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B2B Targeting with Titles:  Why It Doesn’t Work & How to Fix It 

Olin Hyde

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Today we're going to talk about the 500 lb gorilla in the room in most B2B marketing shops: Targeting by job title. You know you do it. We know it's time to do something else. We'll tell you why. LeadCrunch[ai] uses artificial intelligence to drastically improve the performance of B2B demand generation campaigns through account-based "lookalike" modeling. Click the link for more information. https://leadcrunch.com/solutions/

Posted by LeadCrunch on Thursday, July 25, 2019

Hosts: Dave Green & Jonathan Greene

Guest(s): NA

Topic: B2B Targeting

Subtopic: Titles Targeting 

Duration: 16 minutes

In this episode of the Green & Greene Show, the LeadCrunch B2B podcast, seasoned marketing experts discuss B2B Targeting with Titles: Why It Doesn’t Work & How to Fix It 


  • Cracker Jack & Firing Squads – Why B2B Targeting Is So Terrible
  • Why LinkedIn Sucks for Title Searches
  • What 90 Million Contacts Tell Us About Job Titles
  • Mid-Show PSA 
  • Using Data for Intelligent Targeting 
  • How to Target Small Businesses  

Podcast Transcript


[00:00:06] ANNOUNCER: Live from the city with the most perfect weather ever, San Diego, California, all the way to the gleaming shores of Jacksonville, Florida, it’s the Green & Greene Show. Here are your hosts, Dave Green and Jonathan Greene, goofing off instead of working, while unlocking the mysteries of demand gen. The Green & Greene Show is brought to you by LeadCrunch, which creates B2B look-alike audiences.


[00:00:30] JG: Yes, we do. Yes, we can. It’s a little more gleam and a little less shore here in Jacksonville today. I’m not going to lie.

[00:00:40] DG: Is it the monsoon season there?

[00:00:43] JG: It is. Yeah, but it’s definitely gleaming, 100% gleaming.

[00:00:49] DG: All right, man. Well, you know what? One of my favorite topics is targeting with titles.

Cracker Jack & Firing Squads – Why B2B Targeting Is So Terrible

[00:00:56] JG: Yes. It’s one of my favorite things to laugh at people for. This guy in my old job, he was the targeting guy. He used to just always sit there and rack his brains over titles that people had. I just liked to throw Cracker Jacks at him and get him stuck in the titles. No, all joking aside, the 500-pound gorilla in the room for most B2B marketers is targeting, right? We talk about it all the time. Specifically, the way that we go about doing targeting is stupid. 

If I lined up 10 marketers against a wall and said, “Tell me step one for targeting.” The first guy is going to open his mouth, and he’s going to say, “Well, we start with job titles.” Then I would just shoot the other eight in the head because nothing they do after that’s going to work. Well, why don’t you tell me. You’ve just written a whitepaper on this. Tell me your perspective.

[00:01:53] DG: Well, there are a couple of things that I think people may not understand when they’re targeting with titles. My experience with this—and I did it when I was first starting out—is let’s just take our business. We’re trying to reach demand gen marketers, right? You’d think, “Okay, I want all the people in ZoomInfo who have the title of demand gen marketers, or demand gen in their title and/or demand generation.” You’re assuming there’s some cast of thousands and thousands and there’s not.

There are very few people who will actually have those two words, either consecutively or at all, in their title. You’re going to go get 500 of them if you Google it on LinkedIn. That’s before you put any filters, like how big the company is or where they are and any of that. Then you default to the other extreme. “Well, just give me anybody with marketing in the title.” Of course, you get B2C marketers and all kinds of things you didn’t really mean. It’s a little bit of a mess. That’s one problem.

Why LinkedIn Sucks for Title Searches

[00:03:06] JG: Yeah. Can we talk about how bad LinkedIn is at search for a minute? Because that’s my problem.

[00:03:13] DG: Yeah. I think Bill Gates ought to get the Bing team over there and help those guys out, man. I was doing this for the white paper. I went in and did demand gen in the title keyword in LinkedIn Navigator, which is their “premier product”. Man oh, man, it didn’t recognize that may be people with demand generation with part of that search string, like that. “Oh, okay.” Yeah, they have a lot of stuff like that.

Whenever you pull up a search, you always find a lot of people you scratch your head and wonder, “How did they get into this? That had nothing to do with my title search, whatsoever, and there they are.” I don’t know. It’s like they get paid by the pound.

[00:04:04] JG: It’s the ghost in the machine. All your computer programmers are out there going, “Yeah, it’s the ghost in the machine.”

[00:04:11] DG: The folks at Google have just got to be laughing at them every time they do a search on LinkedIn, going, “Yeah, I hope they never figure out how to do search.”

