B2B 5 | Go To Market Strategy

B2B 5 | Go To Market Strategy

Coming up with beloved products is one of the most challenging aspects of running a business. With a well-thought and properly targeted go-to-market strategy, this process can become easier and way more efficient. To shed light on how this part of the business works, Vijay Damojipurapu interviews Bhaskar Deka, the Vice President of AI & Analytics Products at EdCast. Bhaskar goes deep on how they approach the go-to-market in their company, from using silos to their full potential, discussing their current top priorities, and considering more than one marketing direction. He also shares how to maximize resources in doing analytics and why mentorship is something every business person should never set aside.

Listen to the podcast here

The Right Way To Create A Working Go-To-Market Strategy With Bhaskar Deka

 

In this episode, I have Bhaskar Deka, who is the VP of AI Products at an up-and-coming startup named EdCast. Bhaskar, the reason why I reached out to you and I’m looking forward to having this conversation is for various things. One is you’ve got a tremendous background in the product side where you build and collaborate very closely with the engineering teams on the product. You’ve got a good and deeper perspective on AI and data science. I was impressed with your background working with larger companies, essentially the high-growth teams within other companies. You also got a good track record working with startups backed by top-tier venture capitalists. Welcome to the show, Bhaskar.

Thank you, Vijay. It’s wonderful to be here. Thank you for having me.

I start off my show with this very standard but an important question for everyone in the cross-functional teams, how do you define go-to-market?

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been working for big companies like Oracle, Informatica in high-growth areas, as well as startups with successful exits. I’ve seen how go-to-market in particular is applicable in both for product lines, which are well-established versus product lines, which we’re still defining. Let me go back and say that fundamentally, there is a good alignment between both go-to-market as well as product management functions. What it entails is that you have a strategic component to it as well as an important or personal component. If you think about the strategic component, the go-to-market is about how do you define the overall market that you’re going after? What opportunities are there for the creation of value for our customers? If it is an existing product landscape, then what kind of competition is already out there? How would you create your unique value proposition that will differentiate your product from the rest of the competition? In the case of a new product, how would you create a new category altogether? That’s a strategic component.

When you think about it from an execution standpoint, how would you then go ahead and position and place their product around it? The classic 4Ps of marketing: Product, Placement, Price and Promotion. Those aspects need to be thought through, and that’s where the collaboration between the product team and a go-to-market team comes into play. For successful products, both in established as well as a startup scenario, you want to think about product and go-to-market teams thinking about those things and the strategic part, as well as the whole operations part. At a high level, that’s where I see that strong alignment. In the case of a startup, it can be a bit interesting because you might not have a go-to-market function yet. The founders might be acting as the people and in some cases, you don’t even have a product person. The founders are being product persons themselves. As you start going beyond your product-market fit to an actual scalable product scenario, then that distinction of GTM versus product and that collaboration comes into play.

B2B 5 | Go To Market Strategy
Go To Market Strategy: When designing a product, think about its immediate value and have a long-term vision of where you want to go.

 

Thank you for sharing that. Go-to-market has got both the strategic, the big picture aspect, there’s also the operational and the tactical aspect. The way I see it, and I’m sensing from what you mentioned is it’s an ongoing activity. It’s not a one-time activity and it involves collaborating with cross-function teams. Let’s shift gears a bit. Can you share your journey and important milestones, both from a professional person’s point of view, as to how and why you got attracted or pulled into a product role and data science, and some of your most recent roles and accomplishments?

I’m fortunate to have my journey in the engineering product, even a bit of product marketing and data science. I’ve been fortunate to have done work in multiple vertical domains. I started off with financial services and risk management in automotive, pharmaceutical and now learning space. My journey after my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Computer Science, I spent the first half of my career in engineering. I was a hands-on engineer. I became an engineering manager. I spent eight-plus years of my time at Oracle, mostly in the engineering space. Post my MBA, I joined the product function. The reason I was interested and intrigued by the product function in general was that I love engineering and building cool products, but I was always thinking about why you build it and how it is going to solve something for our customers?

Being in product, I think you can straddle those two areas that you were thinking about how does it solve your customer pain points and problems, and in a for-profit world, how do you make money about it working with the revenue team and the marketing team? That aspect of being able to work with engineers and build a product and as an ex-engineer, understand their constraints and the problem solving that they’re doing, but also being able to go to the other side of working with marketing and sales to be able to position their product. That’s what excites me. The other aspect of it is also going back to my journey, even when I was at school, I was a bit confused about which direction to go because I loved math, I was good at math, but I was also interested in literature. Back in those days, you either go to Engineering or Medicine.

I can connect with you, Bhaskar, but for context for the various readers from different parts of the world, this is a typical Indian parent and student mentality, the child mentality back then. You typically have two tracks, which is if you want to make money, if you want to have a good career and a good journey professionally and personally, that’s what our parents used to preach back then, “You either go to engineering or a medical profession, or you go into a technical and engineering degree.” I was in your seat and I can relate. I’m sure a lot of the folks that are from the sub-continent and the Asian region can connect with this.

Thank you for giving that context. Things have changed now. I’ve seen my nephews and my cousins and how it’s a different world now, even in places like India. Going back to the product, what I love about the product is that you should be both buoyant and a quant. You need to be able to be data-driven, understand how you’re solving problems and being data-driven around it, but also like a quant being able to distill your messages in a very short format and connect to your audience. The other aspect is being comfortable with ambiguity. Those are the things that excite me about being a product leader. I’m grateful for that journey of being an ex-engineer because it helps me connect with my engineering partners well.

Understanding value is where the partnership between the product and go-to-market begins. Click To Tweet

Looking at your track record, you also had good stints at different startups like Skupos, and now you’re at EdCast. What got you excited to be at EdCast, and what’s your role at EdCast?

In the past few years, going back to my journey, my Master’s specialization was in AI and in those days, we were going to AI winter at that time. It used to be called expert systems. In the past few years in my start-up journey, in addition to being a product leader, I’ve been building data science teams as well. The most recent one was at Skupos. I had a product brought in to build a product team. Along with that, I also built a data science team because of what we do. What attracted me to EdCast is first of all the space itself, which is a talent and experience management, and we call ourselves Netflix or Spotify of learning.

Our founder, who I have a lot of deep respect for, is a serial entrepreneur and has done multiple startups with successful exits backed by a top-tier basis. This is for startups. He’s defined a category as the founder, and the opportunity for AI in the space, which already we are a leader in that, to do even more, especially in areas like one of my personal interests is reinforcement learning. It is where a lot of work has been done in the enterprise world and supervised and semi-supervised learning, what you do with labeled data. Tapping into human experts and how they think, how they work and how they learn translating that into what you can do in talent and experience management, I think there is an enormous opportunity there in a product suite like what we have at EdCast. It attracted me to come in and be the head of AI Products at EdCast.

From a timing point of view, as well as from the alignment of the market trends, the need in the market and there are technology trends, based on what you mentioned, it’s all coming and gelling together. Where there are a stronger need and a pull in the marketplace, be the sales team, be the marketing team, even for that matter, the product teams and even for the HR. You’ve got different functions who are constantly wanting the individuals to always up their game and be learning from the different learning management platforms or the knowledge management platforms. On top of that tying the AI, figuring out the patterns, figuring out what works well and what is best suited for this individual based on his or her learning curve, tying those two pieces, those are exciting patterns of trends that are aligning. From what you’re doing at EdCast, how do you define or how do you look at the vision and the roadmap for a product? You don’t need to get into the confidential but broadly, how do you define that?

It goes back to the first question we started our show with about understanding the market and having a unique product proposal. One thing that is unique about our environment and that our founder, Karl Mehta, who is a pioneer in this space. The company got started at Stanford. He worked with a lot of thought leaders in that space. In many ways, we are defining a category and there are other companies that came into it and we have great traction in some of the big enterprises like Boston Consulting Group and NASSCOM in India to name a few.

B2B 5 | Go To Market Strategy
Go To Market Strategy: Relying on subject-matter experts is something every business should consider when delving into areas out of their expertise.

One of the things from a product leadership standpoint, especially in the AI space that we constantly look at is you have a real problem that you’re solving now. If you think about learning experience management and experience management, you’re thinking about giving a person in an enterprise, giving his or her role about the department that she is in and the role she does, how do we provide the most personalized, relevant, contextualized and timely content to that person? What then helps that person in her journey? Brenda was a software developer, but she wants to go into product management. Sarah is not a person who had successfully made that transition. We will be able to connect the experience, the journey and the pathways that Sarah went to and make that available to Brenda so that she can have a similar experience.

That value of being able to learn from another person and not only that individual content but also her specific journey is invaluable. If you also think about from the context of as a leader in my organization, I’m trying to do a big change management initiative and I want to know who are the people with the right skillsets that’s out there. You can think about cohorts or subclasses of people with similar skills that help me understand the landscape. The reason I also brought up reinforcement learning is because, in addition to what you can learn with existing label data, a lot of work with human experts feeding into the overall pipeline, you can make it even better.

From a strategy standpoint, that’s how I look at it. Think about the immediate value that you’re creating, but you have a long-term vision of where you want to go. That’s where the partnership between a product and a go-to-market is critical. You need to be constantly listening to your customer and being customer-centric, but as a product manager or a product management leader, you can’t be everywhere. You need to partner closely with the GTM team who are constantly talking to customers and how do you learn and partner with the real customers? Refining your roadmap or learning more from how they’re receiving or saving it are all very important aspects.

You mentioned about product and then you mentioned about go-to-market. In your mind, it looks like you are seeing them as two different entities versus in my mind, I see go-to-market as a product, you’ve got marketing, you’ve got the revenue teams and you’ve got customer success. Based on constraints on the organizational chart and leaders, there’s no one central function that has a complete interview, other than maybe the GM or the CEO. That’s one of the challenges for me personally. I’m trying to address and figure out what is the right way to address this, because go-to-market, you can say for a product, “You’ve got a vision and a roadmap that you need to execute and deliver against.”

