Lauren Licata of Belly – Optimizing the Stack for Brick and Mortar Prospects

Guest Bio

Lauren Licata Funk is the Vice President of Marketing at Chicago-based Belly, the leading loyalty technology company enabling businesses of all sizes to create digital connections that strengthen customer loyalty. Her startup marketing experience focuses on growing and retaining engaged customer bases through a quantitative approach to digital marketing, content strategy, email automation/CRM, product marketing and public relations.

Guest Bio

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John Wall: Today’s guest is Lauren Licata, the vice president of marketing at Belly. She’s going to talk to us about what they do and what she’s got in her tool stack. Before we get started, we’ve got a few news items. Sean, you were actually checking out account-based marketing, which I hear is all the rage these days from the kids. What was going on at the show?

Sean Zinsmeister: I think I call it ABM mania, right? This like Beatle mania, but for the sales and marketing community. No, it’s interesting. I got a chance to head downtown in San Francisco to check out the new product launch at the Four Seasons of Marketo ABM. They have a new frame work to help people tackle account-based marketing. Definitely some very interesting things. I think that you’re starting to see a rise of these new types of frame works. It’s very interesting to see how this is going to play with current Marketo users. I didn’t see a ton of sales-centric stuff, which I thought was a bit odd. When I think about account-based marketing, I think about, “Well, you really need to be able to bridge that gap between sales and marketing because this is very much a sales-centric strategy that marketing is trying to support with a number of their programs and of course, the technology.” Some other key features that were very interesting is the lead to account conversion, lead to account matching, rather. They have some cool algorithms going on there and some interesting measurement. They highlighted dashboards as their main thing. I think this is something, as people start to evaluate this type of strategy, what we’re really going to see here is, “How am I able to visualize all this stuff?”

My main advice to people, when they think about, “What is my ABM stack?” Is they’re all very, very new tools, so really try to dig deep for those success metrics, use cases, talk to people who are using these things and yeah. I think that the last piece is the partner ecosystem where I look at what we’re thinking about from the predictive analytics side, which is we want to go where the customers are at that point. If people are going to adapt this as their framework and use these to support, then we need to be able to work with it. some interesting stuff, nonetheless. It had some good buzz and definitely got some good press hits that I saw, some interesting articles. Be interesting to see where they carry it forward.

John: Even though we have our guest teed up and she’s got some great case studies and things going on, we should just pull her in here, put her on the spot. Lauren, are you doing anything on the account-based marketing front? What’s your opinion on what’s going on over here?

Lauren Licata: For us at Belly, we have not really yet gone into, or really, gone deep into ABM, mostly because it doesn’t make sense for the clients that we’re trying to sell to. From our SMB product, we’re really just selling into one location, ten location, mom and pop shops, it’s not as long a sales process. The product isn’t as complex. The companies aren’t as large and the contract values just aren’t that high. For us, in that regard, it hasn’t made sense.

As we do move toward the enterprise space, which we are, and we’re starting to talk to more multinational companies where it does make sense, we are starting to get together with our enterprise sales team, from the marketing side, and start to explore some of these ABM strategies. It’s actually funny that you brought this up because yesterday, we had our account manager from Forrester come in. I know that they’re doing a ton of research that’s about to come out, all about ABM. I’m anticipating those reports coming out to try to understand how we could implement some of that stuff internally here at Belly, as we move into the enterprise space because we are seeing these long sales processes, these long cycles. I could see why it’s useful.

To be honest, though, I think it reminds me a lot about content marketing in 2011, to me it’s just good marketing. I think, as marketers, we like to have names for things. I think any time you can align your marketing in sales, it’s a positive thing, right? It helps with the alignment of the messaging that you’re going with, it helps you get feedback on the project messaging internally. Those things, I mean, I think they’re positive. I think for the right company, for the right prospects, if it makes sense, it’s great, but I don’t think it makes sense, obviously, for everyone.

Sean: That’s interesting, because your background and you’ve touched a lot of those different departments, Lauren, from where you’ve been. You have a very strong background and experience with content marketing and then I know you also went into the PMM role. Something that I think is interesting is when I look at ABM and marketers, being able to be more tied closely to sales, do you think that even if this becomes more of a popular strategy, is it going to lead to the rise of … At least put the heightened focus on roles like PMM, that need to be more bridge crossers? Just curious, what do you think the evolution’s going to look like there?

