Emir Zecovic, an experienced marketing professional in the B2B and SaaS space, joins Mike for a discussion about how to market B2B technology products.

Emir highlights how marketers often miss opportunities by not focussing on large non-English speaking markets like South America and India. He shares why marketers should be data-obsessed to understand what influences the buying journey, and why working within start-ups may offer new marketers greater career opportunities.

About TextGrid, 12min and OpenGraph

TextGrid offers communication APIs for SMS, MMS, voice and email. With cloud communications, businesses are empowered to build, scale and innovate.

12min is a platform that chooses, reads and summarises the most important non-fiction books.

OpenGraph generates meta tags and social media previews for any URL on the web in a few simple steps.

About Emir

Emir Zecovic is CMO at 12min and is currently also in transition between roles as CMO at TextGrid and Senior Business Development Consultant at OpenGraph. He is a determined, data-driven and versatile marketer with over 7 years of experience in managing teams, devising and implementing growth strategies for SaaS B2B and B2C companies.

Time Stamps

[00:51.1] – Emir shares how he got to this point in his career.

[04:46.8] – Emir discusses why it is important not to overlook non-English speaking markets.

[08:49.7] – Emir shares his approach to marketing as a CMO.

[16:27.0] – How does Emir encourage form fills?

[20:26.8] – What impact is AI going to have on the industry.

[23:58.1] – Emir offers some career advice to new marketeers.

[26:42.9] – Emir’s contact details.


“Trying to be as international as possible in a business is always a good idea, don’t underestimate countries you’re not familiar with.” Mike Maynard, Managing Director at Napier.

“I’ve heard people say that they don’t like Google Ads or Facebook ads or SEO, but I doubt anybody has ever said that they regret having a good email list” Emir Zecovic, CMO at 12min.

Follow Emir:

Emir Zecovic on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emir-zecovic-074882166/

TextGrid Website: https://textgrid.com/

TextGird LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/textgrid/

OpenGraph Website: https://www.opengraph.xyz/

Follow Mike:

Mike Maynard on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikemaynard/

Napier website: https://www.napierb2b.com/

Napier LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/napier-partnership-limited/

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe to our podcast for more discussions about the latest in Marketing B2B Tech and connect with us on social media to stay updated on upcoming episodes. We’d also appreciate it if you could leave us a review on your favourite podcast platform.

Want more? Check out Napier’s other podcast – The Marketing Automation Moment: https://podcasts.apple.com/ua/podcast/the-marketing-automation-moment-podcast/id1659211547

Transcript: Interview with Emir Zecovic – TextGrid/OpenGraph

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Emir Zecovic

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 Emir Zecovic. Emir is currently in transition as we record so he has been working at text grid. But now he is moving across to a new position at OpenGraph. So we’re going to have an interesting conversation with him about how to market B2B technology products. Welcome to the podcast, Emir.

Emir: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Mike: Great to have you on. So I mean, obviously your career is in a bit of transition. But can you just tell us you know how you got to this point now in your career?

Emir: Yeah, it’s actually an interesting start. So probably you saw on Lincoln, I was born in sculpin. Nord must Estonia. Honestly, nothing about the background was nothing hinted that I will be interested in marketing, just how it happened. I started studying and got interested about when I was 20. And I started doing freelance work and got very interesting. And somehow I don’t even know how I got involved with 12 Min, which I’m also there as the CMO. The tolzman actually was founded by Devo Gomez, who is currently the founder of rock content, the biggest B2B SaaS company in all Latin America, somehow promoted to the chief marketing role after two or three years, three years if I’m not wrong, and it just took from there. Meanwhile, I did four, I actually got my master’s degree from University of Sheffield. Actually, it didn’t travel to the UK for that, because they have international faculty presence in almost, if I’m not wrong, in Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Romania. But maybe I’m wrong for some of the countries. And I don’t want to dwell too much on that. Because at the end of the day, it’s more like practice. I don’t think that the formal education has a huge role or anything of the kind. But it was a great experience. Actually, I learned a lot while it shuffled specifically. And right now I’m here. I don’t know. It’s kind of interesting. I was like to work at to play someone. I love, b2c, and B2B. So that’s why I currently have kind of like two roles. It’s fun. I don’t know, I don’t know why else would they did. Definitely fun.

Mike: That’s awesome. I mean, you mentioned 12 Min. So let’s just, you know, look at that for a minute. I understand that that’s a bit like Blinkist, which might be a more well known brand name to our listeners, because I think our listeners are generally North America and Europe. But tell tell me a little bit about 12 Min.

Emir: Yeah, actually, we are direct competitors. So blinkers we kind of started at the same time, if from what I know, Linkous currently is more focused on US and Germany, while we are more focused on South America and Central America, are also expanding, we have us burners, which is great. It actually was founded in 2017, early, like I said, by Guillermo Gomez, who is also the founder of rock content, a huge company very successful one. And it it kind of, I believe, he was looking for ways to read a lot of books, which sounds a bit cliche, but that’s exactly how he got the idea. And at that time, he couldn’t find anything in Portuguese, or or in Spanish. So he thought, okay, maybe this will be a good idea. I don’t know if at that time blinkers was already established, I think yes, if I’m not mistaken. But Pokemon started primarily for the Brazilian market and then moved Spanish and got to English. And now even the our English bases expanding. And we’re also looking there to go into B2B, which is also very possible. And it requires a different set of strategy altogether. It’s very different than just selling high ticket software, compared to 1000s. of subscriptions. And I don’t know if you know, the but the average subscription price on the stores is $40. So I’m you cannot go super high. Like I would say the top markup that you can sell in in countries like Singapore, or the US, which are, let’s say, more prosperous. It’s 70 to $80 Max, and you have to be very careful what you’re doing developing countries and so on. It really depends on the market.

Mike: That’s fascinating. And I think, you know, it highlights something that perhaps people like myself who come from an English speaking country, sometimes we’re not so aware of what’s going on in other countries, particularly if it’s not an English language product. And certainly South America is a gigantic market. And I think all too often overlooked.

Emir: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I’ll just give you an insight. Do you know the average cost per click mean the difference is 10 to one compared to the US and sometimes even 15 to 108 If you compare, in Great Britain, it’s in my opinion, it’s even more expensive than the US for some industry. So you can compare that. If you have a conversion rate, that’s two times less than what you have in first world countries, so anything from Germany to the UK or US, you can make a tonne of money and the profits, the profit margin is much greater actually, even though it sounds counterintuitive, but the sheer competition in in the US, for example, is crazy. You get high conversion rates, but you also get good lifetime value, whether you’re going into B2B or b2c, but the acquisition costs for both of them are super high. Like I remember when we were running ads for things where it’s for classic comparison based landing pages with highest, okay, someone might disagree, but they’re one of the best converting landing page models out there. Without a doubt, at least in my experience, the average cost per click was $20. If you do the same thing in Brazil, is between 0.5 and $1. In the conversion rates, the conversion rates are somewhat similar with the US having two to one advantage. Now, of course, your order value, if you’re running an E commerce shop, or you’re providing service of any kind, is going to be lower, you cannot charge the same rates. But just the verified is 20 times cheaper to advertise, it already gives you a huge advantage. So you can you can adjust the price to fit the market, of course, but the advertising costs allow you room to lower your service fees, or I don’t know, whatever you’re selling, give ecommerce or even a software. So it’s a it’s an advantage, especially Brazil with with one with 200 million people.

Mike: That’s a great point. I mean, I love that I think trying to be as international as possible in a business is always a good idea. And don’t underestimate countries, maybe you’re not familiar with.

Emir: Absolute in India is also a situation where I think everybody who misses out on India especially or Bangladesh, is missing out on a lot good conversion rates, very low cost per 1000 impressions for both Facebook and Google ads or anything else, for that matter. Yeah.

Mike: And that’s a great point, too. I think, you know, there are other markets that perhaps people tend to underestimate. I’d like to move on to where you’re going to see, you’re moving to Open Graph, I’m not sure that, you know, all our listeners will be familiar with that company. So can you just briefly describe what the company does?

Emir: Yeah, I don’t know if they’re familiar with the Open Graph, man attacks, which were built in the early 2000s, and tense while I was still in high school, but it allowed that preview function of sharing information, like for example, if you wanted to share an article on Facebook, or Twitter or YouTube, it gave that metadata, you just extracted the metadata from a website or from a link. And it just made things a lot easier. So you can scrape the web, you can do all sorts of things in a much more efficient way, then I don’t know then if you try any alternative use, but if they Google, for example, what’s an Open Graph meta tag, they will understand just by the preview of how it would look if you remove the metal tags of a link or if a website, so OpenGraph does that.

