B2B 14 | Audience Connection

B2B 14 | Audience Connection

 

Today’s technology brought the marketing strategy into the age of information overload, changing the game forever. Despite this change, building a strong audience connection is one thing that will evolve but never go away. Therefore, at every marketing level, what you can deliver is what will matter, even more than your brand name. Vijay Damojipurapu sits down with Tolgar Alpagut to talk about handling feedback to improve their processes, delivering content regularly through online means, and the importance of reliable customer service. He also provides a glimpse of how they do marketing technology as the Vice President of Marketing at Tatsoft, talking about building their own communities in today’s challenging setting and their action plans for 2021.

Listen to the podcast here

Tolgar Alpagut: Why Forging Audience Connection Is Important In Today’s Market

This is yet another episode with another top-performing go-to-market leaders. I have the opportunity and the vehicle to discuss, engage, and learn from Tolgar. He is the VP of Marketing at Tatsoft. Welcome to the show, Tolgar.

Thank you for having me, Vijay.

My signature question and what my audience also look up to and look forward to in my show is this, “How do you define go-to-market?” 

That’s a loaded question. Is it not? Go-to-market is in the absence of a strategy that says, “If you build it, they will come.” In terms of what I would define as go-to-market, there are multiple prongs. Traditionally, we think of it as focused on being product or service-centric in terms of how we are going to get the word out as it were about what we do. There are also other facets in terms of customer relationships. There’s employee advocacy, which is a key one that some companies may want to focus on more. Ironically enough, I’m presenting at a webcast, and tongue-in-cheek, I posted two videos of presentation styles, which were Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer when Windows 95 came out and Steve Jobs when the iPhone came out in 2007.

At a fundamental level, everyone is a marketer through their friends and family. Click To Tweet

Completely distinctive presentation styles. I went back and watched that video with Steve Jobs because it’s been a while. The thing about him is, he’s rolling out this brand-new product that no one’s seen and it’s revolutionary. It’s not just a blue ocean or red ocean distinction. They’re not modifying by price or building a better mousetrap, they’re innovating. When you bring something like that to market, you have to anticipate what the reaction of the market is going to be, the nuances of the new challenges, and also the new ecosystem you’re going to create.

Thinking in that scope, I think of go-to-market about understanding the market’s needs. Breaking it down in terms of how you’re going to deliver your product or service, your product roadmap. Breaking down how you’re going to execute upon that and then measuring all along the way. That’s the challenge, strategically speaking, strategies are crafted, tactics are employed, but the measurements are not always there. They’re not in a cycle that’s often enough.

That was the key takeaway for me when I watched Steve Jobs. I thought about that. I said, “I’m going to be on this podcast. Let me see how he does this,” because he had a vision in terms of the anticipation of what the market was going to come back with so that they could adapt quickly. New problems arose from having this phone having all of these capabilities. It opens up a multitude of things that you can’t even anticipate. In any go-to-market strategy, a part of it is speed, resilience, and deep knowledge of the market and what they’re telling you as a response.

B2B 14 | Audience Connection
Audience Connection: The marketing platform is a jar with pebbles and water. The platform is the water that fills all the gaps of your existing infrastructure.

 

That’s a great way you put it there, Tolgar. It’s diverse. It’s not a one-time and done. Go-to-market is a sequence of activities. It’s ongoing. The way I see it and I’ve seen with leading go-to-market leaders track it or verify if something is working or not is through feedback. Your feedbacks are those metrics that you need to have. It’s an ongoing process. 

It’s dynamic.

It’s a huge contrast when you compare Bill Gates versus Steve Jobs. Both are successful in their own way. This goes to show that there are diverse go-to-market approaches and there’s no one set formula.

That, quite frankly, is the scope of all of marketing. You will have a baseline of fundamental things that you can do, but it’s the 20% of innovation and trying different things that will help separate you and your go-to-market strategy. 

In their own ways, if you look at it, both of their go-to-market approaches are true to their brand, their culture, and how they operate day in and day out.

It acts as an extension of who they are, without a doubt.

That’s a great eye-opener and insight that you revealed. Share with me how you approached your career, your overall story around your professional career journey and what you do.

Marketing is a combination of informing and entertaining the audience. Click To Tweet

I don’t know anyone who, as a child, says, “When I grow up, I want to be a marketer.” For me, marketing encompasses all of my eclecticism. I’ve been fortunate enough to try anything and everything that I can. I started out, initially, looking to become a doctor. There was a bit of a pivot. In the early 2000s, I got my degree in Sound Design for film and television. I’ve sold cars. I’ve worked in a medical office. I’ve lived all over the world.

All of those things have been an extension of who I am, but what they’ve given me is the ability to understand people in a way that is an asset in marketing. It’s understanding the behavior and psychology. It’s a mix of art, science, and data. It was the profession that hit the sweet spot and allowed me to still maintain creativity but build the solid foundation of data and analytics and some of the other things that I’m interested in like technology.

Marketing? Yes. No one imagined as a kid that, “I wanted to be a marketer.” There will be exceptions for sure. It applies to me, and I’ve seen that in other cases, you almost get pulled into marketing. You need to feel that pull. For me, I started as an engineer. I never imagined myself succeeding in a non-technical role, which is more around, “How do people think? What motivations do people have when they take a certain set of actions or inaction for that matter?” It boils down to that gray area, which you cannot be taught at school. That’s something that you need to figure out whether you have that ability or maybe you develop that ability to empathize. It’s a psychology aspect as well. 

The interesting thing for me is, I often hear from marketers in their organization that they work in, everyone gives them input. Everyone is a marketer. It’s not presented in a way that is necessarily positive. People are saying, “You should do this, do that.” At a fundamental level, everyone is a marketer in the fact that they have friends and family. What does that mean? They’ve built relationships. They’ve offered knowledge. They’ve informed these people in their life. There’s some level of connection that they understand, but the execution, the details, the strategy, and the planning is for those that are pursuing it as a career. 

Double-clicking on that. Anyone and everyone in organizations seem to have opinions and input to marketing, which is detrimental as well. How do you handle those situations where someone says, “The messaging on this new product page sucks? It doesn’t resonate. It doesn’t reflect who we are. The featured details are not there. Why did you omit a certain set of features? Why did you omit X, Y, Z versus A, B, C over there?” How do you, as a marketing leader, approach that conversation? 

B2B 14 | Audience Connection
Audience Connection: In today’s overabundance of information, marketers have a responsibility to screen it down to be accessible for anyone at the business level.

 

I have an open-door policy. It’s always better to acquire as much information and feedback as possible and then make the decisions. If someone’s going to come to me and say, “This sucks” or, “This needs this,” my first question is, “Why and how can it be better?” If you’re going to come to me with something, then try to also offer a solution from your perspective that you see. Based on that, then we can determine if that’s something we’re willing to test and try, and then the data will tell us if it does truly resonate or not.

Jumping on to the more fun part, not that what we discussed is not fun but more on the lighter side, how would your kids describe what you do on a daily basis?

I have a daughter who I approached and said, “What does dad do, and what is marketing?” Her exact words were, “You help give information to people who want to learn more.” That was right to the point.

You’ve got a smart daughter. It succinctly encapsulates what a marketer ought to be doing. 

At the fundamental, I always tell her what I love about what I do is that it’s partially informing and it’s partially entertaining. There can be a mix of that, and that’s what makes this career enjoyable. 

Switching gears a bit. Tell us a bit about what Tatsoft does and how you are shaping the overall go-to-market and the marketing strategy there.

Tatsoft is an industrial software company and we create a platform that essentially works anywhere across the board in terms of manufacturing and industrial, from conductivity at a low plant level all the way up to enterprise. Incorporating things that might be housed under Industry 4.0, digital transformation initiatives, or IIoT, which is the Industrial Internet of Things. I always try to boil all of that down into a way that I could describe to my daughter. Our platform is if you can imagine a jar with pebbles and pour water, our platform is the water. It fits and fills all the gaps in your existing infrastructure.

Who do you serve by that question? Who are your customers? Why and what do they look forward to when they engage with Tatsoft?

It’s all across the board in terms of industrial and manufacturing. Without getting into the specifics, I’ll say that the folks who purchase our platform are going to be systems integrators, primarily. We’re working on an ecosystem. The end-users whom they serve with the solutions they create, and then OEMs. Those are the three primary. 

Before you came onboard versus now and how we are looking at it in 2021, how would you describe how you have evolved the overall go-to-market strategy for Tatsoft? 

There are a couple of things. I joined back in March of 2020, right when I thought, “I can make an impact on this business and let me help it launch,” because they were working on a new release. It’s almost the way that Google dictates and ranks pages. It is about relevancy of information and the speed at which it’s delivered. You said you had an engineering background, but often, in a lot of technical institutions I’ve worked for, there is an overabundance of information.

Sometimes to the point where it’s so technical and so deep that it almost omits anyone else who’s at another layer. My goal was to come in and say, “How do we edit this down? How do we make it so that it’s accessible for anyone from the business level all the way to that individual engineer who’s going to want to know the nuances of the technology?” Work towards everything in terms of our rebranding effort around that concept. I try to think of ourselves as an on-demand industrial software company, much the way that you may not buy the entire album, you want that one song or you may want that one movie on Netflix. It’s similar in terms of what we do. It’s about delivering the right information at the right time to the right person.

Today's marketers must understand how to scale and pivot rapidly in today's critical environment. Click To Tweet

Can you double-click on that? That’s the holy grail of marketing, but as you and I know, it’s quite challenging to figure it out, even to know if we, as marketers, are doing the job we ought to be doing, which is delivering the information at the right time, at the right place, and to the right person. That combination is hard. What are you doing in terms of how you’re telling the information, how you’re conveying it, and how you’re measuring if it’s resonating or not?

We’re definitely focused on establishing the buyer journey. Before my involvement, that may have been somewhat of a gray area in some aspects. We’ve put a lot of technologies out there that help us capture signals around intent. I don’t know if you want me to go into anything specific.

Yes, please, even your MarTech Stack, maybe something that you are using that’s given you more insights. 

For instance, we have ZoomInfo, which is our data repository. They have what they call websites, which is pixel tracking via the web to know which companies are visiting our site. We’ve got Microsoft Clarity, which gives us insight in terms of what they’re doing on the site visually and we can see all of that information. It’s a recording of the video. It physically shows the person’s session. You can see their mouse, what they’re clicking on. It’s a free tool from Microsoft. It’s a hidden secret.

I’m not sure why Microsoft has not pushed it out as much as I would expect. It was something that they had internally for about two years. They’ve incorporated machine learning, but for the free version, it gives you heat map information, it ties into Google analytics. You do have your dashboard that you would traditionally have. From there, it also shows you the viewing size. You can physically see the dimensions of the phone or the tablet and how your website appears to them. You then can track the mouse movements and what they’re clicking on.

What’s interesting about it is it also measures things like rage clicks. If they’re just clicking around looking for something that’s not there, it’s a little more user behavior. That’s more about their experience, it doesn’t give us a ton of insight into the buyer’s journey. Traditionally speaking, we work closely with our sales channel partners who are in the frontline giving us information. That’s been the most valuable piece of information for us specifically because, with COVID, we can’t go into a manufacturing plant and meet with people anymore. We can’t necessarily go through physically seeing what they do, which is an important part of what we do. Part of the Zoom and virtual world that we live in now has omitted that portion of it. For those folks that are still there doing that, that’s where I capture. I’ve conducted about three interviews that our customers and some of the systems integrators.

It sounds like a combination of digital MarTech Stack. Of course, you need to have that, but then you also need to have the non-digital, non-technology, which is the good old survey, informational interviews, and going out there and asking. It’s funny not many people go and ask.

At the heart of everything we do is communication. We’ve gotten to a point where if the communication is the central part of the onion, we’ve added a multitude of layers with all this technology. If we realize that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and we ask them, to your point, when you said, “This sucks,” and that gives me feedback. I can get that in real time. I’m not looking at a bunch of data to figure out what the bounce rate is and what they’re doing here. I can ask them why does it suck and how can we improve it in real time?

I love what you’re doing out there. It’s about how you package, how you showcase, but at the end of the day, it’s about seeking that feedback and asking to see if it’s resonating or not. When it comes to 2021, it’s hard to believe that we are almost at the end of the first quarter in 2021. When you look at the 2021 overall, what goals did you set out for yourself and your marketing team when it comes to, “This is what we need to do this year?”

We worked on a rebranding effort and that launched in the mid of Q4. It was in the middle of November 2020, not necessarily the most opportune launch point, but it gave us some clarity to test some things out. The focus moving from there to 2021 is building our ecosystem of systems integrators. That’s the biggest focus. We’re focused on awareness. We’re focused on building brand. We’re focused on building a community of users and then supporting those systems integrators. We have a target, a number that we’re trying to reach to have partners sign up by the end of the year. We’re on track, which is fantastic. If the quarters performed the way they are, we’re going to be in good shape. 

One of the metrics is a number of partners signed up in your ecosystem, and you must be having further metrics downstream, it goes back to the partner journey and eventually to your end-user and buyer journey. Is that something that you’re looking at for this 2021?

B2B 14 | Audience Connection
Audience Connection: Many rockstar companies today have understood the importance of making information more accessible to the public by answering questions in real-time and building communities.

 

Yes, we’re tracking all of that. I apologize if you wanted me to elaborate on that. That’s a component of what we’re doing, it’s multifaceted. That is a big part of what we do because it drives everything else about the business, specifically in terms of creating that feedback loop where we have the gift of being small enough, that we’re agile as a company in terms of our development. We can implement things fairly quickly in our software.

Where we are to where we plan to be at the end of the year could pivot drastically based on the response. We have that capability, we’re resilient enough to be able to overcome that. We have revenue goals. We’re tied. We are working on account-based strategic partnerships with our partners, as well as within sales here. We have not employed a revenue ops model per se. Before my involvement, it was a lead-oriented kind of organization. We’re working to also have some strategic account-based marketing as part of our initiative. That’s something that’s ongoing. There are just some other things that we need to do first in terms of due diligence before we start focusing on that aspect. 

