So that’s really been my journey. And now I’m an agency owner, and all of that’s been just a constant learning opportunity.


Kenny Soto 1:41  

Can you give more context into what your agency does?


Ali Schwanke 1:45  

Sure. So I own an agency called simple strat. We are a HubSpot diamond partner. And that means that we help folks both in HubSpot, automation, sales, automation, and anything on that platform. And then for folks that need to execute campaigns, just like you’re doing drive awareness, build brands, whether that’s multimedia or written, we help folks execute through content creation as well.


Kenny Soto 2:07  

I don’t like to assume context for the listeners. So I don’t want to gloss over this. Let’s quickly get a brief overview of what HubSpot is.


Ali Schwanke 2:20  

Yeah, so HubSpot is one of the most popular CRM or customer relationship management tools out there, it’s going to be somewhat of a database that helps you capture the contact information and preferences of your customers, as well as prospects. 


And then there’s a variety of features and functions inside that platform that make it possible for you to do things like email marketing, outreach to them, you know, track your sales, really grow your business so that the information and campaigns that you’re running are all in one place.


Kenny Soto 2:50  

Now, among all of the CRMs that are out there, why did you decide to choose HubSpot as your main tool and service ops offering? 


Ali Schwanke 3:00  

Yeah, we really saw that if you’re just a digital marketer, and you go into any companies, the term tech sack is what you’re going to hear. So as a marketer, it’s really important. I know you have a person on your podcast most recently that talked about being a generalist, which is really, really important, I think, when you’re early in your career has been what we’d call a T-shaped marketer. 


And that T-shaped marketer is familiar with the strategies and tactics that one uses, but they’re not necessarily a platform-specific expert. And the further we get into HubSpot, the harder it is to help folks know exactly what to do with a tool unless you’re really, really, really deep into it. So I saw where the platform was going. I said this company’s marketing first, which we are too, and we created a YouTube series called HubSpot hacks that teaches people the platform, and with a groundswell of kind awareness and opportunities we’ve gotten from that channel. 


We decided to go all in on HubSpot as a result of the expertise that we started building. And really like, I shouldn’t say this publicly. But there are many times we sometimes find ourselves outperforming the content that the company themselves creates because we just we’ve been in the platform doing so many things for our clients.


Kenny Soto 4:12  

Is taking a step back from HubSpot and just talking over the concept of CRMs. In general, are our CRMs a vital tool for businesses? Are there any use cases where they’re not necessary?


Ali Schwanke 4:29  

You know, I think there are folks that run a business, it’s somewhat smaller, and they’re only going to be able to handle let’s say, five clients at a time. If they’re a solopreneur. They might not have a need for a CRM. But I will argue that when you stop selling you stop growing. 


So if you think that you’re maxed out right now, and you’re not actively having conversations and tracking those, what if you lose a client and then all of a sudden you’re gonna freak out? So even when you’re first starting your business, like today, I had folks that I talked to Six months ago, who said they weren’t ready yet. 


All the conversations we’ve been having had been logged in our CRM, and then beginning our newsletter. So they’re getting additional views with us. And then what I tell my clients is, when you watch multiple videos with me, I hear this all the time. I feel like I’ve had lots of meetings with your ali because I’ve watched all your videos. So again, they wouldn’t have that experience if they weren’t getting those emails, which are tied to the CRM function.


Kenny Soto 5:26  

Why do so many CRM adoptions fail?


Ali Schwanke 5:30  

Because they literally just see it as a shiny tool instead of what they want to do with it. So it’s, I personally am not a fan of shopping, I kind of see it like that. If I go into a store, and I see all the cool outfits and things you could do, I just, I honestly get overwhelmed. 


So when I go shopping, I have a very purposeful thing I’m looking for I need an outfit for this. It needs to fit with this a match the issues. And that’s how you need to think about your technology when you’re selecting it.


Kenny Soto 6:01  

Now, with HubSpot in particular, is it a tool that is just optimized for marketing, or can any other department use it as well?


Ali Schwanke 6:11  

It certainly started as more of a marketing tool. And it has since evolved to be a driver of what we call the customer journey. So they have no idea who you are to they are now an engaged customer that may be ups like buying more services or being upsold, or having referrals. So we tend to look at HubSpot now as more of a marketing operations platform than just a marketing platform. 


