Founder Stories by TeamWave, are a series of interviews of founders of small businesses and other thought leaders who share their practical insights from their journey of entrepreneurship. Here they talk about how they scaled up their company, what challenges they faced during their initial years, marketing strategies that worked to scale up their small business and much more.
These success stories are dedicated to all the entrepreneurs, small business owners and startups, to show them a glimpse of what it takes to survive in this competitive business ecosystem.
Plug: TeamWave is an all-in-one, small business productivity platform that is fully integrated with Google Workspace. Manage your sales, contacts, projects & people in one place for just $39 /Month
In this episode of FOUNDER SERIES by TeamWave, our guest is, Andrei Zinkevich, who is the CEO and Founder at FullFunnel.io. At FullFunnel.Io they help B2B companies to create company’s positioning, unique selling proposition and proposal for different market segments so that the customers will be able to differentiate the company from its competitors and thus the companies will have fatter margins.
Transcript of the Interview with Andrei Zinkevich (Founder, Fullfunnel.io)
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Founder Series by TeamWave and today’s guest is and Andrei Zinkevich, who is the co-founder at FullFunnel.io. It helps B2B companies by working with their sales and marketing managers on generating qualified sales opportunities from list of target accounts, increase, deal value, and shorten the sales cycle to hit their next revenue milestone. And thanks a lot for joining us Andrei.
Thanks a lot for having me, such a great podcast.
Thank you. And my first question would be what is FullFunnel.io?
So Fullfunnel.io is my consultancy where we provide services to B2B service-based and tech companies. The ones which have long end complex sales cycles. As you mentioned we use a mix of different strategies that are aligned with the way how customers buy in this complex B2B industries. The reason why we’re called power company FullFunnel.io, is because our key methodology is full-funnel marketing. It actually focuses on the entire customer journey and on the entire customer life cycle. Starting from the wellness, then let’s say problem occurs, or even at the stage when the customer doesn’t know they have a problem or a challenge, but they realize something is not working.
And basically, they start searching for different ways, how to solve this particular challenge, not product related. Basically at this stage, we started doing demand generation. And full-funnel leads us through the entire journey until the expansion. Until we have happy customers who can grow the business who can generate referrals. And who can give us recommendations, you know, agree to be a public case study, etc.
Great. Great. And when you talk about marketing consultancy, there are many marketing consultancies, right. Marketing agencies. And how does full funnel.io set itself apart from those?
Yeah, exactly the key differentiator here is our niche expertise. So as I mentioned we serve a very narrow marketplace and two verticals that companies like enterprise, SAAS, hardware, etc, and service-based companies like software development let’s say, financial consultant or manufacturing consultant etc, or these high ticket services. What unites this part, because they all have long and complex sales cycles. So, they deal with a buying committee.
So they usually negotiate with multiple people. And so what else unites this company? So now you can’t just set up ads in Google account, or Facebook ads and wait for leads. So it doesn’t work that way. It requires completely different skillset and alignment between marketing and sales around one, playbook that helps to generate these specific accounts. And that’s why it’s important to, as I mentioned in the beginning, they have a mix of different tactics and that’s why it’s required you must be skilled at account based market and a demand generation, etc. So you’ll be able to actually grow this business. So this is a key differentiator. As far as I know, not so many agents as our consultant firms are focused on, this particular segment.
Oh, okay. And this company started at 2017, right? So at that time, how did you try to get the first traction of customers?
Okay. I started the consultancy on my local market and it wasn’t like a global wide business like it is now. So I was blogging, and I had some customers, that requested me to help them to penetrate to North American markets and different European markets as well. So I had this positive case studies, references, etc.
And the, 10 to 17, I decided to start to, let’s say this global company. So I switched somehow, like, let’s say, productized, my services, hire the team, train them. So they continue that business on a local market while I was thinking about how how to attract my first customers. The biggest benefit for me that I have had case studies, which of course simplifies, you know, the, let’s say the launch of a new company and to get some traction.