[00:04:19] JG: That’s hilarious, because you’d think they’d have some synergies with Bing and they could figure that out.

[00:04:23] DG: Yeah, you’d think. Oh, well.

[00:04:25] JG: Anyway. All right, so tell me about the solution, then. We’ve correctly identified that targeting by job title is stupid and pointless for the most part. What was the stat that Steve Biafore threw out?

What 90 Million Contacts Tell Us About Job Titles

[00:04:43] DG: Oh, yeah, yeah. We license a bunch of data of contact data for our business. We have about 90 million contact names in the US. The total number of employees in the US, according to the Department of Labor, is something like a 130 million. We have most of the ones that are out there. There’s obviously people who are farmers and housekeepers and stuff like that, who we’re not going to be trying to target on behalf of our clients, but we have a really good representative group of folks, and certainly, a high percentage of those people who have any job title.

Out of the 90 million, he had 30 million unique titles. I think people have this belief that there’s some highly standardized thing to the titles, but people give themselves all kinds of titles, right? It varies by industry.

[00:05:39] JG: I think I’m currently Chief Marketing Ninja of LeadCrunch, or something like that.

[00:05:44] DG: You are. That’s actually on your business card.

[00:05:48] JG: Yeah, it could be. In their notes, I have a sub-header that says, “And damn good-looking, too.” So true. 

No, but it’s true though. People are coming up with all kinds of craziness in terms of titles. There’s got to be a solution though, right? Surely, somebody on Planet Earth is smart enough to figure out how to group knuckleheads like me with Marketing Ninja titles into something usable.

[00:06:14] JG: There are. I want to talk about one other problem, because the way this normally comes up is the marketers do something reasonable. They go talk to a salesperson, usually one of the better salespeople, and they’re the ones who throw out these really specific kinds of keywords, right? “I want only people with cyber security in their title.” 

Again, you do the search and there are the 800 of them, and they’re all in the big companies by and large. You think, “Hey, every day, I’m reading something in the paper about somebody getting hacked. There must be big, big armies of cybersecurity experts that companies have hired to try to protect their data.” If they do, they just don’t give them that in their job title.

Mid-Show PSA 

I’ve been thinking for a while now that we should put a memo out. Maybe we could do it right here on the Green & Greene Show. To those millions of people watching, would you please put really important keywords in your job titles, so that guys like us can find you and spam you to death with e-mail and another kinds of marketing stuff? Anyway, hopefully that’ll put an end to it.

All the people out there, if you guys can then tweet it out to a larger audience, we’ll start a whole movement of getting everybody to put keywords in their titles so that marketers everywhere can find them.

[00:07:32] JG: These Gen Y kids are starting to move into leadership now and they all want crazy titles, like Director of Plant Happiness. Think about it. If you still have happiness, you haven’t had your soul crushed to the point that you’re viewing this show yet.

[00:07:47] DG: Yeah. No grit. You’ve got to have a job just grind you to death, man. Happiness and whatnot. That’s pretty frivolous. 

Anyway, there is a better way to use titles, and it’s not the way that we’ve been describing, by the way. That’s something that our data science team has been doing. I think it’s just fascinating. It’s the idea that almost everybody uses employment, headcount as a targeting framework. “I want all the companies with a hundred or more employees,” or “I want all the companies with between 250 and a thousand employees,” whatever it happens to be.

The problem with that is, let’s say you’re selling marketing services, right? You’re trying to reach B2B marketers. Well, that doesn’t really tell you that this hotel (with a marketing team of one but they have 300 employees, because they have a whole bunch of people who clean rooms) is not a good target or this advertising agency (where 80% of the people are marketers but is below your threshold) is an awesome target and far better than a lot of people that you have in there.

Using Data for Intelligent Targeting 

One of the things that I think is really a cool thing to contemplate is you break down these titles into functions and levels and you create a matrix of numbers that say to what degree somebody’s in one of these functions and at what level they happen to be. You use that as a different filtering mechanism to build a look-alike audience.

We did one of this for a VoIP provider and looked at all the titles that would lead to things like collaboration, customer service, and sales and things like that where you need to do a lot of communication with phones and tools like Slack. We found the people they were missing with their employment criteria they always used and people they probably shouldn’t have been spending so much money on because, even though they fit the employment parameters, they had a really low concentration of the kinds of people who were going to need the VoIP phone system that they had.

I think there’s huge potential in that moving forward. We’re going to have an in-depth white paper on that, and it’s going to completely revolutionize how people think about titles moving forward, I suspect.

[00:10:20] JG: Yeah, face-melting type insights.

