Cold Calling Demand Generation B2B Marketing

Alice De Courcy on how brands can achieve targets by focusing on genuine demand



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March 29, 2023 | 7 min read

The group chief marketing officer for Cognism is moving beyond old notions of marketing’s role to help power the next phase of the sales platform’s growth

Whether you’re a person or a business, there’s something delightfully simple about the early stages of growth. You’re focused on getting bigger and getting there quickly, establishing who you are and showing people what you’re about. You don’t have to spend too much time worrying about how you’re growing, or whether you’ll be able to keep growing in the future. You just get on with doing it. However, that type of growth can’t last forever. It’s how you embrace the challenges of maturity that determines your long-term success – and smart marketers know it.

Cognism is a company that’s smashed the early stages of growth. When group chief marketing officer Alice De Courcy first joined the sales intelligence platform in 2019, she was one of a marketing team of three. Today, she leads a marketing organization of around 40 people for a rapidly expanding business that secured $87.5m in Series C funding last year. Some marketers might interpret such strong growth as an invitation simply to keep doing what they’ve been doing. De Courcy isn’t one of them. She wants more – not just growth, but the right type of growth.

“To start off with, we had a growth-at-all-costs type of vibe, where we needed to hit our targets no matter what,” she says. “Now, we want to focus on hitting those targets in the most efficient and optimized way possible so that we can accelerate growth even faster. Before our north star was just the revenue number, but now it’s the customer acquisition cost (CAC) to lifetime value (LTV) ratio and gross dollar retention. We still need to hit our revenue number, but we need to do so in a way that positively impacts those metrics as well.”

It's an evolution in marketing objectives that’s been made possible by establishing brand awareness – and analyzing data to develop a clear view of where the greatest long-term value lies.

Targeting for lifetime value

“When I started out, we didn’t really have a brand and our need was to grow awareness, grow our audience and get people to know and love us in a super-competitive market,” she says. “Now we have a lot more data to help us understand what our best-fitting customers look like, and we’ve been able to make it a KPI for my team to source the right proportion of revenue from those customers. Targeting is a big part of this, and the great thing about LinkedIn is that you can upload audiences based on your own segmentation and build that into the platform to ensure you’re reaching them.”

De Courcy’s vision for delivering higher-value customers isn’t just a case of sophisticated targeting, though. It’s backed by a broader transformation in marketing’s role – and a new perspective on the age-old question of how to balance brand and demand.

Moving beyond the marketing funnel

“The way in which buyers want to buy and be sold to is completely different today,” she explains. “We understand that we can’t move them in-market or force them through a funnel. Our role is to enable and educate them with always-on marketing and a friction-free journey, so that they can move themselves into market when it’s right for them. Now, when people come to us, it’s with declared intent not just assumed intent – and that means they convert at a higher rate and generate more revenue. When you run demand generation the way we’re now running demand generation, it builds your brand.”

Moving away from an objective written in terms of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) frees marketing to bring brand and demand far closer together – and it’s a move that’s enabled by technology like Cognism’s own.

“I think marketing came up with the whole buying funnel and MQL targets as a solution for providing sales with contact details of people they could reach out to,” says De Courcy. “In the world that we live in today, with data providers like Cognism, you don’t need to run a lead generation play to get those contact details. That frees up your marketing team to focus on building genuine demand from people who are ready to buy, and that’s far better for all your metrics. We’ve overachieved our targets every month since we adopted this approach.”

Content plays a central role in the strategy of educating and nurturing demand at the same time as building brand. De Courcy describes how Cognism’s content has to deliver on two key criteria in order to make this work. It has to be genuinely high-quality, with an authority that comes from subject matter experts within your business, and it has to stand out.

Fusing comedy and content

“When I think of brand, I think of trust built up through over consistent delivery of content value,” she says. “When you can marry that quality with stand-out creativity, then you’ve got the perfect match. We always push ourselves to think about how we can do things differently to add more value. I never want to hear that we’re doing things a certain way because we always have done – or because someone else does.”

Doing things differently has involved Cognism creating Cold Calling Live with Morgan Ingram, a video series for sales professionals in which the global selling guru fields cold calls from the audience and deconstructs their approach. It’s also included creating a fake eBook that promotes outdated lead generation tactics and triggers a supposedly nurturing stream of robotic, depersonalized emails.

“It had this real comedy vibe that we got a great response to,” says De Courcy. “It only took us a couple of weeks to produce, and it really showed the value of thinking outside the box. We think about content in three ways. Type one is valuable information delivered in a normal way, such as through a blog post. Type two takes that informative content and adds an interesting format, such as Cold Calling Live. Type three delivers information in a comical way, which very few B2B brands do but can deliver serious differentiation and a feelgood factor.”

It can be easy to assume that the leadership of fast-scaling businesses only cares about revenue numbers, and where the next few thousand customers are coming from. However, Cognism’s focus on innovative demand generation that builds brands has buy-in from the very top.

“Ultimately, our CEO is the person who’s most invested in our brand,” says De Courcy. “They want to know that we’re achieving a meaningful and long-lasting impact in the market. CEOs are often entrepreneurs, and so they want their marketing teams to think differently and come up with innovative new initiatives that are a sounding board with the market. When we act creatively and test things, we help to support strategic decision-making.”

Cold Calling Demand Generation B2B Marketing


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