The Future of Tech Conferences and How to Earn Developer Trust: Anadelia Fadeev
In this interview, Anadelia Fadeev, Sr. Director of Demand Generation at Teleport, describes some of the biggest changes that have emerged in digital marketing, demand gen, and events over the course of the pandemic. She talks about the future of technical conferences, the benefits and limitations of using “marketing qualified leads” (MQLs) as a success metric, and how sales and marketing teams can best work together, using both shared goals and terminology. Finally, she emphasizes why building trust with developer audiences is paramount to all other marketing activities.
InfoQ: Anadelia, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Teleport?
Anadelia Fadeev: My role here is in marketing. I've been at Teleport for almost two years now. Teleport is the easiest, most secure way to access all your infrastructure. My job in marketing is to generate awareness and interest in Teleport. Given that we're open source, what I especially like about it is that anyone can get started today for free.
InfoQ: With two years of pandemic life now behind us - from a marketing and demand gen perspective - what are some of the biggest changes you’ve observed in our industry?
Anadelia: There are several changes that I think are permanent and positive.
One is that people want to consume content on their own terms. I think that with events shutting down and people doubling down on webinars, for instance, it's forced us to produce content in various mediums and forums and has allowed people to consume it at their own pace. I think many companies would agree that the pandemic has forced us to think about new ways through which we can share content in a more asynchronous way so that, regardless of where you're physically located, what time zone you're in, your preferred method of communication, there's something that will fit your needs. That's one.
Second, the pandemic has put everything into perspective and has made us realize how much human connections actually matter. Whether you're trying to connect with your community or your coworkers, finding opportunities for those casual interactions - where you can actually build trust and connect as humans - is incredibly important. The past couple of years have really put that into perspective. Personally, I've been more intentional about making time to make connections.
Finally, the pandemic has reinforced the importance of communities, and how it should be all about quality, not quantity. For example, event organizers have realized that it’s not about having the largest event with tens of thousands of people and a really broad slate of topics. Instead, there’s been more interest in highly focused events where people can make more meaningful connections.
For example, I was at KubeCon last year, and I noticed how many people were skipping the large afterparties and instead they were joining smaller events where they could reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. This goes back to my second point on making more meaningful human connections.
InfoQ: What’s the future of technical conferences? Will our industry be going back to fully in-person events, continuing with virtual conferences, or taking a hybrid approach?
Anadelia: I think it's going to be hybrid. It goes back to my earlier point of people wanting to consume content on their own terms. For some people, in-person will work, and for others, it won't. Giving people choices is extremely important. I do think there's an appetite for having those face-to-face interactions. Whether you’re on a Zoom call with your video on, talking on a Slack channel with fellow attendees, or chatting with people in the hallway - at the end of the day - people are seeking the connection and the closeness to communities, regardless of what format that might be.
InfoQ: Shifting gears a bit, “Marketing Qualified Leads” (MQLs) have become an important metric in measuring the success of demand gen campaigns. What are the benefits and limitations of MQLs?
Anadelia: MQLs really are a way to prioritize leads for sales and potentially gauge the quality of those leads. The reality is that this is not a perfect system. The problem is when too much emphasis is put into this metric.
If you’re selling enterprise software you have more than one person influencing the deal: you might have someone doing the research, someone who will be the day to day user, you have your economic buyer, and so forth. You have multiple touch points across several people in the company, and MQLs simply don't show the full picture of that buyer's journey.
InfoQ: Is there another metric that marketers should be focusing on?
Anadelia: My recommendation is for marketing teams to really focus on pipeline. Pipeline is the end result of your marketing and sales development activities. It’s still important to track funnel metrics but the reality is that every business is different, every buyer is different. Every sales cycle is probably going to look different for each company. We can't just apply a blanket metric across all companies and say that the most important metric to gauge the success of a company is their MQL to opportunity conversion rate. It's impossible that you'll be comparing the same thing across each company.
What really matters at the end of the day is to ask yourself: are the activities that you're doing across sales and marketing producing the pipeline that you need for your business? If the answer is no, then you need to start digging into each funnel stage to understand where the issues might be, and try to resolve that. Emphasizing on MQLs doesn't really show the full picture.
InfoQ: For companies selling enterprise software, like Teleport, do you have any tips on how marketing and sales teams should best work together? Are there any best practices or anti-patterns that you’ve observed?
Anadelia: Going back to my earlier point, really, the focus should be pipeline. The times where I've seen conflict between sales and marketing is when the teams are not speaking the same language. Marketing is focused on leads and MQLs and sales is thinking about opportunities and pipeline. If you have a focus on pipeline, then you're both working towards the same goal.
The other times where I've seen conflict between sales and marketing is when people use the word “credit” when talking about pipeline composition.
This is a word that I've banned in my teams because marketing should own the entire pipeline number. We can discuss attribution models all day long, but the reality is that in enterprise software, it's a joint effort. Like I said before, you have multiple people, and you have multiple touch points happening between sales and marketing. It's a joint effort.
You can have a great website where people convert, but without good sales follow up, you're not going to book the meeting, or you can have great outbound but without good messaging, it might not drive a response. If you’re in demand generation, your customer is Sales, which is why we should be focused on the same goal: generating revenue for our company.
InfoQ: Teleport has recently run several ad campaigns on InfoQ. What were the goals of these campaigns and were they successful?
Anadelia: At this stage of our company, we're focused on brand awareness. We’re a startup and our product is open source. Really, what we want to do is to let the world know we exist and we can help people solve their access problems. For us, that means creating content that's highly relevant and provides value to our community.
What I like about working with InfoQ is its focus on quality content. Our program is not an ad program; instead, it’s about us adding value to our communities and we see that in the form of traffic back to our website and the number of pages visited on our site. The content is relevant!
InfoQ: Any additional advice you’d like to give to your fellow B2B marketers?
Anadelia: I’d like to re-emphasize that marketing is not about capturing leads and turning them into MQLs. Because if that was it, and our job ends at, “I've created a lead, and now it's an MQL,” we would simply find easy ways to create leads and turn them into MQLs We’d all be billionaires, because we’ve figured it out!
The reality is that our audience and our communities are real people who have busy lives. They also have goals, priorities, dreams, and things they like to do in their free time. Their job is just one portion of their life.
Our goal as marketers is to build trust with our communities, so that we have the opportunity to introduce ourselves to them. That comes with trust. No one owes us their time. We have to earn that. We have to earn people's time. We have to do that through trust, and it goes back to the content.
As marketers, we should be asking ourselves: “What am I doing to provide value to someone?”, so that they give me time to introduce myself to them. However people call it - branding, community building, or you name it - it describes the same thing, which is, you want to earn people's trust, and you do that by first providing something of value to them.