Because if you have a bad experience as a customer that forgets all the activity that’s happening previously. So it’s these days, it’s really about like, for people getting into marketing, especially if you can go into interviews and talk more about the entire customer journey. In the experience, you will have a leg up on folks that just gravitate to shiny objects and tactics.


Kenny Soto 7:00  

Now, I tried to make an effort in my own career to master tools. But then make sure that tool is being used in a practical way where we’re not just spending the enterprise-level amount, either annually or monthly for the sake of having that tool on our tech stack. What are and it can be any number of things. But let’s just start with the first thing. What is a practical way of using HubSpot to aid in sales enablement?


Ali Schwanke 7:31  

Yeah. So HubSpot has a feature called documents and documents that allows you to upload commonly used cell sheets or case studies or something that you would typically find yourself in an in-person meeting, sliding across a table mid-meeting or post-meeting. 


And when you upload those pieces of information, your sales team can use those in their sales follow-up and outreach. And they can actually then track engagement. Who’s opened them? How long have they viewed them, and use that intelligence to hopefully inform your sales strategy?


Kenny Soto 8:03  

Now if we’re assuming that there are a handful of listeners who have used HubSpot for many years, let’s say what are the uncommon tactics, the advanced tactics that really only you know about?


Ali Schwanke 8:18  

Well, there are a couple of things. I mean, there are things we’re talking about in our meeting this morning. And that is somewhat of the interface inside of HubSpot. So let’s say that you have specific fields that you track for certain customer behaviors, and those are automated. You can use conditional views on this on the sidebar, just have those properties show up or not. So the user will not see those properties if they’re not populated. 


And that’s, you know, somewhat sounds like why would you use that, when you start tracking a lot of stuff in your system, users can get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that you have. And our job as HubSpot admins is to make it as easy as possible for you, a user of your own system to execute, right? There are what you call progressive fields. So if I know a lot about you as a customer, I should not be asking you the same questions every time you register for a webinar. 


So now I can ask you questions like, Hey, what’s your favorite podcast? Or what’s this or that? And because a small percentage of people will get to that point, they feel like, if you asked, What’s your favorite podcast, and you just left it an open field, you probably gonna get 20% of the people that get that question. But wow, what a good piece of information that you could track your customers by asking different questions as you move along, like the development of their journey. So those are two that I’d say I’d love to see more companies using.


Kenny Soto 9:40  

Let’s talk about your agency for a second because I feel like if we just talk about HubSpot, that could be an episode in and of itself, but I want to get a holistic picture of everything you know. What are some of your go-to marketing tactics to promote yourself online and promote your agency?


Ali Schwanke 9:58  

Yeah, YouTube is definitely gonna be our bread and butter. And we’ve learned a lot about what b2b marketers can be doing on YouTube. And I will say this simple, stupid trick is to pick a topic and a nation stays there. And I think the thing that I’ve learned more than not on HubSpot, and even just like creating content about it is, you’re not gonna subscribe to our channel, because you want to hear about my weekend and how my last trip to a conference went. Like if you want to have a talk show, have a talk show, but you may struggle to get listeners because they want to know what to expect from you every week. 


So that would be you know, YouTube’s definitely one of them. LinkedIn is huge. I think everybody, especially marketers, the number of marketers that I talk to, that don’t know what to do on LinkedIn for like themselves, is quite shocking. And I think they’re all afraid to be phonies. So instead, I teach, or I just encourage marketers who are getting active on LinkedIn to think about LinkedIn as a place where you would go and collaborate on ideas. 


Don’t think about what I am going to say to the world today. Because that’s the wrong thing. So what did I share in a meeting yesterday? That was helpful to somebody? And how can I share that with my LinkedIn community today? So if folks do struggle with that in your community, it’s probably like, if you just google this, you’re probably found that I had a viral tweet last week and a viral LinkedIn post that had a 30-day posting plan that I share. And I mean, 1000s of people commented, on the posts, and so I’ve been happily sharing that with people if they want to kind of get us out and get started.


Kenny Soto 11:33  

I’m glad you mentioned that one of the issues that I had was imposter syndrome, I became a host of a podcast, six, maybe seven episodes in had no idea whether or not I wanted to continue doing it. And I think the only reason why I stick to it is that I still have that mental barrier of I’m a marketer. 