For marketing, “You’ve got these various campaigns and programs, even sales enablement are launched for this customer even.” You need to do that. From sales, “You’ve got this quarterly quota and you can implement ABM or several other tactics. Go figure it out and get your sales revenue goals hit for the company.” Customer service is similar. Coming back to the earlier question, I want to put you in the hot seat about your thought process of product and then this go-to-market. Would you reconsider the perspective?

 

Start-up businesses must always have a grand vision of where they want to be as the first step. Click To Tweet

It varies from company to company. It also varies from the stage of the product. Company to company would mean well-established market leader in one space, versus a startup defining a new category or getting into the space. Your point is well-taken that if we think in silos, we cannot be successful. That’s where I would start off with. If product is only thinking, “I need to work with engineering, build a product. I got my input from marketing. I know where to go but I’m going to build it on my own.” If marketing on the other hand thinks only about, “I need to do campaigns and product has given me all the materials. I’ll measure it to a tee and I’ll get successful.” Sales think about, “I’ve got a product. I’ve got my data collaterals. I’m going to go and sell it.”

The point you’re making is you need to be joining the hip in these functions. In many ways, the organized small structure would vary from company to company, but that full alignment in that journey about how you started with a pain point for our customer and then how you position the product. You mentioned an important stakeholder with a customer success, especially in a cloud world, “How am I keeping my retention rate to be 95% or above?” Making them delightful customers as opposed to make the sell. Even though we would execute in silos, if there’s such a thing, we need to be aligned on the strategy, joined in the hip all throughout. There are various mechanisms that you can have to go to and not having a regular product council where all the stakeholders meet constantly.

Those are all the mechanics of doing it. The key point here is that the leaders are fully aligned across all of that. I couldn’t agree more on that. The reason I brought up about the stage of the company is in a startup, all of them could be together. One person could be wearing the hats, especially go-to-market and product together. The other thing I want to make is that even when you have grown up or you’re a part of a big company, product management, since that’s my area of focus, always has this component for outbound versus inbound. Your inbound product management is more focused on building the product and having the right engineering partnership. The outbound is always about working with your customer-facing or customer success or sales and marketing. That partnership collaboration, the sooner you have it, as opposed to, “I’m going to go and build it on my own,” is what makes people successful. It’s a continuous journey and that alignment is needed across all three of them. I want to go back and say that I’m 100% in agreement with you. We have that status and the alignment, and we should be thinking end-to-end, but then execution maybe you do it in your little area.

That’s the point. In the big picture, you have one go-to-market team thinking in one direction, but then when you get into the execution and tactics, you cannot have the majority or all of the product and marketing and sales in one direction. If it’s a new product versus a mature product, each person or each role will have their own responsibilities. This is where you need to be dialed in and you need to have silos. Silos have come into existence for a reason, but there’s also a constant theme. Someone or a team within a company has to be thinking about the cross-functional aspect. Going back to what you mentioned which is you got the big picture and then you got the mechanics of the QBR and the weekly or the bi-weekly sprints, if you go back to either the current role or the last one or two roles, what would you say as an example and something that strikes your mind as to, “We as a team have achieved a wonderful go-to-market?” Does any of that come to mind for you?

People always talk about pivoting being a way of life in startup, which is in many ways true. If you look at a journey of a startup, you might have started with something, but you ended up with something else altogether. However, I call it pivoting with a plan. You don’t do pivoting and say, “This didn’t work. I’ll go and try the other one.” The successful startups always start with a grand vision of, “Here’s the space that I’m going after and then I’m trying it here,” but they always think about the other areas. Going back to your point, the way things come together, and I can give a few examples where in my previous one, we had different customer segments that we were thinking, “Our product is applicable to all of them.”

B2B 5 | Go To Market Strategy
Go To Market Strategy: It’s okay to pursue multiple things at once, but always have one thing as your true calling.

As the team came together to QBR and our multiple stakeholders, learning from customers and our product deployment, we honed it down and said, “No, this is a big enough space. If you think about the US versus the global market, and you think about the existing players or lack of existing players in there, let’s focus on that.” One area was like that. Instead of being multiple vertical-focused, we went ahead with one vertical. That was a well-enough market in a big market that led to our successful exit. If we had tried out multiple verticals, probably it wouldn’t have the same success. That is an outcome of having that honest dialogue on multi-login in which multiple stakeholders are coming together.

The point you bring up over there is critical. This is a challenge. Be it a small organization or even larger organizations, it’s about having that focus and the ability to say “no” to the rest of the opportunities. There’s that constant fear of missing out. It plays a lot in the minds of individuals, be junior med or even educators, but the successful go-to-market teams with the right leadership have that discipline of saying, “No, because we are going to focus on this one segment or initiative.” I bring up that point, it’s about that focus for not just for the next one month or one quarter, but it’s at least for a year.

In the product role, I always think about the fact that the most successful product managers are good at saying no to the right things. With experience, you get also better at it because there are many things that you can do, but how do you come up with it in a data-driven way? You can’t be right all the time, you can’t predict the future, but how do you have a framework working with multiple stakeholders, the framework of evaluating where you want to go, whether it’s the big picture about what products and portfolio you would have, down to at the end of a BM level, what features you’re building? That’s supercritical.

Going back to a story that you mentioned. Normally, we’re talking about product language here. You mentioned Brenda and Sarah, the two personas. You did a good job in framing that story because that’s clearly etched in my mind. You’ve done that bit of storytelling really well. The Brenda and Sarah example that you mentioned, clearly you got the charter as to how you can bring or help people like Brenda and Sarah within the different parts of the organization, and were looking to make that career change or thinking about how to grow in their roles. From a view point of the coming months, what are your top priorities? When you think of those top priorities, what do you see as potential hurdles and how do you plan to overcome those?

The key thing here is that product managers live by the roadmap. We as a product leader, one of the key roles is to build that roadmap. It’s not something you build and it’s a living document or artifact, and it needs to have two different aspects at a minimum. One is how you build and maintain something, which is more external focused. They’re going to talk to customers and partners. The other one is how you build something and maintain it, which is more internal focused working with the engineering and the customer success team.

The most successful product managers are good at saying no to the right things. Click To Tweet

That aspect, that’s why you’re only thinking about getting the multiple sets of working together, quarterbacking that is something I enjoy and strongly believe in. Whether it’s product council or other QBR mechanisms that you have, that aspect of thinking from a portfolio all the way down to the tangibles of the story level, epic stories and the agile world, is how I think about and constantly measuring it. One important stakeholder I left out, which a lot of times is now subsumed within the product team is the user experience team. Sometimes you have that in a design team is out of even product.

Thinking about the customer journey and doing some rapid prototyping validation with a customer is a key part of it. That’s the other thing that I’ve missed out over there, which is once you have that working with some lighthouse customers, maybe your customer advisory board or whatever form it might be. That’s where another touchpoint between the go-to-market function and the product function is super critical. You want to be thoughtful about, given the set of customers I have, what are the segments that I can play in? Having great representations from each of those, because you could otherwise be building a product which feels nice to SMB market or one part of SMB market, but it doesn’t apply to enterprise or the other way around if you’re going after both of those as an example.

Thank you for bringing attention to something that I omitted and something that we’ll keep in mind going forward is the user experience and the design team are a key component of the go-to-market aspect as well.

It’s a good point because it’s not only the segments and the hypothesis of the prototyping at the early part of the journey, but also having product analytics once the product is in place and working with customer success and product together about whatever we set out to do, whether it’s working or not, measuring it. That input is super important for your roadmap. Things that you thought will work but didn’t work, and then you did a good amount of A/B testing initially, but then later on the product is in production and then people are using it. Learning from it and having that feedback into your product roadmap.

Can you share some of the tools that you use for analytics? I know for marketing and even for sales, we had a market tech stack and the sales tech stack. For product and for analytics, what is your tech stack look like?

B2B 5 | Go To Market Strategy
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

Fortunately now, there are a lot of products available. In the interest of being vendor-neutral, I won’t name names, but the way I would call out is that in a product world, as compared to several years ago, first of all you have extra tools now that does portfolio planning of product, all the way down to creating roadmaps that you can share with stakeholders. There used to be days when you would have Excel spreadsheets and you have PowerPoint slides or Google slides. That’s what you do and it’s not a scalable model, but now there is structured content that you can put in all the way from your product portfolio planning that goes down to integration with your actual delivery mechanisms and to your Wiki. I’ve used quite a few of them in my product leadership role and pluses and minuses, but I won’t name any particular product. That one area, let’s call it product portfolio and then the roadmapping tool.

The other big area is in learning about the product itself and how it’s being used. We are not fortunate to have our products. It used to be that you will take Google Analytics and you try to fit it, embed it into it and there’s a Google Analytics expert who gives those reports of you. Now they are all down to specific areas that it can go after. You also have tools in the design space about how you’re building prototypes, and that leads us to Adobe Suite of design tools, but tools that integrate nicely with it. The key point is measuring what you’re able to do and not the set of tools that are out there. A lot of good literacy around the web, since I’ve used multiple of them and was successful, there have been multiple startups and big companies. I won’t name names in specific, but those two categories as a product person, you need to keep an eye on. The thing about roadmapping too, some of this can be a bit expensive or even the analytics too. For a startup, my advice would be to start with what you can do with free tools first. There’s the advantage of a paid version of a product as you scale-up, but start with free tools and then move up where you have a great subscription. It is how I’ve successfully used it.

In short, use Google Tags and spreadsheets when you’re low on budget and in a startup mode. The key point is to chase the habit within the product teams to use the more mature and advanced tools.

That reminds me of something that whether you are using a spreadsheet or a tool as an example, there are some fundamental structural things that you have in the roadmap. I made the distinction between external versus internal. In the internal one, I’m using examples from my AI world. You’re writing a recommendation engine, so you want to think about collaborative filtering. You want to think about your metrics factor addition. Those things are needed for your data scientists and your engineering team, but to the end customer, you are talking about personalized, contextualized content that you’re delivering. Having a taxonomy hierarchy of your components and roadmap, those are needed irrespective of whether you are using a mapping tool or using your Excel or PowerPoint. If you’re low on budget, that still doesn’t free you up for not having that taxonomy. It’s also easier than once you have taught to in that structured manner to move from what you have currently to a tool.

