William Hearn is the Sales Director for EMEA and RoW at Sendinblue, an all-in-one marketing platform.

The marketing automation market is increasingly crowded, and William discusses how Sendinblue positions itself to stand out amongst competitors. Find out some of the different requirements for B2B and B2C marketers and how B2B can benefit from replicating B2C campaigns.

William also discusses some of the most effective campaigns he has seen and some of the simple techniques that can have a huge impact.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with William Hearn – Sendinblue

Speakers: Mike Maynard, William Hearn

Mike: Thanks for listening to marketing B2B Tech, the podcast from Napier, where you can find out what really works in B2B marketing today.

Welcome to marketing B2B technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I’m joined by Will Hearn, Will is the sales director for EMEA and the rest of the world for Sendinblue. Welcome to the podcast. Will,

William: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Mike: So I’m really excited to talk a little bit about Sendinblue and marketing automation. But before we do that, can you just tell me a little bit about your career journey and how you’ve got to involved with and in blue?

William: Yeah, sure, probably to start with, as every salesperson says, I didn’t plan to be in sales, I plan to be in marketing, which was a lucky twist of fate in the end, but I’m now saying a marketing solution. In retrospect, if we look at it, I always had a bit of a sales mindset, trying to turn my weekly pocket money into well, candies, and donuts, and so on to sell at the playground and end up with a lot of extra money at the end of the week. And so after that, all entrepreneurial background, helped my sister and a brother as they launch their companies, and went to university, studied marketing, really enjoyed it and thought, Okay, this is the way forward for me. And I joined a startup called open play in London, fantastic team, when I joined, they hired me to do PR and marketing. thing is they made a seed round, it was like 100k. And we didn’t have any clients. So there was a very low income stream. And after a couple of months of doing some PR and marketing, working a bit on the product design and development, we realised if we didn’t sign some deals, and get some clients in, this wasn’t gonna last long. So I started doing some sales just to help out like to say, I was so good at marketing, they moved me to the sales team. But in the end, I really enjoyed it, stayed with them for a while, and had started to use Sendinblue, in that experience. So then, my partner’s from Paris, I started to move over to Paris, then in blue, as headquartered in Paris. So I applied for a job with them. And what’s kind of Right Place Right Time, I had the chance to join as the first salesperson after our series, a 2017. And we started building this sales team, out of what had originally been a pure product lead growth journey. So here, I joined them, we start focusing on customer goals and seeing where we can help really more than small business I start with. And we very quickly see that there’s this inbound demand, because our tagline at the time was we help small businesses compete with enterprises. And we started having enterprises coming to us and saying, it’s quite a nice tool you have, could it work for us? And so that’s when we started exploring that topic. And that’s a bit how I got where I am today.

Mike: That’s interesting. And you’ve actually been there five years, as you said, so, I mean, there must be something you love about the company, is it the way the company has matured and developed, because you’ve changed quite a lot from, you know, helping small businesses compete with enterprises?

William: Yeah, exactly, I’d say there’s probably three pillars of what I really like about Sendinblue. The first one is the solution focus is what attracted me in the first place, I understood a bit of pain, I’d use some other tools, wanted to set up automations and follow ups and so on, and wasn’t very convinced, let’s say by what I’d used as either way too complicated, or way too simple. And so there’s a solution focused on my side, but from the company as well, we’ve got a real ambition to continue growing. But for instance, we’ve acquired seven companies the last couple of years, to really build on our feature and solution set to add really advanced capabilities around ingesting data, creating automations, delivering messages across multiple channels. And this, in the end has been very fun, because we have a lot of customers that come to us wanting to do exactly this, and it’s very buzzword. But it really is what we’re doing. And so there’s a strong fit for me and for the market. The second part about the company that says culture, another buzzword pot. Everyone likes to use the word culture and the phrase I love, do things at scale. Well, one person says, and the next person says, do things that don’t scale? Well, who knows what the answer is. But I’d say it’s an in blue, there’s a strong culture, that trickles down from the CEO, I’ve been humbly open about having an impact first. So we build tools will have an impact for our customer. We approach how we work day to day and sales team on the marketing team about okay, what will have an impact on our business and our clients business. And this whole philosophy is very strong. And then like you said, opportunity, the opportunity to be around some very smart people who are building a really nice tool to grow with the company. In the five years, the company has grown a lot we were at when I joined and we’re now 700 going on 800. So it’s been quite a nice journey. And with that there’s also some personal opportunity that I’m in a startup that’s growing fast. Now scale up with hardware didn’t make the definition. And we have a lot of customers with very interesting use cases and the opportunity to really help either enterprises on my side or on the company side, for businesses really grow and become more agile.