You touched upon this slightly when you were responding to my earlier question. When you’re looking at 2021 goals and how you’re tracking to it on the flip side, what do you see are the challenges? What I’m hearing when it comes to some of the challenges is the shift from leads, MQLs or even SQLs to how do you educate the overall go-to-market organization around, leads are one, but may not be the right indicator and metric.

I can’t speak for everyone, but most B2B have some catching up to do. The methodology of what you qualify as your lead into an MQL, and then hand off to sales is not as effective as working together towards revenue goals. The other thing that’s important is that the access to information has changed for those folks that you’re targeting. If you work from the demand gen aspect of it and you deliver information, or if they’re just researching, they already know more than the traditional lead aspect where, “I’ve captured a lead and our sales is not going to go tell them about what we do.”

That’s a big pivot. It’s not the easiest for everyone, but it’s a fundamental one that everyone needs to work to employ. The second thing is that B2B companies need to treat themselves as media companies. You need to produce. Pretend yourself that you’re a studio, you’ve got a director and actors. “What are the roles of each actor? Who’s the hero? Who’s doing what?” Define that within your company so that you can play to the strengths of each individual while delivering content in whatever form best suits you and your channels. 

Could you share for our readers and audience what you’re doing specifically around the LinkedIn Live sessions with your CTO and others? 

Always aim for progress instead of mere perfection. Click To Tweet

When I joined our organization, one of the things that I wanted to do and looking at other companies in our sphere and what they’re doing was there wasn’t a level of accessibility to the leadership in a company. I wanted to create an interactive environment where our CTO, who’s also the founder of our company and knows our software line by line of code, was accessible in a way that it’s almost stumped the expert.

We’ve been doing this for about weeks and looking at the consumption of the videos on YouTube, when you look at the historical timeline, we’ve already accounted for almost 40% of hours consumed out of the last years. Things are resonating and based on the questions that we get in real time, people are engaged. It’s given us a level of credibility and authority in a way that we’re approachable. That’s a key thing for me. You don’t necessarily know in any company if you can reach out to leadership. That’s a big part of what we do, to say, “We want to treat ourselves in a horizontal fashion, that it’s not a hierarchy. You’re not going to have to go through channels. You can just come directly to us.”

This is music to my ears. The reason why I say that is when I advise my clients around how they can improve the content strategy, as well as how they can improve the brand, it all boils down to putting information that’s valuable to your audience. When I say brand, brand is not that gray area murky thing. It’s all about you as an organization coming across and showing your human side. Put out your leaders out there, put out individuals in your marketing, sales, and support team and create that person-to-person connection. 

In the mid-’90s, you may go to a rock concert or wherever where someone is “famous,” the chances of you engaging with that person, maybe you’re trying to get backstage, no chance. You’re hoping but there’s no accessibility. The internet came about, and now you could directly tag that person and say, “I loved you at your show.” Maybe they’d respond. It created an equal playing field. There are a lot of companies that are still treating the rock star approach rather than just saying, “Let’s be accessible at this level to answer questions in real-time and build our community.”

I love your analogy. That resonated with the audience. A rock star back in the ‘90s aloof with the audience versus a rock star now where they’re online and in touch with their audience, community 24/7 on all different social channels. It’s a night and day difference.

Those rock stars now recognize that this is a symbiotic relationship, that their success is dependent on being able to engage with the community. It’s a key part of who they are. To your point, the authenticity. We hear that term thrown a lot, it is about being human. It is not about being a corporation. It is about being the persona behind the core values of that corporation. Who is that person that will be representing the organization? 

If you were given an extra 5 or 6-digit figure in your budget for 2021, imagine the time, where would you invest that when it comes to your go-to-market strategy? 

For us, it would be around ad spend and specifically delivering content. We do it but we don’t do enough of it. Part of that is budgetary challenges, a part of it is we’re still figuring out what works and what doesn’t to begin this strategy as it were. That would be a crucial part of what we do. I would invest in that heavily because I want to distribute as much content and repurpose as much content as possible. We have a platform that was initially developed in 2010. From 2010 to the last years, we’ve made it to 8.1. 9.1 was released, but all of that knowledge, features, and capabilities up to 8.1 was not disseminated fully to market. There’s so much to tell. I feel that that’s one of the fastest ways and vehicles for us to do that. 

When you say the 8.1, do you see that information relevant to the existing installed base or do you see that information relevant to people who are evaluating alternatives or competitor products? 

Absolutely to both, without a doubt. This is not a features and benefits war. The thing about the platform is that it is a choose your own adventure. For your audience’s sake, I’m trying to avoid the technology acronyms because that’s where we get into a deeper dive. It’s nuanced in a way that you can use it for a single screen, which we call it HMI single panel or you can scale it enterprise-wide across an organization, connecting to hundreds of thousands of devices pulling in data at an incredible rate. Somewhere in between all of that, 8.1, the heart of it, what the platform is built on, which is dot-net technology, and all of the functionality it has, certainly still resonates with any individual. 8.1 is the car that functions well. 9.1, we’ve thrown in a nicer cup holder and we’ve got a sunroof and a couple of the trim packages, but the heart of it is what 8.1 up to now was.

Going into the next segment, what are you curious about? You mentioned how you engage and build the human side of Tatsoft. You also mentioned the different MarTech Stack. You mentioned Microsoft Clarity and others. What is something, a paradigm, or something that’s keeping you on the toes and something that you are curious about when it comes to helping you improve your overall go-to-market?

It’s about understanding how to scale in a way that is manageable. That is dynamic and allows me to pivot at any point. That’s the key thing because we have to be able to stop on a dime in our industry. The technology changes so rapidly. We work in mission-critical environments. There’s no room for error. It’s always researching on where the industries are going so that I can better understand how to solve the problems with what we have.

B2B 14 | Audience Connection
Audience Connection: It’s not about the features of the product or how they are advertised. It’s about how they take care of you when it fails.

 

This is where my discussion around Steve Jobs in iPhone 7 was. We’ve built an iPhone 7 that we may not know all the use cases for it yet. The market is going to help us dictate some of those things. We’ve built this toolkit that you can do anything and everything with, my job in marketing is to say, “Yes, you can do all of those things, but here are the next few things that might be ideal for you.” As we move forward, there are all these new use cases that are coming to us, and that’s my focus. Trying to absorb all of that rather than just saying, “Let me sell you our product.” 

That’s a good way to put it out there. You’ve got the different feedback mechanisms where you see and understand the different use cases, which you internally may not have imagined. How do you keep yourself up-to-date on the different things when it comes to, you want to understand what your users are doing? Do you have a community or that’s something that you’re looking at? 

We’re in the process of building, we have a form that we’ve created. That’s a key area where we have a lot of questions in real time. Some are specific to their individual needs. Some are broad that we’re designing as more of an FAQ. That’s a key component. Secondarily are these LinkedIn Live and YouTube streams where we’re interacting to better understand. We also push out surveys. That’s a key aspect. The customer interviews, the systems integrator interviews and all of those help amass a better picture that we’re trying to create.

Who are maybe the 2 or 3 folks that have massively helped you in shaping your career?

There are a lot of people to thank.

Who are the folks you would look up to, maybe in the industry? 

In terms of marketing, I would say Udi from Gong, the CMO. He’s great. I love what he says in terms of the 80/20 mix. That’s one of the challenges you always hear with marketers, “My CEO doesn’t understand what we’re doing.” He said, “Make sure you take care of that 80% so that you have 20% of risk-taking.” He’s always got little gems of advice, but he’s also proven it out. He’s done things that are so “unconventional” by the norms of his industry. It’s great because it resonates with folks as an authentic portion of who the company is.

I will say that there is a person who influenced me in marketing without me recognizing that maybe I would become a marketer, but I had a fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Forge. I had lived in Turkey. I lived in the States. I traveled and she said, “Life is all about accumulating as many experiences as you can so that the common denominator of conversation is there for anyone whom you speak with.” You can pull out an experience and relate with someone. Along the lines of empathy, but it was creating as many moments and experiences as you can so that you can use that as a way to talk to other people. 

Each of us can go back and potentially point to a teacher, a moment, or a conversation back in our school days which you may not realize back then. Of course, we were kids. We have not seen the world yet, but fast forward 10, 20, 30 years later, that’s when we will realize what they truly meant. One final question for you. If you were to go back to day one of your go-to-market journey, what advice would you tell your younger self?

I would say, “Progress, not perfection. You don’t know what you don’t know. Trying to create a scenario without putting it out there and testing it will always result in a narrow view.” When I initially started my journey, there was a preconceived notion of what we were delivering at the time, and the expectation that by putting it out there. That’s why I said, “If you build it, they will come,” because the first organization I worked for, or whom I was working with, I was working under a few people, but that was their strategy. I learned a lot from that experience.

I would say that for humans, it’s about being like a song on the radio. You’ve probably heard a song maybe 10 or 15 times, and then something happens to you, maybe you’ve had a death, a loss of life or you’re married, suddenly, the lyrics resonate with you in that song. You’ve heard the song multiple times before, but you caught it at that time and it resonates with you. It’s different than a push. It’s almost a pull at the right time. That was something that I didn’t have visibility into or fully understand when I first started. 

I wholeheartedly agree with you, especially on the last one. You can hypothesize, you can hope that it sticks and resonates, but at the end of the day, it’s about being open and being curious about what is working and what is not working.

Trying to create a scenario without putting it out there and testing will always result in a very narrow view. Click To Tweet

The other thing is that we say that value is around solving problems for people. Business is about solving problems, but the new layer that we have now that’s different is that if all things are equal in terms of what the product delivers, what the service delivers, there are a lot of competitors that can also do the same thing, then it’s about, what’s it like working with you? What is that experience going to be like? For me personally, when I purchase anything, regardless of all the fantastic features, I always check out the tech support first because I know at some point, something’s going to fail. I want to know how quickly do they address concerns and that’s what gives me the confidence as a buyer. It’s not about any of the features and anything that they’re advertising. It’s about will you take care of me when this fails?

That’s a great note to end our insightful conversation, Tolgar. Thank you once again for your time and good luck to you and the team at Tatsoft.

Thank you for having me, Vijay. It’s a pleasure.

Important Links:

About Tolgar Alpagut, MBA

B2B 14 | Audience ConnectionEQ Driven VP Marketing @ Tatsoft | Servant Leader | Helping Enable Industrial Applications | AI/IIoT/AR/VR Evangelist

18+ years in marketing. 21+ years in technology. That’s my professional career in a nutshell.

Marketing has always been a passion because it allows me to mix all my various skillsets (even my first degree in sound design for film/tv!)

And as stated above, I’m a tech hound and love all things AI, IIoT, AR/VR/MR

The last few years placed me in marketing for digital supply chain companies partnered with GE, SAP, and PTC.

Within the last year, found my passion and purpose working with & evangelizing forward thinking tech startups, small & medium businesses; helping them find their voice to attract their right audience.

Now I’m excited to work as a VP Marketing for an incredible software company (Tatsoft) that serves industrial customers. The best part? Great company culture and team.

Because I care about people and solving problems, I want to work with others to overcome business challenges that involve a healthy ratio of IQ/EQ/AQ.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the B2B Go-To-Market Leaders Community today:

 

 

B2B 13 | Sales And Marketing

B2B 13 | Sales And Marketing

 

There is bigger machinery behind enabling sales. In a B2B SaaS world, it doesn’t stop at building your customer and the buyer. It starts after the fact, which is about customer success, user adoption, and then retention. That is why the go-to-market is vital for any company, and Vijay Damojipurapu has the guest to speak to us about taking this strategy to his company. He sits down with Roger Beharry Lall, the VP of Marketing at Traction Guest. Here, he talks about his go-to-market journey, how he is going beyond the product launch, and thinking of the product roadmap, scaling, and building a community. He shares how they are working on sales and marketing to drive customer adoption rather than treat them like oil and water. On his own career journey, Roger brings in his rich insights and global cultural experience from studying in Singapore, working in Korea, and big companies. Join in on this jam-packed episode to learn more. 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Driving Customer Adoption Through Sales And Marketing With Roger Beharry Lall

I have the pleasure of hosting Roger from Traction Guest. Roger is the VP of Marketing at Traction Guest. Welcome to the show, Roger.

Thanks very much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

When I looked up your background, my intent is to bring up diverse, accomplished leaders in the whole go-to-market space. That’s my promise to my audience. When I looked up your profile, a few things caught my eyes. One is you’ve got a global cultural experience both from the studying days to even the working days. You studied in Singapore. You’ve worked in Korea. You worked for companies like TELUS and some leading brands in Canada. You worked for Research In Motion, BlackBerry. For those of you who have been around, you would know what we are talking about. Now, you’re at Traction Guest. I’m looking forward to teasing out all those nuggets and insights from your diverse experience.

I’m happy to share.

My first question to you and what you can share with our readers is, how do you define go-to-market?

To some extent, the argument is what isn’t a go-to-market? In my mind, especially coming from a product marketing background, it’s about everything you could think of. From a marketing and strategy perspective, that can be fed into the notion of go-to-market. For me, it’s a little bit old school. I almost go back to the proverbial 4 Ps, 5 Ps, 7 Ps of marketing. Originally it was Product, Price, Place and Positioning. There are a hundred variations around. I might be oversimplifying but that does speak to the notion of, what is go-to-market?

Go-to-market is something bigger than a product launch, but maybe smaller than a company strategy. It fits right in the middle. It’s Product, Place, Price, Promotion, Positioning, etc. It’s diving deep into each of those areas. If we think about a product, it’s not just the product you sell but, what are the partners that layer on to that? What are the services that add on? What’s the whole product? What’s the value proposition around that? Pricing strategy, that’s fairly self-explanatory. Place, I think of that not physically but channel-wise. Are we placing this directly? Do we go indirect? Do we have partnerships? Do we layer on top of them? Do they sell on our behalf? Do they take a cut?