Mike: That makes sense. And I think, you know, we probably don’t need to dig too deep into exactly what the company does. What I’m really interested in as you as a marketing executive going in and looking to drive the marketing strategy, when you started a company or when he even you look at a new year. I mean, how do you approach building a marketing plan as a CMO?

Emir: I think the first thing that, for example, I never heard anyone say especially not in Marketing School, and not even at shovel that you have to be data obsessed, and other main data drives kind of like cliche, I mean, literally obsessed with, we always use this analogy. It’s like being lost in the Amazon forest. And unless you’re nowhere you’re going, you better not move anywhere, you better stay where you are. So the price you might pay if you don’t know where exactly you’re going is higher than if you just stay where you are. So the first thing that I always do is I obsessively analyse the data. And by that I don’t mean just the marketing. I mean, the business data. So you have how many touchpoints to conversions. What’s the average lifecycle? Well, how many months days weeks does it take for a product qualified lead to get to a sales qualified position from a sales qualified to actually become a client? And I’m trying to find patterns? Where exactly what where’s the elephant in the room? So for example, if you were to Google Open Graph, you would notice that in this you’re gonna find his data but I’m saying the traffic like most most of the traffic is run through ads. So you have definitely a problem in the top of the funnel, it’s very clear. So you have huge opportunity there. Next, you can move on. And there you think about how the the lifecycle goes, What’s the conversion rate on the page, what actually, if someone converts from what was the previous page from where they converted, to become, let’s say, subscriber to the newsletter or anything else, for example, we we have a sort of a freemium model, which is you have a free service, but we try to convert you slowly nurture you, and then push you into the one of the two paid plans. But it’s not always the case. For some businesses, the main priority is a call immediately, you need a call, ASAP. So I would say, my way of doing things is always, at least in the first week or two, if more is needed, that’s fine. Just obsess over the data and tried to find issues. And I mean, all sorts of issues from the top of the funnel all the way to the bottom, what channels are being used, was the performance. And especially if there are data problems, whether that’s the the forces of data, where’s the data stored, or there’s, like, I don’t know, if you notice, but the most common problem, for example, is in which is kind of so the little bit is tracking, where we will always find the same problem, the tracking is wrong, you would think everybody would be focused on tracking, make sure that the solid, no errors, but it’s not the case. And if you have tracking problems, my advice, put the 110% into, into fixing it as soon as possible. So that’s, that’s how and then from that point onwards, I usually would go with my round and square the huge Board have everything that they found, and I started crafting my plan. Based on the resources, of course, sometimes you just cannot do what you want to do. Because there’s there are limited resources, so you have to take that into account. But I would attack first the low hanging fruits. And I can give you an example, in SEO, you go away, and you have, let’s say 510 15 keywords that rank from position 10 to 20. Those are low hanging fruits, you go there, you improve the content. And those things rank in two, three months. So my strategy first and foremost, is to attack the low hanging fruit. While we are working on the, let’s say, not long term, but like midterm strategy, which I would say it’s between three to six months. And the that’s usually how I divided zero to three months, three to six months and long term six plus. And but first you target the looking for so that you get the most possible in the shortest time possible.

Mike: I love that, you know, going for quick wins, I think is always a good strategy. And it kind of clears away some of the things you could do and actually focus on perhaps some of the more difficult tasks. I’m interested when you’re you’re building a plan, do you look to use his broader mix of tactics as possible? Or do you feel that there are some primary tactics that really worked well for you? And that those are kind of your go to things?

Emir: Yeah, that’s a amazing question. I love that. I’ve been debating that with people in the industry for so long. I remember I was reading an article maybe two or three months ago that said, and correct me if I’m wrong, it is. But I think that the email has 29 to one return on investment compared to paid advertising. I’m trying to say that, if there’s anything that has proven to never fail, is that you need to build your email list. Now, I’m not saying that’s the only way or the only focus. But if there is, any channel that you can never fail, if you do it right is definitely the email. I mean, we always look for shiny object syndrome. So let’s say what AI can do, or what that can do, or this can do. Email never fails, the average person opens their email at least 10 times a day. It’s a channel that they prefer. It’s a preferred method of communication, especially in in B2B, I will always use a broad approach. So I would I would split them between inbound marketing and outbound see where we can go with cold. But the problem with cold outreach is that at some point, it eventually just hits a wall cannot scale more. You can always expand the persona or build a new one, you have different products. Some companies don’t have that. Now if you’re an electrician and other know if you do something other on the side. Yeah, maybe you can expand and then instead of targeting just one group, you go after another but if you’re running just one product line or division, you certainly will hit a wall at some point. And then the question is what now? But if you have an email list, I don’t I’ve never I’ve heard people say that that they don’t like Google ads or Facebook ads or SEO. But if nobody has ever said that they regret having a good email list. There has never been such a As in history, so there’s a reason for that is a reciprocal relationship because you’re giving something for free in exchange of the user did. They don’t feel like you’re selling something to them? You’re nurturing them. So it’s reciprocal. We’re not asking for something while giving nothing in return, so as long as you provide something of value, of course, they’re going to reciprocate. And that’s something that they found it works crazy. Well, to be honest, the only I’ve never said that’s the only strategy far from it. But I’m saying, if you’re building your email list, by very definition, you also need to work on paid ads, conversion funnels, data, front, and of course, you need to optimise the landing page copywriting, it just carries with it. Five, six different, completely different areas. In lead gen demand gen, all of that. You just create so much work. But if you nail it, I didn’t doubting that anyone has ever said that they regret building their email list.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s great advice. Obviously, the challenge is really building that that list and getting the tactics right to encourage people to sign up. So I’m interested in how you do that, how you actually encourage people to fill in that form or to hand their details over so you can actually add them to the list. Do you have approaches for that?

Emir: Oh yeah, absolutely. Till 2020. Most of the companies, both in b2c and B2B use to one step approach. So what you do is send them to a page, you try to create as much value as possible to Beijing in exchange for their information. This is public knowledge, but I’m going to share something with you, we have something called the bread crumbs approach, which is 20 steps, our average landing page to lead currently is 35%. The average industry is like four or 5%. Of course, it requires testing, I’m not saying everybody should have 20 days, but a good test would be like this. So let’s say you have four elements on the forum. So you have name, email, phone number, and I don’t know maybe something else, but let’s say company, email, or whatever, it’s whatever is mandatory. But if you flip that with four steps, which means four separate steps, not all in one form, and the US first for the less intrusive ones. So it could be like, what’s your name? Or where do you work with or what’s your age, whatever, it’s an issue. So as long as a person commits more, it will psychologically make them commit. Further, as you demand more personal things. So let’s say their phone number, or their email, or maybe some company information. So what we generally use, and what I would advise is that whatever is the most difficult thing to ask, leave it for less. So as long as they invest in the form, in our case was the Select plan. So if you want, for example, let’s say if you have a if you’re running a b2c, this is the same actually with B to B. But if your conversion model is most of the sales happened between zero and three days, for example. So you need them to convert past. So how do you do that? So that’s how you do it, you make them select the plan endl? And the last step, will having them commit to 15 Steps beforehand. And they’re much less likely to abandon it. If the investment is high, as the counterintuitive argument is, is something like why would anyone bother to go through so many steps? The crazy part is that they will rather do that, than just give you all the information into let’s say, a single page form with everything was done. In I’ve tested this so many times, and there has never been one case where the single page four outperforms the breadcrumbs. So in B2B, you don’t need 20 steps, because you don’t, nobody requires that kind of personalization. But if you find a way to split them, if from one to five, six, leave what you need the most last and tested. And I I mean, I have the one that I don’t want to over promise, but it works on us.

Mike: I’m not sure we’ll all get 35% conversion rate, but if we could all move it up from the low single digits, I think everyone would be happy.

Emir: Absolutely. Absolutely. The key is to be better than yesterday. Not not for some random industry to average plus the b2c is kind of a bit deceiving, because you cannot measure the B2B and b2c investment in forms. In b2c. The last I saw the average ones like 10% in B2B is between three and five.

Mike: that’s great advice. I mean, I think that’s interesting. And bread crumbing is certainly something you know, people are not familiar with, they should look at. It’s something that I know a number of guests have talked about on the podcast. Emir, I’m interested to look forward. Now. I mean, you’ve talked about what you’re doing today. How do you see marketing changing over the next few years? I mean, is AI going to completely transform things? Or is it going to stay, you know, much like it is today?