Mike: That’s really interesting. I love the bit about culture, particularly I’m interested because Sendinblue is French, which is, you know, France is not necessarily renowned as the centre of startups, although I know that there are some really good startups in France. But do you think the Frenchness impacts the culture?

William: It’s a great question. When I joined Sendinblue, it was definitely somewhat of a culture shock. So I’m a South African, but I grew up in the UK. And when I was going to France, everyone said to me are the French, they’re very different. When I get here, to be honest, I think we’re 70% the same. There’s a little bit of cooking skills that the French have made, and in the end, in meetings, that some things are handled differently. But I’d say France is also undergoing a change in a structure I call on the government here is very focused on the startup environment has been since around 2016, which was a good timing for me again. And then I’d say Sendinblue, was actually co founded out of Paris and Noida, our founder had been running an agency in Noida, and kind of that’s where his, let’s say, pain point and realisation came to create Sendinblue. So it was always quite an international company from the start. And I think we have nearly 14 nationalities in Sendinblue. So it’s quite a fun team.

Mike: Sounds awesome. So we’ve talked a lot about you and the culture. But maybe let’s talk a little bit about the product. You know, do you want to just explain very briefly, what Sendinblue does, and how you’d position it because you’re obviously in quite a crowded market?

William: Yes, no, it’s a very crowded market. I remember when I first had been attending with maybe a year, I was speaking to somebody and I said, Okay, well, effectively, you’re an email and emails done, not just an email, an email is definitely not done. So probably the easiest way to explain us to tagline that give us is a customer relationship stack. So what we do at the core is to help our customers access the data, what we see is most B2C and many B2B companies, as well have huge amounts of data that they can’t access or don’t know how to leverage on a day to day way. So we help them access to this data, activated in segments and automations. And then deliver messages, whether it’s email, SMS, WhatsApp, push, so on, and so forth. But really this customer relationship stack for managing the conversion and retention of customers. It’s probably two parts of the business, which is where it gets more complicated. We have our classic product led growth stack for small businesses. Here, you can buy a plan online sign up, and you get access to much of the same feature set as an enterprise customer. But you just have to use it yourself. And there’s help articles and a support team. But it’s self service solution. And then we have the enterprise side, which we have some technical differences and multicast solution, let’s say high scalability for message volume, and so on, as well as customer success team for onboarding and training people and dedicated customer support team for those enterprise lines.

Mike: That’s interesting. You know, and obviously, one of the things you do is you cover both business to business and consumer marketing. I’m intrigued to know, do you find a big difference between what your B2B customers want and what’s required for consumer marketing?

William: Sure, I always have an interesting take on this. I think that it’s it’s a good definition but not a great definition to say B2B and B2C. You know, if we took an ultra luxury yachts sale cycle, and technically that’s B2C, but acts very much like a B2B sales cycle, the times, SAS, often if we’re talking about low ticket value, SAS, it’ll act quite similar to an E commerce, especially how you market it and how you manage those flows of data and messaging. So I’m a bit reticent to always say B2B is like that, or B2C is like this. I think that there’s a lot of crossover, what I do see quite heavily, and it’s not always true, but I find it more true is that B2B Customers maybe are not as digitally mature in their channel usage, and in the growth hacks they’re willing to take for building those relationships with their customers. So E comm has a list of definitions as long as your LTV CAC RFM segmentation. If you ever go to a ecommerce agency talk, it’s just acronyms.