The go-to-market is something bigger than a product launch but maybe smaller than a company strategy. Click To Tweet

Finally, I think about positioning. This is a core one for me coming from a product marketing background. How are we positioning? How are we going to go-to-market? How are we positioning ourselves there? There’s so much that goes into that. What is the audience? What is the vertical? What are the personas? What is our story? What value proper are we bringing to market? All that feeds into that final notion of positioning the ladders into what you might think of as a go-to-market. That’s probably oversimplifying it but there is some notion of the 4 Ps.

It probably starts early on in the cycle with a lot of research and analysis. It ends up in the middle with a lot of execution work, a lot of cooperative work with sales and marketing counterparts. Especially in the modern era, there is a lot of post-work to be done in terms of analyzing the success and failures, win-loss analysis, and things of that ilk. Getting the data to prove, correct, iterate, and then cycle back through that process.

Back in the days when I was fairly young and new in my go-to-market journey, especially when I was in my first product marketing role, that’s what I used to take, which is go-to-market is the launch. That’s a base notion. That’s how a lot of folks in marketing associate go-to-market with.

I’ve experienced this a few times where it’s not even the product launch. I’m not going to say that the product launch is easy, but that’s one element. It’s all the before, during and after. How do I control, nudge and manage the change within the organization? How do I temper expectations from sales? How do I provide enablement to sales if they’re at the right time to align to the right level of product readiness that might hit for the appropriate market awareness? It’s not as simple as, “We have this product and it’s ripe and it’s good to go.” You’re constantly turning these dials up and down and that is the challenge.

Continuing our discussion over here, it starts with a product launch. Over time, something that I’ve gained insight into and realization is it’s a lot more than just a product launch. It starts with that, but then there’s the whole notion of how are you thinking about your product roadmap? There’s a whole notion of how are you evolving and staying in touch with your customers and building a community? There’s a whole notion about that. There’s bigger machinery behind enabling sales. In a B2B SaaS world, it doesn’t stop at building your customer and the buyer. A bigger game starts after the fact, which is about customer success, user adoption, and then retention. If you do your job well, you will gain advocates for your company and products.

That is the hope. I’m planning our virtual customer advisory board meeting. We’ve got a dozen or so Fortune 500 class companies that we bring in. We used to bring in physically but now we’ll bring into a virtual call. That’s part of that iterative. Getting feedback and, are we on the right track? We’re looking at launching these things. How should we launch them? Where should we position? That feedback is invaluable.

B2B 13 | Sales And Marketing
Sales And Marketing: Customers are invaluable. Customer advisory boards and focus groups are invaluable. It’s important to connect to non-customers.

 

That’s a key component, customer advisory board and community. Share with us your journey in how you grew. What are the milestones or transitions? What did you feel had took you to the next level in your whole go-to-market journey?

It’s funny as I think back on the career. I don’t know that product marketing or even go-to-market were coined terms back in the day. It was just good marketing. That was part and parcel. We knew there were B2B, B2C, and that was about it. I started my career as a subsidiary of IBM and TELUS, working in Korea of all places. It was field marketing and a little bit of channel marketing partnerships.

Was that your first job?

That was my first job out of university. It was advertised as a European software company. I had visions of working in Amsterdam or living in Paris. It was a software package called BON, which no longer exists. They were a competitor to SAP. We were deploying BON software in the Asian market. It was a European software deployed by a Canadian company in the Asian market. It’s incredibly a complicated or complex reality but fascinating. It’s a great learning experience. I started there, international exposure, and a little bit of consulting exposure. It gave me a good sense of the business process and re-engineering.

From that field of marketing, I came back to Toronto. I did a number of different roles. A general marketing manager would be what you would call it now. You might call it demand gen. You might call it event management. I did things of that ilk. I spent a good stint in Research In Motion, BlackBerry. It started to become more and more focused on what we call now product marketing. Back then, I looked at channels for a while. I looked at verticals or industry solutions for quite some time. I was instrumental in a small team that launched a Wi-Fi-only device, which sounds utterly trivial. At the time, putting Wi-Fi in a phone was completely unheard of. I got a sense of some of that product marketing and channel field type experience. I did a bit of secondment in RIM, which I love doing market research and industry analyst relations. It was a lovely opportunity to get some academic aside. It’s a little bit more strategic. It’s a little bit once removed to some extent. It’s a great opportunity and the thing that oftentimes can be hard to do unless you’re at a larger organization.

From there, I spent several years at Series-A style companies, scale-ups in a health tech, content marketing space, cannabis data analytics space. It’s a startup in that area. I’m at a company called Traction Guest that is focused on physical security, visitor management, and what we describe as a workforce security platform. A number of different areas, but all the time B2B enterprise moving from field marketing or marketing at large to a little bit more a vertical segment product marketing type role to more marketing leadership roles taking over ownership of the entire team. Combining that demand, field, channel, product marketing, and go-to-market all into one mindset, and increasingly having greater responsibility for managing the team more so than delivering the particular asset.

All of these experiences must have given you different perspectives and growth levers looking at it from the field marketing, the local markets outside of your core geography where the company may be based out of, that’s one. Also, looking at the sales piece because you’re looking at driving demand gen, which means you have to be collaborating closely with the sales teams and understanding the friction points as well as a healthy tension discussion between marketing and sales. That’s a constant battle, which I’m sure you can relate to and you have managed it all along. Talk to us about that. How do you manage that?

It's not that sales work for marketing or marketing work for sales. We’re all working to drive customer adoption. Click To Tweet

It’s part and parcel. In sales and marketing, the joke is always that we’re like oil and water. The reality is that doesn’t have to be the case. At Traction Guest, I’m blessed. Culturally, we’ve done a good job of making sure that sales and marketing are well aligned, there’s good camaraderie, and there’s good support. Frankly, that’s how it should be. We’re all driving to the same goal. The key anchor point is to make sure that everybody is on the same page. We’re all trying to drive revenue. We have different levers that we might pull. Marketing, you can call it top of the funnel. It might be awareness. It might be sales material, content, and assets that enable the sales. It might be persona definition so we know who to target. Those are tools that feed into the sales cycle. They’re not detached. They’re not things that are academic, esoteric, or done in a vacuum for their own sake. It’s critical to be able to connect the dots and to constantly be reinforcing that story. We’re working together. It’s not that sales work for marketing or marketing work for sales. We’re all working to drive customer adoption.

Let’s talk about what you do at Traction Guest. You did touch upon that. What is your role at Traction Guest? What is your marketing team? How do you build your marketing team?

I started here at the midpoint of the pandemic. It’s a lovely time to join an organization. I was onboard and met some of the team. The team has been in a bit of a growth mode. We’ve had some people come and go over the last while and whatnot. I’ve been rebuilding the team a little bit. I’m the VP of Product Marketing by title. I’m also acting as Head of Marketing overall. It’s a dual role. I’m individually responsible for the product marketing deliverables, that mindset and thought process around personas and competitive analysis, and things of that ilk.

As an executive, I’m responsible for the marketing team at large. I think of it as almost three areas. There’s a content area, which is a content marketer, graphic designer, and web person. They’re building the materials and the assets. In the middle, you can think of it as demand gen group that is digital as well as events, different tools and different ways to get the message out to take that content and either use it as a magnet or pushing it out as nurture. The final group is more on the operation side. I’ve got a couple of folks that work on salesforce administration and marketing operations. They live somewhere between marketing, sales, finance, and connecting all the dots.

You talked about the evolution of careers. When I was starting in marketing, the budget spent for technology was in Excel sheet. That was about it. Maybe you had a CRM tool. Nowadays, you’ve got 20, 30 different tools in the MarTech stack. It can be easily a third or half of your budget, depending on the nature of the organization. Having folks to manage that becomes increasingly critical and part of a modern marketing capacity. We’ve got some content folks. I’ve got myself doing product marketing. We’ve got the demand group driving home with the customers. We’ve got the operations as tying it all together.

It’s a pretty well-rounded team.

I’m blessed. We’ve hit the point where we’ve got all the roles filled. We’re in a good place where we’re able to start delivering, executing, and moving much faster and driving much more growth, especially as we shift from SMB and increasing it into the enterprise towards account-based marketing. It’s a great team. I’m thrilled to be working with them and glad to be able to drive this growth for the company.

B2B 13 | Sales And Marketing
Sales And Marketing: Content should be less about the material that is necessarily found online or whatever, and more about the material that once the prospect is in the journey, they become a lead of sorts.

 

You briefly mentioned how you’re thinking about your marketing team and the structure. Traction Guest is a Series-A funded company. The executives and the board had their eyes on the next round of funding, Series-B and growth and scale targets. From what I’ve seen for Series-A, the marketing budget is roughly about 10%-ish of your overall revenue. Would you agree with that?

I will neither confirm nor deny. You’re certainly well within the right range.

It’s fair enough. You also mentioned moving upmarket from mid-market to enterprise. You talked about ABM. Talk to us about how you’re thinking about ABM. Also, who do you serve? Who are your customers?

It’s been an intentional and strategic shift across the company to move and to build this market. Historically, Traction Guest was in a place called visitor management. It’s the type of software that we sell. That was originally a replacement for a guest book or a logbook or receptionist at an organization. As people come in, they can check-in and be known to the company. If I do a Gartnerian 2×2, there’s a whole lot of players in that bottom left type area. They make excellent software, they do good work, but it’s not what we want to be delivering. It’s not what we built.

We built something and we’re in upper right of that framework. It is much more complex and much more robust. It gets into workflows and deep integrations with other systems. It no longer is about a logbook replacement or a simple receptionist check-in. It is about what we’re describing as workforce security. That puts us into a different mindset. It starts to talk less about, “Can I register somebody as a guest?” It starts to say, “What if I need to do an emergency evacuation? What if I need to maintain compliance with certain international standards? What if I need to monitor the certifications or training of contractors coming into my building? What if I need to check a visitor against a global watchlist for criminal activity?” Those are the things that the enterprise organizations care about. We’ve been intentionally moving in that direction.

We’ve done a great job of shifting our marketing and our messaging, and driving growth in terms of the customers that we serve. It is very much large enterprise organizations, multisite security-focused type companies. In terms of who we serve, it’s a tool that can be used and applied in several different areas. We look primarily at the global security leader. That could be several different things. It might be the director of physical security or a VP of Risk. Title-wise, it could be somebody at the operations group or in facilities. There is somebody who has responsibility at a global level for the physical security. This is different from cybersecurity, which is a little bit tricky. Sometimes, we might report into the same area. They’re looking at the physicality of those facilities.

I think of office buildings because that’s where my career is. It’s not just office buildings. It’s your manufacturing plants, distribution warehouses, large stadiums or campus environments for film productions. All these different complex environments, that’s where our software excels. We’re bringing this work for security platforms to these global security leaders to try and address a myriad of different industry concerns. Visitor management is part of it, but increasingly we see ourselves providing solutions through the platform in and around emergency alerts and outreach, being able to help support health and safety controls. Especially as we move into the enterprise, being able to support auditing and analytics functionality, which is different from what an SMB customer would be looking for. It becomes a much more robust, fulsome platform for that enterprise-type organization.

Having a good content marketer and a good content strategist is critical to success. Click To Tweet

When I initially talked about what Traction Guest does and when I thought about visitor management, you nailed it. For me, it’s the image. For those of us who are not in the industry, it’s all about guest registration. You go to the front desk, you say who you’re meeting, you write down your name, the meeting time, the meeting purpose, and you’re done. You show your driver’s license and you’re done. Based on what you mentioned, I can visualize how you and your team are thinking about the shift in the positioning and the messaging. You guys are not guests or visitor management anymore. You’re more about workforce security. That’s a big shift.

To your previous point about product launch versus go-to-market, this is a repositioning exercise. You don’t do this overnight. These are the things that if they’re done properly, we’re building out a category. Those things take time. It’s easy enough to flip throughPlay Bigger or any of those books related to the salesforce category and you think, “It’s done. It’s easy.” That takes years and years of work to progress to that level. We’re at the beginning of that journey.

What is most rewarding and inspiring to me is that we’re hearing it from our customers. This was not a repositioning exercise done in a vacuum with a consultant and hours and hours of backroom thinking or boardroom thinking. This was a progression that was driven by what customers were telling us. We looked at all the G2 reviews and comments. We looked at the Capterra comments. We listened carefully to what customers were saying. SEO-wise, they came for visitor management and they would buy our solution. They then would say somewhere in the cycle, “You guys aren’t visitor management.” We think, “Tell us what we are.” Clients weren’t quite able to put their finger on it, but they could tell us that we were more than visitor management. We were something beyond.

We were filling a need in different areas where we’re helping their security personnel and security staff connect into HR or employee health and safety. We were helping them drive analytics and reporting. We were helping solve bigger problems. We were helping create a complex workflow and detailed integrations to all these systems. They’re like, “That’s not VMS but we don’t know what to call you. We’re happy to pay you.” We took that feedback to heart. We’ve been working to figure out what do we describe ourselves? What does that look like? The result of that customer feedback is this new direction into workforce security and becoming a platform or a category.

You touched upon quite a few good nuggets there for the readers, especially those who are looking to embark on a positioning and messaging exercise or those who are thinking about, “Is my messaging how I’m positioning on my website as well as my marketing and sales collateral and assets? Is it resonating?” A key point you mentioned is about listening to your customers. Observing and teasing out the exact words that they’re using in their reviews on G2 or Capterra.

