2022 Growth Trends: Dark Social with Nick Bennett

Natalie Marcotullio
December 07, 2021

Today we’re speaking with Nick Bennett, who is the Director of Field, Community, and Partner Marketing at Alyce an AI-powered B2B gifting platform.

He’s also an expert in personal brand building and host of two podcasts Rep Your Brand podcast and cohost of Real ABM.

In this interview we discuss:

  • How dark social can boost other channels
  • Ways to make paid social actually work
  • Why marketers are moving away from events

To start, give a high-level introduction of yourself

I’ve been in the field marketing world for tech companies for the last about nine years. Various stages, Series B to Series D has been my sweet spot, and I’ve gone through multiple acquisitions.

But field marketing, community, and partner marketing are where I’ve kind of sharpened my skills and feel like I can make the biggest impact.

What first attracted you to field marketing?

Honestly, I totally got in by accident. I was in sales, and I came across first a channel marketing role, which was strictly dealing with the partner community. And then I realized that field marketing and channel marketing were very similar.

One, you’re just dealing with the internal sales team. One, you’re dealing with external partners and their sales teams.

And it’s been sadly eliminated by a lot of roles. But now you’re seeing so many field marketing roles. I think I read something the other day that there were like, 10,000 field marketing openings right now, which is crazy.

I think it’s now getting away from just doing the events, which is a part of it, but also focusing on the digital aspects, the content, the creative more, becoming a full-stack marketer.

What is an innovative marketing campaign you recently conducted?

I ran something recently around LinkedIn conversational ads. Being in the Martech world, I’m selling to other marketers, who I am the ICP - field marketers, ABM marketers, demand gen marketers. They are the people that buy a product like us.

We use 6sense from an intent perspective and I said, why don’t we really hone in on our target list that we call a top 20. And so I created LinkedIn conversational ads coming from myself.

It was pretty basic. It was like, take a 30 minutes meeting with me, personally, I’ll be your BDR, and I’ll give you a $100 gift in return.

In about three and a half weeks I drove 30 meetings from that, and we actually closed our first deal from it in the month of November. We have, I believe, another eight or nine that are still in the pipeline.

Some of them weren’t great opportunities. They just wanted the gift. There’s always going to be those types. But I spent $5,000 all in on this entire campaign, and I’ve already 10x that. I’m not worried about the ROI on this.

It was such a successful campaign with such a low lift. That like, I don’t know why I wouldn’t try it again.

Do you think the success was from your personal branding work?

I think it’s definitely the work that I put in because a lot of times you’ll get these sponsored inmails or messages and it’s from a BDR or sales rep. But when it’s a marketer that, they’ve probably seen my content, which goes into that whole dark social that everyone’s talking about now. It’s a real thing.

People message me all the time, “I’m checking out Alyce, because I saw your content”.

I’m not even trying to sell anything in what I post. Today, for example, I posted about what your paid social strategy should look like or what does mine looks like. I just kind of laid it out there, but people find value in that. And then they connect the dots and put two and two together.

About two weeks ago we changed the “How did you hear about us?” on our demo page. We got rid of the drop-down and made it just a form field. And it’s given so many crazy insights. It’s funny because two times people have put Nick Bennett LinkedIn is how they heard about us.

I tell my CEO all the time, a lot of what I do, you cannot directly measure. But I said I 100% guarantee that it’s driving meaningful results for the business.

And now that we can see some of this with these inbounds that come in, it definitely goes to showcase it. But he was a huge believer in what I did anyway. So it was the cherry on top.

What are some tips around dark social and brand building?

I think it’s important to know that you can’t be everywhere. I think it’s important to start where your prospects are, where your customers are.

I mean LinkedIn, for example, everyone’s on LinkedIn. They have over 800 million users right now. And so what I’ve really focused on is going from 2,000 followers to over 26,000 in a year and a half.

And I took the approach of niching down on field marketing. No one was talking about it on the platform. Think about what everyone talks about. It was just crazy to me that no one talked about this.

And I was like, oh, there’s such a misconception of what it was. It was an easy path to go down. And I just started to branch out from that into account-based marketing into personal branding in general.

I’ve tried to always tie it back where I can to personal stories because I feel like that’s what people care about and what they can connect to the human element of it. And if I can connect to someone’s story of like, hey, here’s how I succeeded. Or here’s how I feel.

I don’t try to sell anything. I don’t have any crazy side hustles currently, although I am working on two courses right now, outside of that, that’s really all I’ve got.

I’m just here to try to help one person a day.

What is a mindset or strategy that you’re getting really excited about going into 2022?

One thing I’m really excited about is just paid in general.

About maybe two months ago, I took over our paid and organic as well. Currently, it’s going to change in a couple of months. But for right now, it’s really helped me hone in on the stuff that works and the stuff that doesn’t work. What should my CPM be? What should my CTR be?

I was trying different messages and experimenting with different offers. And I’ve realized by using intent, we’ve seen such an increase in the amount of inbounds that have come.

And it was just because I’m focusing on different messages and different offers. I’m not just saying, go download another ebook or white paper. I’m focusing on case studies that came up. People love social proof.