Whereas on the B2B side, I feel often brands are missing that onboarding flow product recommendation aspect. You know, even if you’re giving white papers and documents, you can still do recommendations of the next white paper you should read based off your engagement. There’s a lack of flows. Often email is the only channel used, which other a great channel it’s a shame to only stick to that one. In the end, there’s also legal differentiators. GDPR clearly in our blacklisting, talking about email is different technical and legal challenges. So in short, I’m always a huge fan of looking at where are you positioned as a B2B brand. Looking across the aisle at a B2C brand that might have a say and kind of target market behaviour. And what can we copy and steal from the B2C side replicate for B2B brands.

Mike: I love that I think that’s that’s a really great way to position you know how B2B brands should be thinking, and actually just falling onto that I’m really interested because there are some things that consumer brands are using a much greater volume than B2B. So, you know, example might be SMS or WhatsApp, where quite a lot of consumer marketers are very active on those channels, but actually relatively few B2B companies. Do you think that B2B could gain a lot by using more of these channels?

William: The short answer is yes. The long answer is, you have to be careful how you use them. I think also on the B2C side, often brands use them without much thought into the real reason or tactic behind it. And that’s a bit the double edged sword for B2B brands. Yes, they should adopt them. But they really need to consider it. I mean, about a week ago, I was giving a talk at the E commerce Expo in Berlin. And I spent about 45 minutes after this chatting with the guy who’s working at a very large German enterprise group, were really concerned, how can they use whatsapp in their funnels? And we were talking about okay, roundtables, dinners, white papers, these are all things which you can create communities. Even in B2B, there’s a lot of communities you can create. And WhatsApp is an amazing tool to manage a community glaring use cases could also be customer support, whether that’s for a SAS brand, who really wants to have like a ticketing done via WhatsApp, maybe.

But also top tier accounts, probably can benefit from managing delivery tracking, depends on the goods you’re selling on the B2B side, or returns Management Events and services industry for programmatic updates about okay, yeah, you’re registered to be at this event tomorrow. Here’s the location and link to the Google Maps. These are all I say experience wins, you can have on the B2B side, which are not used currently, but would have a big impact on loyalty retention, in the endless the same game for B2B. That’s fascinating, because I think, you know, a lot of B2B companies shy away from asking from for a mobile number. And actually, more and more with people working remotely, the mobile number is much more important than just getting a switchboard number. But you’re saying that, by getting that mobile number and being able to engage on you know, through SMS and through WhatsApp, actually, you can make the right audience more loyal and more engaged by using those channels, which, which I think some B2B marketers might actually feel a bit surprised about they tend to shy away from what seen as more personal data. Yes. Also, the definition of personal data is quite an interesting one. Williamette Sendinblue.com is personal data in some aspect. So I think sometimes we create wars between datasets at the wrong point. Yes, as soon as you have a phone number, I’m not at all advocating that you send everyone an SMS per day. Yeah. But we do have some clients who are sending annual renewal reminders via SMS. And what they see is, in general, a really positive experience. If my contract is about to renew at the end of the month, I would prefer to be reminded about it. Some people are great at checking their inboxes I wish everyone was, but a lot of people have an inbox, which they only cherry pick what they’re going to read. Whereas this one SMS a year can be quite a nice touch point. Obviously, it’s a slippery slope. But if you pick the right messaging, at the right moments, it can have a very positive impact.

Mike: Yeah, that sounds like really good advice is right messaging right moment. I love that. We’re actually recording this podcast in March. I know it’s gonna go out a little bit later in the year. But you know, the hype at the moment is all around AI and chat GPT. I’ve got to ask you the question. Are there any plans to incorporate chat GPT and have aI generated emails or messages within Sendinblue?