You did mention a couple of things that you are excited about and something that you are constantly keeping our eye on and studying. You mentioned various aspects of data science. Can you go a little bit deep into the things that you are looking out for and you are curious?

Each one of us has blind spots. We need to start there and look to the mentors to point them out. Click To Tweet

Especially in the AI space, there are three major parts. If you’re not thinking about general AI, if you think about machine learning in particular, the three major parts, you have your supervised learning, semi-supervised learning and enforcement learning. There have a lot of advances being done, especially in the enterprise world now in the first two areas. If you talk about reinforcement learning, people still talk a lot about robotics or talk about games, but the applicability of that enterprise is enormous. That place is where I’m interested about. A related area of that is transfer learning. When you’re in robotics, you have trained your left arm on the robot. When you’re training the right arm, you don’t start from scratch. You transfer the knowledge that you had on your left arm.

A similar context institutionalizing that in the enterprise world, the reinforcement, in particular, there’s this sub-domain that’s called inverse reinforcement learning. You start with thinking about an expert first and then the other way around. Reinforcement learning has the concept of aids and rewards. You think from the other way around. That’s a sub-area that I’m particularly interested in and I do a lot of reading and I follow the literature. I’m deep into the scientific and academic community, what they are doing with their applicability into the enterprise world.

It looks like you lean on the scientific community and the various books or technical journals when you’re going deeper into those. If you go up one level from a go-to-market, are there resources that you lean on to improve your go-to-market management?

I would take a step back and talk about my journey as opposed to this specific area. Since I’ve been fortunate to have worked in multiple domains, that’s something that excites me because my constant team has been data, AIML in the product side build, but the domains have been different. I would give an example. When I joined Xtime, which was a successful startup bought by Cox Enterprises, that’s an automotive domain and I’m not even a car person. I drive an old car and for me, it’s a mode of transportation from point A to point B. I questioned myself, I’m excited about the business opportunity, but I’m not a car person. There are a lot of people who are passionate car lovers.

The first thing I did when I joined was, “How can I learn from experts?” A dear friend of mine, Gregg Manson, who ran Customer Success at Xtime. He was an amazing expert, who was a VP of Operations at AutoNation, a multi-billion-dollar company, the biggest car dealership in the country. Gregg taught me so much about what happens in that world. Tapping into him and it was a synergistic relationship because every time I’m thinking about how do I have a prototype with some of the customers in that space, I know I can rely on Gregg. I also can get things refined with his thinking. Using Gregg as an example, I always rely on not only what you can learn, but tapping into experts and especially business apps. I also tap regularly with my Kellogg Business Community in the Kellogg School of Management over those professors or people who are in the industry. There’s so much I can learn even in half an hour conversation with an expert. I’m trying to face a lot of materials that’s available as literature.

B2B 5 | Go To Market Strategy
Deep Work (Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)

You bring up good points. This is something that I’ve seen when I speak with other go-to-market leaders is it’s often that you don’t have expertise in all the functional areas that you need to do your job well in. Relying on subject matter experts and domain experts, the example that you mentioned about Gregg, where you needed to ramp up on the whole auto industry, that’s a great example. That’s something that I’ve heard from other go-to-market leaders as well as to how they ramp up their learning on the gaps, and where they need to figure out or get car parts and perspectives. Tying back to your example, which is as you’re building the product for Xtime, you also need to connect with the various personas in the auto industry. Who do you lean on?

It’s role-independent in some ways. Mentoring aspect is important. When I made that transition from engineering to product management, a couple of people who helped me a lot who are still mentors for me to this day, Walter Hauck and Tony Gazikas, were the CIO and CTO of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. I knew them even before I spent some time there, but this was while I was still at Oracle. As an ex-engineer and engineering manager, I thought I was good at problem-solving or a person problem solving a good framework. What they helped me was refining my thinking about the customer at a business but also, more importantly, the people management aspect of it. Pfizer as a company is well-known for its framework around it. Particularly from both of those leaders, I learned so much about the competencies that the product leader needs for the people management aspect. I’m grateful to have them as mentors. I reached out to them with questions and thoughts of scenarios I’m going to run at.

The value of having those mentors, you can accelerate your thought process. Mentors are key in pointing out the blind spots, which you may not be aware of. Each one of us has blind spots. We need to start that and look to the mentors to point that out. Bhaskar, it’s a great conversation. You’ve shared a lot of value to myself and for my company as to what I should be thinking in terms of go-to-market. You also shared a lot of value to the various readers and the product, marketing, revenue and customer experience teams. Thanks to you, you pointed out even design and user-experience teams. These are all great points that you shared. The last question that I have is if you were to rewind the time and go back in time, what would you tell your 18 or 20-year-old self now that you’ve seen your journey and where you are now?

First of all, thank you for having me. Any discussions like this, I learn a lot as well. Your key point about thinking holistically and not thinking silos, the GTM aspect is spot on. That’s a takeaway for me not to execute in silos but think together in that space and how we do it better. That’s a constant thing. Thank you for doing that. I love Jeff Bezos’ point about the regret minimization framework as the way he approaches life. I won’t say I have too many regrets in that aspect, but I would say one thing about it in that as much as I enjoy being in different verticals and aspects. It can be also tough. One book I’m reading now is called Range by David Epstein. He talks about generalists. It’s an interesting book especially for GTM folks to look into. If I could go back, I mess with this all day, I was confused about which direction to go because I love literature or that big picture world, as opposed to taking in a bit of micro-level like engineering problem-solving.

I would tell myself, “Don’t be confused.” My mom was a big influence on it saying, “Go down the engineering path. You can still come back.” That’s what I did essentially. I went to engineering and then my MBA got me into great talk partners who came from Humanities and Liberal Arts background. It’s a cliche, but the journey is more important than the destination. I would say don’t be confused and whatever your passion is, follow that. I would live it that. It may be not a thing I can say is that my daughter who’s in high school is having a similar moment. I see she’s good at writing and she is good at math. I’m giving her the same advice, “Follow your heart, but keep in mind that it’s okay to have interests in multiple, and you’ll learn what’s the right calling for you.”

On that note, a book recommendation and someone that I started admiring is this author called Cal Newport. I don’t know if you’re familiar with his son.

I’m not.

I would recommend that for you and something that you can share with your daughter as well. One book is around the whole concept of Deep Work, where these days, our human minds are distracted. Shallow thinking is becoming more and more pervasive, versus if you ask someone to sit down for 60, 90 minutes or even 120 minutes, and do one thing, people struggle now. His book on deep work is one and something that I would recommend for your daughter and for the kids out there, and the parents out there as well as they’re guiding their kids is So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

Thank you for sharing that. I’ll keep that in mind.

Thank you for a wonderful conversation, Bhaskar. I enjoyed the conversation. Personally, I’ve taken a lot of learnings. I appreciate the time that you’ve taken.

It was great chatting with you. I’ve got a lot of takeaways myself. Good luck with the rest of the sessions you have. I look forward to learning more from the shows that you will have. Thank you.

Important Links

About Bhaskar Deka

B2B 5 | Go To Market StrategyProduct & Data Science Executive with experience spanning diverse functional areas, including product management & marketing, and engineering management. Successfully led product management, data science, and engineering teams in both established public companies (Oracle, Informatica) as well as start-up/young companies through successful exits – funded by top tier VCs such as Bessemar Venture Partners, Insight Partners, and Toba Capital.

Product Management experience includes leading product strategy, definition, go-to-market strategies for product suites in multiple data and business domains. Extensive experience in scaling product organization from zero to hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Engineering Management experience includes leading engineering in a start up environment to build and launch a global online marketplace used by millions of users around the world.

Deep technical knowledge in areas of Cloud – Software as a Service(Saas), Infrastructure as a Service(Iaas), big data, analytics and AI/machine learning. Certifications in AI and Deep Learning from Stanford University.

MBA from Kellogg School of Management, a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Boston University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science & Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology, India.

Rhythm Guitarist, Tennis player, and Biker. 

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMO

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMO

Marketing is the perfect job for people with co-dominant brains, because it demands both right-brain creativity and left-brain execution. Before becoming the CMO of Aryaka Networks, Shashi Kiran has had more than two decades of experience in business and technology roles across a spectrum of organizations, ranging from early-stage startups to industry leaders. Trained as an engineer but tempered in the industry as a marketer and a leader, Shashi has had the most experience in marketing and product line management, with some roles straddling the two. He joins Vijay Damojipurapu on the show to talk about the nuances of marketing for early-stage startups versus that of more established organizations. They touch upon the importance of getting everyone on the same page as to what marketing means, building a dynamic marketing team and culture, keeping the team focused on set marketing goals, and the biggest challenges and opportunities for marketing in the present day.

Listen to the podcast here

Marketing Across The Spectrum: From Startups To Industry Leaders With Shashi Kiran, CMO Of Aryaka

I have with me Shashi Kiran, the CMO of Aryaka. As a way of introduction, as well as background, the reason why I’m looking forward to this conversation with you, Shashi, is your track record with the various industry leaders including Cisco and Aryaka, as well as your involvement in the whole startup ecosystem. It’s a fascinating and exciting background. Welcome to the show, Shashi.

Thank you for having me, Vijay.

I have a bunch of questions for us to get started. As you know, this is the show around B2B go-to-marketing. How would you define go-to-market?

I look at it as the way to transfer value from the point of creation to point of consumption. B2B is a fairly complicated landscape with different decision-making levels, different target personas, different geographies, regulatory requirements. In this context, to be able to rise above the noise, there’s a degree of brand awareness that you need to bring in. There is a greater degree of messaging clarity that you need to bring in terms of clearly identifying who you are, what you do, differentiation, your value proposition. Being able to feel the resonance of that value through different stakeholders, whether it be your employees, salesforce, channel partners, technology relations, customers. That is all of what is driven by a go-to-market entity. It’s a broad foray, but if you can successfully transfer that value from the intent of the creator to the need of the consumer, then that’s a job well done.