I’m old-school. I started this conversation talking about the four Ps. I’ve already dated myself. I made a little word cloud out of the Capterra and G2 stuff just to get a sense of what was going on. It’s not scientific but it gave a strong perspective to myself and to the executive to show that customers were describing us as workforce, platform, security, integration, and this and that, words that weren’t about visitor management. It’s critical to connect to your customers. I mentioned that we’re going to have our customer advisory board. We’ll be getting their feedback on this. Are we going in the right direction? Is there more? How do we message this? How do we tweak a few words here and there? It’s a journey. Customers are invaluable. Customer advisory boards and focus groups are invaluable. I’d also say that it’s important to connect to non-customers, and this can be difficult.

In the old days, pre-COVID, you might have a tradeshow or a conference. You can start listening in and hear from other people. I’ve been able to work with a number of great analysts and market research teams, folks from my industry. There are some boutique industry analyst firms that we work with as well as some of the larger Forresters of the world. They can give you insight beyond what you’re hearing from a customer. You do need to balance that out. You’re getting some customer information. You’re getting some market information. The challenge or maybe the art of product marketing and go-to-market strategists is that ability to tease out some truth. Understand what they are driving. What’s the underlying problem they’re trying to solve? They may not say it in specific terms. They may not have the right words. If you listen with intention, you’ll be able to tease out what that storyline is, and then project it back to them.

B2B 13 | Sales And Marketing
Sales And Marketing: It’s important for leaders to not just be experts in their craft but start to look outside that concentric circle to pick up on things that can help broaden their perspective.

 

Good marketing is all about saying the words that the customers are using. It’s a simple task, but not many people do that. Maybe the barrier is around, “Can I reach out to my customers? Why will they take a meeting with me?” These are the mental blocks that happen within the marketing team. Your point is valid. The exercise that you guys have come up with is a testament to the fact to always be out there and listen to your customers. The word cloud exercise is simple.

It worked. To your previous point about working with sales, at Traction Guests, we’ve got some great practices in place that I’ll share quickly. All of our sales calls are recorded so that we can internally listen to them for coaching purposes. As a product marketer, I can listen to that and I can quickly add some analytics on that. That’s one tool.

Do you guys use something like a Gong?

We have Chorus. It’s the same idea. We also have something called Altify, another tool that we use as a test and improve the process. Every week, we have a rep walk through a particular account. Where are they at? How can we collectively brainstorm? How can they move it forward? In telling those stories, you start to pick up on things. You start to hear, “They use such and such a message. They didn’t use such and such a presentation. They talked about this particular aspect of the product, but they didn’t focus on this.” You start to hear from reps what they’re saying, what’s working, and how they’re feeling. You start to tease out some truths. Over time, you can build into that story and playback for the reps to help fuel their success.

That’s a good point there. These are what the sales reps are hearing on their sales calls. Test that messaging and the next batch of sales calls and see if it’s resonating or not. You did mention your big goals for 2021, which is around shifting and pivoting from mid-market to enterprise. There’s a whole slew of activities and exercise behind that. That is going to consume you and your marketing teams’ bandwidth for 2021. As you’re doing that, what do you see are some of the barriers or the challenges going in executing those go-to-market pieces?

In terms of challenges, it comes right down to execution. You need a good strategy. There’s no question. You need a good go-to-market plan. The execution is infinitely more challenging. That’s where the rubber hits the road. I’m not going to say it’s easy, but given my product marketing background and my bias, I’m going to say in my head, “We’re going after the manufacturing sector and our persona is security. Now what?”

Now, you’ve got to come up with, “What are all the manufacturing events? Do we have a webinar or a PowerPoint slide?” “We don’t.” “Once you’ve got that webinar done up, can we get a blog post related to that? It’s great that we’ve got a blog post for manufacturing and security, but now we need it for manufacturing security in Europe and we need to add on a layer about a specific partner.” Those are the complexities that make marketing challenging and also maybe make marketing exciting. It’s that execution level that gets tricky. There are lots of great tools out there. I mentioned the whole MarTech stack to help you along that way. That doesn’t solve the problem.

Listen to sales. Don't be scared of them. Don't be intimidated by them. Befriend them. Work closely with them. Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, somebody still has to put pen to paper to write the email. Somebody still has to produce the webinars. Somebody still has to make the call to the customer to set up a case study interview. Not to be overly simple but that’s hard work. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes energy. It’s not always fun. Over time, you’ll do something and maybe it has to be thrown away, and then you start again. You repeat, you iterate and you improve. It’s hard work.

To be clear, it’s not that we finished the repositioning exercise. We’re at the beginning of that journey. Let’s say 3 to 6 months from now, I will be “done” with the strategic elements and the base level positioning. Now it’s 101 iterations of how do you go-to-market? How do you get into that market? What does your marketing mix look like to drive success with that set of messaging and that set of personas to the audience, to the verticals? You need to now go through and deliver on the trade show, the webinar, whatever, with a whole lot of additional support material around it. That’s difficult work.

I’m grateful that I’ve got an amazing team to work on that and help me through that and to lend their expertise in those areas. It’s a lot of work, and that is oftentimes what marketers, CMOs and CEOs forget. They gloss over the challenge that can be to say, “We’re going to go and do account-based marketing. We’re going to go and target the manufacturing sector. We’re going to go and do whatever.” Now you’ve got to put all those pieces in play. Executing on the playbook is time-consuming and that is the biggest challenge, especially as a Series-A type company. We’ve got a great team. We’ve got some solid resources. Certainly, we don’t have a lot of Slack and Buffer on the edge to provide for those extra ideations.

I spoke with the CMO of a different B2B software company. He highlighted the same concern that you highlighted. You’re in good company.

Misery loves company. I’m onto something.

One CMO shared his entire strategy. It’s similar to what you did. He said, “I don’t care if my company doesn’t get the strategy. It all boils down to execution.” That is the hardest piece. If I double click on what you mentioned, which is the webinars, the eBooks or the other events, the fundamental currency across all of these activities is content.

I didn’t have the words back then. Having been in the product marketing area for several years, I’ve done a lot of work in and around content. I’ve had direct responsibility and ownership for content marketing. I’ve been blessed to work with some great content marketers over the years. They’re worth their weight in gold. From an SEO perspective, the content is going to become the magnet. From a content-based marketing perspective, it’s the content and the personalization of that content that’s going to drive engagement. From a nurture perspective, it’s what’s going to fuel your emails, click-throughs, and your call to action. Without that content, you’re in a lot of trouble. Having a good content marketer and a good content strategist is critical to success.

B2B 13 | Sales And Marketing
Sales And Marketing: There’s a lot that B2B can learn from B2C in terms of both the emotional and empathetic approach, but also the creativity.

 

It’s not about that lightweight, short-term content SEO. This is not about, “Can we write a blog and use the keyword and get it up on Google?” You need to do that and that’s part and parcel of the modern marketing stack. When I say content, what I think is less about the material that is necessarily found online or whatever. It’s more about the material that once the prospect is in the journey, they’re working with you, they’re thinking this through, they are a lead of sorts. Now they’re exploring. That’s where a lot of this depth content becomes critical. Having a lot of that information helps them understand different perspectives about your product, different use cases, different value propositions, how it might be useful for different departments, how it can help their career trajectory. All those pieces of the puzzle need to be visible and available. They all require a lot of work.

You and I had a brief meeting on the same topic, which is what I’m working on and what I call the content to revenue manifesto. It goes back to the fundamental belief, which you attested to, which is content. Content is the currency. It’s easier said than done. It’s a lot of work. It’s not about commodity content that any agency or any of the lower-level teams or people can do. That’s not going to cut it for people, especially for a Series-A company like Traction Guest who is looking to hit the mark, go and scale, and reach the target for a Series-B milestone and fundraising. It’s all about the content that resonates. If I, as the buyer, is in the process of evaluating the different solutions, what are the different evaluation criteria? Maybe I’m not thinking about A, B, C. My site is more on the X, Y, Z. That’s a blind spot for me. How will you and your content marketing team create that effective content budge on that piece?

Traction Guest has been intentional in our move towards the enterprise. We are blessed to have some subject matter experts working at the company that would be former buyers. They come from the industry. They would have bought at Traction Guest. In some cases, they did buy at Traction Guest. They know the sales cycle from the other side. They are the subject expert. They offer so much depth of knowledge and understanding, but also so much empathy. They helped to fuel content and materials that are not marketing fluff but drive home detailed points that would be relevant to that buyer because they are or they were that buyer. It’s a wonderful partnership when you can get subject experts. Sometimes you have to purchase them through agencies. Sometimes you have to purchase them directly or indirectly through industry analysts. Sometimes you purchase them through working with customers. We have some in-house that are amazing individuals that are taking us to the next level in terms of the caliber of content and caliber material that we’re able to produce.

What are 1 or 2 areas that you’re curious about when it comes to go-to-market and your role? How do you stay on top?

There’s so much information out there. Especially at senior levels, you need to stay on top, not just your area but the breadth of different areas, different aspects, different functional areas, etc. I’ve got a couple of things that I’m looking at. Because we’re in the midst of this reposition and category creation, I’ve been rereading and reviewing a lot of work in that space. Play Bigger is the holy grail in that area. Even in and around those things like The Innovators Dilemma have a lot to do with branching out and repositioning yourself onto a new growth factor. Those category-related materials have been top of mind.

The second area that has been top of mind, because I have a holistic responsibility for marketing overall, is brushing up some of the newer techniques and technologies in and around account-based marketing and demand generation. Things like intent-based data, retargeting, some of the complex uses of AI. We happen to have an AI within the salesforce. Those things around, “How can I become more efficient or more effective as we become more and more targeted?” Those are the two areas that I’m obsessed with on a day-to-day basis.

In terms of where I find this information, the beauty is information is plentiful and it’s everywhere. I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn and I get the world to curate things for me, any number of different articles and a variety of different articles that are posted there. I also read a lot of business books, but also several industry blogs, both from vendors as well as from different thought leaders. As a professional marketer, I almost don’t spend a lot of time or spend as much time learning about product marketing. I’ll brush up here and there. I’ll look at product marketing associations. I’ll look at pragmatic marketing stuff. I’ll look at content marketing institutes. I spent a lot more time looking adjacent. Maybe not completely outside my purview but adjacent.

Sales are your greatest opportunity for success as a marketer. Click To Tweet

There’s a Canadian podcast that talks about consumer advertising and radio advertising in particular. I enjoy hearing that. It’s a different perspective. Oftentimes, there are some lessons you can pick out from that. I enjoy reading in and around design thinking. It’s a little bit more creative. It’s a little bit more artistic and novel. It’s something adjacent to my core that helps me broaden my understanding. It’s important for leaders to not just be experts in their craft but start to look outside that concentric circle to be able to pick up on things that can help broaden your perspective or your purview on things.

To echo your second point and something that I have been noticing even with my client base and the other folks that I am closely in touch with, even though we are in the B2B marketing world, B2B marketing is adopting some of the best practices from direct marketing and consumer marketing, so B2C. At the end of the day, even though it’s B2B marketing, you’re selling to organizations but your buyers and influencers are consumers. They’re people, they’re humans. Understanding them at an individual level and not just at the entity level is critical.

One of my favorites when I was at RIM in market research is analyzing the emotional aspects of our enterprise buyers. These were your high-level CIOs, director of security, VP operation type profiles. We had lots of functional data, but analyzing their emotional drivers. It was fascinating to see how much of a purchase decision was attributed to non-functional aspects. It had to do with things like job security, career progression, the notion of safety and protection, and risk aversion. Things of that ilk are emotional drivers that oftentimes you miss when you get into the speeds and feeds of how fast does this goes, how many kilowatts does it take, how many megabytes it is, etc. There’s a lot that B2B can learn from B2C in terms of both the emotional and empathetic approach, but also the creativity. There are some brilliant campaigns out there.

If you were to turn back time and go back to day one of your go-to-market journey, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Coming out of this pandemic, I probably mentioned the fact that 2020 might not be the best year for you. I’d probably stack up on toilet paper and be much better prepared. In terms of career progression, I’ve enjoyed my career. I’ve worked overseas. I’ve worked for large companies. I’ve worked for small companies. I’m happy with how things have turned out. I would have reminded myself about some of the excitement and joy that I had from some of those smaller mid-sized companies. I don’t think I knew that going into this. Coming out of school, I thought it was all about working for Fortune 500. Now, I would be working for a FANG-type company. I don’t think that’s necessary for everyone. It certainly has turned out that’s not necessarily something that I value or that I derive great joy from. Letting myself know that the path in that Series-A, Series-B funded type company can be exciting. I’ll remind myself to give them a second chance.

The other thing that I’d probably remind myself or tell myself is to listen to sales. Don’t be scared of them. Don’t be intimidated by them. Befriend them. Work closely with them. Become an ally for them. Connect quickly and strongly with the sales leader and the sales team because they’re your best route to market. They’re your best way to learn about the customer. They’re your greatest opportunity for success as a marketer. They do crave that connection, but I don’t think they’re often offered the opportunity to work more closely with marketing. I’d probably remind myself to connect quickly and deeply with your sales counterparts.

That’s a great piece of advice to wrap up this episode. Thank you for your time, Roger. Good luck to you and your team at Traction Guest. I’ll be cheering you guys from the sideline.

Thanks very much. I appreciate your time. It was a pleasure. We’ll be looking forward to getting the workforce security platform in the market and see how things go as we create a category. I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit about that journey.

Thank you.

Important Links:

About Roger Beharry Lall

B2B 13 | Sales And Marketing

VP Marketing

Leader of high-growth, disruptive marketing strategy. Over 20 years in leadership roles at Adlib, Think Research, BlackBerry, ISM-BC (IBM Subsidiary) and Lift&Co. Frequent commentator on issues of business, innovation and growth.