Lauren: Yeah, I could see it. I think of an example of my previous company, I was at Base CRM and their strategy was selling from the bottom up, so as an example, infiltrating the outside and inside sales people. Get a few evangelists and then try to sell in to other reps and managers and ultimately selling all the way up so that … It’s a corporate sponsored program. I could see it being really successful in a company like that, where you are selling from the bottom up. I think back to my roles in content in my previous company and product marketing here, it is crucial. It’s been always a focus. Any time I’ve started at a new company, I’ve really tried to focus on how marketing and sales can better align. A lot of times it feels like you’re operating in two different worlds. The better aligned that we are, the more successful we are. It is something that we’re starting to explore here and I could see working for other SaaS based companies where you might start at the bottom up with a few evangelists and trying to push up into a corporate sponsored program.

John: Yeah, I don’t know. I have to step back and be curmudgeon, though, on this at some point. All I can see is you could have a process problem, where the leads come in and you’re not able to connect them to the account. You don’t really know what’s going on and you have a black box. Worst case scenario, you know, I’ve lived through this where you’ve had certain sales reps that are managing certain accounts and they go into actually steal leads and deals away from the lower level sales guys to make things work. Then you have data out there that can be assembled, or other information tracking, so you can know more about the accounts. In practice, I don’t know, that seems to work for the fortune 2000 and then it gets really thin once you get below that point. What’s out there that these tools would do that would provide more value? Is there anything else that … I mean, other opportunity there?

Lauren: Yeah, that’s interesting. I’m not really too familiar with the tools. I do see how that could totally fall apart. I think it really takes commitment from the organization as far as being transparent across all levels of the sales org and really getting behind, “This is the way we’re going to sell,” and pushing that from the top down. Otherwise, I could see it being a bit of a cluster.

John: You crushed that. I’ll give you points for that.

Sean: That actually is a great segway to start to talk about some of the technology that you guys are using. I wanted to ask a high level on that because there’s always this … When you think about a strategy or organization, especially from where your viewpoint is, as VP of marketing, there’s got to be this balance of thinking about automation versus what you guys are going to tackle manual. Sometimes that’s human touch versus automating and what you guys are doing with data and things like that. Is this something that is on your mind and you’re seeing more of? How do you go about thinking about it?

Lauren: For us, we’re in a bit of a unique use case in my current role because we have so many different types of … I guess what I’ll customers. We have our SMB customers, who are completely different than our enterprise customers. On the other hand, we are also a two-sided network. We have consumers or members that we also speak to. I would say we’re a bit of a unique use case compared to some other B2B enterprise marketing folks that you might talk to on the show. For us, it’s not as … The lower touched sale, as far as the small business goes, we focus a lot on automation and process. At the heart, enterprise, I know it’s with ABM and some other technologies that are coming to light, they’re trying to automate it. I still believe it’s that human to human relationship. It’s all about building that relationship over the long term. You see, when key people leave companies, deals can still fall apart. There’s only so much. There’s things you can do, as far as using tools to try to figure out who are the right people to talk to, or who is the next step to move this along. I still believe it’s really about the relationship. I think that we’re a little bit far off from automating it at the enterprise level.

John: We should back to … I have my Belly card and I know what this is all about, but for everybody else that may not know, tell us what Belly does and who are your customers? Give us the lay of the land.

Lauren: Belly’s been around since 2011. I’ve been with the company for a little bit over two years now. I started as a product marketing manager, and then I moved to a director of marketing position. Just recently, actually, a couple months ago, I was promoted to the VP role. With Belly, we’re a loyalty tech company based here in Chicago. Our platform really helps businesses of all sizes. Anyone from one location, mom and pop shop, to multinational retailers. We help them build customer relationships with our technology platform. In the time we’ve been around, what we’re really known for at this point, is our out of the box solution where we’ve helped thousands of small businesses enroll over seven million consumers into loyalty programs across the US and Canada. Where we’ve moving … 2016 is a big year for us as we expand into the enterprise space. Past couple years, we’ve invested heavily into our platform so that it would make sense and work for multinational enterprise retailers who need much more complex branded solutions. That’s where we’re at right now.