But again, you need to deal with the situation that nobody knows you. And of course, in a global scale, it’s harder to get traction than on the local market. So my first idea was how can I connect with like-minded people. First of all, how can I connect with small B2B marketers across the globe? So I decided probably the easiest way would be creating, a community. I created a bit of the marketer and founders community on Facebook. And basically invited some of my connections to join this community. Initially, I invested lots of efforts into that community. I was reaching out to people manually. And I’ll ask them about what content resonates with you, or what topics would you like to chat about in this community?
Do you know anybody who might be interested in this community? Just so I was asking people, you know, to invite their friends, colleagues, clients, etc. It was a Facebook community. I was going wide on these people, you know, and next, I made a list of different Facebook groups. I was introducing myself, not just common as friends or, who joins the community and immediately pitches something.
So I was engaged in the conversation. So people knew a little bit about me. And then I was saying like, guys have now this just like a broader let’s say the topics for this community broadly. I want to create a community which will be solidly focused on B2B market. And then basically I was given some idea of what exact topics I want to cover.
I just was asking like, who is interested, leave a comment. And I will tell you, this is how I got the initial member sample, all the rest is the history. I did live sessions with the community. Then, I started my podcast, which was called the FullFunnel B2B marketing podcasts.
I was doing live session. So people from the community codes jumping, you know, ask my guests questions, et cetera. This actually helped me to get this traction, the alone, the initial around us and the frost clients. So all the clients were coming, you know from this community. That was another asset I was working on. So I started with just an email newsletter and that resulted on having a website. Well, like let’s say two channels that help to get this traction.
Oh, great. Actually that is a very unique way. Means like through Facebook community, you’re trying to reach out to a lot of people. But now my next question would be how did the pamdmic affect you? What were the changes that you’ve noticed like in the market or how the industries reacted?
Yeah. Okay. This is a good question. Cause you know, pandemic change was severe and I don’t need to, I simply don’t need to say too much time about it. There are lots of posts on all of these things. Basically. I want to share what I have noticed in the industry. Just the year since the first lockdown we ran a market research talking to almost 200 B2B companies with complex products. So we reached out to our customers, reached out to several accelerators in Europe who will collaborate.
Basically reached out to members of even, a genius community. And we have figured out some interesting facts, I assume. I will share just some key takeaways from it. So takeaway number 1 is that canceled events and trade shows increase the focus on outbound activities. But what’s important is that they don’t generate results. So our respondents stated that its hard to get people to respond to. And it’s the float of COVID driven, desperate marketing attempts by everybody. I recognize this quote done by one of our respondents.
They meant to say that the outbound marketing was not working for them.
Yes. So they told that they simply don’t generate results because everybody, you know, increased the basically doubled down on outbound. So the takeaway number 2 was that the sales cycle incresed and actually became critical. Now start that will involve more people and respondents, all that it takes longer, you know, that buyers, it takes longer to decide. The takeaway number 3 is content blindness. Which means that it’s extremely hard to generate target traffic, not just traffic costs.
You know, you can pay Facebook or Google or LinkedIn, but it is extremely hard to generate target traffic or motivate target accounts show up to the virtual events. And the reason why, because our respondents stalled better as over supply of webinars and online content. So that’s why I would call that content blind.
Next one is that market and qualified lead costs significantly increased. And again our respondents told that market and qualify leads, don’t convert the sales opportunities. Basically the conversion is miserable and the last one companies experience a high churn rate because of bad product adoption because customers think about this solution as a service, as a fancy add on, you know, but not as a part of operational processes.
So companies that are not able, you know, to, to make a great product adoption experience the high churn rate? These are a five let’s say, take aways during the pandemic and regard them the challenge of, you know, if that might be interested, I have I have stats from it. So the number one challenge is that that is that’s the biggest challenge they have is alignment between marketing and sales.
Next one, the slow response to outreach campaigns. And the challenge number three was target. And there either one decision maker. So basically these are the challenges that’s actually produced. And this are, let’s say the negative outcomes in terms of but at the same time we have not several trends. I think it makes sense to share some trends that we have seen.
One of these trends is basically from my point of view, is that edit 20 or so-called created principle becomes a dominant principle in marketing of complex products and the reason my costs again, I have shadowed this challenges and this is why it becomes critical to narrow down your position and narrow down your market and message narrow down your focus on 20 percent of particles or market segments that generate 80% of revenue. This is critical.