William: Yes, because I’m a big fan of chat. So I’d like to really push that topic. To be honest, the one use case we’re testing right now is to use it in app chat functionality. So conversations, to provide a summarise Sync feature, I think summarise this chat, and find action items. The way we see this is a lot for customer experience and care teams to be able to say, you know, have the long conversation chat. And then before they maybe elevate the discussion to a JIRA or whatever their process is to summarise it, log into the CRM, log in whatever tool they need to and also create those action items of okay, I need to followup with the prospect on the client or ABC. So that’s the first use case but we actually have a couple of channels internally dedicated to just experiences. We’re having an idea as we have with chat GBT The opportunity is truly endless.

Mike: And do you see us ending up in a situation where most of them marketing messages we get are from generative AI? Or do you think people are still going to be the ones who who deliver the best and most effective messages?

William: Yeah, again, strong opinion on this. I’m dyslexic. So it writes better than I do. That’s for sure. But no, I don’t think you can replace humans. At least we’re a long way away from it. I haven’t seen it get there yet. And the short thing is that it’s about usage of generative AI as well, you know, you’re the first people are very early adopters.

We get in there we play with it, it’s fantastic. And you have a few, let’s say influences or some B2C cycle here, who will pass it over LinkedIn, a lot of pure usage. We’re in that phase for me right now, where people are taking too many shortcuts, just creating content with a few prompts on the UI. And the problem with Chad GBT, or, or what is there to do, really, is that it generates the aggregate median, let’s say of information. So that’s fantastic for research. It’s fantastic for kind of unblocking writer’s block on your content. But I’ve already started to see some some brands who are not doing it well. And you can kind of sense this is a little bit of the brand DNA and how it’s written the terminology. It’s, it’s not quite the same, which is quite normal. So I would say, be careful with it, use it. But use it as a way to build your story. You know, marketing is always about a story. You have a hero, a villain and a journey that they’re going through. Well, I’m not convinced that chat, GBT can build that story and paint that picture for you. It can give you some, some cool chapters called outlines. But you have to colour it in, you have to make the story pop for your brand.

I like that. I mean, one of the other things. I you know, someone said to me earlier today was one of the great things chap GPT does is it lets you know what you don’t like and you can get checked GPT to produce, you know, a bunch of headlines, and very quickly go That’s wrong. That’s wrong, that’s wrong. And it really helps you focus down on where you want to be. So I think, as a guide, AI is certainly working as a human replacement. It’s, as you say, it’s really quite a long way away.

I’ve been to use the paint a picture analogy. I do love the dolly interface. But you can recreate a mani in there, but it can’t create them on it for you. That’s the difference. Prompt are very important as well. And I think it’s incredibly interesting to see how many versions you can go through in prompting to get something that’s quite good. But even that, I mean, I’ve played with it quite a lot. I’ve never seen something which I’ve thought Yeah, exactly right. For submission. I don’t need to touch it.

Mike: Yeah, no, absolutely. It’s definitely going to help us but but hopefully not take our jobs in the next few years.

I I’m interested to know, I mean, obviously working at Sendinblue, you must be exposed to some really good campaigns. Do you have some examples of some really effective B2B campaigns you’ve seen run and explain why you think they worked? Well?

William: Yeah, quite a few. I think one I mentioned earlier with a very simple campaign. So it’s really not amazing. But the impact was huge love energy savings, UK brand, started sending their reminders via SMS. And I mean, just the renewal rate, the increased customer satisfaction rate. And it’s a very simple thing. Huge impact. So it doesn’t always have to be an elaborate campaign that takes six months to build. Sometimes it can just be as simple as would I enjoy getting this message? Would it improve the customer journey? Is it easy to do? Can we have that quick impact? Let’s do a test. And that’s what I did. There’s another one which I quite like another UK brand. They do both B2B and B2C. That was quite interesting, because they quite instinctively are copying or translating their B2C automations into their B2B. So they decided to add WhatsApp, and I think chat as well. So conversations as a whole as a way of dealing with their B2B partners and providing a B2C service. They really have this second relationship. They’re integrating WhatsApp and for multi channel communication, and it’s having a nice effect.