In your last line, you hit it well, which is you shift your focus more into the consumer that you understand. That’s where the empathy and the listening are key not just from a CMO individual perspective, but how do you build that DNA into the outbound go-to-market organization. I think that’s key. A funny story and more of an incident from early in my career. The way I was thinking about go-to-market is typically from a traditional product marketing outbound which is, “We got this launch coming up. How do we line up the various things, including the collateral, positioning, messaging, sales enablement, as far as the pipeline goals we need to hit?” That is go-to-market. It’s a one-time event. That was my notion earlier many years ago, but then my perspective shifted. You validated and explained that well. That’s a great perspective. What will also be valuable for the audience over here is if you can share your journey from a personal as well as from a professional perspective on how you grew in the ranks of marketing and how you became a CMO, that would be great.

I’ve been fortunate in my journey. I’m an engineer by education and a marketer by profession. It was clear to me as I was doing my undergrad that I wanted to go into something that involved people, a balance of creativity and logic. In marketing, you see it as a bit of a right-brain as well as left-brain activity. There is a lot of creativity that you need to apply but to the point that you were making earlier about doing a launch or doing something in a more tactical way, executing against a certain deliverable, that requires a logical approach. Usually, the most successful marketing organizations are the ones that can combine creativity with execution.

I enjoy that. Fortunately, most of the jobs that I had, the responsibility that I was given far outweighed the title I had. That allowed me to learn more, make more mistakes upfront, and establish a good network of people that value you and you value them. Technology becomes a by-product in such environments because technology keeps changing. You have to still perfect your craft of how do you message, position, scale and execute. My career has been a combination of some startups and some larger companies. I’ve had roles in product line management with P&L responsibility. I’ve had marketing roles and roles that straddle the two like in my position. I oversee the product management technology partnerships as well as marketing in all of its forms.

When you reference companies like Cisco, I had more of a product and solutions marketing role there. The portfolio I had was large, tens of billions of dollars. It was one of the largest portfolios that Cisco had in the networking domain. At the same time, we realized that in a lot of things that we do, there are multiple fast through mechanisms whether it be our sales teams or channel partners or other stakeholders. What we create and what we put out goes through a series of filters. Sometimes, it takes a long time for you to realize the impact of what you did. There isn’t an immediate feedback loop. I have worked in such companies where I have scaled a lot of these go-to-market initiatives, helping grow businesses from zero to multibillion-dollars in revenue. We’re taking advantage of ecosystems that are built with a lot of sales teams, large channel partners organizations, direct marketing or direct sales.

The most successful marketing organizations are the ones that can combine creativity with execution. Click To Tweet

That has been one element of my DNA. At the same time, for the last few years, I have been more immersed in startups. After I decided to leave Cisco, I joined an early-stage startup, which was to help determine the new product-market fit and getting an idea off the ground. That ended up getting far fairly quickly at a series of startups in the cloud-native application delivery space. I joined a mid-state startup, which was building routes to market. It had an Israeli engineering team. For me, it was great to work with that culture. We also solidified a lot of routes to market. Part of this journey had also been getting in front of investors to raise funding. We raised the next round of funding.

I was looking to join a later state startup where you can apply these principles of scaling to grow. Amongst the other offers, Aryaka came my way and looking at the opportunity, I felt it was a good combination of a company that had already established a good product-market fit, had solid technology. The problem to solve was in terms of scaling the go-to-market. I grabbed it with both hands and I have been with this company for a few years now. We have the product management team as part of the CMO organization as well as the sales development team. It gives us a greater amount of ability to qualify things at the head end and thereby target people and messaging as well as streamline a lot of things, which is a positive thing.

Startups require more hands-on abilities, more confidence, a propensity to make mistakes, learn from them, and also be able to get feedback and not have a thin skin. You need to be able to absorb the feedback and react quickly in terms of changes that we want to make. A lot of other companies give you the ability to apply yourself at scale and it comes with its own share of complexities. For me, I’ve enjoyed both of these worlds. I frequently look at how do you infuse the startup mentality into a bigger company and how you bring that big company scaling function into a startup. That’s the dynamic that I enjoy solving.

You’ve touched upon several points over there. Initially, you were growing up in the product organization, but at some point in time you felt the urge to move more into the marketing side, the mix of both analytical as well as the creative side. You also touched upon an important point, which the people in Silicon Valley will resonate with this well, which is at some point in time, you want to experience that startup culture, the startup DNA. I felt that as well. I’ve worked at larger companies including Ericsson, Microsoft and Juniper Networks. I felt that urge to grow and go into smaller companies as well as earlier stage companies including seed, series A and several others.

I clearly see that and you have grown in the ranks well. The other question or the thought process that comes to my mind and I would like to chime in on this is, what do you see are the nuances or the variations? How do you think about go-to-market from an early stage, finding a product-market fit position point of view versus scaling and growth? Clearly there’s an overlap but there are also different approaches to both.

Marketing is a bit of a misunderstood profession. What I mean by that is when you talk to ten different people, their view of marketing can be ten different viewpoints depending on the lens you are viewing it from. Some will look at it purely as a branding and advertising activity. Some will look at it as generating collateral, getting your leads ready and a website. Some will look at it as a demand generation, “Where are my leads coming from?”

If we can be more blunt there, you can also get to hear from other teams, “Can you put some lipstick on the pig and make it look pretty.”

I’m sure we have made a lot of pigs look pretty in our careers. The point I’m trying to make is you can’t take one thing and say, “I’m done in the context of marketing.” It’s a nuanced profession. You can go deep in certain areas and you need to be good enough to connect the dots in the other areas. There are some people who come in especially when you get into the level of a CMO. I look at a lot of my peers. Some people come in purely from an advertising or a branding background. They’re good at proliferating the message on a global scale. Some others come in from a product background. They understand how to position message and craft the differentiation. Some others are mostly on a demand gen level.

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMO
Aryaka CMO: When you talk to 10 different people, their view of marketing can be 10 different viewpoints, depending on the lens they’re viewing it from.

 

Regardless of which function they come in from, maybe product event or some cross the chasm from engineering to marketing, it is important to see what is the problem that needs to be solved, and apply yourself into taking away that weak link from your marketing value chain. I look at different companies that I have been involved in. In some you hired a good product-market fit. The challenge was how do you let more people know about it.

In other cases, you had a good degree of brand awareness, but when you start to bring something out, how do you ensure that you’re maybe not cannibalizing something that’s already there or do it in a way that is non-disruptive? Those challenges will vary and you have to look at it in terms of the stage of the company, and what fuel do you want to put into the fire and see how can you scale things. It also goes into hiring the DNA in different companies at different stages. To see, is that the right background or DNA that we want to bring in? Those are all that’s going to make that whole journey work better.

Let me put you a bit more into the hot seat position over here. I’m sure you must have encountered this in a couple of startups or even the other areas. I don’t think there’s a problem in the larger companies. I’ve not seen or heard from the other marketing leaders. The question to you is I’m sure he must have dealt with situations where the CEO doesn’t get what marketing is even though they hire a CMO or the head of marketing. How do you tackle that situation?

You have to educate people and you have to get them to your point of view. That means being proactive in terms of sharing your thoughts, getting the buy-in early. It isn’t necessarily just the CEO. It could be a lot of other people, board members, sales leaders or maybe somebody even in the media around those communities. The thing that you’ll encounter is everybody has an opinion about marketing. Part of the challenge as well as the opportunity is how do you rationalize some of these opinions? Everybody wants to get involved in naming a new product or creating a tagline. Everybody feels that the version they’ve come up with is the best. You have to be able to synthesize these things.

On one hand, you have to ensure everybody is participating because you want them to feel a sense of ownership with what you bring out, which is where you create a ripple effect. You’re not going to get that scale, the ripple effect if your own organization, your own CEO, your own sales team doesn’t resonate with what you’re trying to put out. They need to be active stakeholders. For that reason, the participative nature of any engagement is important. The second aspect is once you’ve framed your PCs, once you have taken these opinions, eventually it’s your call to decide on the path you want to go. CEOs understand that well with the consensus builder’s decision-makers. They do understand that, “Yes, I’ve got these ten opinions but there is a reason I’m going to pick one.”

As a CEO or a leader, that is something you are paid to do. You have to make a decision, take a stand, and then comes the aspect of making sure others understand the reason for the stand that you have taken. In an organization that is vibrant and scalable, the best messages are not the ones that the creator is articulating, but what somebody who’s two steps away from the creator is able to articulate without things getting lost in translation. It means they need to absorb it with the same degree of clarity that you do and feel as if it is their own thoughts to carry. If we can make that, there is a bit of education, stakeholder engagement, and then stakeholder buy-in, then you will see a lesser degree of confusion and more involvement. That is the recipe for successful scaling.

You touched upon the messaging and you come up or launched a new product line. I’ve seen that with my several clients, which is each team member be it in sales or be it a GM, or even the founder or the CEO, each of them has an opinion around what the messaging should be as well as what the tagline should be. Taglines are a catchy “sexy” activity and everyone wants to get involved. At the same time, there is that aspect of the point which we discussed and you touched upon earlier, which is it’s not about us, it’s about the resonance with the consumer.

Will it resonate with that customer? That’s key and there’s that whole gray area. You will know when you launch it. You will only know it maybe 3, 6 or 12 months later on. Let’s dive a bit more into how you organize your marketing team. You touched upon that lightly, but you have the product organization as well as the outbond marketing organization. I would presume it’ll include the dimension, brand and creator. Can you share a bit more about how you structure your teams?

he general philosophy of hiring is to take somebody who complements you. Click To Tweet

Each of these organizations brings teams in based on what problem we’re trying to solve. In my role, I have three leaders reporting to me. One is the VP of product management, the other is the VP of product and solutions marketing, and we onboarded a VP of demand gen. We also have a marketing operations team as well. Each of these functions has its own specific mandate. You will find these functions to be fairly common across different organizations. Depending on the size of the organization and the activities that they are undertaking, you will see more or less people being added to it. It’s more important to look at the type of people that we hire in general and this is probably more exacerbated now during the pandemic where everybody’s working from home.

We had to onboard people through Zoom interviews that we have never had a chance to meet in person. For them also, they have to come up to speed on a number of things being home, and without necessarily the luxury of a whiteboarding session or somebody who can walk them through things. Culture becomes important. At the same time, we look at people who don’t require a lot of hand-holding. They should be able to make decisions on their own. There is a degree of empowerment that we need to put in where they feel confident to take decisions, make mistakes. The important thing is to be able to create clear pathways for communication, information sharing, and a feedback loop. These are things that I keep pressing on. Generally, the philosophy of hiring for me is to take somebody who complements you.

I give the analogy of if all of the fingers of our hand were the same lengths, you could never close it into a fist function. The team is your fist. You do need fingers of different sizes that come together with complementary strengths. That in a way goes to form a formidable team. If you are to hire everybody who thinks like you, if you’re to hire a yes-man team, then that fist is never going to get developed. It’s like being in an army where everybody wants to march in sync. You will never get the diversity of opinions and hard processes.

If you double click and you asked your team to work on a major campaign which runs over the next 1, 2, 3 quarters. Do you structure your team in such a way that you have the product marketing, owning the messaging, and then at the same time closely working with the creator, writer, content, social media, and demand gen? That’s one thing I’ve seen with the various clients, as well as the other organizations. There’s a challenge as to how to structure because you are the CMO and you own the entire marketing function, but if one doesn’t pay attention, it’s easy to get logged into silos. Imagine product marketing having their own set of KPIs, content and social having their own set of KPIs around each. How do you overcome that challenge as a CMO in breaking down silos even within a marketing organization?

One of the key things is to make sure that everybody is sharing information. We have to proactively create forums for people to share the work that they’re doing. I view the key aspect of roles such as ourselves is being able to connect the dots. Each dot could represent as a certain function. That function needs to be good on its own merit in a standalone capacity. If you want to drive a multiplicity of outcomes in a powerful way, then we as leaders need to take ownership of connecting the dots. Part of it is the culture that we establish where everybody understands not just their roles and responsibilities but how they function relative to others. Who to reach out to for help? Who do you offer help to and you do something?

There are fleeting problems when any new team getting formed. You can bring some tools in that will help ease the process. In my career, I have never seen a tool substitute genuine human intent and the need to collaborate. We have to foster that and make sure everybody understands that it is for the common good and establish common meetings, common information sharing mechanisms, common goals where the interdependencies are clearly mapped out. You do this for the first few times then it becomes second nature to everybody.

Any new person that you bring on board assimilates into that culture, that workflow. It’s at the formational stage that we need to think of some of these things. Maybe you grow to such an extent where you don’t know all the members of your own team. There have been instances in my career in the past where the team sizes were big that I may not be knowing intimately what every person does. That is a different order where you need to make sure your leaders and the processes at all there to help make that happen.

One of your primary jobs is to break down silos in such a way that there is a constant sharing of information. That sounds like that is a big goal and focus for you and the marketing team. Do you also think about and frame shared KPIs or goals in the context of a campaign?

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMO
Aryaka CMO: Leaders need to take ownership of connecting the dots if they want to drive multiplicity of outcomes in a powerful way.

 

We have been self-disciplined about it. At an organization level, we were aligning to things like OKRs, but OKRs are not meant to break down into a lot of execution level information. It’s for common goal setting. If you truly want to have predictable outcomes, then it is better that you have a good line of sight into the execution elements. This helps bring better structure across the different members of the team. It also aligns expectations, if you do execution reviews and if they present their plans, it allows you to connect the dots better. We have been disciplined about setting our goals for each quarter in a way that it aligns to more or less the day-to-day activities of the individuals across the different teams, and then map that to some of the higher-order objectives. If we can create that linkage, then it brings more predictability for us across the entire team.

For the leaders that I’ve spoken with and I’m in touch with, that’s the intent. It’s easier said than done. There is a challenge of what I’ve seen play out. There are quarterly offsites for doing it like a quarterly planning or QPRs. There’s great outcome, great energy during that first couple of days. People lose sight a week or even a month later. We identify the goals, but a week, a month later typically if you’re not conscious, we switched into a firefighting mode and we lose sight of the goals that we set out. When it comes to the end of the quarter, we’re scrambling. I’m sure you can relate to that. How do you handle or how do you try to avoid such situations at Aryaka?

Some of our goals are meant to be through the year. For example, we say, “We will grow at 40%.” That’s a goal at a high level. That number can be taken and a sales team can interpret its action plan for that differently. The marketing team can implement its action plan differently. I’m giving an example of how everybody can take a higher-order organizational goal, then develop plans in a way that allows you to achieve some of those objectives.

If you’re saying, “I’m going to grow 40% or 50%,” or whatever the number is across the year, it means that you need to have a certain set of building blocks in your own daily, monthly, quarterly cadence that will allow you to drive more predictability. We’ve been disciplined about taking something like that and then saying, “What should our quarterly plan be? What new products are we going to introduce? What new launches are we going to do? What agencies are we going to bring onboard? How many opportunities are we going to commit ourselves so finance can model the revenue impact?”

Each of them boils down to certain initiatives, certain projects that become the quarterly big rocks that we track, and then we communicate it. Part of it is not just setting a goal for yourself, but I make it a point to announce our goals to the entire world. We proactively share it with almost the entire company even though they may or may not be interested in the marketing goals. The moment you stand on a rooftop and say, “This is my goal,” that’s your commitment to the universe. It automatically binds you to execute on that. The team has done a good job in terms of saying, “These are the big rocks we are going to commit to each quarter and here is how it fits into the bigger picture,” and then being able to manage, track, and build upon those. It’s always a work in progress but that’s the system that we have this time.

You’ve covered how you break down silos and how you help not just the marketing team, but even the entire organization, how you educate them about the marketing goals and how you execute via marketing sales or even the engineering or finance for that matter. Going into 2021, what do you see as the top 1 and 2 challenges and then the opportunities for marketing from a good market perspective?

We have adapted well. If you were to ask me in the March and April 2020 timeframe, we were all having a sense of trepidation in terms of how the organization is going to deal with this particular situation. How are our customers going to adapt? Are we going to lose business? Are we going to be able to attract employees of the right caliber? Are we going to be able to retain them? Are we going to be able to execute the programs that we said we would? Now, I look back on what has been somewhat of a tumultuous period in the last six months of 2020. We’ve done extremely well. We didn’t lose any customers. We gained a lot more that came our way because they liked the way we were helping them, manage change in their own business, and help them transform their infrastructure.

It’s been a company-wide effort. At the same time from a marketing perspective, we have hired some good talent. We haven’t lost any significant amount due to attrition. The teams are being fairly committed and meeting their timelines. We also try to have fun in the process. Everybody’s working from home and some have gone back to other cities than the cities where they were working globally. I don’t think we’re past this pandemic yet. I would like to say that we’ve all figured out how to adapt, deal with it, and portray a sense of confidence for ourselves, our customers, and it is business as usual. With that in mind, I don’t think we have any other way of saying this than to continue to challenge ourselves.

There is no one recipe for surefire success in this digital world. Rising above the noise is a process of constant experimentation. Click To Tweet

The metrics that we have set for ourselves, we shouldn’t be watering those down. We should be sticking to our growth targets or product delivery timelines, and how we go to market with maybe partners. We’re looking at 2021 as being another year where we will continue to gain market share and increase messaging clarity. One area I’m personally looking to put more effort in is in elevating our brand. In the last 3 to 4 quarters, we have spent a lot of rejiggering our product mix, overhauling our pricing, then we completely refreshed our messaging, positioning websites, and then we started to put in a lot of building blocks for demand generation.

We’ll get more predictability, more intent-based data-driven activities. Now, I’m ready to scale all of those and put more emphasis on elevating the brand globally. That would be an area that I’m going to put more emphasis on even as we harden a lot of the foundations that we have laid across the teams and we won some good, big deals, some of the biggest in the ten-year-old history of Aryaka in the last quarter of 2020. We would want to continue to build upon that and scale our organization.

Kudos to you and the entire Aryaka team on that. You guys had a fascinating and fantastic quarter. I’m wishing you and the team the best so that you can continue to outpace and outshine yourself. This is great stuff, Shashi. Thanks for sharing a lot of details. As we head into wrapping up this show, the last couple of questions for you is, what are the top areas that you’re curious about specifically when it comes to go-to-market? What resources are you leaning on? You mentioned growing the brand awareness globally, that might be one area. I’ve seen leaders leaning on podcasts or even peer networks and rev gen, and a couple of other communities. What do you and your team lean on?

We are constantly experimenting there. I don’t think there is one recipe that is a surefire success all the time. Especially nowadays where a lot of activities have become digital and in-person events have been curtailed. There’s a lot more of an information overload, people are getting invited to more virtual events, a lot of emails, a lot more phone calls. We have to continue to figure out what pathways allow us to rise above the noise. It’s a process of constant experimentation. I wouldn’t say what worked for us two quarters ago is going to work for us this quarter because of the behavior shifts that are happening rapidly. We do multiple things. We have gotten into a place where we can predict certain outcomes, which it is always a hard thing to do for a marketing organization to be able to forecast and predict.

That’s the muzzle that we’re trying to bring about. We are investing in more intent-based tools and more data that has refined applying principles of AI and things like that where we can, and to create greater points of engagement and conversion. I don’t think we have any big challenges in terms of attracting more people to hear what we do, but we are now putting more focus on how many of them can we convert into being active engagers and buyers in taking the next step forward. Those are bringing in some interesting learning.

For Aryaka, your customers are a mix of enterprise and telcos. Can you share a bit more about the customer space?

We call ourselves a cloud-first run company. What we mean by that is we allow enterprises to get the network and security delivered as a service for them. Many of them are used to now consuming applications from the cloud as a service. Our theses are that the network should be no different. Can you make your network as easy to consume as you could any application from the cloud? Can you make it as responsive? Can you make it as agile? Can you make the experience to be overwhelmingly positive that there is no other solution that they would consider? We are a fully-managed solution for advanced wide area networks. We fall into the category of a managed SD WAN provider.

In reality, what we do is make it easy to consume network, as well as security. We’re seeing this convergence of the two happen and deliver that as a service globally to enterprises for any site or user. We have built out a global network. This is a layer two network with built-in application acceleration and optimization capabilities. We have established points of presence globally that allow us to target any knowledge worker with a sub-30-millisecond latency then we have an edge footprint, which is our services edge node. We can host security or remote access on top of that and connect to different cloud providers, SaaS providers or private clouds, essentially delivered multi-cloud networking. The whole construct of WAN including the last mile, we take ownership of getting away the complexity and being able to manage and deliver all of that as a service.