And last year we have experienced two great besides FullFunnel.io. We have experienced 2 great case studies with our customers. So one of them is around management platform and basically because of differentiating themselves and narrowing down their focus, they were able to shut on the sales cycle and so increase the average deal size five times. And it also helped them to get a new investment. And another case comes from the let’s say from the custom software development industry, or let’s say service-based industry.
So this was, let’s say a commodity provider providing one size fits all custom software development service and because of not our inbound position and because of focusing on the best industry and to position themselves themselves If I’m correct they were able after like six months after this reposition six months after narrowing down this focus and run, and dedicate marketing campaigns to this particular market, they were able to grow monthly recurring revenue by 50%.
So this is one of the key trends. I see this narrow position and there are some other trends and I think it totally makes sense to mention that shift to revenue operations and full funnel marketing becomes inevitable. First of all, you know it means that marketing sales and client success teams must be aligned around several things like ideal customer profile, like qualification and disqualification criteria for accounts.
It prevents situation when sales start complaining, you know, that marketing is generating low quality leads or client success team don’t work on a proper onboarding and don’t do in-depth interviews that gives insights for sales you know, about the key initiatives of the customers. And so sales don’t have this critical data, you know, for deal expansion warm-up and activation campaigns.
This is critical because sometimes, you know, sales are prospect and some accounts and marketing is run on some virtual event and this Alliance is the sales activity. So next one content plan, you know I, I spend that’s like by default, content strategy, content planning belongs to marketer and they rarely involve sales in the content creation. But from my point of view, this is like the lowest hanging fruit for teams alignment, because if sales are involved in the content creation, it would be much more easier to involve sales in the content distribution, which is critical.
Our goal is to grab the attention of our target accounts with the content. Correct. And that’s why like this, this is the goal of the sales. Basically if we create the content that resonates with the needs of target customers or prospects, you know, if it answers that questions, etc, it would be much more easier for sales, you know, to, to promote this content, to reach out, to target accounts with this content and get this target traffic.
And last one engagements, it’s critical for leads hands-off. So a marketing team doesn’t sound, you know, like email subscribers or people who attended webinar or people who attended people who downloaded some ebook, you know, some sort of, of gated content, the sales cost if person downloads ebook, it doesn’t mean they have an income to buy. They, are curious about some information, but they when they get a call, you know, from sales team or some, let’s say pitch email, then there are just, there’s a point that they are wondering why these people reaching out to me, you know? And so this actually this situation triggers then famous marketing and sales sales staff complain about you know, about low quality leads, marketing styles, playing and sales, that they don’t know how to sell it, etc.
So this is critical. And as I mentioned as a natural part of it if themes, high Alliance around content strategy sales becomes involved in demand generation, basically I months will learn, you know, this research where we’re asking sales leaders. Like if there is one thing marketing can help you with what would you like this to be? And they talk like they want market and to make sure that our customers are aware about our product. And I was wondering like I was following up in the question, okay.
So market end can work on that part. But in terms of sales, can you do anything and like what is important for you? How would you like to be perceived, you know, by your target accounts and like major part of them called, like, we want to be perceived as advisor, like as a trusted advisor or expert, you know, not just another sales rep and this is why it becomes critical that sales should start working on their, let’s say personal brands.
I don’t like this part too much, but let’s call it as it as it’s called. So they should work on best personal brands. They should work on these demand generation. They should create some content and the lowest hanging fruit, this link then where they can start, you know connect on with target accounts on this content involved, this target accounts and conversations. And this is probably the only one way how, how to do it. Just to give you a, some recent stats I noticed post by Casey Graham who is CEO of Gray The Solutions. And he called that once he insisted his sales team started to share content on LinkedIn and connect with target accounts. They’re not as in commands, they’re not as that four to 5% of sales calls.
So that’s why I send this as the best social proof, why a sales should be involved in the demand generation, not on the prospect and, and lead generation activities and as well it becomes critical that sales would be involved in content distribution. You know this is, this is actually the easiest way to deliver value. We all know that sales should you know, if you read any given post on B2B marketing and sales, I believe like in 90% of these blog articles, that would be one phrase, send something, you need to deliver values, and you need to build a relationship with target accounts.
