CoLab’s VP of Marketing MJ Smith is a big believer in constantly evolving.
So much so that when she first joined the CoLab team, messaging she wanted to test was up and running on landing pages the team was using in demand generation campaigns in just three weeks. It’s the very exact test-and-learn mindset that’s empowering CoLab’s marketing team to push boundaries — so we caught up with MJ to learn more about her team’s growth goals this year and the innovative demand generation campaigns they are running.
CoLab focuses on communicating value with their core audience
As a company, CoLab is on a mission to reinvent the way engineering teams design collaboratively, offering software and technologies specifically tailored to the mechanical design industry that help them bring life-changing products to market years sooner.
Especially today — a period marked by less than favorable macroeconomic conditions — MJ sees the power of storytelling as more important than ever. She knows firsthand that when the stakes are higher, teams like hers really need to anchor all of their messaging in customer value. “You have to tell a story that makes a customer believe that you can really deliver a return on investment in their business, because the reality is, when you are making fewer investments overall, you’re only going to spend on what you see as most valuable,” she explains.
And while she acknowledges that product marketing work like messaging and positioning is often hard to measure in terms of ROI, she considers it foundational work that’s “completely inseparable from demand generation.”
Experimentation sits at the heart of CoLab’s demand gen efforts
As a fairly young company with limited marketing resources, MJ knew coming in that the team needed to spend some time experimenting and optimizing to better understand their core audience and identify which channels to funnel marketing dollars into.
As the team continued to test and learn, they recognized the impact their visual identity had on their ability to convey value to their audience. Because they offer solutions in a new category of engineering software, the team leans on visuals to really explain the problems they are solving for. And while the company has a defined brand identity, the marketing team doesn’t shy away from pushing the limits from time to time, especially on social, where people have limited attention spans.
CoLab’s emphasis on experimentation has been paying off, and today, they are seeing their messaging and creative resonate with their core audience — mechanical engineers, engineering managers, and other technical roles. In the process, CoLab’s team of 5 marketers has been able to ship 200+ ads in less than 9 months. “They are one of the fastest teams we work with, and the speed is there because they really know what to focus on” remarks Ky Shaw, founder of DemandOS, a demand generation agency partnering with CoLab.
How CoLab hit the ground running with ABM campaigns
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a fairly new focus area for CoLab — an initiative they kicked off in November 2022. MJ defines it as that sweet spot between putting messaging in front of a 100,000-person audience and one-to-one outreach conducted by sales development reps (SDRs). ABM is “one-to-few targeting with more focused messaging designed for an audience of 300-1,500 or so people,” MJ explains. And with ABM campaigns, the team at CoLab aims to increase the odds of conversion using hyper-specific experiences, starting on social.
One morning, MJ put a challenge out for her team: to launch a full ABM campaign by end of the day. The team was used to moving quickly, and if they could pull this off, she knew they’d be able to not only get in front of their customers quickly, but also glean learnings faster.
To pull this off, they put together a one-page messaging and positioning document and inserted the messaging into their ad creative. Then, their digital marketing manager built landing pages in Webflow that also featured this messaging. Because MJ had seen how quickly their team had gotten Solutions pages up on their site in the past, she knew the team had what it needed in place to continue to be agile.
“Tools like Webflow are set up to help teams ship pages really fast and support this mindset of constantly experimenting.” – MJ Peters
The team targeted engineers from 5 large enterprises in the same vertical and tailored ad and landing page creative to resonate with this audience. When a user clicks a social ad, it sends them to the landing page that speaks to their specific pain points and shares solutions CoLab offers to solve for them.
“There’s no ABM software involved; we simply use our existing platforms — LinkedIn for ads, Webflow for the landing pages, and Figma for ad creative. People over-complicate campaigns like these and think you need all of this big, expensive tech, when you really don’t.” – Ky Shaw
CoLab touts impressive outcomes from these ABM campaigns. In addition to reaching more relevant members of their audience, the cost efficiency of hyper-targeted campaigns is 2x that of their standard ad campaigns. The click-through rates are 4-5x their usual click rates. And within a month-post launch, the team has seen members from 1 of the 5 targeted accounts request demos.
Webflow helps teams be agile and hit growth goals
As a marketing leader, MJ knows experimentation plays an important part in her team’s ability to meet their goals. But without the right tools in place, she recognizes how teams are often held back. “If we didn’t have technology like Webflow in place that allows us to ship pages faster, we’d have to work with a web developer — which would mean longer turnaround times and shipping fewer campaigns,” she explained.
For a team with ambitious growth plans on the horizon, moving quickly, learning faster, and getting in front of potential customers is critical, and tools like Webflow play a crucial role in their ability to bring digital experiences to life overnight.