A passionate marketing leader, Roger helps high growth organizations (primarily B2B technology companies) grow, pivot, or expand by:
• Leading high-performing teams: onboarding staff, defining cross-functional processes, managing KPIs, and coaching/inspiring daily.
• Optimizing product positioning: exploring and refining market opportunities, aligning messaging, executing launch plans, enabling sales, and communicating to customers and influencers.
• Delivering winning campaigns: collaborating with sales and product teams, delivering pipe-line results, creating novel digital, content, and in-person programs.
• Driving organizational change: delivering new capacities/capabilities, providing actionable research, facilitating collaborative change management.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the B2B Go-To-Market Leaders Community today:

 

 

B2B 12 | Strategy Execution

B2B 12 | Entrepreneurial Mindset

 

Nothing can come out of an excellent business strategy if the people behind it lack consistency and focus. Therefore, everything on the marketing side boils down to proper strategy execution, which involves communication and collaboration. Vijay Damojipurapu sits down with Jeremy Epstein to talk about how every CEO must learn the ins and outs of marketing or risk becoming ineffective business leaders. They discuss how well-targeted implementation of strategies can successfully transform marketing from a cost center to a revenue driver. Jeremy also dives deep into his work in the world of crypto and OKR as the CMO of Gtmhub, helping business leaders fully embrace the full potential of their plans and work on it before it’s too late.

Listen to the podcast here

 

Starting A Consistent Business Strategy Execution With Jeremy Epstein

I have with me Jeremy Epstein, who is the CMO of Gtmhub. Jeremy, welcome to the show. I’m super excited to have you on the show because of your varied and colorful background. I say that with good intent.

There’s no person involved?

No. You are big on crypto. I’m eager to pick your brains on how you end up there and what you’re doing there. That’s interesting.

We could do that all day also. 

Besides that, you’ve grown a marketing career. I’m eager to peek or tap into your head and wisdom and get all those nuggets out for our readers. We can go on and on. We see Neeraj Agrawal who called you as one of the top go-to-market experts and who gets growth marketing. Kudos to that. I want to get the story as well from you.

Thank you. It’s an honor to be here.

There are only two responsibilities that an organization has: innovation and marketing. Everything else is a cost center. Click To Tweet

Welcome, Jeremy. I start my show with this question. I pose this to everyone and I’d like to get your take on this. How do you define a good market?

It’s the combination of strategies and a series of activities that you’re going to do in order to help your intended customers and prospects understand your value proposition.

As simple as that.

At the end of the day, if I want to get even simpler, it’s, “How am I going to tell our story?”

There are a lot of pieces below that. Is that a top-level?

You did ask me how I define it so that’s how I define it.

B2B 12 | Strategy Execution
Strategy Execution: A good market is the combination of strategies and a series of activities that can help your intended customers understand your value proposition.

 

That’s a good start, Jeremy. That is exactly what we want. If you need to unravel it and make it more consumable or actionable for our readers, what is your thought process around that? 

Especially when you get to the CMO and VP of marketing level, the fun part is coming up with the strategy. That’s what everyone is paying you, the theoretical big bucks. You get to do all the whiteboarding and come up with the game plan. If you’re a reasonably good marketer and you made it to that level, you probably have a decent strategy. Good for you. Where things start to fall apart, though, is in the execution of the strategy. How effectively are you building a team? Most importantly, how effectively are you communicating what your strategy is? If you talk to people in the marketing function, the number one thing that they’ll tell you that they don’t like about marketing leaders is an inability to effectively communicate. It’s ironic because marketing is all about communication. Here we are, we come up with these grand strategies and then we start to fumble the actual explanation of, “How is this going to work? What are your responsibilities?”

I get super passionate about this sometimes. When I think about the go-to-market, it’s my job as a leader and any marketing leader to say, “Here’s our game plan. Here’s the audience we’re going to go after. Here’s the series of activities I want to do.” More importantly in saying, “Vijay, you’re responsible for this. If you do this, I’m going to carry you off the field and dump Gatorade on you and my hero. If you don’t do this, I’m going to take you out back and shoot you.” That’s how it works. It’s very clear roles and responsibilities. That’s how I think about the go-to-market. It’s the measurement of, “I made some assumptions about what we were going to do. Was I right? What were the experiments that I ran along the way? What was the hypothesis that I have? What do I now know that I didn’t know then?” I’m continually iterating about that, but it’s alignment. Go-to-market is about aligning your team behind the strategy and giving them clarity across teams and the various functions and roles so that everybody can understand, “Here as an organization, this is what we’re going to do to drive our marketing objectives for the quarter of the year, the decade or whatever you’re doing.”

You articulated that very well as always, which is a series of activities. In short, it starts with that. Where a lot of marketing teams fumble is more than the execution pieces and it can be across communication within the marketing team where the leader is not clear or the team members are not clear. Even if that individual, let’s say it’s the growth, demand gen or content person is clear, but there are a lot of gaps and what I call as the multiplier effect, which is, “If we are marching towards a launch, what is growth and demand gen doing? What is content doing? What is field marketing doing? What is the brand marketing doing?” All of those pieces have to line up to that one consequential event.

You’re 100% right and I’ll throw, “What is sales doing? What is the product doing? What is the support team doing?” I like to say we’re all in marketing. It’s just that some of us know it. My all-time favorite marketing teacher is Peter Drucker. He said, “There are only two responsibilities that an organization has, innovation and marketing. Everything else is a cost center.” Our job is to make it clear, especially if you’re working with global teams. I have people in six different countries that are on my team. Communication is even more important because I have to be mindful of not using, say, American football analogies or using a movie analogy because it’s not obvious to a lot of people, especially people for whom English is their second language. I need to be mindful. As leaders in a global world, we all are. That’s where we have to be thoughtful in how we drive the execution. It’s great. Everyone’s strategy is fantastic but at a certain point, it’s like the Mike Tyson thing, “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.” As soon as you launched the campaign, you’ve gotten punched in the face.

You also mentioned something that Peter Drucker called out. You’ve got product or innovation. You’ve got marketing and everything else is a cost center. Peter Drucker mentioned it in the ’60s or ’70s. I don’t recall the exact timeline. It was early. Somehow, somewhere along the line, things got muddled. The reason why I say that is, if you look at marketing at most organizations now, they are seen as a cost center. The number one reason is because marketing is not carrying the revenue burden that the sales team is carrying. I’ve looked at your track record and background. You’ve got a very accomplished track record. Somewhere along those lines, your thinking must have shifted. Can you share your journey when you started your go-to-market journey, but emphasizing how the thought process has evolved from, “Marketing is not just a cost center, but I should be a revenue driver?”

At a certain point, every business has a plan until they get punched in the face. Click To Tweet

I’ve been very fortunate along the way to work for forward-thinking leaders. Too many marketers, especially when they’re starting out their career, they’re not reporting to other marketers. They’re reporting to CEOs, founders or COOs who don’t necessarily understand. They think marketing is a trade show booth, T-shirt and bumper sticker. That’s part of it, but that’s not what it’s all about. Marketing comes down to awareness, perception and leads. Everyone thinks about the leads, but they don’t think about awareness and perception.

In my journey, I didn’t study marketing. I studied history in college. I like to say that history and marketing are the same disciplines. It’s just storytelling, combining facts and stories. I started my career during the dot-com era first in Tokyo for a marketing agency there where I read my first marketing book, which was The One to One Future by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers. That set me on the path and formed my thinking. I moved into sales for a couple of years. In New York, I had my own startup company, which was TaskRabbit but a decade too early. We missed that one. I worked at Microsoft in some marketing roles and a lot of channel development roles. Microsoft is where I learned about the operationalization and scale of marketing. That’s where you start to understand, “It’s great that you do all this cool stuff, but if it doesn’t have an impact in some meaningful, measurable way, then you’re wasting everybody’s time and money.”

The big thing for me happened when I started to play around with social media. I’ve been an early adopter going all the way back to my first Mac in 1984. I was blogging since 2000. I was number 186,000 on LinkedIn or some point in that, and Twitter in 2007. I started to understand that the arrival of social media would change the nature of marketing from this broadcast one-to-many mass discipline to everything that became a conversation. It became about relationships and understanding that there’s a person on the other side of the conversation. You want to monetize it, but you have to think about the value. What is the value of this relationship to them? The marketer’s job is to think from the other perspective.

I had the good fortune to be the Head of Marketing at Sprinklr for four years, from our Series A financing round when we had about 30 people at a $20 million valuation until we were hit unicorn with a $1.8 billion valuation and 1,400 people. That was a crazy ride. Again, I was blessed with a phenomenal CEO who said, “Yes, I want you to drive the revenue.” I understand that revenue is going to come when you do things that make other people feel valued in a relationship, conversation and community. That’s what helped me see the whole thing. I started to understand, “You have to think about your activities in terms of outcomes, but the way you achieve those outcomes is by treating people right.” Treating them well, doing the right thing and having confidence that you may not be able to attribute every activity to every single thing. That doesn’t matter. If your strategy says, “I’m going to do the right thing, treat people well and give them reasons to talk about us in this social media empowered world,” the value is going to show up. That’s been my philosophy. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it works for me.

You’ve given a good formula out there. You are the living proof of that mindset. The thinking shift has fairly driven your career growth. Kudos to that. There are quite a few points that caught my mind when you were talking about your journey. One is having the good fortune to work with a CEO who gets marketing. Unfortunately, not many CEOs get marketing. You did call a few points under that, which is, marketing is not just about swag or stickers. It’s a lot more than that. You also emphasized the point of, “The ability to create a community and drive value, you’re doing it one-to-many, but keeping that one person in mind.” That’s when the actual transaction happens. These are great points. Especially for those who are looking to grow in their career, my advice which you validated yet again from another accomplished marketer, is to look for that leader or the CEO who gets marketing.

If you’re in a situation where you’re with a leader who may not get marketing, you have a responsibility to yourself. If you care about marketing, even though it’s scary as all can be, that’s where you go. You have to have that come-to-Jesus moment as it were and say to the CEO, “I can do all these things, but that’s not marketing in its truest sense.” The way that I explain it to non-marketers, I said, “Marketing is like a wedding cake.” They were like, “What do you mean?” I said, “Look at a wedding cake. Everyone pays attention, ‘Look at the decorations and the flowers. It’s beautiful,’ but that’s 6% of the cake and 94% of the cake is a boring batter. If you don’t know how to make the batter, put it in the oven and have a cake that’s not going to collapse when you stack it on one level on top, it doesn’t matter how much icing you put on afterwards. It’s going to look like garbage.” Everyone else is like, “Look at all the icing.” I was like, “Forget the icing. You want people who know how to bake cakes. If you know how to bake cakes, you can learn how to put on the icing. If all you know how to do is the icing and you can’t bake a cake, you’re just going to have a big pile of junk and your marketing is not going to work. Which do you want at your wedding, Mr. or Ms. CEO?”

Strategy Execution: Go-to-market is about aligning your team behind the strategy and giving them clarity across teams and the various functions and roles.

 

As you are describing that wedding cake, this visual came to my mind. If you look at the stacked wedding cake and flip it, it’s your funnel. There are a lot of activities in those behind-the-scenes, that ugly batter that you were talking about, but once it’s done well, that’s when you get that sweet-looking funnel.

That’s the best build on the marketing wedding cake analogy I’ve ever had. It’s nicely done. No one’s ever come up with that before.

Continuing our fun-filled but insightful discussion here, how would your parents or kids, depending on who you want to choose, describe what you do on a daily basis?

My kids are baffled. They don’t even know what I do on a daily basis. If I had to be all kidding aside, my wife might say, “My husband tells stories about the near future.” What are the things going to look like? I try to say, “There are all these trends going on now. Remote work.” Now, it’s obvious to everybody. These things were happening before COVID hit us, but now they’ve been accelerated. It’s not so much, “What are we doing now?” It’s, “What are some of the likely outcomes as a result of the arrival of social media, COVID, mobile phone, blockchain technology? Pick your thing and then try to tell people. It’s that overused cliché, but it works well, which is Wayne Gretzky’s, “Skating to where the puck is going.” I try to tell stories like, “Here’s what it might look like in the near future.” All I’m suggesting is, “Here’s what we can do now so that it’s less painful to adjust than it would be otherwise. It’s a lot easier to make the one-degree shift now or two years from now than the 90-degree shift in two years.” I try to tell stories and paint pictures of the near future for people. They might say that or say, “My dad is crazy. I have no idea what he’s doing every day, but he seems to like it.”

How do you do your job? How do you tell stories? What do you do at Gtmhub? Explain that to our audience.

I’d be a pretty bad marketer if I didn’t at least explain what Gtmhub is. We are an enterprise-grade system that’s based on the objectives and key results methodology that helps companies of any size orchestrate consistent strategy execution across their teams, divisions, business units and geographies. We talked about strategy execution before. We have come up with the strategy, but OKR has given you that approach. It’s proven. This is a methodology. We talked about Peter Drucker. It has its origins in Peter Drucker’s work, goes to Andy Grove in Intel in the ’70s and popularized by Google in the early 2000s. With OKRs, I am 100% convinced. Do I have skin in this game? Yes, I do.

If you're in a situation where you're with a leader who may not get marketing, you have a responsibility to yourself. Click To Tweet

Once you read this Seminole book on OKRs, which is Measure What Matters by John Doerr, I tell people, “If by page fifteen you’re not convinced this is the methodology that every company is going to use by the end of this decade, I’ll personally refund the cost of the book.” I’m not willing to do that for every single reader, but I probably am because it’s that convincing. What I try to do are two things. For people who have already decided that OKR is there for them, what I like to call they have OK Religion, I help them understand why we are in fact the most flexible and most enterprise-grade system from among all the competitive sets. There are some very worthy competitors out there. I personally think that they’re overly rigid and designed for a different era. Ours is designed for a much more multilateral, multi-axis world. That’s number one.

The second is for people who are maybe not as familiar with OKRs. We don’t talk about it. What we say is, “You have a challenge around horizontal alignment. Everybody knows that. You have a challenge where you might have a lofty vision or mission statement, but day to day there’s an inconsistency between your execution and what your stated objectives and goals are. We have a way that if you commit to it, you’ll be able to achieve your objectives consistently, which is to be inspired. It’s based on this methodology known as OKRs, which we can teach you. It’s easy to learn. You just have to commit to it.” I’ve put together the strategy. I recruited the team, which I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been able to get some phenomenal world-class players. I try to support them to be the best versions of themselves that they can be and then get out of their way.