But I don’t know if I’m an expert in SEO, which is what I specialize in. So in order to get over that hurdle, what I’ve decided is just highlight what other experts know, you don’t always need to be the creator of an idea, you could be the promoter of an idea, obviously, give credit where credit’s due. And then that’s the content that you’re using. Basically saying instead of I’m an expert, I’m a person who interacts with experts, here’s what I’m learning over time, you don’t always need to have the information coming from yourself as a source.


Ali Schwanke 12:22  

Yeah, that’s, that’s so true. And I think it actually, bodes much better for you on the platform than having this false sense of what I’d call authority. Because of an eye, some people just look young, regardless of their age. But if you’re talking about all these amazing things that you’ve learned in the course of your career, and you look 22, you’re just gonna come across looking like an imposter. 


Unless you’re like a 22-year-old creator that has 5 million followers on YouTube, then people will take you differently. I think the other thing when marketers have a side hustle, like, like you do like this podcast, go and experiment on something of your own. So you can use your own money to figure out where you want to try a tactic. Because otherwise, you’re constantly playing with your employer’s money. And that’s the thing about running an agency is if we run a campaign on it, it’s a giant flop. I’m gonna write the crap out of that. And I’m going to use that as a case study to show people that, you know, we fail to


Kenny Soto 13:20  

Yeah when it comes to your content strategy. I asked this question because I know I’ve struggled with this. I’m trying to push myself forward to get more comfortable with video. What tips and advice would you have for someone who is shy on camera, but knows that the next stage in their content strategy is to incorporate video somehow?


Ali Schwanke 13:46  

Yeah, that’s a hard one, because there are definitely folks that are better at video naturally. And there are a couple of things I’d say in my background that somewhat catered to video because of training. So if you’ve gone through theater training or stage training, or if you’ve done any sort of PR training, any of those are going to have the building blocks of what you need to be better on camera, because it comes down to stage presents. comfort and confidence in your ideas. And the ability to grab attention quickly and wrap it up succinctly while driving the point home. So all of those are simple but difficult.


Kenny Soto 14:30  

No, making a swift transition into talking about marketing overall. Where are people losing time or dollars in their marketing efforts this year?


Ali Schwanke 14:47  

Lots of places. One of the biggest, I’d say bleeds of marketing dollars is not sticking with a strategy long enough to know even if there is a return there. So  I usually compare marketing or anything that has a marketing and sales function to it to exercise and fitness, the people that are getting results, they typically are changing their lifestyle and their diet, and they’re going to the gym, and they’re seeing results initially within maybe four to six weeks. 


But to lose that 50 pounds, it takes a year. So they should know whether or not the programs working 90 days, but they shouldn’t give up for three weeks. And so a lot of times they’re losing money by dedicating time to things that they’re just constantly changing direction. And there’s no way to get traction, they’re, or they’re doing things that they don’t quite know how they measure to business objectives. And they’re just kind of doing them because they’ve always done them.


Kenny Soto 15:48  

Let’s double-click on two things, one, quickly define what exactly is a marketing strategy. Let’s start there.


Ali Schwanke 15:57  

Yeah, so marketing strategy versus marketing plan is a blog we have on our website for that reason. And a marketing strategy is going to be the unique advantage you have in the marketplace and how you take that advantage and drive value in a specific way. So it’s, it’s going to be how you’re going to get there. And then the individual tactics that come under that are going to be the plan playing out. So I’m gonna give you an example of our agency. 


So our marketing strategy is driven by content, the first expert-led voices in the marketplace because we have those internally. And that’s a talent that we have. If an agency doesn’t have that, they might utilize an outbound approach to get into inboxes faster and execute faster on the outbound approach than we are because they have 15 STRS in the back. So the strategy is going to dictate how you structure your department, what talents you have onboard, and what channels you choose to execute on.


Kenny Soto 16:53  

Now, the second part of this is why it is important. And I asked this because this is something that I recently learned just two years ago, right? And I’ve been in marketing for eight years. So for six years, I was just wasting time. Why is it important to tie marketing strategy back to business goals and company strategy?


Ali Schwanke 17:12  

Yeah, actually, I have a workshop later this month about this specifically, because there’s a big disconnect between folks that don’t have a background in marketing that are in an executive role. And folks that do. So if you work for marketing, education, and marketing by a founder, you don’t spend as much time proving yourself, because they already can connect awareness to conversion to a decision to renewals. 


If you don’t work for a marketing first founder or a team that’s really, really, really focused on meetings, they’re going to give you metrics that you need to hit that are going to be somewhat difficult or nearly impossible because they don’t understand the top of the funnel is completely desert. So at the top of the funnel, if you don’t have a business objective like we need to be top of mind among this audience, that’s a terrible SMART goal. But as an objective, that means we need to maintain awareness among this specific addressable market. 


And here are the three ways we’re going to do that. We’re going to track it by impressions and voice. If you don’t talk about that, you’re going to be forced to know how many meetings we get. You’re like, but I’m running LinkedIn ads, and we’re getting awareness, but no meetings. So all that understanding has to come together in order for you as a marketer to do your job.


Kenny Soto 18:28  

How can marketing teams do more with a small amount of content? So they’re not necessarily creating net new posts every single day? They already have a repository, they’ve made an investment? What can they do with their old content?


Ali Schwanke 18:44  

Yeah, the best thing here is to review your best hits. So just like every artist that we love, and now they’ve got a few songs that we like, and they’ve got tons of songs, we probably couldn’t name an album. And the reason is they continue to play for the people that people want to hear. So you most likely have content in your repository. 


You probably do too, as a podcast host. You’ve got episodes that seem to drive home really well: find them, retitle them, re-spin them, find a new hook, and put them back onto the marketplace sizes because people already liked them.


Kenny Soto 19:18  

When it comes to b2b marketing in general, I’ve seen this myself because, in marketing, I get hit by ads for martech tools all the time. But it seems like I have done research on your content to know that you talked about this a lot. It seems like a lot of b2b companies still don’t focus on audience building. Why is audience building important?


Ali Schwanke 19:42  

Well, as a person that has built an audience, I can tell you the ease with which we can capture attention is incredible. It’s incredible. And the reason it gets pushed off is that it doesn’t seem like it doesn’t it just seems like a nice to have initially because the tool was like ZoomInfo will tell you, we’ve got your whole audience in our database. Well, what they haven’t told you is, and I use this analogy. It’s like, I’ve got a house full of people at a party. Imagine me saying, Hey, guys, let’s go do this thing. 


And everyone’s already at my party versus everyone’s just milling around in my neighborhood. And no one gives a rat when I’d say we’re doing this, because they have no idea who I am yet. So building an audience and having a database is not the same thing. Despite what all these lead gen tools try to make you believe.


Kenny Soto 20:31  

That’s a promotional clip, if I’ve ever heard one more question for you. Next question. Ah, debating a topic that I’ve asked in the past. Is lead scoring still effective?


Ali Schwanke 20:44  

Yes, and no. Most of the time, the reason why it’s not effective is there really isn’t enough data to inform the algorithm of what works and what doesn’t work. So it sounds pretty sexy. There are some very high-priced predictive lead scoring tools that I think probably have a propensity for enterprises that have lots and lots and lots of data going through them. 


For the average SMB, it sounds pretty sexy, but you should keep it pretty simple, and stupid. Like, if they’ve done these five actions, they’re probably close to talking to you.


Kenny Soto 21:18  

How do you make time for your personal brand?


Ali Schwanke 21:22  

Oh, it’s just on someone this morning that I don’t really have any hobbies, maybe? No, I just love I love content. I love being creative. Like I’m, I was on the treadmill last night, and I have a love and Tiktok ideas after that run on the treadmill. Like, I think my hack for content creation is every time you have an idea, write it down. Because people too often sit down to come up with content. 


And then they’re like, What am I gonna write about? I mean, I, whether that sticky notes, all of your desk, whether that’s an Evernote note on your phone, write it down because there’s a reason why you thought of it. And if that doesn’t work, devote like an hour every morning to do it and build the muscle. Once you start to see the results is kind of like fitness, once you start to see the results, you’ll keep running because you enjoy the results.


Kenny Soto 22:12  

My last question for you ali is hypothetical. Because time machines don’t exist. But if one did, you can go back in time about 10 years in the past, knowing everything you know, today, how would you expect specifically to excuse me to accelerate the speed of your career?


Ali Schwanke 22:29  

I would have launched a YouTube channel 10 years ago, I would have made daily videos 10 years ago. The thing that I think is so interesting right now, is that I put a post out on LinkedIn a while ago that when people got laid off if they want any sort of help or insight they can reach out to me, which is that offer still stands. 


And the thing that I’ve learned is, the people that have the best opportunities in their careers are known by someone who knows someone. And if you’re relying on your resume alone, to get to opportunities, you know, great that my work for you. But especially in an environment where we’ve got so many data-driven robot tools governing a lot of our communications, when someone knows you by name, and they can recognize the value that you have, even yourself, like interviewing people. If more marketers would do that they would find their next job fairly easily.


Kenny Soto 23:24  

This is the first time where I’m prompted and inspired, add my own advice here, which would just be kept in mind for this is direct to the listener. Keep in mind that not only are you competing with other job candidates, you’re competing with other tools that are automating what you do not in every case, but in some cases, now they’re going to be able to automate what you do. 


And you’re also competing with people who are becoming more aware of this advice that you just shared, which is you got to create content to stand out. So if you’re not doing that you’re already falling behind. And if you are then the challenge is just can you prove you know what you’re doing by promoting yourself while you’re growing your skills in your career at the same time. So I think what you’re saying resonates a lot with it. It’s a challenge, especially now with this year coming up. 


And last year, all these layoffs that are happening, I suspect it will happen even more in the second quarter of this year, third quarter, possibly there might be tapering off at the end of the year, but who’s to say that it does taper off. So it is important to not just rely on your resume. You need an excuse to meet smart people like yourself. Because that’s you’re going to expand your network, you’re going to accelerate your learning. 


That’s the most important thing that I’ve identified from doing this podcast. I’m just becoming smarter at doing conversations like this. And I say all this to say that once you’re definitely right and if you’re not doing this, there probably is a mental block that you have. There’s an excuse that you’re giving yourself. For me what helped me realize that I needed to keep moving forward was just, I don’t like being in a famine mentality where like, I feel like there isn’t enough opportunity. 


There is opportunity out there, especially for digital marketers, even with all these automated tools like chat GPT, Google just announced it is barred. Like, even though it might seem scary, there’s opportunity there. Can you be the first marketer to master check? GPT, Bard, all these generative AI tools to make you 10x Faster, increase your output, etc, as opposed to being afraid of it, not learning it for whatever reason, and then you’re falling behind. 


The same thing happened with Facebook ads, the same thing happened with YouTube, and people were afraid of using YouTube now. It’s like a go-to channel. So at the end of the day, you just got to, you got to adapt.


Ali Schwanke 25:48  

Yeah. And you have to be okay with being okay. At first. I think too many people, people get scared. They’re like, Oh, my first podcast episode was so terrible, like, well, it should be, it should be terrible. If you don’t get better as you’re doing it, you’re not doing it right. And you’re starting too late. So I’ve tweeted this day, if you sit around waiting for the perfect website before you start doing your outreach, you will never never sell anything ever. Yeah, so that holds true.


Kenny Soto 26:16  

Already is iterative. And you don’t need to get to 95% 90%. If it’s 80%, good, launch it, get feedback, obviously, and then iterate over time. It doesn’t need to be the perfect video, it doesn’t need to be the perfect piece of content. You can always do a vI to most people, I’ve realized, on your audience probably like five to 7% If you’re not boosting off with ad spend five to 7% of your audience’s hitting your content. You can always repost old content that’s optimized a month later, or a week later, give or take.


Ali Schwanke 26:49  

If you have anybody that’s like, dude, you’ve posted this before he could be like, Wow, super fan follower. Like if they say that is good for you. But oh my god, if you get that you’re probably like how you have a lot of fans, then you’re not going to get that.


Kenny Soto 27:02  

Absolutely early. If anyone ever wants to say hi to you, where can they find you online?


Ali Schwanke 27:07  

Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn, and pretty active there just search Ali Schwanke. If you go to YouTube and type in HubSpot hacks. You’ll find our channel there. And then I have a new channel launching this year called Marketing deconstructed. It’s not out yet, but I’m gonna do a build-in public for that one. So.


Kenny Soto 27:23  

Awesome. Yeah, the links to all that are in the show note, especially when that goes live. And again, thank you for your time today. And thank you to the listener for listening to another episode of the people Digital Marketing podcast. We are on episode 119. If you have any recommendations for a guest, please send me a message on LinkedIn because I’m always looking for more opportunities to meet smart people like Ali. And as always, I hope everyone has a great day. Bye.

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