Agree. So the only one question, which I always ask how to practically deliver this value and build this relationship. So lots of people are talking about this, but not so many actually understand because you know, especially if they’re having a title, like as they are a business development manager or VP of sales or whatever, something sales related people start, you know, they have, like, let’s say they expect by default that the pitch is common.
You know, at some point this person should, should be pitching me. So how to build this relationship. And basically content is the easiest way to do it. Like to give you an example, when I was promoted and a recent case study about ABM campaign that generated 300 K in revenue. I was chatting with some of our prospects. It wasn’t even prospect. So the company that, that fits our ideal customer profile, and three of our chat I’ve got a client. And then I quickly, you know review the website for the IT security and consultant services.
And just to give you a practical probability for your audience, I was reaching out and saying something, like, by the way, I, notice that your company provides IT security and consultant services. I recently published the case study how did I help a custom software development company to generate 300K in sales pipeline from one campaign? And I was sharing not just the links to the blog post. But I was sharing a link to my LinkedIn post. So I didn’t take them out from the platform.
And it wasn’t it didn’t sound salesly, you know, so they could check a sharp reader on this topic. Then I was following up like one day later, like if you have any questions, feel free, drop them. And let me know if you would like to read the impact case study and the person replied to me, like, yeah, I’m interested. And that’s it. You know, this is how you start. You can start to involve your target accounts into content consumption. And then you have multiple ways how to proceed. You can ask, like, what was the most valuable part?
Would you like to jump into the call and discuss, you know, how to implement the same ideas for your company? And this is how you generate sales opportunities from content distribution, lots of marketers. Can’t sort of, can’t explain this process to sales. And that’s why I thought in the beginning of this playbook, you know, from content creation to opportunity generation should be universal for companies. Some other trends.
So sales should leverage as an example of social selling, we can take a previous example how to generate this meetings. when it comes to sales inbound data, you can install software like lead feeder and then you can identify what companies visited your website. What specific pages did they visit? How much time did they spend etc? So you’ll know what, you know, you can immediately identify companies that fit your ideal customer profile . You can use LinkedIn data, like a LinkedIn professional account gives you data for exactly the reason
I agree. Yeah, I agree. One second. I would like to interrupt you here. So my question is, is LinkedIn one of the best platforms where B2B can like share their content or talk about, talk more about their content and get their leads?
So it’s not limited only to LinkedIn, probably so far Linkedin is the best by default for B2B companies platform. I suggest today, you know, you should always conduct in depth interviews with your customers and simply ask, like, what social media do you use regularly? What let’s say, what forums communities you are an active member of.
And quite often, you know I, I don’t want to say that Linkedin, is let’s say a silver bullet for everybody. So in some particular, just to give you a more precise example for this ground management company, I mentioned we have we have identified let’s say, old fashioned forum where that target audience hangs out, and this becomes your platform, right? You should be an active member. So only way how to figure out is just to talk to our customers, but let’s say by default, LinkedIn is the best one for B2B organization.
Okay. And as many entrepreneurs would be watching here. So I also saw that you are the co-founder of ROI plan, right. I was very curious to know, how do you manage all three of these companies? Like, is there, yeah. So how do you have, how do you handle it?
Okay. So Ad.Wize. This is the first company I mentioned in the beginning. I started with my, so this was a local inbound marketing agency. I was like when I started my entrepreneurship journey, when I switched off from my corporate day job, I had the projects, basically I was doing consultants like as, as like a freelance consultant, we’ll call it. And I was like, create an in parallel and, you know, project. Of course.
So I had a co-founder who worked with me on that project. We had the same traffic for our basic native ads, but this is another story. So when I decided to launch, I was thinking like, okay, I had like around 20 K subscribers to my newsletter, you know, for this local market.
And I was sending in what we can do, like how, how we can serve these customers in the best possible way without me. So during this sale club, I have identified that companies, you know, they are not buying ads. They want to get opportunities. They want to get some leads. And basically what we were doing, we were doing native ads for them. So we will write an in-depth case study. You know, I have here like a couple of good copywriters, and then we will promote in this articles in different communities as well.
So I decided to probably, but if they had lots of positive case studies, so I decided that can become our natural service as well with provide them, let’s say provide them with marketing advice related to B2B marketing companies. I just when I sold my share, I took all of my team to Ad.Wize, And this is how the upright and without me.
So basically I’m just let’s say a founder of this company, but I have CEO who manages all the processes. So it doesn’t take, so let’s say I, I naturally, I became and became an advisor to that company after an advisor. As far as the FunnelFunnel.io, it takes my major part and I have ROIplans. So this is a SAAS product, it’s a marketing planning platform.
And so far we have created MVP. So it didn’t take basically we start to work on it in January last year. So it’s like one year project. And so I started it as a side project cause I understand, you know, Google sheets, don’t let’s say fulfill my plan in my marketing planning and orchestration needs. So I wanted to create a software that would be helpful for market and teams to align if the sales, with executives to share the most important numbers, et cetera, and explain market and activities and campaigns in the easiest way. So last year I was just in terms of validate and the idea I was doing bunch of user tasks are present on the bed, the bath of hours on them.
Let’s say MVP process. After collecting lots of feedback, we are almost tried risks like final MVP. It will be ready like can one week from now. And yeah, so that would be another start us off. I didn’t take too much of my time, my time, because it was only related to let’s say user tasks, conversations with potential customers and feedback for development team. And for, let’s say 90% of time as far as development, but yeah, this things will change slightly this year
Okay, great. And my next question would be like what, which business book have you read any recent business books that you’d recommend to our audience?
So as for the business books, my favorite one is 80/20 Sales and Marketing written by Perry Marshall. I believe it’s not only, you know, for marketers or sales, there’s a something that everybody who is in any kind of business should treat again, it aligns with eight principles that I share up in the early beginning. So help you to identify the best activities, you know, the highest possible ally.
So this one, next one I think the, one of the greatest books books is The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. This is great for marketers, for sales to understand the sales process. Not only from the perspective I have a target market and I need to spam them all, you know, or generate some opportunities from this customers. It helps you to think about out of the box, how to connect people, you know, different sorts of campaigns. You can do this non-sales batches.
Okay, great. And my next question is which is the project management tool that you like a lot and you would recommend,
That’s probably there’s a funny answer, but still it’s Google sheets, because the reason why, the reason why, we use lots of software Asana, Click and all of them have pros and some cons. But the reason why I finally switched to Google sheets is just that it’s probably it’s my fault, but it’s hard, when you have a bunch of different software. It’s hard to have a dedicated software for this one, but for advice team my team manages Asana. And the reason why is because one of the first hires was a project manager who is in charge of actually managing hours and in Asana. And that’s fine.
Okay, great. And the last question would be what is your advice for the future aspiring entrepreneurs or people who are currently doing entrepreneurship?
The first thing is that you don’t necessarily have to be an entrepreneur. When I was like, when I was living in Poland and I was a guided tour to a salt minery yeah. And that was like an old man who is like probably 65 years old, but he was so passionate. This excursion was around two hours but we were just simply following him and listening to him for two hours. And this is the best example that you don’t necessarily, you know, be an entrepreneur. You can do whatever you love and that’s fun. So that’s the first one. And the second one, if you want to be one, you have to start with something.
That’s probably, you all have a lots of pitfalls but you know, you can what can I recommend is that you need just focus on what’s you love to do. You need to focus on your customers and serve, you know, them in the best possible way and never stop learning. So the more you learn, you know, the more books you read, you know, mentorship, you are thick and the better your results will be
I can say that in my career initially in enterprise and corporate and it was so great, just because I had great mentors. And later when I started my entrepreneurship journey, I can say that lots of people who were my mentors helped me a lot. So it wasn’t just only my, you know, achievement. So lots of people helped me and that probably would be the best advice. Try to find these people try to find these books courses and never stop learning.
Yeah. Thanks a lot for your insights and yeah. Actually. I was simply following Andrei’s LinkedIn page as well. So there are lots of interesting posts regarding B2B marketing and ABM. I was going through all the posts. So anyone who is interested in those fields, they can surely follow Andrei. And so that’s it. Thanks a lot, Andrei.
Thanks a lot for having me.