What every top CMO does is show the path and let the team do the work.

The hardest part of my job is coming up with my own OKRs. Once I set my OKRs, I can communicate to the team and then we collaborate on everyone else’s. If I do a decent job and set the strategy, objectives and key results well, then the team flows in. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. It was almost like there were days where I thought, “I don’t have enough to do because my team is executing. I’ll go for a walk.” I’m so fortunate to be in this environment. That’s what I try and do. We have a lot of work to do. That’s some called kidding aside.

I did a quick bit of research on Gtmhub. Something that you guys do from a go-to-market for Gtmhub is you have a podcast. That’s one piece. You also have the social media pieces going. Of course, you have the field marketing and enabling the sales because you serve a lot of enterprise-grade companies, which is a complex enterprise buying cycle. Talk to me about the podcast. The reason why I asked this is when I speak with the VPs of Marketing in either my client’s or someone who’s interested in knowing what I do and how I can help them, a constant topic that comes up is content. Content is currency, but a lot of people do not know how to do content well.

Our philosophy when it comes to pretty much everything but certainly content is that no one cares what we say. They only care what other people say about us. What we try to do is create platforms to give other people a voice. Our podcast, which Jenny, our VP of Marketing, hosts, is called Dreams with Deadlines, which I think is one of the greatest names of all times. It’s been growing like gangbusters. It’s the number one podcast in the OKR space. She brings on leading practitioners, leading partners and thought leaders who are pushing the envelope in terms of what OKR is and gives them an opportunity to educate. We just want to educate. That’s all we’re doing.

B2B 12 | Strategy Execution
The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time

We have a series on our blog called Voices of OKR where we give other people and practitioners, “Here’s how we do it. Here are the mistakes we learned.” We have something we call the OKR Champions Roundtable where we invite our OKR champions. We’re blessed with some of the largest companies in the world like Adobe, CNN and Red Hat. Many phenomenal names like Société Générale and many others. We have over 800 customers and 100,000 users in 75 countries. We bring them together and give them an opportunity to talk with each other about the challenges that they’re facing. For me, content comes down to allowing your customers, prospects and community. I’ve even given a platform to people who use competitive products. I don’t care. I’m here to educate. I’m here to help because that builds trust. If you build trust and you say, “I’m just here to help.” Do you know what my real goal is? It’s to get every one of my clients promoted. That’s what I want. If I get you promoted, we’re going to be in good shape.

How can I help you be smarter, better, more informed, make an easier sale to your boss? That’s what the content is. We put out a buyer’s guide. We call it the 51-step Guide to Avoiding OKR Career Suicide. It’s all the things you should think about. We talked about, “Here’s what you need if you’re buying an enterprise OKR system. Here’s why we think you need it. If you don’t agree with us, throw it out the window.” At the beginning of the introduction, the first page is, “We’re an OKR enterprise software company. Do we want you to buy our software? You bet we do.” We know that. We don’t want to run into that issue so we’re going to tell you, “Here’s how we’re thinking about this. If you don’t like it, burn this thing. We don’t care. We’re just here to help because we’ve been doing this for several years with all these companies.” I guess the caffeine is kicking in. I’m super jazzed up. It’s you. You’re asking me great questions, Vijay.

It’s all about the serving mindset. That’s what it comes down to which is serving mindset and helping. You nailed it, Jeremy. I was going to say that it was you. “The venn is essentially helping you, Mr. Buyer, get that promotion.” That’s it.

It couldn’t be easier than that.

Shifting gears a bit, talk to us about your big goals for 2021.

From an internal perspective, I’m trying to operationalize our marketing. We raised our Series B. We closed it on December 31st. We raised $30 million, which was the largest Series B in the history of the space, which was great.

No one cares what you say as a business. Customers only care what other people say about you. Click To Tweet

Congratulations.

I didn’t do much, but we’ll take some of the credit. Now, I’m focused on building out the marketing team and building out our operational capabilities so we can have more process and rhythm. From a marketing overall perspective, I think our awareness in the space is not where I want it to be. We’re perceived as one of the top 3 or 4 players in this space. I’d like us to be across the board and perceived as the number one player. I have a little bit of work to do there. I don’t like to call it a funnel so much. I call it the journey. We get a lot of people who are still very early on in the education process. We do have a probably lower than I personally would like conversion rate from MQL to SQL to opportunity.

It’s respectable. I would like to do a better job of finding more middle and high-intent buyers and then also figuring out for the early or low-intent buyers. What can I do to educate them programmatically at scale without spending the time on the sales? If we can accomplish those things, that will put us in a good position. The product team needs to do what they do because we’re a product company. The sales team needs to do what they do. There’s only so much I can do. From a marketing perspective, I like where our story and messaging are. The visuals are strong. It’s getting better at telling the story and some of the mechanics. It’s to operationalize this and prepare us for that next level of growth as we start looking towards a Series C down the road.

It sounds like you have primarily or heavily a top-down go-to-market, which you tackled the buyers and influencers. What is your thought process around a bottoms-up? It may not be fruitful in this scenario because OKRs itself have to come from top-down and trickle down. Have you seen that maybe it pulls from the bottom-up phase as well?

I wouldn’t call it bottom-up. I call it middle-up. I’m giving away the strategy here, but it doesn’t matter because it all comes down to execution. I can leave my strategy on the front step of my house and someone can come to take it. It won’t matter because they don’t have the Gtmhub OKR platform. Unless they buy it, in which case they would, but they’d still have to do it. The senior executives are horizontally-minded executives, people who are looking across and realize there’s a problem with horizontal alignment. That’s one thing that we look at from an executive perspective. The second thing we do are the OKR champions, the people who are tasked with implementing. It’s helping them go out, be better prepared and more informed. Most importantly, above all, it’s to feel they can trust us. That’s all it comes down to.

You’re going to pick the software company with the people and brand that you trust. That’s what a brand is. A brand is about trust. It’s about establishing trust at those various levels. We need to build relationships with both of those. The economic buyer is going to sign off, but the implementer alone has to deal with the decision. The fact that we are the most flexible platform and we do have the largest number of customers and the most amount of experience, we believe we’ll help them. Fortunately, we have many customers who agree with us. Every now and then, we screw it up. For the most part, we won’t. We’re not perfect. No one would believe me if I said we were. I might as well get that out there. I’m just here for my competition to read this, they go, “This is what this guy is doing.” Bring it. May the best OKR platform win.

B2B 12 | Strategy Execution
Strategy Execution: Many think marketing is a trade show booth, T-shirt, and bumper sticker. In reality, it all comes down to awareness, perception, and leads.

 

Talking about problems and all good market machinery, it doesn’t matter what size or stage of the company you’re in. You’ll always have problems and challenges that you need to deal with. In 2021, you did mention a couple, which is more around from the awareness and even to the MQL down to the conversions. Those are the pieces that you want to tackle. When you encounter such problem areas in your go-to-market execution, do you typically bring in outside experts? When I say experts, I don’t mean agencies. Of course, you have your SEO agencies or demand gen agencies. Besides that, do you typically tap into experts, and for which areas do you do that?

It’s probably too early for me to answer that. Before we got our Series B, I didn’t have a lot of money. We do. We have a relationship with a highly regarded analyst firm to help us with some of our go-to-market thinking, especially positioning around some of the executive C-Suite that we think is relevant or irrelevant. Now that we’re maturing as an organization, we are doing that both in terms of consultants as well as getting the right tools. We’re not afraid to spend on those types of things because there are plenty of things we don’t do well. You might as well find someone who’s good at it and let them do it so you can focus. That’s what OKRs are about. It’s focusing on the thing that you do well and letting everything else go to someone else who does that better. That’s certainly part of our game plan going forward.

Do you mind sharing a bit about your MarTech stack and how it looks like? That’s a mess. I’ve spoken to CMOs and VPs of marketing. People talk a lot and praise the MarTech stack, but they also have the burden of, “That’s way too many tools. I’ve been burdened with the predecessor who built this, but we don’t have any need for it right now.” What does your MarTech stack look like?

I fit into that category. I love it and hate it at the same time because there are a lot of tools out there. My predecessor did a great job, so I’m not in that particular boat. We’re based on HubSpot and then everything flows. From there, our sales team uses Salesforce. We have a nice integration there. It’s a bunch of tools that go on and connect around there. If I said everything moved perfectly, I would also be lying. There are definitely some hiccups, but there are always things that you could be doing better. There are a lot of tools, keeping track of the data and keeping the data clean. These are not new problems. It’s the same problem, but with more tools, APIs and bills coming in.

How do you track or measure signal or intent? That’s a big challenge across the board.

I don’t think we’re particularly good at it. I should have added that in. That goes to our MQL, SQL and the conversation before. It’s doing a better job in terms of differentiating buyers or visitors in terms of intent and based on activity either on-site or off-site. It’s very immature. That’s one of our focus areas. One of my team member’s OKR for Q2 in fact is around that. We’ve already written that down. She’s already off and running. She’s a little bit ahead of the game. We need to do a much better job. What we’ve done a good job on is, I wouldn’t say we solved the problem, but we have a good top-of-funnel in terms of getting those MQLs. It’s that middle of the funnel, middle of the journey that we need to improve on. How we instrument that is, like I said, a big part of our focus. That’s why writing OKR is so important. I say, “Here’s the OKR. We come up with it,” and then people are clear on what they need to do. It comes back to our clarity conversation from before.

If you deliver outcomes, no one cares how much time you spend. It's about the outcome. Click To Tweet

That’s a problem that I see when I speak with my clients or even others in the space. There’s a lot of noise out there. Buyers are inundated because of the slew of virtual events and phone calls. Phone calls have reduced a bit because a lot of people are working at home now so you don’t do the switchboard problem. At the same time, the emails, SMS marketing, all of these are inundating the buyers. One of the CMOs I was speaking with, he was saying, “One of the challenges is how to measure signal and intent correctly and help distill the signal from the noise. Not for my team, but for the buyer.” 

I’m very sympathetic. I do struggle sometimes because when I don’t have my CMO hat on, I’m like everybody else, like unsubscribe, take me off the list, blocking and what have you. I’m thinking, “Why is it that when I put on my CMO hat, I think it’s okay?” I’ve been working hard with the team to say, “If you’re not going to read this, if you’re not proud of this and don’t think this adds value, don’t you dare send it. I would rather you miss a deadline than send something that’s crap because it’s going to hurt the brand.” Nobody thinks about, “What about all the people who unsubscribed as a result of this bad mailing or the people who now think one notch lower of you in terms of perception?” Ideally, you hit the deadline and you have quality. If it comes down to it, I’d rather you go another day. I can’t sacrifice the brand just because I said, “We’re launching on March 18.”

We can go on and on. We talked about OKR, marketing conversion problem and signal and intent. Before I ask the questions, there is also another unique aspect to your colorful background, which is crypto. Tell us about what triggered you or what got you into crypto? What are you doing now about that?

I’ve been deep in the world of crypto for the last five years. I joined Gtmhub back in June. For the 4.5 years before that, I was working in the space as an advisor to some of the leading startups. I was the Co-Chief Investment Officer of a crypto hedge fund. I’ve written three books on it. I’ve had the opportunity to brief three-star generals at the Pentagon about crypto, given keynotes and what have you. I fundamentally believe that it’s a foundational transformative technology. It’s a key passion. I think cryptoeconomics is one of the most incredible things that’s ever been invented. I am fortunate that Gtmhub and my team are extremely supportive. It’s my 20% time.

I spend 20% of my week on my crypto-related activities, including managing the fund for my investors. We returned 92% in 2020 so that was good. Advising some of the startups in that space and continuing the blog. I probably had 657 blog posts and another 100 articles on it and evangelizing, studying and understanding it. To me, this feels like the arrival of the internet, but for value. It’s significantly bigger. The part I’m excited about is when I get the opportunity to merge these two worlds. When I can start bringing in cryptoeconomics, cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens, decentralized autonomous organizations and all of these concepts that I’ve been playing around with, bring them into Gtmhub to further differentiate our marketing and add value for our customers, that’s going to be epic.

The good news is I have a CEO who is fully supportive and a team that’s excited about it. Until they take me out back and shoot me, I’m going to continue to pursue these two paths. It seems weird like, “How do you have a CMO who does both of these?” Our belief is that, especially when you’re in marketing, you have to get out of the business. You have to be able to look at it from a different perspective. By forcing myself to go to a totally orthogonal industry, I’m able to let my brain rest in a working capacity and then look at the market for OKRs. In fact, I’ve sold Gtmhub to 6 or 7 different crypto projects because they need OKR. Everybody is going to use them so I was like, “You might as well use the one that I work for. Here you go.” It’s a nice opportunity to work on the cutting-edge of two big transformations. Blockchain and crypto are a huge transformation and OKRs, which are going to be the foundational methodology for business and digital transformation this decade. To work in both of these, it’s like nirvana.

B2B 12 | Strategy Execution
Strategy Execution: The arrival of social media changed the nature of marketing from a broadcast one-to-many mass discipline to every thing becoming a conversation.

 

You hit on a very important point. Especially for marketers and even marketing leaders, it’s important to detach yourself from the day-to-day. It goes back to what Google has been doing from day one, which is 20% of the time just dedicated to non-work stuff. It keeps you fresh and creative. It keeps your energy going and you bring them back into work.

In fact, we talked about Drucker right over there. I have his book, The Effective Executive. He talks about being aware of where your time is spent, the danger that executives have from being too caught up in their own business and the need to take that step back and look at the market from the perspective of the market. That’s your job as a marketer. I wouldn’t have taken the role if I couldn’t do it, but I’m very blessed to have that kind of support. As an organization, what we represent is the kind of organization that everybody is going to work in, which is if you deliver outcomes, no one cares how much time you spend. It’s about the outcome. It’s not about five days a week. You don’t work on an assembly line in the knowledge economy. Your job is to deliver an outcome. Not output but outcome. If you deliver the outcome, we’re happy. If you don’t deliver the outcome, we’re not happy. It’s very simple.