We were interesting in the fact that, like I said earlier, we have several different customers. We have the members. The people who are actually going into the businesses across the country, checking in, earning points and redeeming rewards. We have millions of consumers doing that everyday. On the other side, we have our small business customer. Those are think your local coffee shop, for example. Hair salons, those folks. The main street of America, still a huge customer base for us. Also, we’re moving into, like I said, this enterprise space where we’re trying to sell into the corporation. Folks like, you know, the big guys, the loyalty programs you hear about like Starbuck’s, Chipotle, those types of folks.

Another part that’s interesting is we’re software but we’re also hardware, at least in SMB product. It’s an iPad that’s set up at the point of sale, so that’s been a little bit interesting for me too, over the past two years. My background is in software, so having this hardware component changes some things about how we sell the product, how to even support the product as well.

John: Yeah. On that, how are people finding out about Belly? What does that funnel look like? Is it a lot of advertising, outbound efforts or is it mostly inbound? How do people learn about Belly and enter you guys’ funnel today?

Lauren: Sure. Today, it’s largely inbound, but it wasn’t always. The way the company started was really outbound sales feed on the street, outside sales, door to door. We would launch in a market. For example, launching in Austin, we would send a team, I would say like a parachute program. Our team’s going in, selling in, supporting those accounts. As we’ve grown, though, and I think like most companies, inside sales has been a lot cheaper for us. Once you have a brand that recognition, it becomes a bit easier to grow out that channel. Today, how it works is we focus a lot on the top of the funnel with SEO content, PPC. We focus a lot on optimizing our website to attract and capture the best quality leads that we can for our inbound sales team. Right now, our team is responding to inquiries that are coming through our website. We can get into a little bit more, we’re doing a little bit more of outbound prospecting, but at majority of it is through inbound marketing.

John: Okay, then let’s look at the stack itself. What do you have for your system of record and what are the main tools that you plug into that to power what you’ve got going on?

Lauren: Really, since our inception Salesforce has been the lifeblood, I would say, or the source of truth for data across the org. One of the challenges has been selecting tools, it’s not that much of a challenge considering it’s Salesforce, and most things integrate pretty well with it, but Salesforce being the center of our universe here, we’ve had to choose tools that either work well with Salesforce, that are easy for our team to use and that makes sense for us. At the top of the funnel, it doesn’t necessarily integrate with Salesforce. That’s a bad example. For our website, we use Optimizely to make sure that we’re testing different landing pages and messaging and making sure that we’re converting the highest quality prospects that are coming through this site.

From another high level standpoint, we use HubSpot. Our lead forms are through HubSpot on our site, which then port over to Salesforce. From there, we use Infer to score all of our leads and that really allows us to be smarter about where we funnel those leads, who are funneling them to, what messages they receive from our marketing and sales team. We can get into scoring and Infer has been really great for us, as far as teaching us how to prioritize those leads. From there, our sales team uses as their process management once these come through the system. They use both Sendbloom and HubSpot to communicate with prospects and nurture them throughout the process.

Sean: It’s such a great smorgasbord of different types of systems that you have. To zoom out a little bit, from, again, your viewpoint, I think the technology is becoming such a strategic layer, especially for marketing executives, how are you thinking about how you divide up the pie? By that, I mean sometimes people say like, “Oh, well, I have engagement and analytics and things like that.” Do you have categories for how you’re looking at the layers of the stack or how are you going about thinking about that?

Lauren: Yeah, I guess informally, to be honest. Those are things, it’s not something that we’ve really put process behind, but you’re making me think I should. We do think about it. The way I’m thinking about it is, marketing is a mouse trap. You think about it from the top of the funnel, how are you attracting more visitors or qualified visitors to your website? Once they’re on your website, what tools can you use to capture them or engage them and qualify them, essentially? Once they’re in the system, what tools can we use so that marketing can communicate with sales in a way that makes sense, as far as how they’re prioritizing those leads, I guess, what ratio of e-mail touchpoints versus phone calls, when are they ready for a phone call or a demo? All the way down to the close and then advocacy. We do think of the tools, I guess, from a high level in those buckets, it’s like what that mouse trap or that reverse funnel looks like in making sure that we have tools along the way that work together nicely and that our team will actually use to be able to manage that whole flow.

Sean: That’s the key – that people will actually use because there’s always going to be these zombie stacks where it’s like there’s technology that go neglected or unused. I wonder whether you’re thinking about, maybe not even in your current role, but even just in your past experience, how do you go about bringing new technologies to the table and then building that adoption plan? Do you have a methodology that you look at or is there a best practice that you offer?

Lauren: For us, I would say being a start up, we don’t have the privilege of having technology that sits unused as maybe a much larger company would, so I would say even on a quarterly basis, I’m reevaluating how our team is using the current tools and what else is out there. We typically start out with a pilot program with some of these tools. That does typically take negotiation with the vendor. I know a lot of them want you to sign at least a year contract. We move fast, we really can’t afford to have tools that we’re not using. How it’s worked is we’ve negotiated a pilot program with the vendors, tested out and rolled it out with our sales team, or at least a portion of them, to see how the adoption is going. Get their feed back and figure out if it’s something to roll out to the larger team.

As an example, we’re doing this with an e-mail tool called Sendbloom right now, that allows marketing and sales to collaborate on some of the prospecting down the funnel. As an example, someone who has filled out a lead form and them, to request a demo and then we either haven’t been able to connect with them to get a hold of them or we did pitch them and it just wasn’t the right time, or we didn’t have a feature that they wanted. Then we use Senbloom so that when we launch that new feature that they might want or we can check automatically check in with them, three months down the line, to see if things have changed. It’s a tool where marketing can control those templates and that messaging, but sales can then get in there, personalize it, and send it on their own accord when the timing is right.

As an example, we’re piloting that right now with three of our reps and it seems to be going well. Once we get their stamp of approval, we know it’ll be used, we’ll roll it out to the larger group. As a best practice, for us, it’s made sense to constantly be looking at the tools that are out there. That’s why this show exists. I’m assuming there’s so many new tools that are launching everyday. For us, it’s important to stay current, but also not get caught up in always changing to what’s new. It’s also about what’s going to work for your team and making sure they’re actually going to use those tools.

John: With the team that you put it out to first, do you stack the deck with them? Are they the most tech-savvy and able to take advantage of those tools when they come? To add on to that too, do you have a lot of challenges when you roll out to the rest of the team? How does that work?

Lauren: We talked about that approach, as far as giving it to our most tech-savvy, early adopters, and we decided to go with a mix. Having folks that are those people who are constantly wanting new technology are a bit more aggressive in that front, but we also wanted folks that we felt like might not adopt, if we could get them to be evangelists internally it would help with the rest of the group. That’s what we did. As far as the roll out with the larger group, we have marketing operations and sales operations folks who really help with the hand holding as we roll out a new tool. We’ll have formal training sessions internally on the new tool. We have checkpoints along the way, we’ll have actual training where we’ll actually go and sit with them and make sure that they’re using it right and making sure that we’re available and our team is available to answer any questions. I think getting over that initial hump, which is change management, which I think any organization experiences any time you’re trying to do something new or different than what you’re used to, you’re always going to be met with some resistance at first. I think it’s just showing the power of the tool and why it’ll be good. Essentially, with sales, it’s like, “Okay, at the end of the day, is this tool going to make you more money?” Okay? Then you can get behind it.

Sean: What’s always interesting is that you have the stack and then there’s the flow part which, to me, is like the oil that makes the machine run, which I think everybody is looking at the big D word, which is data. How are you thinking about data flow in terms of all these tools? Data hygiene and what are you thinking about? Are there challenges that you’re seeing in the business right now that you’re working with? How’re you going about that?

Lauren: We still have huge challenges there. I think most organizations do. Especially when you get to a point where you’re pressing a high volume of leads everyday and trying to get multiple systems to talk to each other. That’s where the role of a marketing and sales operations, I think, becomes really important in setting rules. Even as a basic example, the leads that come through HubSpot and then passed to Salesforce, we deal with lead duplication issues. We deal with leads that have … How long do they actually stay in the system before you really clean them out and bring in a new batch to nurture? Those types of challenges are things that we continue to face and are continuing to try to work with our vendors to make sure that it’s really clean for our team so that they’re not having to … The last thing that you want is them to have to actually search the database to see if the lead is already in there. Maybe assigned to another rep and already working with the duplication standpoint. For us, that continues to be a challenge but something that we’re working through.

John: That’s great. I’ve got a link in the show notes, too, you had an article that was in MarTech review talking about some of the stuff here about aligning sales and marketing. Again, the flow of data through a bunch of different tools. It’s a great piece to check out. Talk a little bit more about making that alignment work as far as the marketing and sales operations. How much communication has to be there and who ultimately takes the responsibility for making sure that the data is in order and the sales guys are productive all the time?

Lauren: I think it’s a little bit easier just because we’re a pretty nimble team. In the beginning, when we were rolling out all of these tools, I was very involved. I was the advocate internally for them, working closely with the inside sales manager to make sure that she was on board and that she was an advocate for these tools among her team as well. Her and I worked very closely together to figure out what tools were right and then roll them out to the team. In the time since then, once those strategic decisions are made and you actually go to roll out, that’s when we pass it down. We have marketing operations folks and sales operations folks who work really closely together to set what those rules are as far as data cleanliness and the lead nurturing process and what that’s going to look like. Then, the people who are actually willing to and have the skills to dive into these systems and make sure that they’re actually talking together the way they should, that’s when that becomes really important. You set the strategic vision. To me, that’s … Well, I wouldn’t say the easy part, but that’s the high level conversation, but then making it actually work, those are the folks that you need in there on a daily basis or at least weekly to make sure that those systems are working and communicating as they’re intended to.

Sean: That’s really interesting. What is the team set up at Belly for you? Who sits under the VP of Marketing and how is this team and the different group set up?

Lauren: The way it’s set up right now is I oversee marketing for the entire company. The SMB, the members, and now, as we move into the enterprise space. At my team, I have a few different functions that report to me. I have marketing operations which I discussed, which reports up to me and that person most closely collaborates with our inside sales manager. Aside from that, I have a demand generation manager who handles things like our SEO, SEM, referral programs, e-mail campaigns. We also have a group that does PR communication and social. Last, we have a group that works on our customer advocacy or retention. Our customer marketing function to make sure that our current customers are taking advantage of the tools that we have. They’re seeing value from the program and they can ultimately become advocates for Belly.

Sean: It’s interesting the way you guys are set up and you guys are using a lot of the technology in you day to day workflows. The other big trend that we’re seeing we talked a little bit about this with Isaac Wyatt over at NewRelic, he’s very excited over the rise of sales tech where we talk about how now, sales guys especially, have their own frameworks. In many cases, they’re using cadence or sequence tools for their own little mini automation. When it comes to sales adopting new technology, what is that partnership look like between marketing and sales? Is that a joint decision, how do you work those negotiations and alignment between sales?

Lauren: For us, a lot of it is in the hands of … Marketing, I would say, has a heavy hand in the automation piece of sales. I don’t know if it’s like that at every org, but for us, I think it’s because marketing, we have the most experience as a group with automation and we’ve seen what it can do from the top of the funnel, lead nurturing point of view. We’re trying to take those best practices that we’ve learned and push it down the funnel to show sales how they can use some of these tools as well to automate their own followups. They’re starting to see the value. It’s taken time.

I think it’s alignment, like I said, between the management here, but also getting some groups internally. A few people using it and evangelizing it to the rest of the group so that they see the value it adds. The first couple months we rolled it out, all it really took was a couple sales reps to see some of their leads from, maybe a year ago, start to close from using tools and that’s really all it takes is seeing the success of the tool. It’s not just something that we’re trying to push down because marketing’s coming in and saying, “You have to do this.” It’s because we feel like there’s an untapped opportunity with some of folks that we’ve already talked to and this is a way to unleash that opportunity to drive additional sales that wouldn’t have ever closed because we weren’t doing anything about them.

John: Yeah, that’s great being able to dig back into stuff that’s considered closed and lost. That’s kind of a challenge that you faced and solved. Do you have a list, a short list, of things that you want to fix or improve? Points where your gut tells you that there’s gold there if you can just find the right tool and is there a tool out there?

Lauren: We are starting to dig into our referral program internally. When we started to dig into our current referral program, we found that our referrals that have come onto Belly as a customer have a $600 higher lifetime value than nonreferrals. There’s been some challenges internally, as far as how do you collect those referrals, manage them from a lead standpoint, and follow through all the way through customer advocacy and then getting more referrals out of those folks. I would say that’s something we’re in the current process of exploring, is how do we do a better job of putting process tooling around our referral program. I would say, for me, that’s at the top of the list right now.

John: How would you approach that, then? What would be your first steps to solve that?

Lauren: Internally, we have started a process called Design Sprints and I’m not sure if you’re familiar with them. I believe it was popularized by a group at Google Ventures. Basically what it does is you would take five days to try to solve a complex problem and you pull together a few folks that are cross functionally from across the organization, so you may have someone from the product team, someone from the account management team, someone from sales, as an example. You come together, you go off site, for five days, and you try to dig into these problems. The reason I bring this up, with this example, is because we just completed this last month on the referral we did a Design Sprint all around our referral program. That’s where we got some of these really great nuggets around our referrals having higher lifetime value. Digging into our current process, which is very manual right now.

It’s just a matter of our account managers may be asking their happiest merchants for other referrals and then passing that to the sales team. As far as process goes, that, I guess, uncovered what the problem is. Also, we were able to propose a few different solutions. From there, it’s then passed to a team internally, a cross-functional team which includes the sales management as well as my digital manager here on the marketing team, to figure out are there tools out there? What process can we put in place? Do we need to change even things like operationally, do we need to change commission structures and sales and account management because these were such valuable accounts for us. What can we do around process tooling and rollout to really get this up and running?

I would say, to answer your question, we’re still in the process of figuring that out but it was uncovered during a Design Sprint, which then the nuggets from that get pushed to the team here to start to work on that as a larger project.

Sean: I love that you guys taking on that agile methodology and being able to make sure that the feedback loop is coming, so you guys can be iterating on the fly. Then, actually, project management always tends to be the unsung hero in many organizations. I’m curious, do you have a project management function or a core piece of technology that’s your version of truth? How do you guys go about getting things done and making sure that everybody’s on the same page?

Lauren: That’s great. I also am a big proponent of having strong project management skills. I do think that’s really what moves things forward. At Belly, we don’t have an actual project manager, that’s not a function. I found that the people that are most successful here do have really strong project management skills and can move something from idea all the way through shipping a product or an idea.

For us, internally, the way we prioritize those things is we use Trello. That’s just the tool, but how we do it is the management team collaborates. Usually, I think, we’re on a cadence of every two weeks where we come together, try to understand the project that are currently in works, if there’s any other projects that need to be added, so that we can actually dedicate resources cross-functionally. Whether that project requires a designer or a front-end developer, someone from platform. Who on marketing’s going to be working on it to try to figure out, based on the projects that are going on, and the projects that we want to accomplish, which resources are available and when will that actually fit in? For us, that planning up front is really important because there’s so many conflicting priorities and things that will move the business forward, it really is important to take a step back figuring out when and how to work on certain projects and where that makes sense to do that, just to keep all the projects visible and transparent across the org.

John: Lauren, if folks want to learn more about Belly or talk to you about stack related issues, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Lauren: Sure, so they can go to, if they’re interested in learning more about Belly. For me, I’m happy to answer any questions that people might have. You can reach me on Twitter, @laurenlicata, feel free to tweet me.

John: Sounds good. Sean, if people want to get more information on account-based marketing, how can they get in touch with you? (Laughing)

Sean: I don’t know if you know this, but I am an account-based marketing superhero. That press release went out, so it’s official. Nah, I’m just kidding. Anything technology, I’m always happy to jam and geek out on this stuff. @szinsmeister on twitter and you can always find all the good stuff over at or just google ‘Sean Zinsmeister’ and you can find me there.

John: Great, I’m John Wall. You can hear more from me over at, we’re always talking about marketing and tech over there too. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time in the stacks.

John Wall

John Wall

John J. Wall speaks, writes and practices at the intersection of marketing, sales, and technology. He is the producer of Marketing Over Coffee, a weekly audio program that discusses marketing and technology with his co-host Christopher S. Penn, and has been featured on iTunes.

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