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMO
Aryaka CMO: You need to have a certain set of building blocks in your own daily, monthly or quarterly cadence that will allow you to drive more predictability

 

Good luck to you and your team. Brand and growing the brand awareness is one piece, but then there’s also the whole notion of how do you track if you’re growing the brand because you won’t know it until 3, 6 or 12 months later. In addition, you need to continue to do your messaging, the portfolio pricing, as well as the whole dimension. One final question before I let you go, if you were to give a shout out to your peers in the industry, who are those top 2 or 3 good market leaders that you look up to who inspire you and who you learn from?

There are a lot of people that I learned from. Some of the people are not necessarily marketing people, but they do a ton of different ideas. Our CEO, Matt Carter, comes in from a marketing background himself, probably more from B2C marketing. You draw many of your inspirations from people in startup environments. A lot of CEOs are marketing savvy. A lot of my peers have gone through a similar journey as I have. Every time you get together and brainstorm, we try to reach out to each other and say, “What’s working in your role?” I’m also an advisor to a few startups and venture firms. I draw a lot of inspiration and ideas from people who are trying out something new for the first time. They haven’t cracked the go-to-market nut, but there’s bright directional learning that happens there. It’s a combination of these different people. I’ve had some good bosses in the past as well as much as I have right here.

Any names that you want to share?

The thing with that is I’m always going to leave somebody out. I would rather keep it more inclusive than offend somebody that I leave out.

Shashi, thanks for being on the show. Good luck to you and the whole Aryaka team.

Important Links

About Shashi Kiran

B2B 3 | Aryaka CMOProven executive with 20+ years of experience in business and technology roles. I adopt a growth mindset and enjoy driving outcomes that create impact, value and deliver a positive experience. Building trust-based relationships based on integrity, authenticity and avoiding politics are core to my personality. I’ve been involved in marketing, sales, business development and product management at large global companies and smaller startups. Love solutions and connecting the dots to win big! Meritocracy, passion and humility are key ingredients of my team building formula.

Recent focus areas include: Data center, Cloud, Networking, SD-WAN, Software, Automation, DevOps, SaaS, Security, Artificial Intelligence (AI) for service engagement across Enterprise and Service Provider markets

Many marketing leaders and entrepreneurs stumble into the space by sheer discovery. For Reid Genauer, that is from starting a rock band all by himself, which eventually led him to learn the vocabulary and skills to go and transition into the marketing world. In this episode, he joins host, Vijay Damojipurapu, to share with us that colorful and bright career journey and the lessons it taught him that shaped his thinking as a marketing leader. Notably, he dives deep into the go-to-market that companies need to utilize. Reid also answers some key questions that are often faced by many leaders in the industry. How do you manage that debate between product finance and marketing? What are your goals for the next six to twelve months, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic going on? All of this and more in this insightful conversation.

Listen to the podcast here

The Go-To-Market: From Rock Bands To Marketing With Reid Genauer 

I’m super thrilled and excited to have Reid Genauer on the show. As a way of introduction, Reid has a very colorful and bright career that started off in a rock band or music band all by himself, and then transitioned into the marketing world. Reid, welcome.

Thank you. It’s great to be here. My friends and family would describe me as colorful as well.

You have a very distinct bio in the sense that you didn’t start off in the marketing career. You started off doing your own music and rock band, but something triggered you to get into marketing. Can you share your thoughts on what led you to this journey?

As a teenager, I had a passion for music. There was no question in my mind that’s what I was going to do. I was going to go out and play in a rock band. I started writing songs in the seventh grade. My future is like this question mark. If that canvas was painted black waiting for the color, it was like a point of light that I headed towards. There is a whole side story about my musical life that’s interesting in achieving and chasing that certainty. I was supporting myself and then at the age of 22, 24, there was ten of us full-time doing this as bottoms up, DYI, which is the norm these days. This was in late ‘90s. We were a little ahead of the curve. I wouldn’t have called it this then, but looking back we needed strategy, positioning, infrastructure and go-to market.

What was fascinating is we bootstrapped it and learned these things as we went. After nearly ten years of doing that, I went to business school. I was like, “That was called strategy, positioning, product-market fit, go-to market in the forms of direct mail, newsletters and such promotion, etc.” We recorded our own records, produced them, distributed them ourselves. We were vertically integrated. It was a very painful transition for me personally, but in regards to my personal and professional growth, it was transformative in that I had all this raw material and all this real-life experience. All of a sudden, I had the context, the vocabulary and the skillset to not only describe it but replicate it in another setting.

I don’t think of myself as a marketer. I think of myself as an entrepreneur. That go-to market happens to be the piece of the puzzle that I was trying to impart. I have to be honest coming from this life as a songwriter and an entrepreneur. At the time, I did brand marketing, private equity/finance or consulting. Part of the reason I don’t want to be in a band anymore is I played in 48 out of 50 states. I’ve been in transit for the last several years.

For the benefit of the audience, are you talking about your time at Cornell Johnson School while you’re doing your MBA and you’re trying to figure out what next?

Yeah. I was evaluating the three main rounds. Consulting for me was a deal killer that you had to be gone all the time. I wish I knew more about venture capitalism and private equity. What it comes down to was my dad was a commercial banker. He wore a gray suit every day. I was like, “No, check that one off.” I felt closest to the creative process. There’s the behavioral science part of marketing, which is interesting. It’s like being an anthropologist. That was how I landed on that channel. Ultimately, I wanted to get to where I am, be part of a leadership team, and guiding the direction of an organization.

This is something that I’ve seen especially with the various product or even marketing leaders and even entrepreneurs. It’s all about the opportunity or what they need to do to get to the next stage. In your case, when you are trying to build up the rock band and trying to increase awareness, bring the audience, create publicity and get to the channel or the customer segment, you need to figure out all the various pieces, which you refer to as the positioning, the messaging, the marketing strategy, the various channels and so on. I see a single thread running across even with the various entrepreneurs, which is “I’ve got this cool product, but is this product serving the customer segment?” Even if I step back, who is the customer segment? What is the pain point? It’s a constant circle of questions, insights and hypothesis, which leads you to a natural good market state of thinking.

I have two responses to that. One is that tends to be the way that I approach assessing a company, whether or not I want to be a part of it or if I want to create it. Where I extend my energy and where I need to focus as part of the executive team is to look at what the critical path is like, what’s the blocker here? That’s an interesting way because many times throughout a company’s growth, you hit a roadblock. It’s understanding what that roadblock is and what the “medicine” is for that particular pain point. It might be across any one of those. It’s not always in historic marketing definition.

That’s why I like to use the term go-to market because it could be somewhere else in the company’s DNA. What you said is important to focus on. I came to these two roles ago at Magisto, which is an automated video editor. It’s the notion of product-market fit. Part of what drew me to marketing is the behavioral science part, the anthropological part. It’s not a criticism. It’s an observation even of myself. I think there’s an abundance of technology in Silicon Valley and technologists. There’s an abundance of good ideas. There simply is not enough focus on product-market fit and on what that means, that it’s not a destination, it’s a journey.

An overt example of that is oftentimes companies are going, “Why aren’t we growing?” In effect, they’ve met the edge of their addressable market and they have to expand. You have to go through a very aggressive product-market fit cycle. There are other more nuanced ways. I spent a lot of time in video. If you look at all the video applications out there, many of them deliver the same basic gain or solve the same basic problem, which is I need to create a go-to market video. Little things like how you described the benefits, the UI and getting at those features can make all the difference. That’s a nuanced part of product-market fit. It’s like, “Do I have to become a video editor or is it very intuitive on how to kick something out that’s high quality?” If you listen to the customer in almost anything you do and it’s just not enough. Tony Hsieh is like the Dalai Lama of customer-centric go-to market. I aspire to be as one with it as he is. That’s what it comes down to.

It’s all about listening and empathy.

Related to that, the other observation I have is that in the absence of valuing that, holding that as sacred, because everyone says it’s one thing to say it. It’s a spectrum, but it’s another thing to do it as a core competency, as an organization. If you don’t, what you tend to wind up doing is burning valuable cycles on product iteration that may or may not be going down the right path. There’s a bunch of reasons that it happens. It’s somebody’s personal pet project. You’re looking at what competitors do. Sometimes it’s not an apples to apples fit. You do it because they did it, but for your business, it’s not right. I’ve been guilty of this before, sometimes by my own motive and sometimes because there’s pressure to do it. Driving more traffic to a product that doesn’t have fit is like putting a band that stinks in front of a huge audience. It doesn’t matter how big the audience is if the music isn’t any good. It’s a lot of that where it’s like more traffic, better traffic. If the drummer can’t keep it timed, you can put a bigger audience as you want and the lead singer is up, it’s not going to work.

Notionally and in principle, leaders across the company, the C-Suite or even one level below get that. You hit upon a very important point, which is due to the various pressures either from the top leadership or from the board or from the investors, there’s this pressure of, “We don’t care, you need to deliver results.” There’s the irony and circular dependency of in order for you to deliver the results, you need to understand the market. It’s like, “It doesn’t matter. Keep pumping money and deliver the results or drive traffic.” At what point in time would you step up as a leader? I’ve seen that personally. I’ve struggled at various times. I’ve seen others struggle as well.

That’s a complex question because the other reality, it’s easy to sit and pontificate about this stuff generally. It’s harder when you’re in the tag of war. We all make the same mistakes over and over. It’s like a trip around the sun. You learn something each time. For me, either if it’s in a new role or if I’m at a company that you can feel and seeing the numbers is plateauing, that’s often when the realization hits me and I need to take a step back and look at the bigger problem or the bigger opportunity, and why we’re not capturing. We go through an audit almost of how we’re structured, what we’re offering, and what the market trends are.

There are three stools, the company itself, your current, future and past customers in some cases, and the market itself. You should be doing it in a very awake fashion all the time. You get sucked into execution and it’s unavoidable because as a startup, you have to live to fight another day. It’s the George Washington thing. Sometimes you have to compromise on doing things that are short-term and inherently flawed to keep the patient healthy enough to get to the emergency rooms.

Looking back at your journey, after the MBA, you started in brand marketing at Snapple, and then you grew in the ranks. You moved a bit into the consumer and the B2B space. What would you say are the real inflection points or how did that journey shape your thinking as a marketing leader?

Once I made the decision to stop doing music full-time, I was doing a product-market fit evaluation on myself. I realized that part of it was rational and part of it was gut that I wanted to be at the intersection of technology and media. I wanted to be an entrepreneur because all of those things have creative components. I tended to work at companies that deal with mass creativity, eMusic which is independent music, Fox Mobile where I launched over the top television, and Magisto which is social singing.

B2B 2 | Go-To-Market
Go-To-Market: Many times throughout a company’s growth, you hit a roadblock. It’s understanding what that roadblock is and what the “medicine” is for that particular pain point.

 

There’s been the literal creative and then there’s the broader definition of creative. Auto mechanics and accountants can be creative in how they approach their jobs. Company building and entrepreneurship is a creative exercise metaphorically and literally. You’re building a company. It’s like building a tree fort. I always loved doing it, but what do you do once the tree fort is built? You sit in it for a day and then you go and build the next one. Larger companies for me were never attractive. It’s equivalent to sitting in the tree fort or making slight improvements to it.

I knew this is where I wanted to be. The tech industry has changed so much since I went to business school in 2000. There was no Google. There was no on-campus recruiting. I had a job offer from Unilever. I chose Snapple over Unilever because it was less traditional and a better fit for me. I looked at it as part of almost like finishing school for my MBA. It’s what you do and I’m glad I did. First of all, even though I took data-driven marketing and entrepreneurship at school, it’s focused on brand management. I went and put the skills that I learned to use.

I acquired other ones. I took that into the tech world. It’s been an interesting journey. The first company I went to work for was eMusic. I knew them because I had been distributed by them when digital music first hit. I forget what the other one was. It’s like Audio Lunchbox or something. There were two of them. I was like, “This is an interesting company. This space is going to grow.” When I went there, digital music was like 6% of the market. I don’t know what the stat was then, but it’s the bulk of them. It was fascinating. What was very clear early on were two things. One was, there was no role for me long-term and no career path without doing data-driven marketing, growth marketing.

That’s where I got my ninja skills for that component of go-to market. I’d say there were three big takeaways. Two is that those companies need strategy positioning and branding like any other company. At the time, they didn’t realize it. Interestingly, they are leading the way in terms of how you deliver that to the consumer because of the digital disruption. When I started working at eMusic, the word brand was almost a four-letter word. I was like, “Don’t even utter it in my presence.” It’s because people didn’t understand what it was.

You turn around and X-teen years later, they’re the ones that are defining it. A lot of consumer-packaged goods and physical products are looking to digitally native companies to understand how to articulate a brand, and how to position a company in a digital world. It’s a different exercise. The last thing I was going to say is that the power dynamic is very different. As a brand manager, you are a GM more or less. You’re a little king in a way. If you could have seen me two years, I’m not sure you would have given me this responsibility.

First of all, the technology, not that they’re holding anybody ransom, it’s just the nature of these businesses. The technologists are the power center. If the band can’t play, then there’s only so much the marketer can do. They tend to have more of the resources depending on the business. If you have a product that has any technological sophistication, you’re going to have more of the employees there. The ways that the functional departments interact is distinctly different than traditional companies. It’s better and leading the way. It’s still flawed within tech companies, but it’s much more integrated than traditional.

You hit up on a couple of key points, one which is very relevant to the audience and to this show is the balance between product, which you refer to as a technologist, and the data that the marketing team, be it brand or product marketing, or even other like data-driven marketing operations. That data which they had to bring to the table and justify budget are investments. This is a constant challenge. I’ve seen that play out at the C-Suite level as well. Do we allocate more budget and resources to engineering, which is incremental or new features, versus dedicate X amount of dollars for investing in a new brand? If not a new brand, what are the campaigns that we need to run? This is a constant struggle. How do you manage that debate that goes on in the C-Suite between product finance and then marketing?

I’d go back to my original answer. It’s imperfect because there are things like personal ego. I’ll talk to some of the forces that often drive us to make the wrong decisions on that front. The core for me is looking at critical path. Let’s say a company is more mature and the basic infrastructure, because the pace of innovation is so rapid, Moore’s Law, it may be that you have such institutional debt in your infrastructure. That’s your critical path. You can’t do the things you know you should do because the code base is either so old or Millennium Falcon-like. In that case, as a marketer, you have to do this balancing act.

I would argue to give up some of my marketing budget to fix that so that we can then take a step back so we can move forward. If we take an honest assessment of saying the onboarding experience, we look at the numbers and we say, “We’re driving tons of traffic.” They seem to be qualified and they’re falling off at this point, then I would argue for a product. If it’s something stupid like the onboarding process and the UI is confusing, I would argue for that. If we have this amazing band that’s been practicing for ten years in the basement has invented a new style of music, the world loves it and it’s just a matter of bringing it to them, then I would fight for more budget on my side.

It’s never that binary because you have to live to fight another day. You tend to focus on your needs and wants as a department head. If it’s truly a technology company and/or product company, the core activity of what you do is invent. Oftentimes, I’m tempted to say an injustice because it sometimes feels that way with me, but it’s not an injustice. It’s a bias. There’s a second reason for this. One is this is what we do. We don’t have to justify the budget. We’re in the business of inventing things so we have to fund that.

The second is true customer or product-market fit is very inter-departmental. It can be fed by mid-level employees, but it has to be driven from the top. It’s uncomfortable. You have to be able to distill all different forms of the quantitative and qualitative information. You need to toggle between TED-like 100,000-foot observations and ground level observations to find it. Either the leadership doesn’t have the time to do it because they’re running the company or they don’t like it because it’s not as binary as some of the other functions.

Lastly, advertising is the most binary at least in the short-term. You spend a dollar and you see the return. What you don’t see is the lifetime value. That is hidden in the product-market fit. It’s hidden in the product execution. It’s hidden in the institutional debt. It’s much harder to read. It’s why we tend to focus on the head of the funnel. In general, my thesis is listen to the customer and focus on the end of the funnel first. What are you truly selling before you dump? It’s not a way of getting out of my job. I look at that as part of my job, as part of our go-to market to say, “We can go out and start spending money, but what are we selling it to who? What is the core value?” It’s often not even in what you’re selling.

Tony Hsieh is a genius. He’s selling happiness. The product happens to be shoes. Most companies are like that. There are some exceptions. Network routing, I’m not sure you would argue. You could say you’re selling stability, but there’s an emotional benefit to most products, B2B and B2C. You have to start with and then say, “What’s the functional benefit after that?” There’s a path to market that starts with, what’s the core of what we’re selling? Do we understand that? Oftentimes when you unpack it, you don’t or the company doesn’t. Maybe 2 out of 5, or 5 out of 5 of the leadership team does, but there isn’t good middleware to communicating that to the rest of the company. They’re not sure why they’re executing every day. They just come in and march.

You touched upon several points in what you covered. One point I’d like us to deep dive into further is the challenge area that you mentioned, which is the go-to market is not owned by one single function. It’s a cross-functional initiative. Most often what happens is the mid-level people would see it like a director of product or sales, or even director of customer sales and marketing would see that. Their views and effort or impact that they can make is very siloed within that one function. It has to boil up to the C-Suite, the top-level leadership, who has a broader view or come from it.

In early-stage companies, it does by definition. As the company grows, it gets harder for the leadership to do it and/or they never loved doing it in the first place.

Everything in motion, it happens. The go-to market motion continues to go on. As long as the results are delivered, it’s not a pain point.

When you hit some plateau or snafu, you start to ask the question of, what is it here? Is it we’re not bringing in enough people or we don’t qualify the leads well enough? The value proposition isn’t strong enough. The pricing structure is wrong. There are all questions you start to ask. It’s a nuanced, but powerfully different answer depending at what stage company you’re in. The question is still the same which is, what is our process for gathering that information, distilling it and executing against it? I don’t think there’s one single answer, but here’s something that I propose. If the leadership team agrees at something critical ideally in the ongoing DNA either in the inception of a company or an inflection point, which is a generous crisis, what’s the process for doing this?

I also think it’s a lot to ask of middle management to do on their own because it takes some pattern recognition or helps to have it, and it’s not so much the seniority as the way the individual’s mind works. What product-market fit is you have to be able to watch seventeen televisions or more like read five articles, watch seven televisions, listen to nine podcasts and talk to 100 people at once. That takes a certain type of brain to be able to find the signal to noise in that. What I would recommend for any company is that there’s a pyramid where there’s an agreement on these are the things we need to know and these are the ways we’re going to gather the information. That information gets packaged and sent to a central owner and even the content itself in a central repository so it all lives in one place.

There can be a hypothesis and observations presented to either senior leadership or presented by senior leadership to a CEO. At some point though, the senior leadership and the CEO has to get their hands dirty at not only in synthesizing the end outcome but listening to at least one radio station, watching 1 or 2 television shows so that you have your own sense of the market and your own touch by which to assess the larger data sets that come in. If you don’t, it lacks context. Not that I’m genius about it or anything, but I’ll see something different than somebody else will.

B2B 2 | Go-To-Market
Go-To-Market: When you have to live to fight another day, you tend to focus on your needs and wants as a department head.

 

There are a couple of thoughts running in my head. One is someone like a GM or a COO, depending on the stage of the company and size of the company. There’s someone central who is viewing all these seventeen television channels, who is reading all these magazines, listening to the podcast and then synthesize it, boiling it down to 3 or 5 insights. Who is that one person and how often does it need to happen?

The hard truth is the CEO should be running it. It depends where many tech companies are challenged that the CEO is not doing the job they should be doing, which is being a CEO. They’re still busy being head of a product or technology. If the company is mature enough that the COO and the various department heads, or if the CEO is being a CEO, he or she should be able to do that, raise money, have a vision, understand the market, translate that vision of the company and hire the right people. That’s your job.

For some reason, we cannot generally say all these things, but will you say that this is an opportunity for an outside person or a consultant to bring in and build that muscle? It’s more of reminding or bringing in that outside perspective for the CEO to make the decision.

I was starting by pointing out what should be, but what you’re saying is that’s not probably the reality and I tend to agree with you. My bias is not to lean on a consultant to do that because it has to be part of the company DNA. Maybe to get you oriented and help you jumpstart, maybe as one of those voices. My experience is a consultant can’t come in and do that work for you because they’re not part of the company. They can come in and maybe hold up some blind spots that you have or be one of those many sources of information.

The 1 or 2 times that I’ve been most successful at it, there have been consultants who have lent various positioning like broad generalists who deliver information, focus groups or survey companies, third-party data, consultants who come in and work with you to sort through it all. There are roles for consultants. To put that in a consultant’s hands would be blasphemy in my opinion. That would be like handing the car over to my fourteen-year-old to drive. That’s not responsible. The short answer is the CEO has to be involved, to what degree is questionable, and in the absence of that, it can be a CMO, a head of product, a chief strategy officer, these relatively new CXO or Chief Experience Officer. That one strikes me as the most obvious CMO or CXO working in tandem with product. That’s how I think of that.

As we move more towards closing, I’ve got last few questions for you. One is what are your big goals for the next 6, 12 months? How are you going about prioritizing from a go-to market perspective? If you had an extra budget, which area or where would you invest your resources, either in key hires or bringing in external experts?

I know the nature of this question is more tactical, but I’m going to answer it with what I call a Bill Clinton answer, a politician’s answer. It’s partly what interests me most right now is that even prior to COVID, there’s a disruption that’s going on globally in more than marketing. What sums it up for me is the medium is the message. Any of us in marketing and media refer to that phrase. I went back and read it because I wasn’t 100% sure I understood it. The notion is that media messages and stories are an extension. It’s an ecosystem and an extension of the human nervous system and human psychology, sociology and market.

It’s deep observations that came from this guy before things like the internet even existed. His point is that there are two ecosystems. One is the nature of the message and the medium. My message might be talking about customer development. If I were to deliver that in a written, scripted pen and quill message on parchment paper, that would be different. It would affect you differently receiving it than if I typed it on a typewriter, than if I telegraphed it to you or if I called you on the phone or if we did a video. The nature of the medium affects the message, the richness of it and the quality of it. With 50% of the world not just on digital but also on social, it means we are connected to each other in a way we never have been.

The medium is social and it is video. It’s not to say there aren’t others, but that’s the central one of our time. The message is the individual new narrative. It’s me. Look at what we spent an hour doing, telling you my individual narratives. That is inherently different than the history of humankind, which has been top down narrative. Here’s the story, consume it. To the extent that you want to debate it, you do it as water cooler chatter that’s perishable. It’s not a body of media. Nowadays, it’s the largest body of media and it’s the largest dataset in the world, personal opinion. When you think about go-to market, you have to think about that. I would call it a crisis for anyone who needs to deliver a message to a large group of people. That’s one.

The perception is that there is not a Unilever, and to some degree there isn’t a Unilever playbook exactly. There is a tool chest. Where it’s interesting as it’s being defined from the bottom up. It’s native digital companies and it’s companies run by Millennials that understand how to do this. It has to be synthesized and adapt it for larger organizations. That’s one. Two, part of that playbook is redefining how we conceptualize knowledge. When I was a kid and you wanted to learn about George Washington from home, you opened the Encyclopedia Britannica and there were four paragraphs, and that was knowledge.

Now there are new findings and new information being added at such a staggering rate that part of the playbook for any go-to market, any company has to be that learning is the new knowing. There are certain static things that we can depend on. Here’s how we deliver brand. First of all, let’s make sure a company understands what the difference between corporate ideas and branding. There are still concrete truths. A large part of it, the tip of the sphere has to be learning what is now and adjusting.

This applies to both the B2B as well as the consumer companies.

I would say as much because companies for the first time in history are competing with consumers for attention. Let’s say you’re a CTO looking for a CRM solution. You’re the CRM provider. You think of all the information that’s bombarding the CTO both directly business related and otherwise. You’re fighting all of that noise to land your signals. How do you do it?

You raised a very important point. People tend to forget that even though you’re doing a B2B marketing and sales program, at the end of the day, the receiving indigent is the customer.

We talk about LTV, retention and users. We should use the word people more and consider them. At some level, there’s still this hangover from the industrial revolution where go-to market was advertising. It’s not. Marketing is more of a sales cycle than it is an advertising exercise.

Have you heard of this book Scientific Advertising?

No. Do you recommend it?

Absolutely. This was written way back in 1920s and I was reading it. It says the exact same principles that we as go-to market organizations try to implement as best practices. It’s 100 years old. It’s the same repeat. They’re still trying to do the same thing.

It’s the same with McLuhan. He said, “The medium is the message.” That was 1917 or something. It’s still relevant now. I appreciate that.

B2B 2 | Go-To-Market
Go-To-Market: Media messages and stories are an extension. It’s an ecosystem and an extension of the human nervous system, psychology, sociology, and market.

 

One final question, any shout out to 2 or 3 go-to market leaders who you see or you look up to as role models or peers that you use them as a sounding board or speak with them?

I don’t know Tony Hsieh well. I’ve met him once or twice but I look up to him. He understands this and the reason I call him the Dalai Lama is because you have to be able to hold some of this woo-woo looser ideology to execute the tactical part. He does. The guy is selling happiness. He’s convicted and he’s succeeding. He’s a great example. Another one is the guy who started SaaStr, Jason Lemkin. He wrote a blog post on how he goes to market. It’s fascinating to read because in it he says, “I honestly can’t tell you what works, but I can tell you what I do.” What’s so interesting is he does what I was pointing to. It’s all bottoms up and it’s almost all him. He goes and participates as an individual in the attention economy, within the tribe that he is speaking to. He’s built a healthy business and the largest community of SaaS-based B2B organizations on the planet by doing exactly what I was describing. That’s how it translates. I got inspired myself by answering that question. It’s a great read if you can find that blog post.

Thank you so much, Reid. It’s a wonderful conversation. You shared a lot of insights into how companies, individuals and leaders should think of a go-to market. As a wrap-up note, if someone wants to reach out to you or learn more about you, where can they find you?

It’s at Reid@ReidGenauer.com or LinkedIn is another decent one. It’s like my fifth inbox of the day to check. I’d start with my email.

Thank you once again. As always, you showed practical insights and thought leadership material for people to think about and up-level their go-to market. Thank you.

Important Links

 

About Reid Genauer

B2B 2 | Go-To-MarketEntrepreneur, Leader & Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) with deep experience in product market fit, data-driven growth, branding. Proven track record of scaling early-stage tech companies. Industry thought leader for mobile, social, video, music & media.

I’m a new bread of marketing executive and support a new definition of marketing that spans disciplines and cross-functional teams. One that marries the power of story with data-driven insights and agile product development. Consumer sentiment is no longer perishable water cooler talk but rather the largest living body of media the world has ever known. Digital culture is defined by a nuanced set of social norms, unfathomable velocity, and oceans of information. My “superpower” is finding the signal amidst the white noise of the Attention Economy and translating that into product-market fit, corporate strategy and high impact execution. I’ve successfully launched and scaled B2C and B2B products by leading with customer needs, hearing their voice and answering it.

LEADERSHIP STYLE:
I’m energized by leading diverse personalities, interdisciplinary teams and inspired digital businesses. I help my teams succeed by fueling a culture of curiosity, passion, and possibility. With a high degree of emotional IQ and interpersonal trust, I help my teams deliver focused strategy, decisive tactical execution, honest analysis and iterative scale. I live at the cross-section of data, technology, and imagination. I love what I do.

COMBINING CRITICAL THINKING AND IMAGINATION:
I value decisive decision-making informed by a combination of analytics and conviction. The entrepreneurial sense of possibility inspires my belief in vision and imagination as a driver of value creation. Business intelligence, data analytics, and insights supports that belief and informs my actions.

MARKETING EXPERTISE:
(B2C, SMB, B2B2C)
-Scaling Start-Ups
-Product Market Fit
-Branding/Positioning
-Go-To-Market
-Customer Acquisition, Retention, and Revenue
-Product Marketing and CRM
-Business Development, Partnerships, and Sales Enablement
-Analytics & Customer Research
-Earned, Owned and Paid Media at Scale
-Paid Media
-Media Relations,
-Content Marketing
-Social Marketing
-SEO/ASO 

B2B 1 | B2B Go-To-Market Leaders

B2B 1 | B2B Go-To-Market Leaders

Welcome to the B2B Go-To-Market Leaders podcast! The show where host Vijay Damojipurapu deconstructs how top good market leaders operate. In this pilot episode, he gives you a brief view of the exciting things to expect from the show. Get into this journey to more knowledge with Vijay, guiding you to navigate the industry while becoming the better version of yourself.

Listen to the podcast here

B2B Go-To-Market Leaders Podcast: A Show That Deconstructs How Top Good Market Leaders Operate

The show where I deconstruct how top good market leaders operate. You’ll hear the strategy, their budget, what works, what doesn’t, how many people are on their team, their roles, who reports to who, how they set goals and more. Let me share some backstory. This is the second show. What I observed during my first was that I enjoyed the deep conversations with my guests and they did too. Conversations that reveal how they think about their journey and what inspires them to get better. Here is what you can expect from this show. You’ll get to listen to folks who are responsible for product, sales, marketing or even customer success teams. My desire is not to stop there. I’ve been listening to various podcasts across several domains over the years. A common pattern that stood up for me is that the podcast host speaks with experts and deep thinkers from diverse and adjacent fields. When it comes to the show, you can also expect to read about investors, entrepreneurs, professors and even bestselling authors. Get ready to read, learn and become a better version of yourself.

B2B Go-To-Market Leaders podcast is the show that deconstructs how top good market leaders operate.

B2B 1 | B2B Go-To-Market Leaders
B2B Go-To-Market Leaders: Read, learn, and become a better version of yourself.

 

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