And so I think something that we’re doubling down on in 2022 is really just like paid social in general, which goes into conjunction with, like, the whole dark social of how to correctly attribute what employees are posting in conjunction with your organic and paid that’s running because it all plays together, and it’s a bigger impact than a lot of people think.

So I’m trying to uncover that piece and really pour gasoline on it.

When you do paid social campaigns, do you incorporate organic and employee social?

We definitely do internal employee activations. We only really do it towards bigger things. When we did our annual user conference in September and for our Series B funding, we did stuff around that. We kind of leave it up to them for the most part.

A lot of them, what they’ll do is I post it on LinkedIn and they’ll just share it to their own profiles. And then we have a lot of employees that are in a similar boat as myself, where they’re just posting content in general, which amplifies everything else.

Because let’s be honest, you’re going to see someone post content over and over. You’re going to go back, check their name, check their profile. You’re going to see where they work, and it’s just going to kind of stay in your head.

And if they’re providing value, then it’s just going to help out in the long run.

What’s marketing strategy are you ready to see end in 2022?

I don’t want to say it’s going to end, but I think the whole event piece of it. And like, the virtual event piece of it, I think COVID has changed it, where there’s always going to be some piece of virtual events that will be important.

But I think what you are going to see is a decrease in the amount of virtual events that are being done because people are shifting back to in-person.

People are shifting back to other resources. People are pulling budget, for example, we’re pulling budget from events and putting it towards paid social and search. Realizing that if this is the channel that you kind of double down on for so long, it’s time to branch out a little bit.

That’s really what we’re focusing on.

And I think that’s what you’re going to see from a lot of people. There are going to be hybrid events. As I said, there’s always going to be events. There are so many virtual event platforms that are out there, but I think there’s just going to be less of them in 2022.

Do you think it was Zoom fatigue or fatigue of events in general?

I think that but I think a lot of people think the content is terrible.

I think if your content isn’t great, you’re setting yourself up for failure. And if you don’t have a content distribution strategy in place for your event, then again, you’re setting yourself up for failure because so many people will register for something they’re not going to attend live.

They’re going to want to hear the on-demand version.

But what are the other surrounding pieces that you’re putting together that will amplify that distribution strategy around that specific event or webinar or whatever it is?

Have you attended anything that has been really high quality?

Something that I’ve been attending recently is more roundtables where it’s an intimate get-together.

There are 10 - 15 of us on a call, but it’s more just not one person talking to you, death by PowerPoint. It’s everyone engaging in a conversation around a specific topic, whether it’s paid social, whether it’s ABM, field marketing, whatever, just really digging deeper.

And it’s not a vendor trying to sell you anything. Yeah, you’re going to get contacted by them at the end of the event. Part of it. It’s fine.

But you’re connecting with your peers. Which another thing about COVID is like the whole community aspect has kind of accelerated way faster than people thought.

But those have been my favorite types of events where I can really kind of just connect with others, bounce ideas off of people, and kind of have it like that.

The other thing recently that I went to was Metadata’s event Demand. That was actually a really well-done event. So many incredible speakers on there. And I’m going to the 6sense Breakthrough Conference in person, actually, the first in-person conference since February of 2020.

So I’m really excited to kind of learn again from a bunch of marketers how to leverage intent better and make myself a better marketer.

What are some top tools you’re obsessed with right now?

Funny thing, our tech stack isn’t that big. We use Drift, which I feel like less and less people are interacting with chatbots nowadays. At least that’s kind of like what I’ve seen, like when I land on a page and there’s a chatbot there, 90% of the time I don’t interact with it personally.

And then we use obviously our own product, which is a huge piece of everything that we do across the entire buyer’s journey.

We use 6sense from an intent perspective, which I’ve used 6sense at three companies now. So I have a good grasp on what’s the best way to get value from it.

We use Outreach for our sales team to kind of go through and put things out there and then Marketo for marketing automation kind of pretty basic.

And outside of that, We use Vidyard, which I personally love video. I use video in a lot of the outreach that I do just because it’s a lot easier than just typing another text post, something that

One way I’ve used video personally recently that’s really been cool is whenever someone interviews for a role, actually sending them a video. Not just like another thank you so much for interviewing, but just giving them a recap of how they specifically did. Or like what I thought of the conversation.

If you can do that in the video, it just makes it so much more personal, because most times people are just basically writing something small, if anything at all. I’ve had a lot of interviewees use video, actually in their thank you note, which was actually pretty surprising.

It’s a great way to stand out.

What is one example of a great campaign using Alyce?

Something that I did that I literally didn’t want anything out of it was a couple of months ago, remember when Texas was going through that snowstorm and they never really experienced anything like that before.

I sent all of our prospects in the Texas area as well as our customers a Red Cross donation and a gift of a blanket to basically stay warm. We’re thinking of you and just something to stay top of mind so that they could donate money to Red Cross in Texas.

But then they could also get something that they could use for themselves to stay warm during such a cold time when none of them really probably have heat. And so that was really impactful.

I love doing things where we’re donating to different types of charities, and we match dollar for dollar from a charity perspective. It’s just part of our platform.

When I send you a gift, you have the option to accept the gift. You can swap it out with another item on our marketplace, or you can donate the amount to a charity of your choice.

You’d be surprised how many people actually picked that, and they find like they love that way more than getting a gift for themselves.

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