We sat down to catch up with Lauren Pica, Director of B2B CRM Marketing at DoorDash, previously Head of Marketing North America and Global Communications at Outbrain. With over 10 years of experience in managing customer engagement, product marketing, and growth in both the B2B and B2C spaces — we had to find out more.
We shared a few laughs and reminisced about the first gift we ever sent her (which is a hilarious story!), but mostly talked about her role as our new advisor, her experience and take on using Direct Mail in the B2B space.
What drew you to pursue a career in the B2B marketing space?
So it’s not a sexy story. I started in video gaming on the product marketing side of things at a company called Majesco, and I loved B2C. It was amazing to actually be able to do X, Y and Z and see the performance on the spot. And it was more than that too — I was actually getting to create the video game experiences with my team there. Unfortunately, I went down with that ship as the company folded. Though it helped me realize early on in my career that I love the challenge of sticking around and being a “fixer” — coming into more of a tangled marketing situation and helping to not only unravel it, but create a more memorable brand experience both with our internal teams and external consumers. Which led me to my first big adventure dabbling in the B2B space — and for a fairly old school brand, at that — in CPG packaging and wide format printing. Started using Salesforce and working with Business Development partners — seeing the added difficulty of being a supporting arm of a sales marketing team versus talking directly to the customer myself, and loved the challenge of being further behind-the-scenes. Funnily enough, I even introduced email marketing there — yes, that level of old school.
My everyday focus was bringing more flavor to B2B, pushing the B2B2C mindset. No matter who you’re doing business with, they are a consumer selling to other consumers, so humanizing the experience was everything. And that’s how I very un-sexily started in B2B — loving a good challenge out of the gate. And here we are, 7+ years later and still loving all-things B2B.
What drew you to Direct Mail, and how did you come across Outgage?
It was really a good way for us at Outbrain, at the time, to prove the use of that budget. Holiday gifting spend is something that we had baked into our budget every single year, so I knew I had that capital. Now, how can I use it and actually surprise and — we joke about this word, but “delight” (that we use too much in the marketing space) — our customers, or our non-partners that we were hoping to make customers. And we created a really awesome experience together. It was during the pandemic — not ideal — but nobody wants to give you their home address, right? That’s your private space. Nobody wants the same gift with a big logo on it that they’re just going to throw in the trash. So, we ended up doing more of a digital experience, very tailored to the people we were sending it to — of offering a little something for everybody — should it be a wine subscription, should it be a Netflix subscription, should it be a food subscription — and then we offered a few donation subscriptions as well. It was a beautiful experience, and the first time that we were able to engage with Direct Mail digitally. We proved it out at Outbrain, which was amazing to see — and our conversion rates were killer.
What would you suggest to marketers today looking to start or improve their Direct Mail campaigns? How do they really pull it into their strategy?
I think the way that people look at gifting and Direct Mail — at least as I’ve seen for the majority of my career in the space — is that it’s a bit spray and pray. How many times have you walked into an apartment building and just saw a stack of flyers that were left there? How often have you worked with a client who sent 1000 people the same exact branded gift? Do you think those 1000 people all want a cutting board, all want a water bottle, all want something with your logo on it that they might not use, or a flyer that might just end up in the trash? Depending on how you’re looking at Direct Mail and gifting — there could end up being a chunk that’s wasted — and it’s no small budget. There are owned channels that can get you those types of results — like email or social — that you don’t have to pay this exuberant amount for that end up being a wasteful budget. So, if you take a little bit more time and actually create the experience that you’re hoping to engage with these customers or non-customers that you’re trying to turn into customers — it’s going to pay for itself in conversion. It’s never going to be perfect, but you want to be really thoughtful in your approach, otherwise it’s spray and pray — just like paid advertising could be or sometimes email could be — and then it’s not serving its purpose.
So, I think it really depends on what your brand is trying to do. For us, as a starting point, it was for a holiday gift — but where I thought this could develop into stronger play at a B2B organization was actually using it as a sales enablement tool. How can I get the attention of this person I’m trying to get a meeting with by giving them a gift that actually matters to them? And then, how can I scale that? I think you really want to introduce it when you’re trying to get the attention of somebody. They could be a customer already, but how are you trying to show your appreciation for them? How are you trying to get their attention? And what can you do that’s scalable but that actually matters to a decent amount of people? And that tends to be the challenge because they think, “well, this is what I like.” Not enough of, “this is what the user will like.”
How we had done a campaign when we partnered with Outgage was really by persona. We had multiple personas at Outbrain — given we served marketers and publishers — and we wanted to make sure that the experience made sense for each of them. So we ended up breaking out the campaign into 10 different campaigns, which was a lot for us to manage at the upfront, but it ended up being really helpful and successful in the end because we broke up that experience.
It’s really just a matter of who are you doing this for, is this the right avenue? Are there other avenues to consider? Are you trying to get their attention or show your appreciation and make a meaningful connection with that end user or customer? Great — gifting or Direct Mail might be the way. Now, take a step back and do it right. Don’t just send everybody the same gift or the same flyer or whatever it might be. Personalize the experience because it’s going to lead to greater conversion.
What do you think anybody that looks to Direct Mail should consider, and really think through going into it?
There are a lot of channels that are a moment in time. Even if you elongate a campaign — maybe you’re running a paid ad campaign for months in hopes of multi-touch, meaningful engagements with certain customers or not customers — what are you saying? What are you doing? How are you connecting? When you send somebody a gift — or whatever you’re sending — how can you make that experiential? We joked about some of the gifts that we used to get were just trash and they didn’t really lead to anything, but the best part about my experience with Outgage, before I even knew who they were at this point, was that it was meaningful. There was a flyer telling me how to get this cookie jar unlocked, and I engaged. There was a touch point to get it unlocked — if I wanted to, it wasn’t a must — but I wanted to at that point. So how are you inspiring an experience?
That’s how we looked at our Outgage campaign. It was not just the mindset of sending a gift and hoping they use the gift and think of your brand every time they use it. Can we give them something that’s going to last and they might think of us each time — “that was really nice how this company did this and they were really thoughtful in their approach.”
If you can make it more than a moment — make it an experience — you’re going to have a greater impression on the person that you’re sending this to. So think about that — kind of what we were talking about earlier of taking a step back and thinking about your target audience — which any marketer knows to do — also think about the experience that you’re providing. How can this be more than just a gift or a flyer or just a piece of direct mail? Especially if you’re marketing to marketers like Outgage does, they have that added challenge.
Why should marketers work with Outgage?
I’m not just saying this because I’m now an Advisor — but I feel very strongly about this company. It was from the initial cookie jar gift to the relationship that we ended up building, and ultimately why I became an Advisor for this company. They were not like the other gifting platforms in the space — and I had to engage with all of them because of my procurement team — so trust me when I say this: the biggest value that this company provides is a partnership, and we as marketers need that, right? That’s what we’re trying to build with our customers or the businesses that we’re working with. And that’s what you get out of this. So, one, make it an experience and two, look at the platform that you’re using as a partner — it’s going to be a much better experience for you as a marketer.