Emir: Yeah, that’s, if you look at now than the main AI tool. So I don’t know if you’re familiar with magics. A, it’s a company out of Tel Aviv. I don’t know I don’t want to sound biassed, but in my opinion, they have the best marketing automation software for paid advertising. Maybe I’m biassed I’ve tried a couple of them. I really liked them. I think the company was founded in Israel, if I’m not wrong, or in Austria, I think it was in Israel. It’s actually an amazing software. And right now they even created something called marketer AI is interesting, because you don’t see a lot of AI tools actually doing the thinking for you. So usually what AI is focused on is cutting your time. So what does it mean? So let’s say if you are running a CRM, or an email marketing software, or at Creative AI, powered software, so what they usually do is that they try to cut the manual work. What I’m trying to say is that what I see is that AI will certainly reduce the need for copywriters for marketing research, anything that was previously done manually, but it requires human input to a much greater degree. Magic has one of their tools is actually that they give you recommendations based on your ads performance. AI based so it says, Well, this was happening the last seven days, I recommend that you do X or Y or Z doesn’t matter. So it tries to replace the thinking process. That’s revolutionary. So it’s not just some task that they’re trying to replace, as far as marketers focus on data interpretation, that cannot be easily replaced by AI. But as long as their primary focus is a task, or very tight niche, so let’s say link building outreach. Now, you can definitely improve that using AI. But if your focus is interpreting what happens, once you get those links, and how those links transform your rankings, that’s not something AI can do. Or at least not not as well as someone who’s experienced can do so my focus will be to simply focus on things that AI cannot replace, which is interpreting the results of your strategies. And moving slowly away from things that are repetitive, so including you and to an extent copywriting because if almost every software out there now has an AI assistant, so that you can churn out emails, and usually they’re very well written. So it’s not something that that you can compete, and plus it cuts the cost for employers, that that will be my worst. That’s why they think that AI will definitely impact and I don’t think they will impact marketing jobs a lot. Because marketing is still a very creative industry. So it still requires a lot of human potential.

Mike: I think that’s that’s great insight to the future. And certainly, you know, everyone, check out magic, can you just give the URL for that so the listeners can find it?

Emir: Madgicx.com.

Mike: Perfect. And I think people would want to check that out. So thank you for that. I mean, it’s been really interesting, this discussion, you seem very positive about the future of marketing. I mean, presumably, if somebody was young was thinking of entering the industry came to you, you’d be, you know, quite keen for them to become a marketer. So I’m interested in what would be your advice as to how to successfully start a marketing career.

Emir: Probably the best advice that I can give them is that too, especially at the outset to avoid working for big companies. And I know it sounds counterintuitive, but you will usually be just a hog in like hogging the machine. And you won’t get enough exposure to real problems. So if you’re starting out and all you’re given is a task and you’re not allowed to question the system, which something that happens super often, you will never get enough exposure to problems to grow as a marketeer. And it creates a problem because AI will replace most of the repetitive things. So I’m not saying that, of course every business is different than it STEM is different. How it operates is pretty much unique. My advice would be to find someone that is willing to throw them in the fire. And at least for the first couple of years to work for either a startup and I know it’s not very popular because startups can get really demanding and sometimes They don’t have that same kind of work life balance. But starting out, I would definitely give that advice. Because everybody who has worked for a big company, what they usually receive is a set of tasks they perform, not getting exposed to real problems. So you can learn and grow. And even if you want to get exposed, you’re not allowed to because the system is already created, you cannot challenge it without creating a mess on for other different areas. So that will be my advice to girls. And the second one is to read a lot, especially understand data. It may sound crazy, but what I would advise them to do is that they take any channels, whether that’s SEO, Google ads, LinkedIn doesn’t matter. And try to understand the KPIs read all of them, and understand how it impacts further down the funnel. So if you have for example, let’s say you haven’t a lot of new visitors, but at the same time your bounce rates goes up. So what does it mean? It means probably are getting a lot of referral traffic. And that interpretation of the data is a I remember what I was reading one book about the CHS old intelligence in the world means nothing unless you have someone to act on it. You can have all the data, all the intelligence, if you don’t know what it means you cannot act on it. So it’s meaningless. Pretty much data doesn’t do anything by itself.

Mike: I love it. That’s brilliant advice. I mean, Emir, this has been fascinating. You’ve been very generous with your insight and your advice for people. I mean, if anyone’s listening and they’d like to get in touch, what would be the best way to reach you?

Emir: Probably with LinkedIn. I mean, that will be one way and a via email. Zitzewitz Emir 199 four@gmail.com, which is my personal email. Awesome.

Mike: That’s very generous. Emir, this has been fascinating. I really appreciate your time. Thank you for being a guest on the podcast.

Emir: It was a pleasure. And thank you a lot for the opportunity actually to be here.

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.