Especially in this remote and hybrid work environment that the industry is shifting into, it’s very critical. It’s not like the managers and leaders have complete insight into our visibility to what people are doing. Again, it goes back to marketing 101 which is stressed. If you were to give a shout-out to 2 or 3 folks out there in the industry who are executing well on the GTM front, someone who’s inspiring you, giving you new ideas and you look up to, who would they be?

I think the team at Drift does a nice job. They’re sharp. There’s a crypto project called the Helium Network. They do a nice job also with their marketing and storytelling. As far as the third one who does a great job with marketing, I don’t know. I’d have to think about that. Can I get 2 out of 3? It will come to me and I’ll be like, “Why didn’t I say something?” I don’t want to say clichés like Apple or Netflix. That’s lame and capped out. I’ve got to come up with something stronger. It will come to me.

A couple of others, Gong does a good job, Gong.io. Even Clari, they are into revenue intelligence and also doing their own marketing. There are a few others. Drift, I completely agree.

Drift is tight. I’m envious of Drift.

That is the beauty. If your marketing is right, you add so much of the premium halo effect around your product. If you take that out, the product is nothing wow.

It’s Intercom. With all due respect to Intercom, I love Intercom. We use Intercom. I’m just saying, it’s Intercom. I’m going to get in trouble for this one. I hope no one reads this episode. It’s going to kill my career, but I wanted to read for you. For me, I want no one to read because my career is over now. It was nice knowing you, Vijay.

One final question for you, Jeremy. If you were to go back to day one of your GTM career, what advice would you give to your younger self?

That’s an easy one. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I ran so hard when I was young. I realized, especially with great marketing, it’s like coming back to our cake analogy. You can’t rush the cake. 

It goes back to our Buddhist monk mindset.

I’m a wannabe Buddhist monk. That’s my problem is I want. I’m already failing at my Buddhism there. I’ve got a long way to go on the path of enlightenment, it sounds like.

Jeremy, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show. Good luck to you and the team at Gtmhub and of course, your crypto initiatives as well. We’ll cheer you from the sidelines.

Thank you for the opportunity to join your excellent show. Much success to you this year.

Important Links:

About Jeremy Epstein

B2B 12 | Entrepreneurial Mindset

Chief Marketing Officer, Gtmhub

Epstein spent 6 years at Microsoft and brings a global perspective with stints in Frankfurt and Tokyo. Jeremy served as the first marketing leader at Sprinklr, navigating efforts from Series A through $1.8 billion “Unicorn” status, as the company grew from 30 people to nearly 1400 over the course of 4 years.

Known for his orthogonal approach to marketing, Epstein has written 5 books on marketing, over 200 articles, more than 1000 blog posts and is a sought-after keynote speaker, with presentations in more than 20 countries.

In addition to his significant marketing experience in both enterprises and start-ups, Epstein is a well-regarded and passionate technologist who is a leading authority on blockchain and cryptoeconomics, having briefed 3-star generals at the Pentagon and worked with some of the most cutting-edge teams in the world such as Dapper Labs and Zcash.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the B2B Go-To-Market Leaders Community today:

 

 

B2B 11 | Go-To-Market

 

The go-to-market is not a one-off strategy with a single end-point. It is an on-going journey. The best companies take this to heart and continually get guided by this strategy. In this episode, Vijay Damojipurapu interviews the founder and CEO of  Nimbella, Anshu Agarwal, about applying the go-to-market to their business, sharing what their actionable plan looks like and how they use it to reach their targets. Anshu also takes us to her career journey and how it later evolved to starting Nimbella. She goes further into cloud computing and why companies are moving to serverless. Inspiring budding entrepreneurs out there, she then gives some wisdom on why you should start a company that is built to stand on its own legs.

Listen to the podcast here

The Go-To-Market Goes Serverless With Anshu Agarwal 

This time I have with me, Anshu Agarwal, who is the Founder and CEO of Nimbella. Anshu, you and I met a few years ago, back in the day when I was a product manager at Juniper, you are part of Ankeena and Juniper acquired Ankeena. It’s been a long time since we connected, then we spoke that I wanted to have you on the show, it was almost like we never lost contact and we never lost touch with each other. We knew and we just picked up. I’m super excited. Welcome to the show, Anshu.

Thank you, Vijay. It’s truly exciting to be here. With the help of social media whether it’s LinkedIn or Facebook, you stay so connected that it doesn’t feel like that you haven’t talked or met a person for many years. That’s how I felt when you had reached out.

I always start my show and the talk with my guest with my signature question which my audience always looks forward to as well is, how do you define go-to-market?

I’ve been in marketing for quite a long time now and my definition of go-to-market has evolved as my thinking has evolved. At the core, go-to-market is an actionable plan that tells me and my team how we will reach our target customers and how we will reach our targets. It helps me clarify why we are launching our product, understand what the Ideal Customer Profile, ICP is, and what is my buyer persona. I can create a plan to engage with the ICP and convince them to buy my product, try my product, or whatever I need them to do. That is my definition of go-to-market. It used to be different before but now, it evolved into this thinking.

At the core, the go-to-market is an actionable plan that informs a company how they will reach their target customers. Click To Tweet

This is something that I shared with my other guests as well. Go-to-market and how you viewed it as an individual and how you bring that thinking and thought process to your company evolves with time and with wisdom. Back in the days when I was a product marketer, I used to think of the go-to-market as this one upcoming launch and that’s it, which is a very short-sighted view. I’m happy to admit that flaw and I’m glad that I admitted that flaw. After listening to a lot of the experts, reading books, and listening to podcasts, it’s very clear that go-to-market is an ongoing journey. It doesn’t stop. As you said, it starts with the ideal customer profile. It’s all about how you align your team internally to deliver on the promise on your products and features to that ideal customer profile. I have several other questions I can double-click on. The first one that comes to my mind is, how do you define an ideal customer profile, especially for a founding company on day zero? How do you define that and how does it evolve?

Let’s take an example because it’s easier to do with an example, an ideal customer profile for Nimbella. Nimbella is a serverless application development platform. You can imagine the user of Nimbella’s platform would be developers. The ideal customer profile is the developer. That’s the buyer persona. Where does this developer live in? This developer could be an indie developer or in a small, medium or large company. We figured out where our platform is most suited for. It is suited for the development of modern cloud-native applications. For those developers who are in these organizations that are developing cloud-native applications, our platform is ideal for them. That is my ideal customer profile. We took a step back from saying, “I’m going to define ICP first and then figure out who to sell to.” I define where the buyer persona is and then came to the ideal customer profile.

You had a vast amount of go-to-market experience in all your previous roles and that’s brought to fruition. It’s helping you in your role at your company now. Let’s talk a bit about your journey. How has your journey been like to date, your evolution of roles, and what has influenced you the way you’re sourcing companies? What brought you to where you are now?

I’m an engineer by background like most of us are here but I’ve been running the business side of the companies for many years. Only in tech companies because there’s a part of me that is so attached to tech. I did my business school in marketing and most of my friends from business school went to Pepsi-Cola, Sara Lee and all those brand companies. I came to the Bay Area and I said, “I only wanted to work for a tech company,” so here I am. In tech also, I particularly only worked with cloud infrastructure. I’ve not deviated in the domain, although cloud infrastructure has had an evolution. I’ve been in four startups, all acquired by large companies, Akamai, Juniper, HPE and Citrix was the last ones. The story was that I go an acquisition every five years. After the last one, I decided I need to do something different, which is starting my own company. I’m not getting any younger. I got together with two amazing entrepreneurs and started Nimbella. That’s where we are now.

B2B 11 | Go-To-Market
Go-To-Market: If you can reduce the development cost and go-to-market faster, you’re not only reducing the cost, but you are accelerating revenue.

 

That’s a great experience in itself, especially for those who are in Silicon Valley. There will come a time where you had the entrepreneurial itch that will force you to take action into starting something on your own. I congratulate you and I’m excited for you on that.

Having worked with startups, I always thought, “I know startups,” but starting your own is a completely different ball game.

How would your kids describe what you do at work?

As I mentioned, I’ve been through so many companies and my kids think that this is the norm. Everybody does that. When something doesn’t change in five years, they’re like, “What’s going on?” My kids think I’m still cool even though I’m outdated on a lot of things for them. Somehow, I am able to work on cool technology. That’s how they will describe. They both are technical kids but they still think I work on cool tech, which is impressive.

Talk to us about Nimbella. When we chatted, you shared a very profound insight into why you started your own company. I want you to share that with our audience.

First of all, when you meet the right team, you feel that it’s starting something up here on so the team came together. Let’s talk about why we picked what we are doing, which is serverless. I started working in content delivery for many years. Content delivery was the first cloud computing service if you define it. After thirteen years in CDN in various companies, all we were trying to do was take more content from the content owners and make it available easily to a wider audience with the lowest latency. What we were seeing was we were moving more compute to the edge. The edge is changing. It keeps on moving closer to the end-user.

When we were looking at what technologies we’re using, what we should be looking at and how cloud computing is evolving, serverless was a domain that was something nascent and proprietary. We looked at it from that angle and said, “We’ve been doing content delivery. We’ve been moving a little bit of compute, and now let’s take the full compute and see how you can offer that easily to serverless compute but in a non-proprietary fashion, where there are no operational challenges for the end-user to users to the developer.” That’s when we started a Nimbella where we looked at serverless technical challenges that only support stateless workloads and the state is still managed by the developer. There are other technical challenges of proprietary nature and lots of tools to put together. Operational challenges are how do you make it available on a scale to all developers. Not just developers who are experts, but also developers who are getting to start developing but are developing a cloud-native environment. That’s the reason of what we are doing now.

You get to see how cloud-native as well as how Nimbella takes off. This is nascent. I completely agree with you on that.

It is nascent but it is the number one initiative within enterprises. Many enterprises are moving towards a serverless computing paradigm and more applications are being written in this paradigm. There’s a lot of work to be done but that’s the beauty of it and the excitement that there’s so much growth possible.

What do you see as the drivers? Why are enterprise companies moving to serverless?

Enterprise companies are moving to serverless because it is rapid development and deployment. What is the biggest cost in a company? There are many serverless advantages and I can tell you one is you don’t have to manage any servers. You’re relieving a big headache which isn’t maintaining servers and several applications. There is no idle time. You pay as you go. Even if you are managing it yourself, you can grow financially within your infrastructure and it will grow as your user-base grows. You’re never allocating any kind of it. The biggest advantage is time to market. The reason it is the biggest advantage is because of the development cost, which is the biggest cost for a company. If you can reduce the development cost and go-to-market faster, you’re not only reducing the cost but you are accelerating your revenue. You’re hitting both sides of your net income. That’s why I feel that this is the space where if you adopt this paradigm, any enterprise has so many gains for the development organization that is incomparable.

Companies are moving to serverless because it is rapid development and deployment. Click To Tweet

The parallels that I see and I would like to get your thoughts because you are the expert in this. Years ago when this whole CI/CD movement took off, that was a big thing. It was all about time to market. How do you make it easy for developers to release new features or bug fixes quicker?

This augments your CI/CD pipeline but what it does is it helps on the development side and the deployment side because you are able to develop in the cloud and deploy to the cloud very easily. You don’t need to be a cloud expert. That’s the beauty of it. You can be a cloud novice and still do it.

You also talked about something else that motivated you to start your own company. You were part of four acquisitions earlier. Did I get that right?

Yes.

You saw both from the inside and outside. Both from the acquired as well as the acquirer on how you thought or data that the value is being created. Over time, the value is being almost mitigated or even destroyed in some cases. That led you to start or that was one of the motivating factors. I want you to hit on this because I want this message to be clear to all, either the current founders or the to-be founders on why it’s one of the motivations for why they should start a company.

As I mentioned, I was going through this startup large company exercise and having been acquired by four large companies. The company’s direction changes. When you are in a startup, you are so laser-focused on that little one product that you have to take to market and make it successful. You are dropped in this ocean where there are many products. Now, you’re trying to swim in that ocean saying, “Sales guy, please sell my product, this and that.” Now you’re like a tiny little portfolio product and you feel either you get attention or you don’t. You survive or you die. I am a product person. I have been in this domain for long enough and I’ve worked with products that I believe in.

Sometimes, those products are lost. You are in a $20 billion company and they acquired a product line of $30 million. What is $30 million when you compare it to billion-dollar product lines? It’s nothing. When the times are rough, what happens? You kill the little guy in there. That little product could have been the future of that company but that’s how large companies are. They go from quarter-to-quarter and they’re trying to find efficiencies when times are rough. When times are good, you can do a lot of things but when times are rough, that’s what happens. I being a product person at the core, it really kills me.

One of the reasons I started the company is we built a company that stands on its own legs. It’s not a component in any large company. It can be and it can run on its own. Acquisition can happen. If it is worthwhile, we should always consider it. A small product in a large company is lost. When you are trying to build something from scratch, it is going to be a small product initially. It’s going to grow over time. Grow that and build it so that you have a large vision. You can grow your product portfolio yourself. You don’t have to be part of somebody else’s product portfolio. You can become a part of somebody’s portfolio but it’s an important part of the portfolio and that’s what I’m focused on.

Back in the days when I was doing my MBA, this used to be one of my case studies. It’s a classical thing. When you are at this school, you always talk about acquisitions, M&As. There’s research out there. More often than not, the post-acquisition value dilutes and hurts both the acquired and the acquirer because there are many factors here. There’s technology, teams, processes and the cultural aspect. To get it right, it’s not easy. One company that’s done well is Cisco in terms of acquisition and making it work. Otherwise, it is a pain. It’s not easy.