[00:10:22] DG: Yeah, face-melting. That’s what the audience is there hoping for you and me, buddy.

[00:10:30] JG: Start and roll. No. I mean, the data, the firmographic data is not even accurate. Last time I checked, LinkedIn still thinks we have eight employees here at LeadCrunch and what do we have? Hundreds now? I’m pretty sure they think we do $15 in revenue and we’ve made it all the way up to $18.50. We do a lot of revenue. We do a lot of revenue, people.

All right, so you need to get the white paper on targeting. Give me some more thoughts. Give me your parting thoughts there, Dave.

How to Target Small Businesses 

[00:11:07] DG: Yeah, I started point out another misconception. I was talking about how people go to sales reps and they say, “Hey, da, da, da,” and they give you this cyber security keyword and then you find out there aren’t very many of them. What you find out is that the market is shaped like a pyramid in terms of number of employees, the headcount, where there are just, I don’t know, like 85% of them have five employees or fewer.

Well, they’re not going to have a lot of directors of anything, right? Everybody’s the chief cook and bottle washer in a little tiny company like that. As you move down market, sometimes they don’t even have the function, right? LeadCrunch, I think, had 23 people before they hired somebody in marketing. 

That’s not uncommon. Before I hire and designate someone to be the IT person or the marketing person or the finance person, I get to a certain critical mass. Before that, I might hire an agency, or I might have a CPA firm just do my books for me. That’s very common with these small companies which don’t have the structure.

Just because you have one person in marketing, doesn’t mean you’re going to have all of these areas of specialization that people will often clamor for, that really only exists in much larger companies. I just don’t think people understand how titles get changed and skinny down to the bare bones as you move down market into smaller accounts. You need to really accommodate that.

Get the ebook “How to Scale Your Demand Gen Operations”

[00:12:36] JG: Yeah. All right, man. That’s a brilliant perspective. I really appreciate you sharing that with us today. We’re trying to get smart about the way we do things in B2B marketing. I don’t know. Seems like somebody ought to.

[00:12:48] DG: To me, the thing that we’re trying to do, Jonathan, is I have this bad feeling and actually, I hate to tell you folks, but actually, Jonathan was a victim of this very thing. He was addicted to volume. He was thinking, when I was first interviewing him, that he’d be able to generate $5 leads. I kid you not, and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to burst his bubble. He found out that that really wasn’t a viable option in B2B.

He’s not alone. I was addicted to volume. A lot of us have been addicted to volume. All the vendors, they love it because they get rich and guys like us, we get fired. I don’t think that’s fair, but that’s how it is. We just want to start a movement to stop that nonsense and stop all the craziness around targeting a whole bunch of people who all you do is annoy them, because it’s not relevant and they’re not a good fit. Then you get your sales guys mad at you and they’re throwing stuff and coming into your office and yelling. Who needs it, man? Who needs it?

[00:13:49] JG: Yeah. Just in my defense, I am able to get $15 leads without that. Before you start judging me, let me see your $15 leads and we’ll talk.

[00:14:02] DG: No, man. Folks, Jonathan is a mad scientist of lead generation. I’m just hoping that no one actually listens to this show and tries to hire him away for $300,000 a year, because we’d wreck our whole company.

[00:14:16] JG: For the right price. For the right price. No, I’m just kidding. You make a valid point. I was able to generate $5 leads, and they were all crap. All I did was piss everybody off for two months, until they filtered all the way through the system and were gone. What we’re creating is based on experience. There are better ways to do this.

LeadCrunch is coming up with a lot of them. Somebody needs to. Yeah, love for you guys to check out the white paper. Try to drop a link as soon as it’s ready. What are you, having it edited right now?

[00:14:50] DG: Yeah, it’s getting proofed, because I’m an English major and I can’t spell.

[00:14:55] JG: Dave can’t let it go. He just cannot let it go. It’s going to be edited to death. Whereas, I will publish some completely half-baked stuff. Dave won’t, so there you go. It’s a Dave Green original.

[00:15:08] DG: All right, folks. Hey, thanks a million. We’re going to be at the Sales and Marketing Exchange out in Boston in a few weeks. Hope you guys stop by and say hi to us.

[00:15:17] JG: Yeah. Love to see your face remotely. I’m not sure if I’m going. Anyway, it’s been real. Green & Greene Show. I will play the music.

[00:15:27] JG: All right, man.


[00:15:34] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for tuning in to the Green & Greene Show by LeadCrunch. Green & Greene think differently about B2B and are starting a movement to transform demand gen. If you have ideas for topics or would like to be a guest, send an e-mail to david.green@leadcrunch.ai. If you’d like to find more customers, visit our website to talk to one of our demand gen guides, www.leadcrunch.com.