Mike: That’s awesome. I mean, it’s interesting this, people talk a lot about omni channel, but actually don’t necessarily do it. I think you know that the interesting thing you’re saying is actually use those different channels and make sure you get to two people through the channel they prefer or through the most effective channel.

William: Yeah, exactly. You know, in the end, I will engage on my personal email address because I’m paid to do that. But if you want to really speak to me, a LinkedIn message or WhatsApp is, is where I’m going to be very reactive. It’s where you’re going to catch me in the moment I’m truly open to thinking. And it’s also where I go when I have a problem to solve. I get my phone out almost as a reflex. We have to be careful with legal opt ins and all this jazz. It’s very important as well, but I do see a big shift towards mobile, B2C is probably further ahead than B2B. But in the end, you’re always dealing with another human. We’re all experiencing this shift in our personal lives when we engage with B2C brands. So I think we’re starting to now expect it on the B2B side as well.

Mike: I think that that’s really interesting, really good advice that people need to think about. I’m aware of your time and, you know, we have a couple of questions we’d like to ask people, generally, I mean, the first one is, what’s the best bit of marketing advice you’ve ever been given?

William: Probably just test test test, you can write the best campaign copy you want. If you’re not delivering it in the right time, the right place, and by channel, it doesn’t resonate. So whichever channel you’re going to try and adopt whichever methodology tested as much as you can these days, we have so many tools, so much data available to us that yes, perfect is the enemy of good. But that’s not a good enough excuse to not to not test your messaging and your channel.

Mike: That’s great advice. I’m not sure I should ask this to someone who’s moved from marketing to sales. But, you know, if a young person came to you was thinking of a career in marketing, what would you say to them? Would you recommend they did it?

William: Yeah, tell themselves? No, sorry. What I would say is that marketing is a very rewarding career. And I think the reason I enjoy being Sendinblue, is I still get to touch marketing quite a lot. I’ll probably always stay in the marketing field in some way.

My advice for them would be do it, but get your hands wet as soon as you can. Marketing is a very broad field. And I think it’s broader than you realise when you’re young. When you’re young, you think of marketing as billboards, or as TV ads. And those are very legitimate forms of marketing. But there’s actually a lot more to it. There’s the SEO, the PPC, the emails, the SMS, this whole journey orchestration, that’s also changing quite quickly over time. So yes, intentions are great. But what’s even better can be to access a tool that has a free version, build your own website and start really trying to consider how are you engaging with the brands you’re purchasing with a young age? So my answer would be yes. And there’s nothing better than practising it.

Mike: And I guess the obvious thing I’ve got to ask if if somebody wants to practice is looking for a free tool, or, you know, if maybe a professional marketer wants to experiment with SMS and WhatsApp as a channel? I mean, how do they get to try Sendinblue? And how much is it going to cost them?

William: Sure, we do have a free version of the platform. no credit card needed lifetime free. So you can push your jump in style using the interface testing, we give some free emails, SMS or WhatsApp, people, there’s a press electron on the page.

But in general, you can jump in and start experiencing quite a lot of the interface just by yourself to see what we do. And if you want to really go in depth, there’s a sales form you can reach out book a meeting with us or ping me a message. It’s been amazing. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. I I love your thoughts about hitting people in the right channel at the right time? I’m sure lots of listeners would be interested in contacting you and finding out more if people want some more information or have questions about what you said, What’s the best way to reach you? Sure. The best way is LinkedIn. I can also get my email address, it’s will.at Sendinblue.com. I generally like to tend to be very phone oriented. So LinkedIn messages are the best way. But feel free to reach me on either channel.

Mike: That’s fantastic. Well, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and appreciate you being a guest.

William: No it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

Mike: Thanks so much for listening to marketing B2B Tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at Napier B2B dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.