B2B 11 | Go-To-Market
Go-To-Market: When you are in a startup, you are so laser-focused on that little one product that you have to take to market and make it successful.

 

Most acquisitions do okay for 2 to 3 years but then it’s a cyclical business. Times are rough. They are looking at all angles. It’s not just your product. I may be married to my product but there are many other products that get impacted. Either the product should be a very critical part of the portfolio or you lost into large companies.

You did mention and talk about who your ideal customer profile is for Nimbella. You talk about the developers, both indie as well as someone who is within a mid or large size company. What is Nimbella’s go-to-market strategy? How are you thinking about it? How did it evolve from day one?

Nimbella’s go-to-market strategy is quite different from what I have done with other B2B companies in my past. We are serving the B2B space. The space is the same but the user of our product is developer and developers are a different breed of buyers. The reason is you can’t sell to them by direct marketing effort. More show, don’t tell. If I was to sum up our GTM strategy in one phrase, it is the bottom of evangelization with some top-down commercialization because in the end, we have to generate revenue to sustain. What we do is we are in a product-led business. It’s not a sales-led business. Therefore, we have to be focused on evangelization first.

We started our effort on top-down because the buyer is typically an enterprise leader who is not necessarily going to swipe the credit card and buy the product without knowing more about it. They are a developer also but they are a developer leader, CTO, cloud architect, you name it. Those people are making a decision for an organization and not just for themselves. We do evangelization through developer advocates either from the open-source community or they are considered experts in their domain of expertise. What developers do is follow them and their advice. No matter how many marketing material you throw at them, it doesn’t matter. It’s what they consume on their own. They have to find things on their own. The content has to be educational and not sales-oriented or marketing-oriented because that content should be influencing the developer users without crossing that boundary between education and selling.

That is truly important and it’s different from what I had done in the past. I’ve done outright blatant marketing. We also use gamification. As I mentioned, my buyer persona is developer. Whether they are developer leaders or not, but they are developers. They could be CTO, cloud architects, or whatever they may be. Gamification is of interest. The campaign that we are running, which is a three-month-long campaign is called FaaS Wars. It’s a play on Star Wars. It is themed after Star Wars and FaaS is Function as a Service which is another word for serverless.

A small product in a large company is lost. Click To Tweet

You still have your marketing brains there.

I have a very good marketing person on the team, much better than I am. This is their creation. Every engineer I know is a fan of Star Wars. There may be few but every engineer. In this game, you go and create your starfighter using our platform and you battle. There are many things happening. You are learning about serverless. It teaches you serverless. You’re learning about a platform, you are playing a game, and you are winning a prize. That campaign is running. We have wonderful traction with that. We have many registrations for this and there are constantly building robots to fight. We declared our first winner on January 30th.

For your next campaign, you should think of something around the lines of Wonder Woman.

Thank you for that great idea. I would love to pass it down to my marketing person.

You hit all the right points there. Clearly, it’s a big shift for those who were doing the classical traditional B2B marketing, selling to the business buyers, or positioning their products against business buyers versus you’re not selling but educating the developers. It’s a whole different ball game. You cannot create fluffy marketing content stuff. That’s for sure. It’s all about them getting their hands dirty and experiencing SDK, API, documentation, sandbox environment, and all of those. It’s all about that. Once they do that, that’s when they get or build some affinity towards, “This is something cool and this is something that I should share with other developers.”

One thing I did forget, things have changed from the last time. There is a concept of free service, not just free time trial and freemium offering. That is very important in our line of business. You’ve got to give developers their time to play around with your product not just for hobby projects but real projects. That too, is free so they can adapt it for enterprise use cases.

I liked the way you phrased it which is bottom-up evangelization and top-down commercialization.

This is a very understanding of mine because I’m trying to figure out how do I influence and also sustain.

We talked about bottom-up evangelization which is educating or getting to the developers. How are you approaching your top-down because that’s always a component of your go-to-market?

Even the top-down approach has been different from traditional enterprises and companies I’ve worked for. The reason is we are a small company. I can’t afford a full-blown sales team, if you may. Also, my buyer persona is a little different. A B2B salesperson may not know how to sell to a developer buyer. We sell through developer advocacy. I do have a very strong developer advocate but I would say, he’s a hybrid developer advocate because he does wear a little bit of a salesy hat. His objective is to help the developers from the enterprises to use our platform but also figure out how to monetize the platform that we are offering. It’s a hybrid approach but it is through developer advocacy.

I have a great developer advocate in Italy and he is not only able to influence the indie developers but also the enterprise buyers. He’s able to speak their language and to the needs of the domestic market. This is important for us to make a top-down impact because you need to be able to understand their use cases, their needs, and position the product correctly for them to be able to try and buy. That’s the difference, I would say. As we grow, we’ll become more traditional B2B as every company evolves, but then you will see critical masses evolve. You would see 10 to 15 developers in a company are using it independently of each other. You approach the company and say, “Fifteen developers in your company are using one-to-one an enterprise license for this.” That’s the typical bottom-up evangelization leading to bottom-up commercialization. We will evolve to that. Until then, we have to take a hybrid approach. We are influencing both sides of the equation, the developer persona as well as the developer buyer persona.

B2B 11 | Go-To-Market
Go-To-Market: You’ve got to give developers their time to play around with your product. Not for hobby projects, but real projects and free.

 

One of the role models for who’s taking those approaches or who has taken this approach and being successful is Slack. Slack comes to mind, bottom-up and top-down. I’m waiting for that day when you and Nimbella are up there with those big names.

I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, we can make it.

You have a plan for 2021. What are your big goals and challenges? Let’s start with the goals? What are the big things that you see from a go-to-market perspective for 2021?

Let’s talk about 2020 because it was an odd year. Everybody will go down in history as the odd year. It was difficult but it was not that difficult for tech. Tech did pretty okay but there were several months in 2020 that a lot of companies put brakes on new technology and new exploration, which impacts startups and new technology like us. Some of that effect was positive that you don’t have to travel. People are signing million-dollar deals on web conferences.

It’s easier to get the decision-maker because he or she is not complaining about the flight schedule or travel anymore. “Let’s jump on a call.”

There is an advantage of that but there are other disadvantages. You are not making a connection with your customer. If they are such a big customer and you want to land and expand there, it is hard because you haven’t formed that connection. You wouldn’t understand them as well as you would have understood if there was a team meeting with their team. You don’t have a captive audience, for instance. If you look at any conference and I have attended several online conferences because you can attend as many as you want. You’re not traveling anywhere. Everybody is doing ten different things. I’m getting a message in Slack. My phone is ringing. There’s absolutely no captive audience. You think that since it will be a recorded session, you’ll come back and listen to it. That is a challenge now.

These are the challenges that we are faced with because we are in the business of influencing developers and the buyer. That influence becomes harder when there is no captive audience anywhere. My challenges are the same. I want to make that impact. We are going to keep on trying those same things. It’s easier to get people in the meeting but it is harder to repeat those meetings because you have met them once and you’re going to show them a similar thing next time. There are no other venues to meet. For instance, you had a phone call, you met them at a conference, and you followed up from the conference. Those avenues are all gone. These are my challenges that I’m still working with. We have a line of sight to our 2021 goals but there’s a lot of work to be done. We are always limited by resources.

Something that I’ve seen other companies do well and something that I articulate in what I call the content-to-revenue manifesto which is the companies that get it right are those that are investing in content, almost creating a brand or a self PR machine. It is not PR in the negative sense. It’s about how do you drive awareness, how do you get people to know what you do, and have them see you as an expert.

You can grow your product portfolio yourself. You don't have to be part of somebody else's. Click To Tweet

There’s so much material nowadays, many conferences you can attend, and many events you can attend because there’s no travel. There are a lot of podcasts and blogs. How do you stay top of mind in the midst of so much information and how do you produce the right content? Those are the challenges. Everybody is on one platform now. That is your virtual platform. You are competing for the mind space on that platform. That’s the challenge.

I’ll make a mental note. I’ll follow up with you and your head of marketing later, and we can run you and the team through that content-to-revenue manifesto. One of the paddlers and something that I’ve seen is how writing code is to developers. Content is the same thing. It’s the same currency for your marketing and sales. The better your code, the better your product. It’s the same thing for content. Unfortunately, for companies like us or what I do is we help people and companies to get better at developing content because that’s the currency for marketing and sales and even customer success. It’s about how do you create content where you are seen as delivering value first and the people are extracted towards your channels, your expertise and your mindshare.

You’ll have to stand out. I’ll say, “How do you look for your zebra in the field of ponies?”

Let’s dive more into the last couple of questions. For every leader and every go-to-market leader are every person staying on top of your game, staying in touch with what’s the reality out there, and staying in touch with the community is key. Learning is a big process. What are the big things that you’re curious about from a go-to-market perspective and how do you stay on top?

I’m looking for engaging my ICP all the time. How do I engage with my ICP in a way that I am not blatantly marketing to them? That’s the big thing. I find ways through hackathons, gamification and content. We publish blogs all the time. I personally read a lot but not books. There are many good books but I don’t have time to read books. I consume it in bite-size and curate it in medium blogs even corporate blogs. Some corporate blogs are so good. I also look at Hacker News and Reddit forums because these are the places where my buyer persona hangs out. They’re not comprehensive but they are the talk of the town. I need to know what’s going on there.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and they have been helpful during this pandemic. There’s a wealth of knowledge. There have been many events that I have liked. There are a lot of online events but majority of them are either I say put it off that I’ll watch it later or on-demand. Some of the live events from the VCs have been very helpful like the Foundation Capital and Redpoint. They’ve hosted wonderful events in the area that I am interested in like product-led growth and developer growth, all of these. I have learned a ton from them because they were leaders who have taken their company through motions and they have the battle scars but they overcame the challenges that they’ve faced. I’m not reinventing the wheel. I’m learning from their experiences.

My knowledge is constantly being added on and it’s evolving. Some things work and some things don’t work, but the beauty of nowadays world is you can fail fast and move on. It is not very expensive and difficult to try both from the infrastructure perspective and also from a production perspective. Any content production can be done economically, whereas that wasn’t the case before. Those are the things that I keep on trying, learning and experimenting. Experiment is the game. Hopefully, there is a formula that clicks like repeatable. I found a couple of things, as I said, gamification, hackathons and content. Also, what kind of content is useful? That is always changing because there are new frameworks that have come up and then there are people who are trying different things. You’re all constantly in learning mode.

That’s a key. It’s about having that discipline and the mindset to figure it out bit specific content or resource that you can apply now. That’s the framework that I’ve applied and seen in myself. That’s a ton of content, be it books, communities, forums, their webinars, and their podcasts but one framework that I’ve seen play out well. I think that’s what you’re alluding to is, what is that one thing that is top of mind for me this week, this month, or this quarter and what resources can I lean into? One time question for you. If you were to turn back time and go back to day one of your go-to-market journey, the time when you’ve transitioned from a hardcore PR coding developer engineer to your product management job, what advice would you give her?

The advice that I would give her twenty years prior that whatever you learned in school, apply it right then because it’s not going to be the same. When I started my go-to-market journey, I was looking at 4Ps and 3Cs. You understand the business school jargon and it is helpful. We may not call it jargon now but it’s helpful because it frames and puts a structure and that evolves. I would advise myself at that time, “Apply it right now but keep an open mind that this is not going to be the norm. This is one single step that you’re taking in your go-to-market journey. Always be open to new ideas and keep on experimenting.” One other thing I would say is don’t wait too long. This is more of startup wisdom rather than large company wisdom.

If you haven’t even released the product and you want to test the market, go out and test the market. Talk to your prospective customers or prospective users. Not because you want to sell to them at that time but to understand more because as you are developing it, your thinking may evolve. I am not a believer of stealth. Go out and pitch. Don’t be shy to pitch unless you are doing super-secret stuff. That’s the first advice. Second, don’t wait too long to hire your best marketing person. Go for it right away.

I am in the same belief and mindset which is stealth unless you’re super secretive and hard-to-get IP. It’s a whole different ball game but I’m a believer and practitioner of this whole agile startup mindset. We apply agile developers to experience, go, test it out and get feedback. It’s the same thing for the go-to-market. Thanks to Eric Ries and Steve Blank. They have preached and promoted this whole Lean Startup and agile startup mindset. I think that is key, especially from getting feedback to even testing the content on your go-to-market messaging, that is key. It’s not for the product but even for product-led companies, it’s about getting that feedback as to what resonates, what sticks, and what doesn’t?

We all have to figure out either you are disrupting or you’re creating a new category. Once you figure that out, go full steam.

It’s great speaking with you, Anshu. I greatly appreciated the time that you’ve taken and all the nuggets that you shared. If the audience wants to learn more about you and Nimbella, how do they find you? How do they get to learn more about Nimbella and what you do?

Just go to Nimbella.com. You’ll find everything about Nimbella. A website is not always perfect. It’s always changing as I said but there is enough information there. I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter. Search for Anshu Agarwal and you will find me.

Thank you. I’m wishing you and the team the very best, Anshu.

Thank you, Vijay.

Important Links:

About Anshu Agarwal

B2B 11 | Go-To-MarketAnshu is an experienced senior-level executive with extensive experience at startups and Fortune 500 companies in Marketing and Product Management. She has strong expertise in positioning, marketing communications, new product launches, business planning and go-to-market strategy and execution. Anshu has a reputation for successfully building and leading high-performance startup teams. She has experience with both hardware and software products including SaaS.

Specialties: Go-to-market strategy, Product strategy, Pre-revenue and Pre-IPO startup experience, Corporate experience, sales strategy, channel management, market share acquisition, B2B/Enterprise marketing – branding, campaign management, demand generation

Industry experience: Network Infrastructure and Management, Software Defined Networking, Content Delivery & Streaming, Application Delivery, Virtualization, Cloud Computing, Storage, Security, Analytics 

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!

Join the B2B Go-To-Market Leaders Community today: